Tuesday, December 29, 2015

#5things I Need to Do this Week

5 Things I Need to Do this Week - All I have left of break is the rest of this week!

1. Organize Student Supplies
I need to do this at least once a semester.  I just put in an order to Bulk Office Supply, so once that arrives I can get to work.  I also need to make some new flower pens.

2. Label my tables
I want to have each seat at each table labeled (I'm thinking with cards) so that I can easily assign students a random seat weekly.  So far I've been doing every-other week, but I think my students would prefer weekly and I want them to see it be more random.

3. Plan the semester
As in big picture planning.  What can I accomplish?  I feel really far behind, but perhaps my goals for first semester were too ambitious.

4. Plan week one
This needs to happen in detail.  I know I want to do a group work task and that we will be starting functions in Algebra.  This is one of my favorite units and I've found even MORE great tasks to use with it!  I also want to rethink homework and bellwork and see if I need to make any changes.

5. Finalize Semester 1 Grades
All I have left to score is my Algebra final, which means I've made some good progress!  But then I have to do a second look through each class and make sure things look right.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Rearranging Equations

To start solving multivariable equations for a variable, I have been using this task.  (Note:  For viewable files, you must download them in word.)

Here are the instructions:

 And here is an example of the cut-outs I give to each group of students:

The gist is that they have to decide which equations are derived from the "start" and explain what happened.

This is the students' first exposure to this in my classroom, so they must rely on their background knowledge solving one variable equations and with multivariable equations in the past.  Some students look for equations that have one solution in common with the "start" equation.  Some students using adding/subtracting/multiplying/dividing reasoning as we do in solving one-variable equations.  But this time I had a student use reasoning that was totally new to me, but also super-awesome :)

Her reasoning was based on comparing these equations to her prior knowledge of adding/subtracting from elementary school.  Consider the following set of equations "5 + 3 = 8" and "5 = 8 - 3"  In elementary school they were taught the relationship between these statements.  So my student used this reasoning to explain that "2x + 6y = 12" must bet the same as "6y = 12 - 2x"  ISN'T THAT AWESOME!

I feel that this is the impact conceptual understanding taught at all ages (in this case driven by common core) can be so beneficial to students.  Also can we just celebrate for a second that this student was 100% comfortable extending from numbers to algebra?  I think that is the epitome of deep conceptual understanding!

I'm excited to share this reasoning with my classes on Monday so that others can benefit from it.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

First Week Plans: Algebra 1

Here are my basic plans for Algebra 1.  I have four sections of this.  Mostly freshmen, but some older students as well.  However, I basically consider it a freshmen course and work hard to help my students feel welcomed to high school, learn the structures of our school, and help them stay organized for my class.

Monday 8/24

  • Will be randomly assigned to a table as they come in.  I will meet them at the door, high five them, work on learning their names, and assign them to their table
  • Numbers about me activity.  I want to blog about this after school starts, but since I haven't yet, I'll give a little guidance. 
    • When they come in this paper will be at their tables:
    • After everyone is in class and I have taken attendance and gotten settled, I will run through a powerpoint of the answers with pictures.  And I say something like "Clearly the numbers are important, but the units attached to those numbers are just as important." to tie it into our first unit on numbers and units.
    • Then I give them this instruction:

    • Depending on time I might have them share their 5 numbers with an elbow partner.
      Oh--and I need to change the instructions because they have to use a percent, fraction, decimal, or negative number.  Maybe two out of the five numbers have to be one of those.  We can't just be all positive integers :)
  • Then we'll wrap up class.  The first day we usually only have 20-30 minutes with students, so I think this will get us through.  I will also say something like:  "Make sure to have a notebook tomorrow like this *I hold up mine*.  You will need one that you can use ONLY for this class and that you can use ALL YEAR LONG.  If you brought it today you may find your folder by that wall and leave it in there so you don't have to worry about it tomorrow."
Tuesday 8/25
  • We will look at the syllabus...the plan is to glue it into our notebooks, but I just got an email from my principal that might change that plan--so we'll see.  I will not read it all, but students might look over it in groups or something and do a 3-2-1 reflection on it to be handed in.
  • Talking Points Structure.  We will learn about talking points today!!! I'm so excited.  First we will talk about the structure, and glue that into our notebooks.  Then I want some sort of model of talking points, so I might see if some teachers/or my family will make a video with me of a few rounds of talking points.
  • Talking about Talking Talking Points! Now the students get to try it for themselves--woohoo!  We will share out at the end.  Maybe we'll do a big circle to reflect on it.  For sure each group hands in their group reflection.
  • Then they get to be crafty and turn their "5 numbers about me" into the back cover of their notebooks :)  Then if they leave them with me I will tape them on with my super awesome Duck Brand EZ Start Packing Tape.  It basically laminates the paper onto their cover.  One reason I like to do this (because reasons not to are price, class time, and my time) is because they have now invested a lot into this notebook which will make it more likely to last the whole year.
I just realized I could to syllabus, TP structure, and "numbers about me" as stations and then do the actual talking points at the end.  That might save me the mess of clean up at the end of each class, because the "numbers about me" stuff would be contained to one area...hmmm...things to think about.

Wednesday 8/26
  • We will start the number line task I blogged about.  Starting with Part 1.  I'll probably allot 10 minutes.  So timer and go.
  • Group Roles:  We will discuss group work structure and roles.  Gluing them into our notebooks.  I will have all the "recorders" meet to discuss their role (and ask me questions if they have them), etc.  Then they go back to their groups and share out:  "my job is to..."  I make sure to teach the resource managers how to ask a group question.
  • Number line task:  Part 2.  And before the end of class they must complete the reflection, which is mostly about their roles.
Thursday 8/27
  • Talking Points:  talking about group roles.  This gets them talking about group roles to remember what they learned yesterday about them.  Some of the statements are opinions and others are about the roles themselves. We will reflect individually, as groups, and as a whole class afterwards.
  • Number Line Task:  Part 3.
  • Exit Ticket:  reflection of task---not sure whether I will have them complete this now or later if their class hasn't finished part 3.
Friday 8/28
  • Estimation 180.  They will glue the handout into the back of their notebooks.  We'll probably do two days to get the hang of it.  From this point forward Estimation 180 is our Friday bellwork.
  • Expectations Foldable.  This goes into our notebook and it talks about expected behaviors for certain methods of learning we will be doing.  If I don't include the syllabus in their notebooks then I need to add to this page.  I will likely put it into the notebook as a whole class, but then read through it and reflect in groups.  Maybe have groups share out.  This is also the time where I will share about "I was...I should have been..." reflection form I have students complete when they are not following directions.
  • Set up Unit 0.  We will set up our first unit in our notebook.  This includes a tab, table of contents, and pocket.  We might also try to put in some notes depending on how the number line task went.
  • Homework:  show off your notebook.  I think at this point there will be enough stuff in the notebook that I want students to take it home and show it off.  I will create a form for them to have completed.  "I saw these things in the notebook...I have these questions...I would like to be contacted through this method..."
  • I want to set up google classroom sometime this week
  • Want to look into "Class Messenger" one of the downfalls of google classroom is that it leaves parents out.  Might want to do class messenger.  If so, include information on the "homework" for parents to see.
  • I really want to show the videos about How To Learn Math, either from the MOOC or from the "week of iMath" on youcubed.org
  • I also want to do Music Cues, but I haven't sat down to look at it yet, so can't plan it into classes yet.
  • Things I want to remember:
    • Count down from 5 to get attention
    • Two Nice Things
    • High Fives
    • Introduce "while you were out" in each period when first student is absent
    • Write notes to students
  • I'm sure there's more, but I'm out of thoughts for now!
Give me all your thoughts!  Tell me what parts you don't like or what parts need improvement--because I still have a week before school starts, so I can change it if I want to.


Friday, August 14, 2015

First Week Plans: Algebra Topics

Well Andy (@rockychat3) was nice enough to share his entire year's worth of plans for his block Algebra course, and he said he was interested in hearing about mine.  So here it goes!  These are my plans for my Algebra Topics course, this is a course for students who have struggled some in math before.  They take this course IN ADDITION to Algebra 1 (which I also teach and will be posting plans for later).

Monday 8/24
  • Randomly assign groups
  • Noah's Ark:  I heard about this from Steph's post here.  This post is what made me want to do this with my class right away.  I am going to continue to remind myself to ask questions to make my students think.
Tuesday 8/25
  • Continue Noah's Ark, debrief if groups finish.  I still need to think through some individual and group reflection questions.
Wednesday 8/26
  • New random groups
  • Stations:
    • I have the SET cards and I will take a group and work with them to learn SET (I usually start by taking just one type of shading to simplify it.) We then use SET daily as warm up.  Students always share out SETs with reasoning.  I used the daily set puzzle online, which can be found here
    • Another station will be the syllabus and I'll have students complete a 3-2-1 reflection as a group.  
    • The third station will depend on whether or not I have an associate in my classroom.  I might have the students complete a dispositions survey on their chromebooks
Thursday 8/27
  • Review SET
  • Transition to Algebra:  Unit 1 Launch
    The transition to algebra curriculum can be found here.  My school purchased it.  I really like that it helps students develop conceptual understanding.  It takes time to work through the units, but developing conceptual understanding does take time.  I try to do the lesson from these units on Tuesdays and Thursdays because that gives me time to look at students' work and reflectively consider how to help them develop better understanding in the next lesson.
Friday 8/28
  • New random groups (these will last for the whole next week)
  • Review SET
  • Problem Solving Task:  Finding One Half
    This task is a page of figures with part of it shaded.  Students look through and select the ones where half of the figure is shaded.  This looks for conceptual understanding of what half is.  Mostly I use it to get students used to sharing their reasoning.  I try to be really difficult and find a figure that's not "half" but that meets the rules that their explanation gave so that they have to learn to be more specific.
Once we get going throughout the year I try to structure the course to be Monday/Wednesday support for learning in Algebra.  This would be reteaching, fluency practice, mixed practice, review, or whatever the students need to help them be successful in Algebra.  Tuesday/Thursday I do lessons from Transition to Algebra, as I mentioned above.  Then I reserve Fridays for problem solving tasks, and sometimes these carry over onto Monday.  I like having this structure because I feel like my students know what to expect (which is good), but more importantly I don't get off track with one thing or another.  I'm held responsible for keeping the pace of the course moving along.

Hope that helps!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

#5things I Like About Walking

Recently my family visited St. Louis.  We walked a lot, and it reminded me of when I lived in Chicago and I also walked a lot.  It made me miss walking a lot.  And then I came home and there was this big conversation on twitter about the #FitBoS and I was sad again that I didn't walk more.  So I just decided to walk more now, even though I don't have a fitbit and I'm using a less accurate phone app.

I have been realizing the past week how many things I like about walking.  I've been walking to and from school (which takes about 20 minutes) and other places that are closer than school.

1.  Slowing Down
Walking is slower than driving, and it gives me time to just take time.  Slowing down my life a bit is a good thing.  Having 20 minutes or so to just relax and walk is wonderful.  It is a time for me to just be.

2.  Seeing People
I've seen so many of my students just from the times when I'm walking.  Just this morning on my way to school two of my students were walking to football practice and I got to walk with them for about 10 minutes.  That's a great opportunity to work on building relationships.

3.  Feeling Healthier
I like that I have a goal and that when I reach it I really do feel as though I am taking control of getting myself healthier.  And my body feels healthier too, well, not quite yet, but I can feel my muscles throughout my body getting stronger from my walking.

4.  Being a One Car Family
We have been a one car family for a while, and I really like that we can do that.  I appreciate that we have lower insurance bills and no car payments.  I also feel that it is good for the environment because we do less driving than if we had two cars.

5.  I Don't Have to Stop When School Starts
Sometimes during the summer I start things, but I can't keep up with them during the school year.  I know that I can keep walking to and from school once school starts, and it probably won't take much more than that to meet my goal once I'm running around my classroom everyday!


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

While You Were Out

I've never had a good system for absent work that seemed efficient to me.  Last year I had a big bulletin board with each day of the week where I put handouts, but that doesn't summarize everything and it only worked for one class.  And the folders fell down...a lot. This coming year I have three preps and I can't exactly put 15 folders up on my bulletin board with three calendars and expect that to work.

I've also always wanted to try the "While You Were Out" form that gave more detail to each student rather than just handouts, but I don't have time at the end of the day to complete one for each student.  But I implemented roles last year, and one of the Recorder's jobs is to "set aside papers for absent group members."  Which really meant nothing last year, but will mean something this year.

So I made a form:
And I made copies and put them on my bulletin board:

Now here's the plan:
When a student is absent the recorder (or navigator who is the substitute recorder), will grab a "While you were out" form and complete it as we go throughout class.  They will also collect any handouts for the student.  At the end of class they will tack it back up onto the bulletin board.  Then when the student returns he/she can check the bulletin board and grab his/her work.

I will demonstrate how to complete the form in each class period during the first week when someone is absent.  Then I will have to ensure that students are doing it from that point on.

My one concern:  leaving extra tacks for students to tack the work back up there...seems dangerous with freshmen, but I'm going to try!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Number Line Task

So this is the style of many of the tasks that I do in my room, heavy on math, lots of opportunities for me to check in with students as a group and individually, reflection, and math, not always context.  But some people at #eduread wanted to see an example.

I chose to share my Number Line Task because I know I want to do it in the first week of school, but it needed some modifications first!  I did this task last year, but with less structure and it was chaotic, and one student in each class ended up sorting everyone.  Ugh!  No one got to learn!  So I made changes this year to hopefully help with the learning part of it.  It is in three parts.  Part 1 is an individual task (basically think time for each student), Part 2 is as a group, and Part 3 is both class and group.

Number Line Task:  Part 1

FYI:  Each group is getting four different numbers on their paper.  I have 6 tables of 4 students, so I have 6 different sets of 4 numbers.

I would expect students to take about 15 minutes on this.  I plan to have them share with a partner and write one thing their partner said on the back of the paper.  I am doing this because I really want all students to have a voice in my classroom, which means they need to get used to sharing and listening BOTH.  So why not start right away?

Number Line Task:  Part 2
Then as a group, students will complete the following reflection questions

[1.]  Who is the recorder?  Give a specific example of how he/she performed his/her role well.

[2.]  Who is the resource manager?  Give a specific example of how he/she performed his/her role well.

[3.]  Who is the navigator?  Give a specific example of how he/she performed his/her role well.

[4.]  Who was the facilitator?  Give a specific example of how he/she performed his/her role well.

[5.]  Who had the best “because”?  Share it with me!

As you can see these are devised to help students learn to "play their roles" and "say their becauses".  In between Part 1 and Part 2 we are going to learn what the roles of each group member are, so students will have it fresh in their heads...but another way of emphasizing it can't help!

Number Line Task:  Part 3

These are the directions students will get to read through in their groups.
Take an index card and write your number on it.

Soon all of the groups will work together to place all the numbers in order from least to greatest. Here are the rules:
  • You may only address one person at a time, by comparing your number to his/hers
  •  Say your becauses!
  • The only thing you may bring with you is your index card
  • When the class is ready, I will check your order, but I will only tell you “ALL CORRECT” or “NOT ALL CORRECT”
  • We will keep working until we get “ALL CORRECT”
  •  If you feel stuck, you may request “group time” where you will go back to your groups, ask your group members questions, use a calculator, ask a group question, and write notes on the back of your index card
  •   “group time” will always be 90 seconds in duration
  •  You may only ask me questions during “group time”
  •  Remember, when you feel confused, make a mistake, or are thinking hard you are learning!—and that is the goal
      After the class has worked and received and "ALL CORRECT"  each student will complete the following reflection.

[1.]  What was the most challenging part of this task?
[2.]  What is one thing you learned?
[3.]  What is one question you still have?
[4.]  What is one question someone asked you?
[5.]  What number were you and what did you write on your index card? (Use the back if needed.)

All the documents I made for this task are in a folder here.  These are word docs, but it will open in google. Download to word to edit.  Also everything is 2/page and Part 2 should be printed front and back.  Enjoy!

If you have ideas to make this better please let me know!  I'm sure there is something better, but this is what I have :)


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Algebra 1 Units, Learning Targets, Pacing, and Reporting Standards

I finally got to spend some quality time in my classroom this afternoon.  It was just a couple hours, but I felt SO productive.  After cleaning my group whiteboards with WD40, I set out to rearranging units, learning targets, and a pacing calendar.


[Sorry, the pictures are not that great.]

Reporting Standards

One of the things that is new for me this year is that my school is moving forward with standards based grading.  We have written "reporting standards" for one class (I chose Algebra 1), and students will receive a report card with those 4-8 standards on it for each class.  So I thought about which reporting standards connect with each unit, which I'll share below as well.

Here are the reporting standards:
  • Organize numbers, quantities, and units to solve problems (NQ)
    • Numbers and Units; Exponents and Radicals
  • Rewrite expressions to solve problems (SSE)
    • Expressions and Equations; Polynomials; Quadratic Equations; Quadratic Functions
  • Rewrite and evaluate exponential and radical expressions (ER)
    • Exponents and Radicals; Polynomials; Quadratic Equations
  • Create equations and use them to solve problems (CRE)
    • Expressions and Equations; Linear Functions; Exponential Functions
  • Build and interpret functions in multiple forms (IBF)
    • Functions; Sequences; Linear Functions; Exponential Functions; Quadratic Functions
  • Identify and compare linear and exponential relationships (LER)
    • Linear Functions; Exponential Functions; Sequences
  • Organize and analyze categorical and quantitative data (SID)
    • Linear Functions; Exponential Functions; Quadratic Functions
  • Approach problem solving as a mathematician (SMP)
    • ALL!
I'm sticking with my goal of integrating the statistics throughout multiple units, and I've written my learning targets in a way that I think will allow that to work well.  I will probably not test over statistics, but there will be various ways of assessing statistical analysis.

Units and Learning Targets

Unit 0:  Numbers and Units (08.24-09.11)
I can identify and justify number order and equivalencies.
I can simplify numerical expressions by following the order of operations.
I can convert units.

Unit 1:  Expressions and Equations (09.14-10.02)
I can identify and create equivalent algebraic expressions.
I can evaluate algebraic expressions for the given value(s) of the variable(s).
I can solve one-variable linear equations.
I can rearrange multi-variable linear equations for a given variable.

Unit 2:  Systems of Equations (10.05-10.30)
I can state whether or not give values for the variables represent a solution to a system of equations.
I can estimate a solution to a system graphically.
I can estimation a solution to a system numerically.
I can solve a system algebraically.

Unit 3:  Functions (11.02-11.20)
I can find the domain and range of a relation.
I can determine and justify if a relation is a function.
I can use function notation to describe, evaluate, and graph a function.*

Unit 4:  Linear Functions (11.23-12.17)
I can determine and justify if a function is linear.*
I can find the slope and y-intercept given a linear function.*
I can graph a linear function.*
I can define an explicit function to model a given situation.*
I can interpret the meaning of the slope and y-intercept of a function used to model a situation.*

Unit 5:  Exponential Functions (01.05-01.29)
I can determine and justify if a function is exponential.*
I can find the base and y-intercept given an exponential function.*
I can graph an exponential function.*
I can define an explicit function to model a given situation.*
I can interpret the meaning of the base and y-intercept of a function used to model a situation.*

Unit 6:  Sequences (02.01-02.12)
I can identify if a sequence is arithmetic, geometric, or neither.
I can describe a sequence recursively.
I can describe a sequence explicitly.

Unit 7:  Exponents and Radicals (02.15-03.04)
I can evaluate exponents and radicals.
I can simplify exponential expressions.
I can simplify radical expressions.

Unit 8:  Polynomial Operations (03.07-03.25)
I can identify the degree of a polynomial.
I can add and subtract polynomials.
I can multiply polynomials.
I can factor polynomials.

Unit 9:  Quadratic Equations (03.28-04.15)
I can solve a quadratic equation by factoring.
I can solve a quadratic equation by using the square root.
I can solve a quadratic equation by the quadratic formula.
I can determine which of the above methods is most effective for a given function.

Unit 10:  Quadratic Functions (04.18-05.13)
I can determine and justify if a function is quadratic.*
I can translate between standard, vertex, and factored form of a quadratic function.
I can find the zeros, vertex, and line of symmetry of a quadratic function.*
I can sketch a graph of a quadratic function.*

*Learning target includes statistical component

  • The dates are an approximate for pacing, so NO, I will not end every unit on a Friday
  • I think I left a week open at the end of the year, which is good, because I didn't count holidays or long weekends when setting this out
  • It will change; I'm sure; it always does
  • Homework will be the same as last year
  • I want to have finals at the end of each semester be 7 sections, one for each reporting standard
  • I think this came out to 42 learning targets.  I heard once that 30 was what you should aim for...so I'm a little higher than that, but I guess paring it down is a goal for next year!
Well, that's a summary of my work from today!  I hope you can use it in some way!  If you have questions, please ask via comment here or twitter (@kathrynfreed), especially if you have an idea that can possibly make some part of this better.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Brain Dump...Beginning of the Year

So I have a bunch of random thoughts about the beginning of the year bouncing around in my head, and I need to get them out because I won't be able to hash anything out for a few days and I don't want to forget them!

I've been thinking about my first day of school plans with my Algebra students, and although I still want to do the number line activity that I did last year (which I still need to blog about), I want to make a few changes and turn it into a longer task.  This way I will be able to use it as a pre-assessment of our first unit (Numbers and Operations) as well.  When I figure out what this is going to look like, I'll blog about it.  Promise.

So I think I'm going to go back to the "number about me" type of activity that I shared here.  But I'm thinking about making my information as 5-10 multiple choice questions, Kahoot style, or with Plickers, or something else since we'll have chromebooks (maybe pear deck?).  Then I'll have students submit their numbers as an exit ticket or an entrance ticket the next day.  This definitely helps me to build relationships from day one because I learn 5 things about my students THAT THEY CHOOSE TO SHARE.  And then we can turn this into the front or back of our ISNs :)  I found that when students had decorated the covers they treated them better throughout the year, which is really important since I want the same notebook to last all year.

I still need to send postcards home.  That needs to be #1 at this point.

I also really, really, really want to write students notes throughout the year.  I also want to call parents regularly throughout the year.  But those things take time and work, which I know will be really challenging once school starts.

Another thing I read about somewhere at some point this past year was sending students home with their notebooks and having their assignment be to show an adult at home.  I really want to do that within the first week with the syllabus and other things we will have in our notebook.  Then I can have a parent sign and return it or email me.  [I saw ____'s notebook.  He/she showed me these things:  I have these questions:  You can contact me these ways:  I prefer this method:  ]  This way I can collect phone numbers and email addresses as well, since sometimes they show up weird on PowerSchool when I try to look them up.  Then I was thinking that as the year goes on and I make parent/student contact I can record notes on the back of the paper.

Oh, and I want to be happy.  Ridiculously happy.  Every day.  This didn't happen last year, and I need to bring it back.  I love teaching.  I really do.  I need to ignore how frustrated I can get about all the work that is expected of us, and just be happy that I get to teach young souls about the awesomeness of math.  Ignore how annoying it is when I already have my plans made and the school changes the schedule.  Ignore that I hate it when other activities take my students out of class ALL. THE. TIME.  And just enjoy teaching.  Enjoy the students.  Focus on the good.

Well, I think that is the end of my brain dump for now.  I may have to add more later...

Update:  Also, musical cues, because no one wants to here me talk all the time.


Friday, July 17, 2015

#5things I need to do before school starts

Well, when Julie (@jreulbach) tweeted about posting a blog by Friday, I thought that sounded easy enough, but it is 11pm on Friday night and I don't really thing I have much to say.  So I'll go to a structure that often works well for me:  #5things

1.  Take a survey of my supplies
I need to go through my supplies look at what I have and figure out what things I need to buy prior to the beginning of the year.  Everything is still all packed up, so I hesitate to do this because it means unpacking EVERYTHING!

2.  Update my syllabi
I'm teaching a class that I haven't taught for a few years, so I really need to update that syllabus, and there are some minor changes I will make to my others.  Those little updates should wait until we are back to school though, because I think we are making some school-wide changes that I will want to account for on the syllabi.

3.  Big picture lesson plans
I need to make sure I have big picture ideas for the courses I'm teaching this year.  I don't need to have every day planned out (although that would be nice), but I need a course map to follow to keep me on pace.

4.  Plan integration of statistics standards
I have decided that I'm done leaving statistics until the end of the year.  There is plenty we can do with statistics integrated into other units that will help differentiate between the ugly reality of the world and the simplicity of the mathematics we use to describe it.  What I mean is that students will see how linearity can be used to describe a system that doesn't actually have the exact same rate of change at every step along the way, but it might be the best option.

5.  Write and mail notes to my students
This year in order to boost student relationships, I want to send a note home to each of my future students prior to school starting (actually prior to the open house).  I just want to say "Hey, I'm looking forward to having you in class!"  I'm hoping that this will also help students I will be having for a second time start with a clean slate.

Well it looks like I better get to work!  Well, at least I have a month still :)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Thoughts about Reflection

I've been working on a task for my students for the beginning of next year, and I'm stuck deciding between two different types of reflection questions for them to complete afterwards.  Essentially they will be answering some Talking Points-style questions in their groups.  I'm stuck between asking them:

  • Which are you most confident about?  Why?
  • Which are you least confident about?  Why?
  • Which was the easiest to make a decision about?  Why?
  • Which was the most difficult to make a decision about?  Why?
While I think it is over-kill to ask all four questions, and it is unlikely that my students would recognize the minor differences between the questions if posed all four, I feel it is likely I would get different responses depending on which questions I pose.

Maybe I'm overthinking it, maybe not.  What do you think?

I think my goals from the reflection are:
  • To help students see the value in the Talking Points structure
  • To help students think about their learning
  • To help me see what my students do and do not understand

Other reflection questions I plan to ask:
  • How easy or difficult was it to follow the talking points structure?
  • What is one benefit you saw to using the talking points structure?  One disadvantage?
  • What is one thing you learned?  What is one question you still have?

What do you think?  Which set of questions will best help me meet the goals of the reflection when paired with my other questions?  Should I do a combination of the pairs (one from each), if so which ones should I pick?  Are my other reflection questions posed in a way that will help me meet the goals of the reflection?


Monday, June 15, 2015

Units and Learning Targets 2014-2015

I often see a tweet from someone who is searching for learning targets for Algebra 1.  Two summers ago I worked hard to create learning targets and units based off of the common core standards my district has chosen for Algebra 1.  Those are posted on this blog, but I thought it might be valuable to share what I did this year, as it doesn't quite line up with what I shared before (planning and reality rarely align).

Unit 1:  Number and Operations

  • I can perform operations with integers.
  • I can identify and justify number equivalencies.
  • I can order numbers.
Unit 2:  Expressions
  • I can use the distributive property to rewrite expressions in equivalent forms.
  • I can simplify expressions by combining like terms.
  • I can evaluate expressions for the given value(s) of the variable(s).
Unit 3:  Equations
  • I can solve linear equations.
  • I can graph linear equations.
  • I can solve a multi-variable linear equation for a given variable.
Unit 4:  Systems of Equations
  • I can state whether or not given values for the variables represent a solution to a system of equations.
  • I can estimate a solution to a system graphically.
  • I can solve a system using substitution.
  • I can solve a system using elimination.
Unit 5:  Sequences
  • I can determine if a sequence is arithmetic, geometric, or neither.
  • I can describe a sequence recursively.
  • I can describe a sequence explicitly.
Unit 6:  Functions
  • I can find the domain and range of a relation.
  • I can determine and justify if a relation is a function.
  • I can use function notation to describe, evaluate, and graph a function.
Unit 7:  Exponentials
  • I can simplify and exponential expression.
  • I can determine and justify if a function is exponential.
  • I can find the base and y-intercept given an exponential function.
  • I can graph an exponential function.
Unit 8:  Polynomial Operations
  • I can identify the degree of a polynomial.
  • I can add and subtract polynomials.
  • I can multiply polynomials.
  • I can factor polynomials.
Unit 9:  Quadratic Functions
  • I can determine and justify if a function is quadratic.
  • I can find the zeros of a quadratic function.
  • I can sketch a graph of a quadratic function.
  • I can find the line of symmetry and vertex of a quadratic function.
Unit 10:  Statistics
  • I can organize and analyze bivariate data.
My (Brief) Reflection:
  • Units 1 and 2 were boring for many of my students this year, but things I perceived my students the previous year to need.  Also things I think many students benefited from.  I would like to do some sort of pretest to see which students could benefit from what...but that will be complicated...
  • I want to integrate statistics into my other units.  It gives a setting to apply the other learning that is "real-world" and then I won't save it until the end and end up not being able to do it.
  • I need to focus somewhere on "rate of change" a little bit more...maybe since we didn't really do a linear functions unit this year that struggled.
  • I would like to take time to compare these to the original learning targets I planned out and decide which I prefer for which units.
So here they are to borrow, steal, or edit!  Enjoy :)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

#5things To Welcome Next Year's 9th Gradersl

I LOVE meeting my future students!  I do a lot of things to help them feel welcomed and to try to provide a smooth transition to high school.

1.  Attend Their Math Class
I'm grateful that my principal will hire a 1/2 day sub so that I can attend their math classes one day and give them the Algebra Probe our district uses as a pretest.  I get to meet them, talk to them about high school, Algebra, and then assess them on what they can do.  All this happens in their 8th grade math class, which they are already comfortable in!  Hooray!

2.  Attend 8th Grade Parent Meeting
My district holds an 8th grade parent meeting in the spring for parents and students to attend.  I attend this meeting too, so I get to see the students and their parents again :)  I also work with other core and elective 9th grade teachers to have a supply list available to students and parents that night.

3.  Learn Their Names--FAST
I work by tail end off to learn their names as soon as I can.  I actually work on this all year.  Whenever I encounter 8th graders at school or in the community I ask other people their names and I try to figure out their connections to my current 9th graders.  Who is friends with whom...who is siblings with whom...etc.  It helps a lot.  Then when I go into their math class, I call them all by name and they are SHOCKED.  One class this year was so surprised that they asked me to go around the room saying everyone's name, and they clapped when I finished :)

4.  Tell Them I'm Excited
I always emphasize with them how excited I am to have them next year.  I share my excitement and ask them what they are looking forward to and what they are nervous about.  Some students shared about being worried they would embarrass themselves, so I shared something embarrassing I had done before--they all got to laugh at me :)

5.  Mail Them a Postcard
OK--I've never actually done this before, but I really want to!  I want to send a postcard home to each of my future students this summer.  A few weeks before school starts just send them a quick note letting them know that I'm excited for them to come to high school!  Then I can add a special note to kids I haven't met, kids who are in my homeroom, or kids I've encountered for other reasons.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

New Homework Structure

My current homework structure is based off of @iisanumber (Kathryn Belmonte)'s presentation last year at #TMC14.  Here is her write up on Math Maintenance.  I used it to create a structure for homework for my students.  Five problems, every night Monday through Thursday.  On Tuesday we discussed Monday night's problems as our warm up.  Here is a picture of what a week's worth of homework might look like:

Things that were going well:

  • spiraling in the review, so things didn't get "old"
  • consistent structure
  • quick, approachable homework for my students
Things that weren't going so well:
  • there was so very clear evidence of copying
  • many low students were not completing it regularly
And then, recently at a training by my local Area Education Agency (@ghaea) they shared this document with us:  Teaching Strategies For Improving Algebra Knowledge in Middle and High School Students [large PDF].  This is a compilation of research surrounding teaching secondary mathematics by the Institute of Education Sciences.  My understanding is that they summarize and compile all the research out there to make conclusions in one place.  Making it more accessible to educators who do not have time or resources to find all the research that is out there.  Pretty great resource for us to be taking advantage of.  Unfortunately, there is not a whole ton of secondary mathematics education research out there, so even the recommendations they make based on the research have only minimal to moderate evidence to support them.  Sad day.

Their first recommendation is the one that caused me to change my Math Maintenance.  It is:  "Use solved problems to engage students in analyzing algebraic reasoning and strategies."  This can be done in many ways, one of which is to juxtapose a correctly solved problem with a similar problem for them to complete.  This forces students to look at a solved problem, think through the reasoning, and then apply it to a new (but similar) problem.

At our training we were asked to think through ways that we could apply this in our classroom, and math maintenance seemed like a good place to start.  Hopefully it will make it more accessible to all learners, while simultaneously making it more rigourous.   Here is an example of what it looks like now.

Students who have successfully completed Math Maintenance in the past have been telling me that it is now harder, and I think that is a big win.  They went from having to repeat the same thing over and over to having to actually think through what was happening in that type of problem.  Students who had problems completing Math Maintenance like to have one that is already completed to look off of.  I think that means this is a double win :)

Could you see yourself doing something like this in your classroom?


Update 8/19/2015:  Now by popular demand, here is a folder where I uploaded all of my Math Maintenance assignments from the past year.  They are all dated based on last year.  I will not use these exact documents this year, but create it to cater to our current learning.  Also I didn't start the new structure until the spring, so most are according to the old structure.  And finally, these are the electronic versions, sometimes I write on documents before copying out for my students.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How I Used Plickers

I just started using Plickers in one of my classes.  I learned about them at #TMC14, and if you don't know what I'm talking about go here to find out about them.

Note:  this is my reflection of my use in the classroom; nothing more

Set-up:  I printed the free plickers, size "normal" and copied onto colored paper, laminated, and wrote each student's name on the back in sharpie.  I had my students use the plickers for one question on Monday and one question on Tuesday, just to see how they would work.  Then I planned to use them multiple times on Wednesday.

Class:  I was doing this in my intervention class, which has 8 students enrolled.  I wanted to try plickers in my smaller, more flexible class before full-out implementing into my large core classes.

We have been studying domain and range, so I prepared seven graphs, each with 4 options for domain and range, trying to include common errors as possible options.  I also created some beginning questions about domain and range, just to get us started.

Implementation:  I showed the graphs and the options using my document camera and the students pulled chairs around the screen.  I did not show the plickers "Live View" because I was showing everything they needed through the doc camera.  I gave them 30 seconds to think then asked them to hold up their answers and I scanned with my iPad.

The app gives immediate feedback as to who was right and who was wrong, and which wrong answer they selected.  I can use that to base our follow-up conversation before we move on to the next question.

Reflection Thoughts:

  • The kids LOVED it.  They asked to do it everyday and for the most part they were engaged the whole time.
  • At the end of the lesson I gave the a graph and had them give the domain and range WITHOUT options.  They were more successful than they would have been before the lesson, but not as successful as I would have hoped.
  • The app seems slow, but I have to remember that it is faster than if I had to read and judge them all.
  • If they are covering up any part of the QR Code it will not read their answer.
  • I'm not ready to implement in a full class, because it would be harder to keep everyone engaged.
  • I can't think of a better way to help students learn about domain and range in a way that will engage them and simplify it to make it more accessible to all students from the beginning.
  • I'm planning on doing something similar in the future with other concepts.
How have you tried plickers?  What did you like?  What does it take to make a good plicker lesson?


Friday, February 13, 2015

Function Notation Slider

After my immensely popular tweet of these pictures:

Embedded image permalinkEmbedded image permalink

I figured I should blog about what we did for function notation in my class.  We made this slider for our notebooks.  The files can be found here.  They are 3/page and 6/page with dotted lines where you need to cut.  You will need to download into word for the files to be formatted correctly.  We glued the top and bottom of the pink one down, so that the brown can slide.  (Side note:  9th graders might need instruction and assistance with cutting the isolated slits on the brown one.)  On the right side of our notebooks we worked through each different input value and simplified as much as we could.

The next day we did a quiz-quiz-trade activity.  This helped students gain confidence.  After doing four problems quiz-quiz-trade style I gave them one to do individually and went around checking their work.  I did a quadratic to make sure they were simplifying exponents BEFORE multiplying.  If students didn't have it correct I could give them some quick feedback, they would fix it, and I would check it again.

There's more to what we did (and are still doing), but that's all I feel like blogging about now.  Thanks for all the encouragement via my tweet.  It was amazing to see the power of twitter in that another teacher (in another country) took the idea and improved it and used it THE VERY NEXT DAY!  My students all think I'm a super-star now and they are impressed that I had one idea of my own.  It reminded me of what a blessing it is to be part of the #MTBoS!


Saturday, January 31, 2015

New Steps I'm Taking to Improve Group Work

I'm working a lot harder on making group work work in my classroom this semester.  I implemented some changes first semester, and expected it to work for itself from there...uh, duh Kathryn, you can't just put things in place and expect them to run themselves.  So I've been more thoughtful about it this semester, and trying to patiently look for small improvements.  Since I rarely blog, I will discuss all changes I have made this year.

First Semester

Desks in Groups of 4:  I have tables, so I've pushed two together to make groups of four.  I had this on and off last year, but I haven't even considered changing it once this year.

Group Supply Tubs:  I organized supplies into group tubs.  Something I sort of had last year, but that didn't work very well.  I also was intentional about not putting too much stuff in at the beginning of the year.

Roles:  I wrote about my role cards before school started, but I expected a little prep and some pretty cards to be enough for students to "play their role" every time...that is not enough.

Talking Points:  We do talking points as a warm-up every Thursday.  This helps give every student a voice.

Then I'd also throw around the phrase "do this in your groups" a lot and feel frustrated that they really weren't.  So I have tried to be more thoughtful.

Second Semester

Role Explanations in Notebook:  I made a half-sheet explanation of all the roles for students to put into their ISNs.  This way they ALWAYS had access to them and I could hold them more accountable.

Group Tasks:  I have been a lot more intentional about groups tasks.  One scored group task every unit is my challenge for myself.  This is super structured, and involves a significant amount of prep.  An important thing I learned from Elizabeth and our morning session at #TMC14 is to put in checkpoints for groups to call me over and see how they are progressing.  This helps a lot.  I even carry around a roster so that I can mark off what checkpoint each student has completed.  Then when I'm prepping for day 2 of the task, I have an idea of where everyone is and who I should maybe guide right from the beginning.

At this point I haven't done any amazingly exploratory/discovery task, but I think that's OK.  I'm not super-teacher, so small steps is what it is going to take.  I've turned some things I did last year (that I liked) into tasks that I now like better.  I'm sure they will morph next year into things I like even better...oh the joys of teaching!

Here is my sequence task:  Instructions, Cut Outs

Here is my function task:  Instructions, Cut Outs, Recording Sheet

Acknowledging What I Like:  I've been intentionally looking for things that I like during the group work time so that I can praise those things.  This helps me and my students, because I see the good things rather than the bad, and they feel encouraged.  It also leads to improvement because others see what I like from a group and they can work to do it in their group.

I actually just had a thought while I was blogging this that I'm going to try Monday.  I'm going to use my whiteboard to give these acknowledgements.  It is semi-public in that the entire class can see (but not other classes), but I don't have to spend the last couple minutes of class giving shout outs that they might forget by the next day.  AND other groups can IMMEDIATELY implement changes to get acknowledged as well.  I could even start with a few things on the board that I'm looking for and then write up the table number when I see that group doing it.

Group Reflections:  Every day we do any group work task work, I have them complete a quick reflection.  I'm sure I stole the questions from Elizabeth (bottom of this post) and just modified it a bit. It's just a quarter sheet, so I make a ton of copies and have them ready.  My hope is that by regularly trying to give a compliment to someone for playing their role they will become more familiar with the responsibilities of each role.  I might modify the reflection next task to involve something the individual did as well as something another person did.  Try to slowly increase the expectation that EVERYONE is playing their role.

Here is a link to what I've been giving (4 to a page).  And here is what I created for next time (2 to a page).

That's where I'm at with group work right now.  I'm proud of the changes I've made, but also disappointed that we're not farther along.  I have been realizing this year how long real change takes.  And it is a little disheartening because I'm starting to understand that it's going to take more than just me to make real change for our students.  We really need every teacher on board to make real change for students.

Let me know if you see something big (or small) that I'm missing that would make group work more valuable for my students.  I know that it is not ideal at this point, but I'm working on getting better.