Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Classroom Pet-Peeve: Unpreparedness

My biggest pet-peeve is students coming to class without a pencil, or calculator, or notebook (where they keep classroom documents like in progress assignments or usernames and passwords to computer programs).  I am still looking for ways to make this a better situation, but here is what I have tried with moderate success so far.

Pencils and Calculators:  I have tried marking my pencils with colorful duct tape and keeping them in a basket along with some cheapy calculators.  Oddly enough, if I put 12 pencils in the bin, they will be gone by the end of the day.  I could refill daily and lose all of them daily.  I don't do this, I just refill maybe once or twice per marking period and when they are gone, kids need to ask each other for pencils.  The cheap calculators however, never get stolen.  I have had the same 6 four function calculators for years.  I've basically given up on the pencil battle.

I tried collecting student ids when they borrowed something, but it just turned into more work for me, which I don't need.  I have tried contacting the parents of extreme repeat offenders, offering to keep a small box of school supplies in my room just for their child.  I have tried writing student names on the pencils and they can only borrow 'their' pencil.  Again, all of these things resulted in more work for me.  So, I still don't have a good solution.

Missing paperwork for a current multi-day assignment:  I do my best to require kids to keep these documents in the room.  I have a folder for each group and have them turn in their work each day.  As an added bonus, I try to check and leave written feedback daily on the progress that has been made.  These kids benefit by getting a heads-up if they misunderstood part of an assignment before it is officially graded.

Missing usernames and passwords:  I just have worksheets or something boring for these kids to do.  And I require them to make-up the online assignment they missed too.  This has actually worked pretty well.  The students don't want to do an extra paper assignment, so they make sure they are ready for the electronic assignment.  While they are working on the extra paper assignment, they email me to ask for their login info.  After school I look it up and send it to them so they can make-up the work they missed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Favorite Activity: Desmos

I need to admit that I got behind in Desmos world.  I noticed all the posts about activity builder on Twitter in the past year or so, but I did not choose to get involved.  Then I saw the announcements of polygraph and marble slides.  That did not get me to jump in either.  Maybe it was because I was reading much of this during the school year and I was too busy with 3 new preps to try to keep up with Desmos.  Fast forward to a little over a month ago when I saw tweets about card sorts on Desmos.  Now that got my attention.  I bought in within seconds.  I even created nearly a dozen lesson seeds for the upcoming year.  Now I LOVE Desmos.  In fact, whenever I plan an activity in the future, I'll probably ask would the assignment benefit from being Desmosfied?  Some things are better on paper and will remain that way, but I'm looking forward to turning some of my assignments into activity builders.

I anticipate that kids will really enjoy marble slides and polygraphs.  And I love the thinking encouraged by card sorts.  The only thing better than an old fashioned card sort is a Desmos card sort where I don't need to create, print, copy, cut, laminate, cut, sort, and store 10 sets of cards. I can just stop after the create step.

Here are some of the Desmos activities that I have started so far.  Most of them are just one screen of a card sort.  I wanted to do this to get something started that I could come back to later without forgetting that I wanted to make into a sort.  During the year, I hope to add additional slides with leading information and follow-up questions for students to answer.  Use any of these that you like and please leave feedback.

Relating Parallel & Perpendicular Lines
Using Polynomial Equations to Solve Problems
Segments of Triangles
Quotients involving Exponents - Matching
Sum and Difference of Cubes Sort
negation, inverse, contrapositive sort
Isometry Sort
Conic Sections Sort
Quadrilateral Sort
Solve by Completing the Square Card Sort

Sunday, August 28, 2016

#Tryazon #Ozobot Robot Party

I recently wrote about how I would like to incorporate robotics into my geometry classroom.  I followed all of the classroom robot companies on twitter and started asking questions.  The folks at @OZOBOT were quick to reply and they became one of my top contenders.  Several weeks later, Ozobot tweeted that they were partnering with @Tryazon to sponsor 200 parties.  Of course I jumped at this opportunity and was fortunate enough to be chosen to host.

I have never hosted a Tryazon party before but they are a company that matches innovative new products with potential customers.  As a host, I had to host a party where adults would get to play with and experience Ozobot.  In exchange, I received an Ozobot Starter Pack.  I also received a second robot to give away as a door prize.  Additionally, I was provided with a detailed party planning guide, coupons, and support along the way to ensure that I was able to pull off a successful event.

My party was a little different that most I suppose.  Because I want to use Ozobot in an educational setting and because I am planning on applying for a grant to obtain a class set of these little guys, I invited teachers who would be interested in using Ozobot in their classroom as well.  After sharing resources below with about 40 science, math, and technology teachers, I gathered the 5 most interested to play.

What is Ozobot?
What can you do with Ozobot?
Are there amazing lesson plans for Ozobot?

I along with the other teachers, were impressed with the wide variety of ways that Ozobot can be programmed (markers, sticker clings, blockly, and java).  We loved the problem solving aspect of the pre-made puzzles.  In addition to the above lesson plans, we also brainstormed how Ozobot could be used to teach topics like probability (basic and dependent), areas, similarity, and congruence for geometric figures, orientation of transformations,  pythagorean theorem, trigonometric functions, uniform circular motion and deriving the value of pi.

I have two other teachers that are very interested in working with Ozobot, so we may even ask for three classroom sets when we apply for the grant.  If the grant application is successful, I'll be sure to share about future lessons!

Toughest Challenge For Teachers? Public Opinion

I try to stay away from any blog prompt that could lead me to start thinking negatively, but this prompt was on the Blaugust list and it is important.  My biggest concern is with the public opinion of teachers.  Whenever I read an article online about education, I can pretty much guarantee that I'd spend a few depressed hours reading through the public comment section.  Even if the article was a positive one, eventually people start to comment how this one good teacher/school is the exception rather than the rule.  Teachers get 10 weeks paid vacation, teachers have great health benefits, teachers get too much of a retirement benefit, teachers get paid too much, teachers have the easier job ever, teachers are just generally greedy people with their shiny apples and Toyotas.

I know that it is pointless, you can't argue with people who already have their minds made up, but here are a few of my responses.

1)  Teachers do NOT get 10 weeks of paid vacation.  Teachers are salaried, most choose to be paid (a smaller amount) over 26 pay periods rather than 21 to help with their budgeting.  I like to think of it as an interest free loan to our employers and to the taxpayers.  If you lend someone $800 and they repay you 6 months later, you didn't get paid $800 of additional income, you simply collected on a debt.  How nice of you not to charge your friend interest.

Additionally, I work the same number of hours per week during the summer as I do during the school year.  Most teachers do not do this, I understand that.  However, I do not have children, so I spend my summers taking graduate classes to maintain my certification and creating classroom activities for my classes the following fall.  All evening, weekend, and summer work is unpaid.

2)  Many teachers DO have good health benefits.  I can't speak for everyone, but I am grateful for the benefits that I have.  Rather complain about that, why not insist that everyone have a right to affordable health care?  That said, the only two insurance plans, other than my own, that I have been on have both been slightly better than mine.  My father worked in a factory and my husband works for an armory.  I'd say I pay premiums about 60% of their costs and my coverage is about half the value of their, so it's a wash.

3)     Teachers get a FAIR retirement benefit.  Again, I would argue, why not care for all employees and require employers to help fund retirements, especially for vested employees (10+ years).  Why take away a great benefit from someone when you could fight to have that benefit for everyone.  That said, teachers are paid far less than other professionals with the same level of credentials.  In exchange for being paid less, some teachers get a pension.  In Pennsylvania the teachers and the schools were supposed to fund the plan.  Teachers have always paid their part, but for years, school chose not to pay into the accounts.  Now when they need to repay the money they held off on paying (again, sort of like repaying a loan), this has created hardship.  I think of my pension sort of like social security.  10% of my weekly pay goes to the pension, but in reality, I may never see that money again.  I have to save in an IRA just like everyone else.  You can't depend on social security being there and you can not count on a pension either.

4)  Teachers are paid less than other professionals with the same levels of education.  See the article linked in the previous section.  It's worth noting that teachers are paid for working with children 8 hours per day.  Most teachers have about 40 minutes of that time set aside for things like grading papers and creating content.  That is not nearly enough time.  I spend an additional 2-3 unpaid hours per day doing those things.  Also, some people would argue that children are our most valuable resource.  Why not respect and pay the professionals that allow all other professions to exist?

5)  Teachers have a difficult job.  It is thankless in most cases.  I have 120-150 students per year.  I hear positive feedback from maybe 3-4 sets of parents per year.  I get negative feedback far more often.  It makes sense I guess, people generally only reply to surveys or offer feedback when they are unhappy.  I wish that anyone who wants to comment on the difficulty of the job would be required to teach for 1 year first.  I'd like to see their student performance and evaluations compared to how they describe the difficulty of their teaching job.

6)  Most teachers are incredibly selfless.  I personally offer before/after school help for about 1 hour per day, at no cost to students.  I spend about $500  of my personal income to buy supplies for my students.  I even forgo bathroom breaks and lunch breaks when students need help and can not come in before/after school.  Call me crazy, but everyone should be entitled to 25 minutes of free time to do things like eat and use the lavatory.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

3 Blogs that I Visited for the First Time

With #MTBoSBlaugust happening right now, it was very easy to find some new blogs to read.  Here is a list of the participating blogs if you are looking for new sources of inspiration too.  When I started looking, I was searching for great ideas that I could use in my classroom.  Here is what I found.

1)  Socrative 101 - Making "Digital Task Cards":  I recently wrote about how I'd like to use technology at the direct station for formative assessment more often.  One thing that has been holding me back is the difficulty that exists in writing mathematical symbols on these sites.  Rock Star Math Teacher posted directions on how to use powerpoint to make this process easier.   Here are some of the of the socrative quizzes that she has already made.  Powerpoint has an easy to use equation editor and then you just save each slide as an image.  I'm excited to try this to digitize some of my current whiteboard practice.

2)  Questions that Promote Thinking:  Julie shares an awesome resource to help with questioning to promote thinking and discussion.  I'm planning to print out this resource and keep it in my lesson plan book.  I feel like questioning is something that I have the ability to do well, but it is one of the first things that I forget about when I am short on time.  Then all of a sudden, I'm just telling rather than questioning.  Having these questions nearby will help me to be more consistent in using good questioning.

3)  My Favorite MTBoS Week 2:  Sarah shares a genius idea for quick student feedback.  This is way more affordable than #NeedARedStamp.  I can't wait to order several of these.  I'm thinking of  "Please see me for extra help before/after school." or "You can not cancel across addition in a rational expression."

Friday, August 26, 2016

3 Impactful Blog Posts

Since I joined the #MTBoS about three years ago, I have grown more in my teaching than I had in the previous ten years.  Some of that growth came from attendance at conferences but most of the growth was the result of interacting with teachers from around the world on twitter and on blogs.  Here are three blog posts that have had a great impact.

Gems 54 - Algebra by Example

Jo Morgan posts regularly about great resources she find via twitter and elsewhere online.  I love error analysis and this particular posts introduced me to Algebra by Example.  Sometimes I use these problems as a warm-up, other times I use them at my collaborative station in my hybrid classroom.   I especially like the additional questions about the mistakes.  Sometimes kids need a place to get started and the questions do just that.  I hope that one day this resource will be expanded to include algebra 2 and geometry topics.

Graphing Stories

Dan Meyer wrote this post in 2007 and later collaborated with Buzz Math to create a dedicated website.  My students have historically struggled with distance vs time graphs and the like.  This resources is a great place to start.  Later, you can move onto verbal descriptions of events and working in reverse where you could give students a graph and have them create the story.  With current technology, you could even have kids create their own videos.

Nix the Tricks

I've always taken pride in focusing on understanding rather than tricks.  When I read this book, I realized that I still have some room for improvement.  Right now, I am working on eliminating "cross multiply"  and "cancel" from my vocabulary.  This is especially challenging because these are ideas that students learn before they reach me in algebra 2 or geometry.  For now, when I have a student say these words I ask "Do you mean multiply both sides by a common denominator to  eliminate the fractions?"  Then I demonstrate.  I'm playing dumb.  I know exactly what they mean, but I want to reinforce why it works.  Hopefully this will lessen the likelihood of students mixing up tricks and using them at the wrong time.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Organizational Tip: Lots of Folders, Bins, and Boxes

I feel a bit weird about organization, because my system is far from perfect and I still need to work on this myself.  My main issue, now that I'm entering my 13th year in the classroom, is that I have way too much stuff.  Luckily, I've switched classrooms at least once every three years.  This has at least forced me to purge once every few years.  So that is tip number 1.

1)  Purge often.  Don't wait until you need to move all of your stuff for a new building or a new job or for retirement.  Go through all of your stuff every spring and/or fall and get rid of as much stuff as possible.

2)  Digital Folders.  I have a flash drive with literally thousands of files.  I need more folders to organize.  I have folders for each course, unit, and year that I have taught.  I've got folders for projects, warm-ups, and anything else you can imagine

Prior to mass storage like this, I used a 1 inch binder for every unit in every course that I taught. I still have those binders, but I've been trying to phase them out my scanning answer keys and such.  I could certainly use  the storage space for supplies for projects and the like.

I have yet to switch to cloud storage.  I have so much stuff that I'd need a pay program.  Do you know of a cloud storage place with 16 GB for free?

3)  Physical Folders.  I have a color coded folder for each group of students in my classes.  The folders are laminated and numbered so they can be reused all year.  As groups change, students just use a different folder.  The group folders are how I collect all work from students each day.  This includes warm-ups and classwork.  I also give each student a 3-prong folder to organize their weekly cumulative assessments along with their tracking sheets for standards based grading.  The only downside to this, is if you ever try to take these home to grade them, you need to take a copier box home to be able to carry them all.

4)  Bins.  I use a milk crate style bin with hanging folders for students to turn in their group folders.  I also use cardboard letter trays for students to pick up supplies for their stations.  I have bins marked "one per group" and "one per person" where I place handouts, cards for sorts, scissors, glue sticks, and any other items that students may need on any given day.  All of these are placed on one lone table divided into sections for each class.

5)  Boxes.  I unpack very few items each year.  If I don't use it daily, it stays in a labeled bankers box on a shelf in the closet.  This way when I do need to move classrooms, I don't have that much packing to do.  Also, we are required to pack up all of our stuff over the summer for our rooms to be emptied and thoroughly cleaned.  Most teachers just stuff their closets, but I like the labeled boxes.

I look forward to reading other peoples organizational posts for Blaugust.  I feel like I could still do better here :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Favorite Formative Assessment Strategies

I'll be the first to admit the my formative assessment strategies are typically very low tech.  I'd like to incorporate more high tech options into my class, especially at the direct station.  My class is not one-to-one, but I do have a class set of laptops and many (but not all) of my students have their own smartphone or tablet.  This should make more tech integration at the direct station very doable.  However, I need to give students time to log off and put the classroom laptops away, so I'll be sticking to low tech exit tickets.

Here is what I have done in the past at each of the stations for formative assessment and what I'd like to do this year.

Warm-ups:  About half of the time, I like to do a fun warm-up such as Estimation 180, Visual Patterns, Graphing Stories, Which One Doesn't Belong, or Would you Rather.  The rest of the time, I like to use the warm-up for lagging or spiraled practice in conjunction with the exit ticket.  On those lagging review days, I will give the students one older content question as a warm-up, we will discusses it, and at the end of class, they will have a similar question for the exit ticket.

Exit tickets:  I already mentioned what I do on the lagging review days, but on the other days, I like the exit ticket to be a chance for reflection and making connections.  Here are some of my favorite prompts on these days:

One thing I learned today ...
The concept I found most challenging today ...
My biggest take away today ...
The most interesting thing I learned today ...
Something I didn't understand today ...
Write a quiz question related to something you studied today.
The most enjoyable activity that we have done recently ...
Describe how to solve a problem like one that you studied today ...
What questions do you still have about the topics you studied today?
Who made a comment or asked a question today that was helpful/insightful?  What was the comment/question?  Why did it strike you?
Make a connection from what you learned in class today to something you've learned in the past.
If you were the teacher today, what would you add to the lesson?  Why?
If you were the teacher today, what would you take out? Why?
Describe what you did in class today.
Write a simile about the topic you studied today.

I'm always looking for new prompts; please share any that you have.

Whole group instruction:  When I need to lecture, formative assessment is usually in the form of students having a chance to solve practice problems.  I use Doceri for my classroom presentations and will take a picture of student work after each practice problem.  Sometimes I'll look for a correct answer, especially if we are short on time, but I also like to look for the best/a common mistake.  Students can learn just as much, sometimes more by looking at misconceptions.

After a lecture, I might ask students to rate their understanding with something like Fist of Five.  Then when we move onto the stations, I can focus on student weaknesses during the direct station.

Independent station:  At this station, I often have students watch video notes on EdPuzzle.  I include DOK1 questions in those videos.  EdPuzzle collects the data so that I can review it later.  I often use Khan Academy here and have students complete a certain practice set.  Again, I can review the data later.

Direct station:  This is where I have some of the most variety.  Sometimes I use individuals or partners on mini whiteboards to work out sample problems.  This is typically student directed in that they request topics to practice.  I often use a Kagan strategy to focus the work at this station.

I'd like to try to incorporate more of the gamified tech based formative assessment tools here like Kahoot, Socrative, Formative, Quizzizz, Plickers, Quizlet Live, Wizer, Nearpod, or Duck Soup.  If you use any of them, and love them, please let me know.  My preferences would be a tool that allows me to create questions using an equation editor or at the very least copy and paste an image of an equation, multiple choice and free response capabilities, and the option to eliminate timed limits.

Collaborative station:  At this station, I like to use projects about once per unit and game based practice for the remainder of the time.  I love the Desmos options here (card sorts, marble slides, polygraphs).  I also try to make typical worksheets into childhood games like Old Maidcolor by numberMy Ship Sailsboard games, and puzzles.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Mantra for the New School Year: Focus on the Good

I just had to rewrite this blog post because I was not meeting my goal/mantra.  My goal is to focus on the good because the majority of the people that I work with (parents, students, teachers) are good, but I tend to let one bad experience weigh heavily on me.  In trying to give an example of this, I found myself ultra focused on a bad situation.   So obviously, it is going to be a challenge for me to meet my goal of enjoying the good things in my career.

My main issue last year was two parents/students that did not agree with a) hybrid learning or b) responsibilities like coming to class on time and participating in class.  I let these two situations overshadow hundreds of positive ones.  I'd go home feeling defeated.  I had 118 other sets of parents who were very supportive.  I allowed these two parents to ruin the positive feedback that I got from everyone else.  So this is my goal for the new year.  Focus more on the good than the bad.  You can't please all of the people all of the time.  I think it may help for me to do One Good Thing posts regularly.  Maybe that will be another goal.  Yes, I think it will be.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Favorite Quotes

Some of these are from posters or signs that I hang in my room and some of these are things that I say to students.  I'm not sure of all of the original resources, but I've shared where I first heard them.


-Jillian Michaels

- Meg Graig

- Vince Vaughn

Things I say to students:

"So what your saying is..."   - I've been using this one for so long that I can't recall where I first heard it.  I have found that this is a good way to make students feel like they have been heard.  This is what I say when a student is angry and shouting and needs help deescalating.  I finish the statement with rephrasing what they just said.  For example, "So what your saying is that you are really angry with your friend because she was supposed to spend the day with you on Saturday, but she decided to hang out with her boyfriend instead."  I have also found that it works well with adults who are passionately arguing their opinion on some topic.

"What do you think you're going to do?" - From Love and Logic.  I use this often when a student comes to me with a problem that I know they can solve, like not having a pencil for class.  Most of the time the student answers with something like, "I guess I can ask James to borrow one." and I say that it "sounds like a good solution."

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Character Traits I'd Like to Instill in My Students

Our 'mascot' is the Blue Streaks, as in a streak of lightning.  They don't make costumes of lighting bolts, so we have a lion at our football and basketball games.  Honestly, I can not tell you why.  Here are some qualities that I hope my students learn before they graduate.

Brave enough to do the right thing, even when it is hard
Loyal to friends and family
Unbiased in judging the character of others
Eager to accept a challenge

Satisfied with their efforts to do good
Tactful in handling difficult situations
Rational in their thinking process
Efficient in their work
Adventurous in spirit
Kinder than necessary in their interactions with others
Selfless in their endeavors to help others

Saturday, August 20, 2016

How I Changed My Classroom Culture Through High-Fives

I followed TMC15 virtually and read about Glenn Waddell's session on giving his students high fives every day for a year.  So I decided to take on the challenge this past school year.  I am proud to say that I was successful.  I didn't miss a single day.  This was a big change for me.  I never made it into the hallway as often as I would have liked before.  Most of the time, I was doing a quick clean-up of my room between classes.  This included putting away supplies from one class and taking out the supplies needed for the next class.  This was actually the biggest hurdle that I had to overcome to be able to complete the challenge successfully.

I came up with a system where I used masking tape to split up a table by class and set out all the supplies for the day.  I trained my students to pick up and put back their own supplies from this table at the start and end of class each day.  The only other minor thing that I had to give up was conversations with students after class (some didn't mind standing in the hall next to me, but others would rather visit me before/after school than do that).

It definitely worked.  I will be doing high fives again this year.  The teachers around me commented that they thought it helped with building rapport with my students.  I liked the added benefit oh noticing when kids avoided giving me a high five.  This was a clue to let me know that something was wrong.  Sometimes it had nothing to do with me and the issue resolved itself in one day.  When a student skipped my high five two days in a row, I knew that I needed to arrange a chat.  Most often they were upset by a decision that I made (how much credit to award a late assignment or assigning a detention for being late to class).

Some students actually enjoyed the high fives so much that they would give me a high five when they passed my room heading to another class.  The funniest moment was probably when the final exam proctor told me that the class insisted that I come give them all a high five before they started their exams.  I felt a little like a basketball star jogging down a tunnel of students giving high fives on both sides.

What a great idea that made such a difference in my relationships with students.  Here's to another year of high fives!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pinned It - Did It: Dice

I saw a pin about using dice to practice operations between two mathematical items.  I immediately bought 3 sets of these dice from amazon.  I use two die and one counter chip per group.  Each face of the dice has an expression of some sort written on it while one side of the chip would mean one of two operations.

My students always enjoy using the die and it makes a fun alternative to a worksheet.  I used these to practice adding and subtracting polynomials, multiplying and dividing complex numbers, composing functions, operations on matrices, and probably a few other topics that I can't recall at the moment.

These dice in particular are ok, but you may want to look for something better.  Dry erase and  wet erase markers do not work because students smudge the writing.  You need to use a sharpie.  Then to get the writing off, I use a combination of a magic eraser and nail polish remover.  It works considering I already invested in these, but it would be nice to find something that works better.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

One time in math class…(when I was a student…)

My favorite lesson as a student was a calculus lesson.  We had just learned about how to minimize the surface area of a cylinder given a constant volume.  Our teacher asked each us to choose any product, packaged in a cylindrical container that was not in the optimized shape.  We wrote a letter to the company (complete with calculus equations and sketches) explaining our concern and telling them about how they could save lots of money with a new package in the optimal shape.  We had to show the letters to our teacher before sending them out.  We were offered bonus points if we got a response from the company, so we were encouraged to write an influential  letter.

Our teacher kept a record of each company that had been written to in the past so that the same companies would not be reused.  The most fun part was when we received responses and shared the letters with the class.

My letter was to a lip gloss company and I encouraged them to switch to a pot instead of a tube.  They sent a letter back thanking, me for my letter and with some coupons for a free product.

A classmate wrote to a company selling protein powder.  They wrote back calling her a genius and sent her a one year supply of free product.

A soup company wrote back saying that the student had forgotten about the fact that their cans get stacked.  Therefore, the tops and bottoms of the can need to be thicker to support the weight of stacking.  They explained that their packaging was in fact optimized based on the thicker tops/bottoms.

A pineapple company replied telling the student that the shape of their packaging was determined by the shape of the pineapple rings.  Since they could not change the shape of the rings, they could not change the diameter of the can.

It was a really cool activity.  I've never taught this content, but I will certainly use this lesson if I ever have the chance :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

One time in math class... (as a teacher)

One of my favorite things that I used to do with my Integrated Math 3 classes was to take them to Hershey Park, an amusement park near our school.  Our Physics department takes hundreds of students to physics day at the park each year.  Students ride the rides and collect data during the ride to answer physics questions.  However, algebra 2 is a prerequisite for physics, so only the best math students enroll in physics.  This eliminates all of our other math students for having the chance for a fun day of applied math.

The integrated strand was for our lowest achieving students.  There was a higher than usual failure rate, so although there were only three classes in the sequence, most of the students were seniors.  I chose to take these students to the amusement park for math day because I wanted them to have a fun experience related to math.

The park worked with several local education institutions to come up with this document.   There are lots of activities at various levels for students to complete.  Each year, I chose a handful of these for students to complete, allowing for some choice.

We drove school vans to the park as there were only about 30 students enrolled in this level of math so we didn't need a bus.  I gave the students my google voice phone number so they could contact me in case of an emergency.  We met for lunch and at the end of the day when they turned in their work and we went back home.

It was awesome to provide these students an fun day.  They had always been overlooked because they were not high achieving.  The kids always had a good time, and they always managed to complete their assignments for the day.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Start, Stop, Continue

I love this time of year.  Planning for the new school year is in full swing and you get a fresh start.  No matter what has happened in the past, you get a brand new group of students and you can do anything, change anything, keep anything.  You can build a better classroom every year.

This year, that main thing that I am going to start is student reflection after each station (twice per day) in my hybrid classroom.  The reason that I'd like to do this is to prevent kids from just going through the motions.  Often I feel like my students don't metacognate about their learning.  I want to them to really think about what they have learned and what they have done and accomplished.  I may do this less often as the year progresses, maybe once per day or once per rotation after I know that students have started to become more reflective.

The thing that I am going to stop doing is more like something that I am going to modify.  I love standards based grading.  This will be my third year using this instructional approach.  Since it is still relatively new to me, I am continuing to make changes to make it fit better.  The first thing that I will be changing is the way that I do weekly quizzes.  In the past, I have tried putting two questions from each objective on each quiz, one on grade level and one advanced.  I allowed kids to earn a "meets expectations = 80%" by getting the grade level question correct and an "exceeds expectation = 100%" by answering the above grade level correctly.  I also kept each objective on the quiz until the class average on the objective was at least 80%.  After that, I allowed students to earn the 100% but they had to go through a retest procedure after school.

This year, I think that I am only going to give one question of each objective.  To earn the 80% I'll have students solve the problem correctly with all work shown.  To earn the 100%, I'll have them solve the problem correctly with all the work and explain why they chose the solution method that they did.  I'll also keep each objective on the weekly quizzes until the end of the marking period.  Students can still come in for additional help after school, but they can have more freedom with the base of their learning.

The thing that I am going to keep the same is the way that I have been using hybrid learning.  This will be my fourth year teaching in this set-up.  I will make some small changes but for the most part I will keep the same process.  I'll be starting with a 'station' of whole group instruction were I will mostly likely introduce a new objective.  Then, students will move to the independent station where they will most likely be learning a new objective through a video on EdPuzzle.  Next, students will go to the direct station.  This station has the greatest variety.  Sometimes students will practice on mini whiteboards using Kagan strategies, other times students will work on a project.  Finally, students will go to the collaborative station where they will work in a smaller group on a task.  The tasks are varied and could be a project or a fun practice structure.  Other times, entire rotations or parts of rotations may be focused to reteaching/reviewing past objectives that students need more help with.

I'm sure that I will end up making more changes as the year progresses, but I like to think through all the biggest changes before the start of the year.  Here's to another great year!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Developing a Positive Classroom Culture: Love and Logic

Classroom culture seems pretty hit or miss for me.  My kids are typically respectful of me, but some years I have kids that are wonderful to each other and other years they are a bit mean to each other.  One of my goals this year will be to try to get my students to be kind.

I have really liked Love and Logic for this.  I have never gone through the official training for this, but would like to.  As with anything, I really like some of the ideas and sort of hate others, so I only use the pieces that I love.

Here is a pdf on "How to Create a Love and Logic Classroom."  I love their classroom rules of 

"Feel free to do anything that does not cause a problem for anyone."  
"If you find yourself with a problem, you may solve it by any means which does not cause a problem for anyone else in the world."

This would include the student, the teacher, and any other people in the room.  I think these could easily be your only classroom rules.  Pretty much anything that could go wrong in classroom management could be covered by these statements.

A second piece of Love and Logic that I like is one liners.  I can't use all of them because I feel sarcastic saying them.  I only use the ones that I believe in.  By knowing and using these one liners, you can avoid overreacting or saying something that you may regret later.  These lines are all about avoiding getting into a power struggle with kids.  My favorite one liners are:

"I know." and “Maybe you’ll like what we do next time better.”- in response to a student saying something like "I hate card sorts."  This acknowledges their feeling but you don't need to justify why you are doing them despite the child's dislike of the activity.

“I bet it feels that way.” - in response to a student that something like "Marissa always talks while you are talking and you never correct her."  Again, you acknowledge their feelings but don't get into an argument. 

“What do you think you’re going to do?”  - I use this one pretty much every day.  I use in in response to "I forgot my pencil." to "I think my boyfriend is cheating on me."  I won't solve problems for my students.  They already know what to do in most cases.

“I’m not sure how to react to that. I’ll have to get back to you on it.” - I use this exactly the way is sounds.  When I'm caught off guard and no one is in physical danger, I'll get back to them later. 

The third part of Love and Logic that works well for me is delayed consequences.  Again, if there is no real danger and I don't know how to respond, or if I just want the student to think about their actions, I'll use a delayed consequence.  For example, if I catch a kid cheating on a test, I'll say something like "Bummer, I'm going to have to do something about this.  I need to think about it though.  Come back to see me after school today.  Try not to worry."  Of course when you tell the kid not to worry, they end up worrying all day.  When they comes back, I'll ask what they think the consequence should be.  Most of the time, they are fair or even more severe that I would have been.  If I disagree with the consequence, I'll say "That does not work for me.  What else do you think would work."

The fourth part of Love and Logic that I really like is providing choices for kids when they can not decide.  Above I mentioned the one liner “What do you think you’re going to do.”  If the student says they don't know, I might offer some options like "You forgot your pencil.  Do you think you could use another type of writing instrument or borrow one from a classmate?"  Another favorite of mine is "What might another student do in this same situation?"

The final part of Love and Logic that I love is putting responsibility on the student.  In reacting to bad behavior I might say something like "I'm sorry you made that choice.  What will you do to make it right?"  Most kids can come up with ideas.  If their idea is not a good one ("I'll just kick the principal"), I'll ask "How do you think that would work out for you?"  So many kids just react without thinking.  This helps them to think things through before acting.

I realize that so much of this sounds like it could be sarcastic, but I've found that many of these phrases work for me and encourage kids to take responsibility for themselves.  You just need to be careful to choose the statements that you can be empathetic with.

Here are a few other resources if you are interested on learning more about Love and Logic.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

#Made4Math - #MTBoSblaugust 2016

I spent most of my summer taking two grade classes to earn a PDE endorsement in Online Learning.  However, during the time that I had free, I found time to work on my courses for this coming school year.

First, to help with student self reflection, I created this document.  The document will be used at the end of each station in my hybrid classroom.  Students will also reflect on the work that they do outside of class.  I want students to track the resources they used when stuck as well as reflect on how well they understood the assignment.  I will be using this tool as a replacement for grading classwork and homework for completion.  I will spot check student work occasionally, but for the most part it will be largely self reported.  This assignment will be worth 5% of students' overall grade.

I also reevaluated how I would weight grades for  my class.  85% of the grade will be standards based.  These grades will come from performance on weekly cumulative quizzes.  I already mentioned the 5% graded on completion and self reporting.  The final 10% will be for performance tasks.  These will be assignments completed in class that I grade for accuracy.  Most of the time these will be projects, but it could include smaller assignments as well.  I edited my syllabus and other first day documents to reflect these changes.

Next, I created a handful of fun practice activities to do with my students as alternatives to worksheets.  I already blogged about those here:

Practice structures: chains
Practice structures: tarsia puzzles
Practice structures: board games
Practice structures: my ship sails
Practice structures: error analysis
Practice structures: color by number
Practice structures: old maid

Finally, I made a bunch of Desmos activities.  I saw the tweets about #descon16 and decided to try my hand at it.  These are my first attempts and I hope to edit them as well as create more as the year goes on.  You can find the activities that I created by searching the Desmos Bank for my name under the author.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Summer Intrigue: Small Robots

This summer I saw this video on twitter.  

It got me thinking about how I might be able to use small, durable, classroom robots in my high school math classroom.  I could easily do something like this to make the geometry lessons where you find missing angles and sides of polygons more interesting.

Luckily, while I was searching, I came across a content to win one robot.  I was chosen and should be receiving the bot shortly.  That will give me first hand experience with at least one of the choices.

My plan is to finish up some research and choose a robot.  Then I'll be applying for a grant to get a class set of these cuties.

Here are the robots that I've researched so far.  If you have used any of them and have feedback, please let me know.

Dash and Dot

These bots get great reviews online.  They look sturdy and there is a good k-5 curriculum ($60/year).  There is no high school curriculum, but I could make it work.  They are the most expensive and use block style coding.


This is my leading contender so far.  You get a set of 18 bots for $1200.  There are two ways to program the bots (color or block code).  This company has k-12 lessons where you can download a program so that students can see demonstrations of concepts if you want to concentrate on the concept rather than the programming.  My one concern is that they may be delicate.  I need something durable to stand-up to regular classroom use.


Edison is very durable.  The promotional video shows it getting run over by a car and then driving away.  You can snap on regular building blocks to make a fun creation.  The programming is still drag and drop, but not block style.  It is the least expensive robot on my list.  You can get a set of 30 for $990.  However, the only curriculum available is focused on actual programming.  I just have no idea what you can do with it.


This is my second runner up right now.  It seems durable and is even waterproof.

I like the block style programming and the price is reasonable.  You can get 12 bots for $1199.99.  There are few provided lessons, but there is also a teacher community where teachers post lessons.

So, I'm excited to choose one of these products and hopefully win a grant to bring them into my classroom.  If you know anything about them, please comment.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Geometry Scope and Sequence

I recently posted my algebra 2 scope and sequence.  I am also teaching geometry this year, so I figure I might as well post that too.  I am using standards based grading.  I number my objects as #.#  The first number is the unit number and the second number is the objective number within that unit.  The first year I did this, I just numbered from about 1 to 120.  It made making changes to the list more difficult.  Now when I need to add or subtract a topic, I don't need to renumber all of the objectives, just the ones in the same unit.

I would love feedback on this list.  Our students take geometry after algebra 1 and 2.  The course seems very easy and I feel like I need more rigour in the class.  Please share your list on your blog and leave a comment here so I can check it out.

Geometry Part 1
Chapter 1: Tools of Geometry
1.1 Use basic geometry terms and notation including points, lines and planes
1.2 Use basic postulates of geometry
1.3 Name segments and rays
1.4 Recognize parallel and skew lines and planes
1.5 Find the lengths of segments using the segment addition postulate and the midpoint on a number line
1.6 Name, measure, and classify angles
1.7 Find measures of angles using the angle addition postulate
1.8 Identify angle pairs
1.9 Use perpendicular bisectors and angle bisectors
1.10 Find distance on the coordinate plane
1.11 Find the midpoint or endpoint of a segment on the coordinate plane
1.12 Find perimeter or circumference
1.13 Find area of basic and composite shapes

Chapter 2: Reasoning and Proof
2.1 Use conditional statements including the hypothesis, conclusion, and counterexample
2.2 Use the converse of a conditional statement
2.3 Write the negation, inverse, and contrapositive of a conditional statement
2.4 Use indirect reasoning (proof by contradiction)
2.5 Write a biconditional or identify the parts of a biconditional
2.6 Use the law of detachment
2.7 Use the law of syllogism
2.8 Use properties of congruence
2.9 Use theorems about angles to prove congruence including vertical angle theorem, right angle theorem, linear pair theorem, congruent supplements theorem, and congruent complements theorem

Chapter 3: Parallel and Perpendicular Lines
3.1 Identify angles formed by two lines and transversal
3.2 Use properties of parallel lines including proofs and finding angle measures
3.3 Use theorems relating parallel and perpendicular lines
3.4 Use the triangle angle-sum theorem and classify triangles
3.5 Use the triangle exterior angle theorem
3.6 Classifying and naming polygons
3.7 Use the polygon angle-sum theorem
3.8 Use the polygon exterior angle angle-sum theorem
3.9 Graph lines
3.10 Write equations of lines
3.11 Determine if lines are parallel and write equations of parallel lines
3.12 Determine if lines are perpendicular and write equations of perpendicular lines

Chapter 4:  Congruent Triangles
4.1 Use congruent figures and their corresponding parts
4.2 Prove two triangles are congruent by using the SSS and SAS postulates 
4.3 Prove two triangles are congruent by using the ASA and AAS postulates 
4.4 Prove triangles are congruent using the HL theorem 
4.5 Use triangle congruence and CPCTC to prove that parts of two triangles are congruent
4.6 Use and apply properties of isosceles and equilateral triangles 
4.7 Using overlapping triangles in proofs 
4.8 Using two pairs of congruent triangles 

Chapter 5: Relationships within Triangles
5.1 Use the perpendicular bisector theorem
5.2 Use the angle bisector theorem
5.3 Identify properties of medians and altitudes of triangles
5.4 Use inequalities involving angles of triangles 
5.5 Use inequalities involving sides of triangles 

Chapter 6:  Quadrilaterals
6.1 Define and classify special types of quadrilaterals 
6.2 Use relationships among sides and angles of parallelograms 
6.3 Use relationships involving diagonals of parallelograms or transversals
6.4 Determine whether a quadrilateral is a parallelogram 
6.5 Use properties of diagonals of rhombuses and rectangles
6.6 Determine whether a parallelogram is a rhombus or a rectangle
6.7 Use properties of trapezoids 
6.8 Use properties of kites
6.9 Classify quadrilaterals given coordinates or find missing coordinates of a quadrilateral

Geometry Part 2
Chapter 7:  Similarity
7.1 Write ratios and solve proportions 
7.2 Identify and use similar polygons 
7.3 Use properties of triangle midsegments
7.4 Use and apply AA, SAS, and SSS similarity 
7.5 Find and use relationships in similar right triangles
7.6 Use the side-splitter theorem
7.7 Use the triangle-angle-bisector theorem 

Chapter 8:  Right Triangles and Trigonometry
8.1 Use the Pythagorean theorem 
8.2 Use the converse of the Pythagorean theorem
8.3 Use properties of 45-45-90 triangles 
8.4 Use properties of 30-60-90 triangles 
8.5 Use sine, cosine, and tangent ratios to determine side lengths in triangles
8.6 Use inverse trigonometry functions to determine angle measures in triangle 
8.7 Use angles or elevation and depression to solve problems

Chapter 12:  Circles
12.1 Use the radius-tangent relationship
12.2 Use the relationship between two tangents from one point 
12.3 Find the measures of central angles and arcs
12.4 Find the circumference and arc length 
12.5 Use congruent chords, arcs, and central angles 
12.6 Use properties of lines through the center of a circle
12.7 Find the measure of an inscribed angle 
12.8 Find the measure of an angle formed by a tangent and a chord
12.9 Find the measures of angles formed by 2 chords 
12.10 Find the measures of angles formed by a tangent and a secant, 2 secants, or 2 tangents 
12.11 Find the lengths of segments associated with 2 chords
12.12 Find the lengths of segments associated with a tangent and a secant or 2 secants
12.13 Write the equation of a circle
12.14 Find the center and the radius of a circle and graph a circle 

Chapter 10:  Area
10.1 Find the area of a parallelogram
10.2 Find the area of a triangle
10.3 Find the area of a trapezoid
10.4 Find the area of a rhombus or a kite
10.5 Find the area of regular polygons - trig not required 
10.6 Find the perimeters and areas of similar figures 
10.7 Find the area of regular polygons using trigonometry 
10.8 Find the areas of circles, sectors, and segments of circles 
10.9 Find probability using area 

Chapter 11:  Surface Area and Volume
11.1 Identify parts of a polyhedron
11.2 Find the lateral and surface area of a prism
11.3 Find the lateral and surface area of a cylinder 
11.4 Find the lateral and surface area of a pyramid
11.5 Find the lateral and surface area of a cone
11.6 Find the volume of a prism
11.7 Find the volume of a cylinder 
11.8 Find the volume of a pyramid
11.9 Find the volume of a cone
11.10 Find the surface area of a sphere
11.11 Find the volume of a sphere 
11.12 Find relationships between the ratios of the areas and volumes of similar solids 

Chapter 9:  Transformations
9.1 Identify isometries
9.2 Find translation images of figures
9.3 Find reflection images of figures 
9.4 Identify rotation images
9.5 Identify types (reflectional or rotational) symmetry
9.6 Find scale factors and graph dilation images
9.7 Use a composition of reflections 
9.8 Use glide reflections 
9.9 Identify transformations and symmetries in tessellations

Chapter 13:  Constructions
13.1:  Given a segment, construct a segment congruent to the given segment 
13.2:  Given an angle, construct an angle congruent to the given angle
13.3:  Given an angle, construct the bisector of the angle
13.4:  Given a segment, construct the perpendicular bisector of the segment
13.5: Given a point on a line, construct the perpendicular to the line at the given point
13.6: Given a point outside a line, construct the perpendicular to the line from the given point
13.7: Given a point outside a line, construct the parallel to the line through the given point

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

First day of school activity - Primetime - BreakoutEdu

I typically spread my course info and getting to know you type stuff throughout the first four days of class.  I then save the second half of each class for actual content.  I feel like I do better to set up the expectations for the class if my students see content and have a homework assignment from day 1.

That said, we have a class called 'primetime' at my school.  This is basically like a home room, but we only meet 9 times per year.  We meet for progress reports and report cards as well as other special information (graduation practice info, locker cleanout, etc) throughout the year.  I will be meeting with this group for two hours on the first day of school.  One hour of that time is for class meetings and the other half is planned by the teacher.  Typically we read important passages in the handbook and give out school documents (free and reduced lunch, picture day, yearbook order forms, parking pass applications, and such).

This year, I was lucky enough to win a breakout box from BreakoutEdu at EdCamp Hershey.  I just had to pay shipping and handling. I placed my order on July 19th, but there is a five week processing time right now, so it may or may not arrive in time for the first day of class on August 29th.  If it does arrive in time, I'll be doing a breakout lesson with my primetime.  By the way, BreakoutEdu provides information on how to create your own kit from Amazon.  However, if you buy from BreakoutEdu, they use the proceeds to provide free boxes for EdCamps.

The basic idea is that it's like a breakout room.  Of course we can not lock the kids in our room, but we can lock something they would like/need in a box.  They solve a series of problems to unlock several locks and finally gain access to the needed item.

Here is the scenario for the lesson that I'd like to do:

The cool thing about these lessons, besides being super engaging is that all the resources that you need are included.  All you need to do is print and set your locks up.  You just need to sign-up for a free account to access the password for all the lessons.

Even if my breakout box does not arrive in time, I still plan on using the box as a review activity for my math classes.  There are lots of pre-made games with great stories.  I'll probably need to modify an existing story to make it fit with the review content that I want.

I'm really looking forward to using this resource this year.  I'll be sure to write a blog post after implementing a breakout!