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.