Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Highlights from last night's #connectedTL slow chat

Q1:  What's an example of a useless math question?
  • Lame question: "Any questions?" Better: "What questions do you still have?" Best: "What question might someone ask?"
  • Unproductive Struggle: T says you can only do it 1 way--my way, even if another path works better for Ss

Q2:  How can Ts transform classrooms into "empowerment centers"
  • We can turn Ss into content creators! Empower them to value the journey, not just the destination! 
  • Provide time and space to explore, create and discover on their own & with one another with opportunities to share
  • cultivate growth mindset culture, embracing struggle, PRAISING perseverance, & giving opportunities for Ss to teach Ss & T

Q3:  How can teachers make the mistake/learning process real for their students?
  • Model, model, model. they can see right through an imposter, so just fess up and admit you don't know everything
  • Perfection isn't the goal. /Growth/ is the goal. /Risk-taking/ is the goal.
  • Ts need to model recovering from mistakes so Ss can see that.
  • Ss need to have opps to fail, opps to struggle, opps to be successful, over time, not a prescription, sequenced
  • Must create a culture where a wrong answer isn't the end of the process - Failure as First Attempt, but certainly not last
  • Process over product. Say out loud, "I don't care if it's right. How did you get there?"
  • make them aware of this productive struggle process & praise the hell out of it when they bust through.

Q4:  How can math teaches make students' voice more prominent?
  • when my Ss were reluctant to contribute I loved asking for "wrong" answers/approaches/ methods Always jumpstarted the convo
  • Don't repeat them when they're quiet.
  • "Maria, louder and slower. We can't hear you up front."
  • Provide open ended prompts where Ss explain thinking, Ts provide opps for Ss to share out in multiple ways

Q5:  How are @timsmccaffrey's "Tail-les problems" a shift in math curriculum?
  • @ddmeyer
  • In a word, ambiguity.  Students aren't sure what the problem will ask, so they're letting their own curiosity go wild.

Q6:  How do we build confidence in math (especially with low-performers)?
  • embrace mistakes. “Ooh that’s a good mistake..we can learn from that!” 
  • Celebrate every wrong answer.
  • Give props for "wrongest" answer (risk-taker). Let groups revise and present together.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Reference Pages

In my quest for the interactive notebook that works for me, I've got myself cutting and pasting like a mad woman.  And I love it.  I previously posted a working series of introductory pages and reference pages. But now that I've covered up the reference pages that comes built into the book, I'm in search of actual geometry reference pages. I know it sounds crazy. I swear I saw one on math=love or everybody's a genius, the Sarahs had to have something, they have everything. But alas, I either can't find it or I made it up, so I'm off to actually make one now...

Friday, July 31, 2015

my spatial challenge...

I have to admit.  I'm a spatial retard.  Entirely stupid when it comes to objects in motion.  Which makes it incredibly difficult for me to teach geometry.  Proofs , theorems, and static shapes are no problem.  It's when I need to move them that I encounter issues.  Translations, reflections, rotations (aerate!!!!), and dilations, oh my!  I'm a map turner.  If it weren't for things moving, I would have finished my engineering degree.

So, now that I've admitted to myself and the world that this is my special spatial challenge, I've got to do something about it.  I've always done their homework to look out for potential stumbles, but with the new Common Core standards, Geometry includes a lot of transformations.  I'm struggling so much with them, that I'm wondering if either (a) I'm cut out for this particular assignment, or (b) this will make me a better educator.  I'm leaning towards and hoping for (b).  I will definitely confess my secret to my students.  I believe that this will allow students to relate and feel hopeful toward their own challenges, and feel sympathetic toward me when I completely bungle something.  Plus, they always get a decent giggle out of the similarity in the words spatial and special.

Stupid rotations.  Stupid reflections.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


My grading policy has changed so many times throughout my ~15 years of teaching.  When I started out, fresh out of college, I graded everything.  Which, in hindsight, I find incredibly silly.  I thought to myself, if the kids were doing it, they deserved to have it seen and graded.  Wiser me now says, it just needs to be acknowledged.  How I've graded homework (just homework) in the past (in chronological order)
  • Collected daily and graded
  • Collected daily, √, √+, √- for completion
  • Homework quizzes (one random question per assignment weekly).  Students would recreate their completed homework onto a homework quiz form.  
  • Have students self-grade themselves for completeness, and collect it on test/quiz days (this was for high school though).
  • Collect one assignment per week at random, grade for completeness or correctness.  Whatever strikes my fancy.

Last year, I implemented a cooperative team system, where teams get participation points if they all have their homework for the day completed.  This year, in addition to their team points,  I think I will be collecting a week's worth of homework, giving a complete/incomplete (all or none) point, and grading 3 random assignments per packet at five points each, for a total of 20 points.  There will be a template that they'll get on Monday, and turn in on Friday.  Here's to hope and cheers to change.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I've been planning...

I think I'm teaching a whole new course next year--the last time I taught geometry, it wasn't common core, and it was to a group of severely underperforming high school students. This time it will be to middle schoolers who are taking it concurrently with algebra.  It's not the same kids, not the same course, definitely not the same ball game. 

I've been inspired by all of the bloggers of interactive notebooks out there, especially math=love, and Everybody is a Genius.  This is my INB so far...

I'm stealing the Numbers About Me activity from Sarah Rubin, and modifying it a bit to make it a cooperative task.  They will be working in pairs, and one partner will have one half of directions, while the other partner has the other half.  They will be graded on how accurately they followed directions.  I'll post that once I've got it all figured out.

I've always made my students number their pages, even when it wasn't an interactive notebook, but I think this upcoming year, I will make them number their pages with the center spread being pages zero and page one, odd pages will continue to be on the left, and evens will be on the right, just like the numbering of a standard book.

Opening pages:
  • Me at a Glance--stolen from Sarah Rubin, printed at 85 - 90%, so it will fit inside the notebook better. 
  • Master table of contents.  As much as I would like to continue my book by topics, like I have done in the past, and have everything standards-based, the math program that I'm using doesn't roll out material in discreet units.  In theory, the spiraling will insure the reteaching and relearning of material.
Pages -98 and -97:
  • Page -98:  Overflow of the table of contents
  • Page -97:  Syllabus.  Again, inspired by Sarah Rubin, who was inspired by Jessie Hester. My previous syllabus and course description, while I really liked it, was very text and information heavy.  This one is much easier to read, and still has the meat of my potatoes.  The QR code is even a link to my work email.  
Pages -96 through -91 get a little messy, because my work spouse decided to proceed without me, and I subsequently changed my mind.  The stickies override the pages.  I'm resisting the urge to make a whole new book.  I've already started using the book for math purposes.

The FAQs will start on pages -96 and -95.  I tried to brainstorm as many questions as I could, focusing on questions that were not directly answered by the syllabus.

Pages -94 and -93 will be the long-term goal-setting and the math biography, which (again) was lifted from Sarah Hagan.

Pages -92 through -87
After the informational pages, I'm doing personalities and learning styles. That has always been something that's important to me. I'm not a hugely kinesthetic person, or musical, or creative. I'm a very technical person, so I HATED when I was told to do a skit/dance/song about something. If we know what we are good at, and who we are, we can stretch and grow into more self-actualized people. Right?

Pages -92 through -87
-92 and -91:  color personality quiz, with the color explanation on appropriately colored paper (again, inspired by Sarah Rubin, who was inspired by Sarah Hagan)
-90 and -89:  learning styles with explanations 
-88 and -87:  multiple intelligences. I'm going to have the kids paste study strategies and potential career pathways to the folded part. 

Now, here comes the actual math.
I'm quite happy and proud of the opening unit pages.  The table of contents for each unit was borrowed from Sarah Hagan.  I added a tab, more for myself than anything else--it's made from the scraps that get cut off. 

Next is the ever useful pocket and vocabulary pages. At first, I was going to use cut/folded/pasted Frayer models, but that occupied too much space to warrant its existence. I like this idea much better. Less space, only one session of cutting and taping (hopefully), and it could be done at any time during the unit.  I'm very happy about figuring out how to mirror my margins like in books--the inner margin is larger than the outer.  :-)

I'm anxious about the new school year. A bit scared, apprehensive and slightly overwhelmed, but it'll be great. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Extra Credit...

As a general rule, I don't offer extra credit.  It's usually extra work for me, I offer resubmissions, and what standard is it anyway?  

But I'm starting to get cheap and greedy and am having a hard time reconciling it all. I'm at the point where I cannot continue to buy things for my students because I have my own little person to take care of, but I want duct tape. And tissues. And batteries. And glue sticks. The school generally buys the majority of the basics--I just have to ask. But duct tape?  

I can't punish the less affluent students, but I don't want to buy tons and tons of stuff myself. I don't like cognitive dissonance. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions...

I'm considering creating a FAQ for my interactive notebooks next year.  I'm a bit tired of answering a desperate student's "What can I do to raise my grade".  The answer is always the same.  Redo something....

At any rate, my current list of Frequently Asked Questions that I'll develop a nifty thingie for...

Q:  What can I do to improve my grade?
A:  Redo anything that isn't graded in red.

Q:  Can I have extra credit?
A:  No.

Q:  Why don't you offer extra credit?
A:  Because I offer resubmissions.

Q:  Will you accept _____ late?
A:  I will accept late projects, however, you've forfeited your right to resubmissions.  I will not accept late homework.  They're not worth enough in my class for me to bother with it.

Q:  I lost my handout, may I have another?
A:  A pdf is hosted on my website.  You get it.

Q:  What if I'm absent?
A:  It's your responsibility to make up all work in a timely manner.  You have the same number of days you were absent to make up work.  If your work hasn't been turned in after the number of days you've been absent, your work is officially late, and late work rules will apply.  For example, if you were sick for 2 days, you have two days to make it up.  On the third day, it's considered late, and you will lose your resubmission privileges or your work may not be accepted.

What am I missing?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Standards-Based Grading.

My previous school insisted on standards-based grading, and resubmissions were the school norm.  They believed in standards-based grading so much that their online grading system only allowed teachers to input grades by standard.  It was brilliant, and made sense to the teachers and students.

I've been reflecting on how to handle students' resubmission of work at my new school.  It's a traditional, large-district middle school.  I've been meaning to do something similar to what my previous school had, within the parameters that I'm given.  So far, not too many students take me up on the offer (not at the systemized, large-scale that APEX did, at least), but for those that do, I would like for them to think about their learning process and what they've done to remediate.  I don't want them to waste their time, or most importantly, mine.  Telling the students that they can only submit an assignment three times total helps.  I grade in three different colors, first in green, then in purple, then in red.  Once they hit red, the assignment is done.  No excuses.

The problem is, there are still students who will resubmit an assignment cold.  I really liked Sarah Hagan's "Request to Retest", so I reformatted hers so it matched the rest of my classroom forms.

The New Semester...

I've been trying to write this for months.  Seriously.  Months.  I don't think it's my inability to reflect that has been preventing me to get this done.  Rather blame my life—it's busy.  That's all I can really say.  Part-time teacher, part-time math coach, wife, and mom to a very high-energy toddler,

Ok, so it's time to reflect...

The new semester has started, and is well on it's way.  I am be teaching one section of Common Core Math 8, and one section of intervention math, where anything is game.  For now, I will be temporarily abandoning my interactive notebooks for Math 8, and will continue next year at the beginning of the school year as the course norm.  I've been going through the new, school-chosen textbook with some degree of fidelity to see if I actually like it.  And the verdict is that I don't.  I'm a bit disappointed that colleagues that I trusted chose something so dry and well, lame.  It's ok.  Next year, I go rogue anyway, so whatevs.  :-/

My intervention class will continue to use interactive notebooks, although sparingly, because I intend on sprinkling other projects and other fun games and activities.  So far, we've had a decimal unit, which culminated in buying furnishings for their 'apartments'.  I had planned a larger, overarching unit that would include paychecks, paying rent and writing cheques for bills, but I think that assignment may have been too mature for them.  The last time I did something similar, my students were three years older, most of them understood taxes, and some of them actually had jobs.

After the decimal unit, we had a fraction unit that ended disastrously.  We had a how-to foldable at the end of the unit and culminated in making cookies.  Given the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, they were supposed to multiply it by 1/2 and physically make those cookies.

I would take them home, bake them off, return them, and have a taste test.  If they had cruddy cookies, it's because they're cruddy fractioneers.  The cookies came out like garbage.  Every.  Single.  Batch.  Garbage.  Who screwed up their math?  Me.  I gave each group 3 cubes of butter (1 cube = 1/2 stick = 1/4 cup).  They should have  had half that amount.  Sigh.  Better luck next time, right?  I'm making it up to them by baking my FamousCookies.  The cookies whose recipe will go with me to the grave.  Those cookies.

Next up are integers, equations and graphing lines.  I'm not sure how I'll end the integers and equations, but I know that the graphing will end with making paper airplanes.  They will make airplanes on stock graph paper, then write the equations, then pass the equations to a partner.  The partner will then make the airplanes and fly them.  Winners get a cookie?