Friday, December 29, 2017

#MTBoS12Days: What are your strategies to reach "that kid"

This winter break @druinok is organizing a blog challenge.  I don't think I'll be accomplishing the 12 posts over the break, especially since I'm already on day 7 of a 10 day break and am just getting around to posting the first blog, but I do love a good blog prompt.  You can find more info here if you'd like to join in the fun.

The first prompt that spoke to me was "What are your strategies to reach 'that kid.'"  I'm a big fan of using Love and Logic with my classes.  I've never been able to make it to an official training session, but would love to one day.  I've just gather some tidbits by talking to other teachers who have gone through the training and by reading some of the free online resources.  Here are some of my favorite Love and Logic strategies.  All of them help in dealing with all students, including the more difficult ones.

First:  Neutralize arguing by going "Brain Dead."  This means that you need to be able to separate yourself from the argument that the student wants to start.  I'm sure most teachers have been sucked into a disagreement with a student where they attempted to reason with an overly emotional student.  There is no point to engaging with a student that is too upset to be able hear you.  I often tell students in this state that I'll check back on them soon so that we can chat while we are both calm.

Second:  Show empathy before delivering a consequence.  I use some of the Love and Logic one liners for this.  There some that work for me and many others that I can not use without sounding sarcastic.  You need to pick the ones that you can deliver while sounding genuine.  Here are some of my go to phrases:

"I know."
"Probably so."
"What do you think you are going to do?"
"I bet it feels that way."
"That's an option."

I find that phrases like these help a student to feel heard.  Sometimes students become argumentative or upset because they feel like they don't have control and that no one is listening.  I try to listen and solicit/offer choices.

Third:  Sharing control by offering choices.  I try to offer students a choice when and can.  Usually it is a choice that I don't care which option they choose.  For example, they could pick either the evens or the odds for a classwork assignment.  Or they could choose the order in which to complete a series of tasks.

I also try to allow students to choose how they might solve their own problems.  For example, when a student tells me they forgot their (pencil, calculator, textbook, notebook, etc) I ask them what they could do about it.  The student almost always has a  good suggestion.  They might ask to use a calculator app on their school issued 1-1 device or suggest taking a picture of a neighbor's textbook page.  I find that kids feel empowered when they can solve their own problems.  I like knowing that I am helping them develop the skills they will need to be independent learners.

Fourth, and my favorite, the anticipatory consequence.  When I catch a student cheating, or making some other bad choice, I delay the consequence.  Obviously this would not be an option for a more serious situation where some damage could be done by waiting (a fight perhaps) but most of the time, I find this strategy to be appropriate and effective.  By delaying the consequence, I allow the student to think about what they have done.  I find that they are less likely to make the same bad choice again after they have had ample time to reflect on their actions.  My go to response in this situation is something like "Bummer, I'm going to have to do something about this, but I'm not sure what.  I need some time to think about it.  I'll get back to you.  Try not to worry."  Later, I'll often ask the student what they feel would be a fair consequence.  Again, they are almost always spot on and often even more strict than I would have been.

I hope that you have found some new ideas here.  I personally want to learn more about Love and Logic for my classroom and I know I'll find other cool ideas through your posts as well :)

Monday, December 25, 2017

#SundayFunday Observe Yourself

I'm nearly caught-up with the #SundayFunday challenges.  Last week's challenge was to observe yourself.  Here is more info if you'd like to join in the fun.

I actually had a coworker record a lesson for me recently, I had not yet made the time to watch it and reflect.  This prompt gave the extra push that I needed.

My lesson started with Which One Doesn't Belong warm-up.  This is one of my favorite style of warm-up.  All four images have a reason that it is different from the others.  This allows for all students to participate at various levels.  It is a perfect example of a low floor high ceiling task.  The warm-up provided a chance for students to practice using vocabulary like vertex, opening direction, parabola, discriminant, and axis of symmetry.  When students describe these features without using the appropriate vocab, I prompt them for it and it is reaffirmed with everyone.

Prior to this lesson, my algebra 2 students had already studied writing, graphing, and solving quadratic functions in several forms.  The new portion of this lesson was the concept of applying these skills to word problems.

After the warm-up, we broke into 3 stations.  I have written often about using stations and it is still one of my goto instructional models.  I love the chance for small group instruction for remediation and enrichment.  I also love the daily routine of expecting students to work both independently and collaboratively at some point during the period.

During this lesson, the first small group needed some additional practice with using the quadratic formula.  I try to use a lot of leading questions when students pose a question to me or ask for help.  In most cases, this is successful, but some students can get frustrated when I don't immediately provide an answer.  My goal is to demonstrate the internal dialogue that they should eventually be having with themselves when they get stuck on a problem.

At the independent station, students worked on applying their quadratic function skills to word problems.  I also have a long term assignment of working on Khan Academy for early finishers.  This is the station where my students struggle the most every year.  I have found that providing a notes packet has helped my students.  I wish that they did not need it and that that they could instead take notes in a notebook or in a google doc, but my students have not had success with either of those options.  For this particular lesson, I used a video from Mathispower4u.  His videos are quite good and my students have reported that they like to have videos created by someone other than me so that they hear a different explanation than the one that I already gave in class during whole group instruction.

Finally, at the collaborative station, I assigned a Desmos activity where students looked for patterns in the transformational form of a quadratic and how the graph changes with the a, h, and k values of the formula.  This was a little unusual in that I'm more likely to assign a card sort or some other paper and pencil activity at this station.  However, you can not beat Desmos sliders for studying transformations :)

Overall, I was pleased with the lesson and it is a good example of the daily routine in my class.  I hope you enjoyed the sneak peek at my room and I look forward to seeing what you all are doing too.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

#SundayFunday Making Group Work WORK

Here is yet another late #SundayFunday post.  I'm still making progress towards making a post on time though.  This post is 3 weeks :/   Here is more info if you'd like to join in the fun.

The challenge this week is to share a bit about how to successfully incorporate group work into your class.  I love group work in theory.  The possibilities of students learning from each other are worth the difficulties of implementing a group work routine.  I think the routine piece is what makes group work WORK :)

One way that I try to make group work more focused and avoid the typical problem of one student doing all the work and another doing nothing is to use participation quizzes, especially during the first few group assignments.  At first, I am the one providing feedback to groups, but eventually I like students to take over monitoring their own groups.

I first read about participation quizzes in Jo Boaler's Mathematical Mindsets book.  The name is a bit misleading.  It's not really a quiz, but rather feedback on the functionality of the group.  Boaler suggests posting a list of look-fors like these in the room.

Next, I record observations on a record sheet while students are working.  The record sheet looks a lot like a seating chart but for groups.  I record target behaviors as I observe them.  Boaler suggests these target behaviors.

Another thing that I like to do is check in with groups by asking a question of one random student in the group based on the work that they have done so far.  If the student can not answer the question, I know that the groups are not really working together.  I let the group know that I'll cycle back to them in a few minutes and will ask the same question of the same student and that I expect a good answer from them.  This is enough accountability for most students.

I have also dabbled in using group roles.  I prefer CPM's group roles, but I'm not very good at enforcing them.  I've had more success with the participation quizzes than anything else, but I'd love to hear your ideas on holding students accountable for using their roles.  Here are the CPM roles.  I post these in my room.

And here are the CPM norms.  I also post these in class.

That's all for now.  I look forward to reading about how other make group work WORK!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

#SundayFunday: Photo of the Week

Here is yet another late #SundayFunday post.  I'm still making progress towards making a post on time though:  This post is only 3 weeks late this time Here is more info if you'd like to join in the fun.

The challenge this week is to share a picture from your classroom.  I've chosen to share my new seating arrangement:

Obviously I'm not the first person to use this arrangement.  I've used it myself for short bursts of time but this is the first year that I'm primarily using this set-up.  David R. Johnson wrote about the many benefits of this arrangement in several of his books, including "Every Minute Counts."

I reread Johnson's books every few years and always find something new to improve my classroom.  

What makes the Double U-shaped arrangement so great is how easy it is to circulate around the room.  I can peak at every students work in a matter of seconds in this set-up.  I also like that this arrangement encourages kids to have conversations about the math that they are doing.

If you are interested in this and other classroom tips, Johnson's books are a great place to start.  The books are short and each is a quick read filled with small treasures.


I hope that you'll check out the other #SundayFunday blogs and consider joining in the fun :)

Friday, December 1, 2017

#SundayFunday: Self Care Tips

Another late #SundayFunday post, but at least I'm closing in on posting one one time :) This one is only 4 weeks late and I'm making up ground! Here is more info if you'd like to join in the fun.

I feel like a real hypocrite even considering the idea of giving advice about work-life balance.  I have almost no life in my work-life balance.  In general I work from 6am-4pm every weekday and often a few extra hours in the evening.  I also usually work 5 or so hours over the weekend.  During the summer I work nearly as much except I'm usually better at taking the weekends off.

Therefore, this post will be more about my goals for giving myself some more life in my work-life balance!

1)  I'd like to make more time for my hobbies.  These include camping, hiking and spending time with family, friends, and my dogs.  My husband and I try to camp at least once a month from May to October and I make it a point to walk the doggos daily.  However, I could certainly benefit from seeing my family and friends more often and the pups would not be opposed to more belly rubs.  Here are some picture of Gypsy, Zoey, and Kyra to brighten your day.  Yes, I know that 3 dogs is too many.


2)  I need to exercise more efficiently and eat healthier.  I wake-up at 4:30 am every morning so I can get in a quick 30 minute workout.  Most days it's a Jillian Michaels DVD, other days it's cardio or lifting at the gym with the hubby.  Still, some mornings I find myself only putting in half my effort.  Also, I do eat 3 healthy meals everyday, but I eat sooooo much junk in between that I undo my work at the gym.  No that I'm in my very late 30s, these bad habits are catching up to me.  I'm sure I'd feel better if I met this goal.

3)  I must say "No" more often.  I've actually made great progress on this goal so far, but I don't want to slip into old routines and habits, so I'm reminding myself.  I should only volunteer for the committees and activities that I feel strongly about.  Right now that is professional development, educational technology, and scheduling.  It's better for me to do a few things well than many things poorly.

4)  Lastly, I want to have some "No work allowed" times.  Here are my new goals for myself.  First, No work after 7pm on weeknights.  I need some time to wind down before bed so I can sleep well.  Second, No work on Saturday at all (only housework/yard work allowed).  Third, only half a day of work on Sunday. 

I think this is a manageable list!  I hope you make some time for yourself too!