Thursday, September 29, 2016

#Alg2Chat How I Use Technology

I try to use technology both to make my classroom job easier and to engage students.

I use technology in my daily presentations via Doceri.  It is one of the few paid resources that I use.  I wrote about it here.  The main way that I use Doceri is as an interactive whiteboard and as a document camera in conjunction with Reflector.  I also use Doceri to create instructional (flipped style) videos for my independent station.

Another resource that I like is puzzle makers.  I like to create these activities in Tarsia.  Tarsia is a free resource that I wrote about before.

The main ways that my students use technology is through my LMS of choice, Schoology and for self paced instruction via EDpuzzle.  Schoology is just the resource that I use to post assignments and resources.  EDpuzzle allows you to assign video lessons to students and receive feedback through embedded questions.

I also like to use DESMOS and Gizmos.  DESMOS is amazing.  It's not just a calculator, but it is a free platform to build interactive lessons.  I am still pretty new at creating my own card sorts and activity builders, but I'm continuing to turn some of my old worksheets into DESMOS activities.  Gizmos is a paid resource that I am lucky enough to have access to this year.  It is great for geometry.  I am still exploring what it has to offer for algebra 2.  Here is a Gizmo on general rational functions.  Most Gizmos seem to be pre-made interactive activities where students can play with sliders and drag/drop capabilities to notice patterns.  You can play with each Gizmo for 5 minutes per day for free, so it might be just enough for a class demo.  Most Gizmos include an activity/discovery style assignment.

Another new technology tool that I'm working to incorporate is Ozobot.  I lucked into winning one free bot this summer.  They have a great lesson collection including lessons on the Fibonacci sequence, the golden ratio, Pascal's triangle, projectile motion, and exponential decay.

What do you use in your classroom?  Which tools make your work easier?  Which tools promote participation and engagement of students?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

#Alg2Chat Making Groups Work

Group work, whether formal or informal are a very important part of learning.  This is the part of class where students really get to talk through their problem solving strategies.  Students explain their thinking and learn from each other.  Misconceptions become visible and can be addressed.

I use informal grouping almost daily.  For informal groups, I typically use pairs only.  This might take the form of "Talk to your neighbor about ... " or a Kagan strategy.  My favorite Kagan strategy is Boss/Secretary.  The secretary does nothing but write what the boss tells them to write.  The boss tells the secretary how to write the solution to the assigned problem.  This is great for getting kids to show work, explain their reasoning, and practice vocabulary/notation.

I use formal grouping during each rotation in my hybrid classroom.  This equates to every other instructional day.  For formal groups I prefer to assign groups of 3.  However, I have some very small and some very large classes that sometimes require me to assign groups of 2 or 4.  I try to avoid groups of 4 as often as possible and I would never have a group of more than 4 as students end up being off task too frequently.

In the formal groups, I have had the most luck with limiting supplies to force collaboration.  I provide only one copy of the assignment, only one pair of scissors, one glue stick, etc.  This encourages the group to divide menial tasks (cutting and gluing) and share important tasks (solving problems).  Of course no set up is perfect.  In the past, I tried having all group members complete the task and grade a random paper.  This inadvertently encouraged the group to split up the work, work individually, and then copy the other group members problems.  I have found that less is more if you want real collaboration and discussion.  I even try to assign about 5 questions in 20 minutes to all plenty of discussion time an remove the need to rush to complete the assignment.

I have never really tried group roles to the best of my ability.  I've done it halfheartedly but it never worked since I did not enforce their use.  There are always just so many things going on in the classroom that roles took a back seat.  I have however found success in borrowing Sarah Carter's group norms.   I teach these expectations to my students by asking them to reflect on each norm as an exit ticket at the start of the year.

If you have any great suggestions for accountability and encouraging productive groups, I'd love to read about it on your blog or in the comments!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Parents' Night Plan

Our parents' night is always a marathon.  Our contract runs from 7am until 3pm.  Historically, I have kids stay after school most days until 4pm.  Parent's night ran from 6:30-9pm in the past.  Then we have a regular 7-3 school day the following day.  This year, I'm under the impression that it will run from 6:30-8pm.  This means we will go from having 15 minute 'classes' with the parents to having 10 minute classes.

Some teachers who live close to the school go home between the school day and parent's night.  This is most likely if they have young children.  Depending on whether or not my husband is traveling for business, I might need to go home and let our 3 adopted dogs out.  I prefer not to go home because it's a 30 minute drive each way.  If I can, I just pack lunch and dinner that day and spend the 2.5 hours of free time having dinner and working on the lesson plans or grading that I would have done at home that night anyway.

Since we have a short time with parents, and because they will visit all of their child's teachers on the same night, I provide a handout with important info as a place for them to take notes as needed.  I never have time to cover everything on the handout, but I figure they have some info if they want it.  I also invite them to email me with further questions.

Here is a sample parent handout.

I usually just start by introducing myself to the parents and tell them the 30 second version of my teaching career.  I let them read the Course Content and Course Requirements sections but let them know that I anticipate the greatest number of questions in the FAQs section.  I typically use the full 10 minutes to go over the FAQs and answer any last minute questions.  I also encourage them to sign up for one-on-one conferences two months later.  

For the conferences, we work a noon-8pm day right before Thanksgiving break.  It is another tough day, because we have a normal 7-3 inservice day the following day.  The conferences are 15 minutes each and we have two 15 minute blocks that we can take for ourselves to use the bathroom and/or eat dinner.  For these sessions, I usually just pull together samples of student work and gradesheets and answer parent questions.  I encourage the student to come in with the parent because there is really nothing that the parents and I could do without the agreement of the student.  If you do the math, the conference day only allows for time to meet with 30 sets of parents.  The average teacher in our building has between 120-150 students.  I typically schedule meetings for my most needy students before the website opens for parents to sign-up on their own.  That way I am guaranteed to have time to speak with those families.

I'd love to hear your ideas about parent's night and conferences!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

#Alg2Chat: Rich Problems

What makes a rich task?  It needs to be accessible to many students (have a low floor) yet offer enough extension to challenge advanced learners (have a high ceiling).  Often, the task will have some sort of context or application.  The task should be open enough that students could solve the problem in several ways and may even be able to come up with follow-up questions.  The task may be solvable in an eloquent stream lined way and may be solved in unusual and creative ways.  The task should encourage collaboration.  It might result in a discovery of a new concept and it should certainly be a positive experience for students.

One of my favorite resources for rich tasks is the Mathematics Assessment Project.  I wrote about it here about a year ago.

Another source that I like, but have not used quite as extensively as MAP is Illustrative Mathematics.  They offer course blueprints aligned with the national Common Core standards.  Here is the blueprint for algebra 2.  My state does not use CC, but our standards are pretty close, so I still find the site useful.  I love that each unit includes tons of rich tasks to choose from.

Yummy Math is a great site.  I had a membership last year and need to renew.  At less than $20, it is well worth it, especially if you are teaching a class with some flexibility in content.  I used it a lot last year in a remedial class where I wanted students to see that math could be fun.  Even with out a membership, you can access the lessons.  The membership allows you to download editable documents, teaching resources in Excel, and answer keys.

Mathalicious is another favorite resource.  They have a few free lessons.  I wrote a grant application to obtain a subscription to the site.  They lessons are interesting for students and also organized by course scope and sequence.

Other than MAP and Illustrative Mathematics, I'd love to hear about more free resources.  If you have something you love, please share!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

#Alg2Chat: Student Engagement

Engagement in Algebra 2 can be tough.  The scope and sequence is brutal, even for me as someone who really enjoys math.  I wrote about the objectives of my algebra 2 class here.  Seriously, if you have a great application project or activity for the following, please let me know: multiplying/dividing polynomials (long division), working with radical and complex numbers, rational functions, polynomial functions, conic sections, inverse functions, sequences and series & truth tables.  Ugh, I'm bored just typing that list of unbearable content.

So, what I attempt to do is 1) gamify as much as I can and 2) Kagan the rest.

I wrote several posts about the games that I try to incorporate:
Breakout Edu
Board Games
My Ship Sails
Color by Number
Old Maid
TIC TAC TOE and Go Fish

For more info on Kagan strategies you can start here.  Kagan strategies are methods of having students work collaboratively.  Each person has a specific role to complete and students take turns with each role.  I use these strategies often with mini-whiteboard practices.  My go to Kagan strategy is Boss/Secretary.  All you do is give pairs of students a problem to solve.  One writes on the whiteboard, but only what they are told to write by their partner.  I tell the secretary's that they can prompt their boss if they are super stuck, but for the most part, they should just be writing.  If I have an odd number of students, I have one kid be the Coach.  They walk around checking work for silly errors like sign mistakes and arithmetic errors.  The coach is a different student each time and the bosses/secretaries switch roles after every problem.