I was not completely successful with blaugust but am happy with the result anyway. Blogging really helps me to look for the positive in every day. Even when situations are negative, you can make them positive by learning from them. I have noticed that my posts that earn the most attention are ones that highlight the positive things I have learned. Even when I have admitted mistakes on this blog, I have learned great lessons that I have shared. Moving forward into this school year I plan to continue with the #Teach180 picture posts with 140 character reflections, or microblogging, if you will :). I would like to publish longer blog posts approximately once per week. I wanted to thank the #MTBoS for inspiring me to get back to blogging my reflections on teaching and inspiring me to get more involved on Twitter again. I also committed to moderating the #MTBoS hashtag on the 30th of each month which was a fun experience yesterday. It is great to help others feel welcome in this community that I have learned so much from and I like giving back in any way that I can.
Today was our first late start day. Our district opted to start doing these again. We used to do these MANY years ago but they would only be once a month. This year, we will do these weekly. I hope that this time around we will get better attendance on these late start days since it is weekly. Given the near perfect attendance in my classes thus far, I’d say this concern is not really warranted :).
I did some sketchnotes during our morning session. I can attest that they do help keep me focused and in the moment which is one of my goals for this school year and really in life. My tablemates took notice of what I was doing and made comments that were positive. Really they just help me to stay on task and help me to reflect later on the important parts of the meeting or activity.
Some of these items only make sense to me.
- We were reminded of one of my favorite Rich East entities this morning when the brother of Bill Yarborough came to talk to us about financial freedom. Anyone who has met him has probably been called champ but you felt like the number one champ in his book whenever you talked with him. Building relationships has been key to my success this school year and I need to channel his enthusiasm into my lessons.
- We have a pretty worthwhile (yet lofty goal) of 29% percentile rank improvement goal in math over the next several years. I like the fact that we are planning on how to achieve this goal instead of diving right in. However, as always with any % I would like to have a clear “numerator” and “denominator” so I know where the benchmark lies. Sometimes people will use percents and will not really understand what those two numbers are which makes it difficult to measure success.
- I am proud of how far I have come when it comes to using de-escalation techniques with students. There were definitely some points in my career that I interacted with students in a way that I am not proud of. I think that these experiences taught me so much about how to effectively deal with situations and when I see a student getting more upset, I have strategies that I employ that help de-escalate things (active listening, employing the assistance of another adult, etc). I would like more strategies to employ in the future.
- I am always looking for ways to improve. You can make improvements year to year or day to day or minute to minute. I’m happy with my progress when it comes to engagement and I hope to continue on this path during the remainder of this year.
I was excited this morning because the magnatiles I ordered for my play table will arrive sometime today. However, I realized that I already had some puzzles that would work well on the table for this week :). I already had some students try out the math puzzles here today so I am looking forward to what this table will do in the future. I thank Sara Van Der Werf for the inspiration for this in my room (I believe my students will thank her too).
Additionally, today my students worked with the Broken Circles activity. The inspiration for this activity came from reading the Math Equals Love post about this activity. I believe I learned more about my students through this activity than they learned for themselves but I am ok with that outcome because I really do think they learned about how to work on a team and that sometimes your solution will not help other people with their problems. At one point, this team had waited a VERY LONG TIME to have one student give up any of his pieces so they just gave them all to him. He struggled and was unable to put the four circles together himself. I tried to check in with the students and I look forward to reading their feedback to see what this group gleaned from this experience. I definitely learned something and plan to use that information to move forward in my class.
Today I gave pre-assessments in all of my classes. It is a necessary evil in this world of data driven decisions. However, it also allowed my students the time to register for Remind and Khan Academy which is worthwhile. Two of my classes still had five minutes left at the end so I played “Guess My Number” and had a blast. When I first started teaching my arsenal of five minute games was pretty limited. Below are my favorites.
Guess My Number (Between 1 and 1000)
Though it sounds daunting it really isn’t. Students are in groups and ask yes/no questions to determine my number. Each group gets three guesses at any time that they turn in on a post-it note. The inspiration for this game came from the internet but I could not find the blog post to give it credit 😦
I blogged about this fun one recently. It has a really quick set up and an endless array of possibilities on level of difficulty and scaffolding.
Tech and One Minute: Math Mayhem
My high school students STILL struggle with their multiplication facts. When I have out my Chromebooks and we have finished an online activity, I introduce them to Math Mayhem. It is elementary BUT after the first round when I DOMINATE them and they realize the challenge of beating me IT IS ON. My students will clammer for this activity. I will usually only do it once a year but it is a glorious one day.
My district bought us a set of these cards a long time ago and I will bust them out when I have five minutes in class. I’ll challenge students to find multiple ways to make 24 in their groups. This game is also a super fun way to talk about order of operations.
Draw the House
Again, a no set up game. I challenge my students to draw the following figure without lifting their pencil off of the page (in other words, one continuous line) and without retracing any lines.
Connect the Dots
Challenge your students to connect the dots without lifting their pencil off of the page, using only 4 lines, and no retracing any lines. It cracks me up to see them draw and redraw the same wrong answer over and over and over. I’ll give them a hint to “think outside the box” and they just have no idea.
I have Geometry so there is a TON of vocabulary. I will take students who want to participate and have them do a mini spelling bee of Geometry terms from class.
I have a beach ball that I have written integers all over. We toss the ball and the students have to perform an integer operation with the numbers that their thumbs are touching. You can do this game as an elimination game or one for points for your team.
The Geometry curriculum we use at my school is heavily Algebra based. Therefore, we take some time to review some Algebra concepts. Today, I used some clothesline math with my students. I am amazed that this version of a number talk can take a variety of turns in class and no two conversations I had today with my students went in the same direction. Most classes were able to review what a variable is and what (1/2)x means on the continuum. I really like clothesline math but realized that I need to “invest” in a better clothesline than just some string as the string has too much give to it.
The clothesline included the following two tents which also led to some healthy discussion of equality and the meaning of the symbols.
With that discussion of equality we were able to springboard into “noticing” and “wondering” about some mobile math.
I realized JUST how out of practice I was with running math talks by the time we began talking about this picture. I gave my students too much scaffolding in my first period. By the third time, I was happy with using the notice/wonder structure that gets talked about all the time with #MTBoS. I LOVED the result of what students were able to notice and wonder without me and it led to me seeing the math in some much different ways.
We also touched on having a viable argument and critiquing the reasoning of others (one of my FAVORITE practices). Students were able to say that the diamond was 2 but articulating “why” was really a challenge until they realized that I just wanted students to share their thinking.
I need to work on closure. Each class today left without me “getting their pulse” on if they learned anything – I mean it felt like they got something out of today but I really can’t be for sure. I need to be much more deliberate about getting that information in the future to guide my instruction.
Side note, this blog post is in no way a criticism of anyone or school or anything along those lines. It is just what happened in class today. If anything, it might be a criticism of myself as while I was planning this lesson, I assumed my students’ experience would be greater with this tool.
Today was the second day of real “content” with my Geometry students. After years of the Common Core Standards in place, which I know includes Geometry standards at the 7th grade level, I am still amazed when students remark that they have not used a protractor before, and I am fairly positive that they are being truthful (or at least that they didn’t remember actually using one).
What was intended to be a five minute “review” of these skills to launch into the real lesson activity of the day turned into a much more in depth “teaching” of how to use this tool. Although they might NEVER use a protractor outside of my class again I do find the task of measuring something using a tool useful. The task also spoke to the CCSS Math Practice Standards of attending to precision and using tools strategically. It is so challenging (especially at the beginning of the year) to determine what are appropriate scaffolds to help students work on a task. Moving forward, I plan to assume less which is actually a good thing because then we can talk about refined meanings of things. For instance, because of their lack of background we were able to really talk about that the measurement in degrees was actually a measurement of a rotation. I think next year my approach might be different.
The first full day with students is always challenging. I still have classroom set up things that I want to take care of (read: love putting things on my walls but also saw a quote that read “don’t make it look like Pinterest threw up on your wall” and that has stuck with me). Students come to your class at the wrong time, late, or too early. You have the utopia of school still fresh on your mind from summer but the reality sets in and you realize that you sometimes have to have Tim Gunn moments where you need to “make it work”. However, through it all I have to admit that I am less stressed than previous years and that is a definite improvement.
I tried some of Sara Van Der Werf’s ideas for my first day. I’ve had 17 years of first days and this was a good one. I will never forget about 10 years ago when students actually started fighting on the very first day (not my fault as they were continuing an argument from the summer and one student was eventually expelled for continuing that behavior in other classes, but I digress). Anything shy of that start is a good one :). I will admit that I miss the #TLAP playdoh beginning, but I have a feeling that I will use playdoh at some point this year in my classes 🙂 and #TLAP is so much more than JUST day 1, though day 1 is important. One of the best parts of Sara’s feedback form is that I got to know some things about students that I never would have known otherwise. One student noted that he is hard of hearing and he liked where he sat today. Another student gave a shout out to her previous teacher (who also happened to be transferred to another school in our district) and when I texted him what she wrote he said that it made his day. I was floored at the honesty of my students and can’t wait to see what they write for the remainder of the week. One of my favorites is below:
When I declared my major in college I said the same exact thing. I believed it too until a couple of years into teaching. My hope is that at the end of this year, she will value the multiple ways to a right answer that took me so long to appreciate.
I’ve started using #teach180 on my Twitter. What is #teach180? Check it out here. This is the first year that I have told my students that I have a Twitter and I actually gained a new follower :). I’m interested in seeing if I can leverage this form of communication to better my practice. I like the idea of pictures and 140 character reflections on the day moving past #blaugust.