Monday, December 26, 2016

Practice Structures: Tic Tac Toe

Tic Tac Toe is an easy way to have students work on building fluency and is more engaging than just completing a worksheet.  You could try this activity with either of two different approaches.

The first option is  to treat the game sort of like bingo.  Each player would have a board, questions are chosen one at a time.  Every student solves the problem and marks the solution on their game board if they have it.  Play would continue until one player gets 3 in a row.  I wrote about an activity like this here.  The activity was made to help students practice graphing linear inequalities.

The other option would be to play the game more like Hollywood Squares.  Students take turns choosing problems to solve.  If they correctly solve the problem, they win and color in the corresponding square until they get a certain number of squares in a row.  Here is an activity that I created with this format.  The activity was designed to have students practice finding the surface area and volume of spheres.

I'd love to hear more ideas on how to use tic tac toe in your classroom!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

#Teach180: Days 61-70

This year I've taken on the #teach180 challenge.  The challenge is to post one tweet per day showing a glimpse inside your classroom.  I'm also putting the tweets together in a biweekly blog so that I can share the resources that I'm tweeting about.

Day 61:  Today was a quiz day.  I give cumulative quizzes on each fifth day of class.  However, next week I'll be skipping the cumulative quiz in favor of a benchmark test to help my students prepare for midterms.

Day 62:   Today in geometry, we practiced using properties of parallelograms with a chain activity.  Here is a link to the activity if you'd like to give it a try.  I wrote about this type of activity here if you want more info.

Day 63:  Today in algebra 2 we practiced solving quadratic word problems.  I borrow these problems from Patrick Brust.  My students will definitely need a little more practice with writing equations from the word problems.

Day 64:  Today in geometry we determined which characteristics of  quadrilaterals guaranteed that the quadrilateral would be a parallelogram.  We used ExploreLearning's Gizmo.  I like using these apps because it allows students to quickly conduct many trials and make conclusions based on the patterns they find.

Day 65:  Today in algebra 2 we used +Desmos to explore discriminants and how they affected the number and type of solutions to a quadratic equation.  I love Desmos for creating visuals for students without having to take the extended time to graph everything by hand.

Day 66:  Today we had our first set of benchmark tests.  I'm nervous about grading them.  Other than midterms and finals, my students have not taken large tests on multiple units of study before.

Day 67:  Today in geometry we practiced using properties of rectangles and rhombi with ExploreLearning's Gizmo.  It is so helpful to to have to construct all of these parallelograms for kids to explore.

Day 68:  Today in algebra 2 we used +Desmos to explore vertex or completed square form of a quadratic.  I created this assignment a few years ago before I knew how to make an activity builder; I'm thinking it is time to rewrite the assignment to be more interactive.  Here is a link to the assignment.

 Day 69:  Today in geometry we discovered properties of trapezoids, isosceles trapezoids, and kites.   This is an old school paper and pencil activity.  I like using technology, but sometimes low tech adds variety.  I downloaded the activity from Peter Jonnard on TpT.

Day 70:  Today in algebra 2 we played Parabola Marble Slides by +Desmos.  My students needed to use a lot of trial and error to solve each slide, but they were motivated to do well, and they got better at predicting how changing certain values in a quadratic equation would change the graph.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Practice Structures: War

This practice structure involves solving problems with quick mental math and comparing solutions.  I have found several math war games online and played them with my students.  Whether solving 1 step equations with pre-algebra students or practicing unit circle trig values with pre-cal students, my students always love this game.

This year I played this version of war to review exponent rules with my algebra 2 students. Here are the directions that I used for the exponent rules version of war.

I will be playing this version by Kate Nowak soon to practice mental evaluation of logarithms.  If you have other ideas for using war in your math class, please share.  I'm especially interested in geometry and algebra activities.  

Sunday, December 4, 2016

#Teach180: Days 51-60

This year I'm taking part in the #teach180 twitter challenge.  The challenge is to post one picture from your classroom each day of the school year.  I am also writing a biweekly post to share the resources that I tweet out.

Day 51:  Today was a quiz day.  I give cumulative quizzes every fifth day of class.  On this particular quiz, I had quiet a few students attempt to simplify a fraction by "canceling across addition or subtraction."  I need to reinforce this again obviously.  I've tried doing simply arithmetic examples and showing how the fractions are not equivalent.  Any other ideas on how to show students that this does not work?

Day 52:  Today in geometry we started reviewing for midterms.  The exams are about 2 months away, but I'm starting to build in a review activity several times per week now to help with long term retention.  We completed this activity on Explore Learning.

Day 53:  Today in algebra 2 we practiced solving equations with complex solutions by playing a game of BOOM!  Some of my students get really into it since they get to yell "BOOM!"  Others are not quite impressed.  I found the rules for the game on TPT a few years ago.  The question cards just come from a worksheet.

 Day 54:  Today in geometry we added another review station in preparation for the midterm.  We reviewed conditional statements with Explore Learning's gizmo.  I really like these activities as they are more hands-on than a worksheet.  The subscription is a bit pricey, but worth it in my opinion.  I'm lucky to have one year of access at least.

Day 55:   Today in algebra 2 we practiced adding and subtracting complex numbers using dice.  The kids complained it was too easy.  I suppose I can add in multiplying complex numbers next time.  I'll have to make a 3 part spinner instead of a two-sided chip to determine the operation.  I kind of love that my kids feel comfortable telling me that an assignment was not challenging enough for them.  It makes me think that they expect more from me and they are holding me accountable.  I'll take that as a win!

Day 56:  Another quiz day.

Day 57:  Today in geometry we used Explore Learning's Gizmo to review angle relationships such as complementary, supplementary, adjacent, and vertical.  This tool has been a life saver for me this year.  It is so much quicker to use this that to create something in Geometer's Sketchpad, Geogabra, or some other applet.

Day 58:  Today we practiced dividing complex numbers and using conjugates with a board game.  I just took a worksheet and put each question on a game card (using slides in PowerPoint).  This strategy still allows students to build the same level of fluency as completing the worksheet, but it is a bit more fun.

 Day 59:  Today my geometry students reviewed biconditional statements with ExploreLearning's Gizmo .  The drag and drop activity provided just enough scaffolding.

Day 60:  Today my algebra 2 students practiced completing the square with this +Desmos activity.  The good folks at Desmos even had some recommendations on how I could make the activity better next year.  I'm going to try creating several slides with 2 similar problems per page so that students can differentiate sign issues but not have too much clutter to see through.

That's it for this go 'round.  Feel free to borrow and edit the resources as well as to join in with #teach180!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Practice Structure - Slap It!

The next practice structure that I'd like to share is Slap It!  This is a variation of Slap Jack.  This activity works best for practicing skills where there are a limited number of responses.  I've created a version for identifying the center and radius of a circle from an equation and a version for identifying the sine, cosine, and tangent of angles.  I think this would also be a good way to practice evaluating simple logarithms or specific values on the unit circle.  I'd love to hear what you would do with this idea.  Please share any variations that you try.

Here are the rules for Slap Jack provided by Bicycle Cards :
Object of the Game:  The goal is to win all the cards, by being first to slap each jack as it is played to the center.
The Deal:  Deal cards one at a time face down, to each player until all the cards have been dealt. The hands do not have to come out even. Without looking at any of the cards, each player squares up his hand into a neat pile in front of them.
The Play:  Beginning on the dealer’s left, each player lifts one card at a time from their pile and places it face up in the center of the table.
When the card played to the center is a jack, the fun begins! The first player to slap their hand down on the jack takes it, as well as all the cards beneath it. The player winning these cards turns them face down, places them under their pile of cards, and shuffles them to form a new, larger pile.
When more than one player slaps at a jack, the one whose hand is directly on top of the jack wins the pile. If a player slaps at any card in the center that is not a jack, they must give one card, face down, to the player of that card. When a player has no more cards left, they remain in the game until the next jack is turned. The player may slap at the jack in an effort to get a new pile. If the player fails to win that next pile, they are out of the game.

The only changes that I have made is that I’m using a TARGET card instead of a jack.  Also, I’m changing the TARGET card for each hand.  I’ll do this by using a hand-made spinner to determine the TARGET characteristic for each round.

Here is my version for identifying the center and radius of a circle from its equation.
Here is my version for identifying the sine, cosine, and tangent of an angle.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Practice Structures - Go Fish!

This past summer, I started writing a series of posts about practice structure that I use in my classroom.  These structures are meant to take the place of worksheets.  Worksheets can be a great opportunity to practice skills and build fluency, but they are deathly boring.

Here are some of my past posts on this topic:
Tarsia Puzzles
Board Games
My Ship Sails
Error Analysis
Color By Number
Old Maid

Today I'm writing about another practice structure that I like to use, Go Fish!

Go fish works well for problems that are relatively quickly solved.  I have kids deal the cards and solve the problems in their hands before starting.  Then they ask something like "Do you have the pyramid with a volume of 24 cubic centimeters?"  or "Do you have the solution 24 cubic centimeters."

Like many of the other children's games that I use in my class, students really like this activity.  There is a nostalgic feeling for them and they genuinely end up having fun.

Here is a go fish game for volumes of pyramids and cones. And here is a go fish game for finding the next term in a sequence.  I print one full size copy of the directions (first slide) for each group.  Then I print the remaining slides one sided, 4 to a page in landscape orientation. Then I just use a paper cutter to quickly cut each page in half twice to create the cards for each group.

If you try one of these games or make you own, I'd love to hear about it!  Enjoy.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

#Teach180: Days 41-50

This year I've taken the #teach180 twitter challenge.  The goal is to tweet one picture from your classroom each day.  I'm also blogging bi-weekly about those tweets/activities.

Day 41:  Today was a quiz day.  I give cumulative quizzes on every 5th day of class as part of standards based grading/teaching/learning.  This response made me particularly happy.  I learned about CPM's Giant 1 a few weeks ago.  I used it this year to teach simplifying radical expressions and students picked up the idea faster than ever!

Day 42:  Today in geometry we practiced triangle proofs again.  This will probably be never ending with  frequent revisits all semester.  Proofs are something that my students find 1) boring and 2) difficult.  Any one with solutions to those problems, I'm open to suggestions.  Here is the file for the activity.  I downloaded this from someone else, but I'd can't remember right now.  I'll try to update this info if I remember late.

Day 43:  Today in algebra 2 we practiced dividing nth roots with a matching activity.  Students struggle with when to use absolute values in their answers, so this was good reinforcement.  I just cut/pasted problems form a Kuta worksheet to create the matching cards.  Here is the activity if you'd like to use it.

Day 44:  Today in geometry we practiced triangle proofs again.  I found this scaffolded worksheet on Christy Keating's wiki.  It offers just the right amount of help to struggling students.

Day 45:  Today algebra 2 students use Paul Jorgan's +Desmos activity on translating radical functions.  It was so easy to use and students could see the transformations happening in dynamic form with the sliders.  The activity really helped solidify my students' understanding.

Day 46:  Today was another quiz day and the last day of the marking period!  It's going by so fast.

Day 47:  Today geometry students discovered the isosceles triangle theorem using Explore Learning's Gizmo.  I am lucky to have a subscription to this service this year.  I wanted it for geometry, but I've also used it at times for algebra 2 as well.

Day 48:  Today algebra 2 students played a game of Go Fish to practice adding and subtracting radicals.   The problems were ok for the game, but definitely pushed the difficulty level for what is meant to be a quick paced game.  Here is a link to the activity.

Day 49:   Today in geometry we used +Desmos to review segments in triangles. I desmofied (thats a word now right) this activity.  Here is a link to the new activity if you'd like to use or modify it.

Day 50:  Today in algebra 2 we practiced multiplying and dividing radicals with a dice activity.  This is an easy spin on a worksheet that students tend to enjoy.  I wrote more about using dice here.  It's also interesting to see how the laws of probability are broken by some groups that flip multiplication every time :)

 That's it for this time.  It's not too late to join the #teach180 challenge.  I'd love to see what is going on in your classroom too!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

#Teach180: Days 31-40

This year I've taken the #teach180 challenge.  The challenge is to tweet at least one picture from your classroom each day of class.  I'm also putting those tweets together into blog posts every other week and adding links to resources so that others can use and modify the activities if they like.  This has been a great experience so far.  It has given me the chance to reflect on my work more frequently.

Day 31:  Today my algebra 2 students practiced factoring by grouping by solving a tarsia puzzle.  I wrote about tarsia puzzles here and here is a link to the activity.  You will need to download the tarsia software before opening the document.

Day 32:  Algebra 2 students practiced factoring trinomials in quadratic from today though a color by number activity.  I wrote about the activity here.  There is a link to the file there as well.

Day 33:   Today geometry students reviewed writing equations of lines with +Desmos Marbleslides.  They had a blast.

Day 34:  Today was an unusual day.  The school held no classes, but each class had an activity to do.  Freshmen visited local college campuses, sophomores took the ASVAB, juniors took the PSAT, and seniors participated in job shadowing.  I chaperoned a group of freshmen visiting HACC, our local community college.  Several of our upperclassmen attend HACC either full time or part time during their junior and senior years as part of the duel enrollment program.  This allows students to complete both their senior year of high school and their freshmen year of college simultaneously.

Day 35:   Today was another quiz day.  As part of standards based teaching and learning, I give cumulative quizzes every fifth day of class.

Day 36:   Today in geometry, we practiced parallel line proofs.  My students seem to struggle with proofs every year.  I am making more of an effort to spiral and constantly review proofs this year in hopes of improving my students retention of this tough topic.

Day 37:   Today in algebra 2 we used +Desmos  and Jon Orr's Solving Polynomial Inequalities activity.  I love the connections that students make between the algebraic and graphic solutions in this activity.

Day 38:   Today in geometry, students practiced key concepts about congruent figures.  I downloaded the worksheet from Elissa Miller.  Given my students yearly struggle with proofs, this is an excellent way to start by just focussing on terminology like included and opposite.

Day 39:  Today in algebra 2, we played a fall themed board game to practice simplifying radicals.  I used some imitation lego men as game pieces for added fun.  I wrote about using board games here.  For this particular game, I generated problems using Kuta Software and copied/pasted the problems into a powerpoint document to create the question cards.

Day 40:  Another quiz day today.

If you use any of these activities,  please let me know how it goes for you.  Also, it's never too late to join the #teach180 challenge!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

#Teach180: Days 21-30

This year I've taken the #teach180 challenge and am attempting to tweet one picture from my classroom every day.  So far this has helped to hold me accountable for planning lessons that have at least one picture worthy moment per day.  I find myself being more mindful about opportunities for student engagement.  I'm also putting these posts together so that I can share the resources that I have collected and created.  Hopefully you will find something useful here.

Day 21:  Today the students practiced writing biconditionals and good definitions in geometry while playing a childhood board game.  I wrote more about using board games in class here.

Day 22:  On this day, my algebra 2 students practiced distributing and factoring out greatest common factors using +Desmos.  Here is a link to the activity.  I especially like how this activity focuses on the connection between distributing and factoring out a GCF.

Day 23:  Today my geometry students practiced the congruence and equality properties of reflexive, symmetric, and transitive.  They did this by playing a game of Old Maid.  I wrote about the activity here.

Day 24:  Today was a quiz day.  I give a cumulative quiz every fifth day of class.  I use a version of standards based grading in my classes and these weekly quizzes make-up 85% of my students final grade.  Check out my page on standards based grading if you'd like to know more.

 Day 25:  Today my students asked "Could we have used difference of cubes first instead of difference of squares?"  I said "YES! Lets do it!"  Then I got stuck and had to reach out to my tweeps for help.  Within an hour, I had help.  Just another reason to love using twitter for your PLC.  I followed up with my students the next day.  It was a great chance to model what to do when you are stuck.

Day 26:   I borrowed Forrest Hills City Designer project today.  Students created a map using angle pairs such as alternate interior, same side exterior, and vertical angles.  One of their weird mistakes that I saw several times this year was students identifying a set of angles that were on different transversals as alternate interior.  That is something I'm still working on correcting.

Day 27:  Today in geometry students discovered the relationships between several sets of parallel and/or perpendicular lines using this desmos activity.  This activity was originally a worksheet from my Prentice Hall Geometry book.  I just converted it to an activity builder.

Day 28:  Today in algebra 2, students practiced factoring using the sum and difference of cubes patterns using desmos.  Here is a link to the activity.  At this point the activity is just one page with a card sort.  I'm planning on adding some additional slides leading up to the card sort and a reflection slide after the card sort.

Day 29:  Another quiz day today.

Day 30:  Today in geometry, students discovered the polygon angle sum theorem using this activity.  This is an example of how some activities are better with paper and pencil than in digital form.   At the very least, I like to use a mix of high tech and lo tech activities.

That's it for days 21-30.  It's not to late to join in the #teach180 fun!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

#Teach180: Days 11-20

This year I made a goal to tweet one picture from my class each day.  I'm also trying to blog bi-weekly about what is happening in my classroom.  Here are the tweets from days 11-20.

Day 11:  On this day, algebra 2 students reviewed linear inequalities by playing a game of 3X3, which is similar to bingo.  There are 4 boards and a deck of cards.  In each group of four, students turn a card from the deck face up.  The card has a linear inequality.  Students look at their boards to see if they have the matching graph.  If they do, they mark that box.  The first student in the group to get 3 in a row wins.  Play can continue for second and third place.  I found the original assignment from @MathBerts here.  And here is a link to the the document that I edited.  I blogged about this activity last year as well.

Day 12:   Today the geometry students completed some perimeter and area problems for complex shapes.  I just took images from a worksheet and copied/pasted them into a powerpoint document to create a set of task cards.  I wrote about this assignment previously here.

 Day 13:  In algebra 2, we completed an error analysis assignment for graphing systems of linear inequalities.  I created the assignment by doing a google image search and pulled several error analysis problems from various digital textbook  samples.  I also added a place to redo the problem correctly.  Here is a link to the document.

Day 14:  Today was another quiz day.  I give cumulative quizzes in each of my classes every fifth day of class.

 Day 15:  Today in algebra 2 we learned about domain and range.  This was a challenging lesson for students.  We found domain and range from a graph and the domain from an equation.  Students were also introduced to set notation and interval notation.  This topic will be revisited throughout the year as were learn to graph all sorts of functions.

Day 16:  Today in geometry I finally got to try the My Ship Sails game that I wrote about here and that Dan Meyer recognized here.  It went just as well as I hoped it would.  I heard lots of great conversation about conditional statements, hypotheses, conclusions, and converses.  I look forward to building this activity into more lessons in the future.

Day 17:   Tonight was parent's night.  This night is a challenge each year because it is scheduled before I know all of my student's names.  I also always have to field lots of questions about standards based grading and hybrid learning.  I wrote about my plans for this evening here.

Day 18:  Today in algebra 2, we completed practice of linear regression by collecting and fitting data.  Here is a link to the assignment.   I had one group that wanted to collect data on a topic that would have no correlation.  My first thought was to not allow them to do so, but I thought it would be interesting to have them reflect on their low correlation coefficient and why the slope and y-intercept of their line of best fit turned out as it did.  It was a good choice.  We had a good conversation as a class later.

Day 19:  Today was another quiz day.

Day 20:  Today in algebra 2 we practiced adding and subtracting polynomials.  Here is a link to the activity.  I think the original activity came from Sarah Carter but I'm not totally sure.  Students use a deck of cards to randomly choose coefficients for the polynomials.  Red cards corresponded to negative coefficients while black cards corresponded to positive coefficients.  The kids enjoyed the tactile twist on the otherwise plain worksheet.

If you have any feedback on any of the activities I've shared, please leave a comment.  I'd love to know how you would modify them.  In the meantime, its never too late to join the #teach180 fun!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

#teach180: The first 10 days

This year I responded to @mathequalslove's challenge to join #teach180.

I have to admit that I thought I'd have more trouble remembering to take a picture every day.  In reality, I almost never take a picture during class because I'm so busy teaching and working with students.  However, I remember to take screenshots of our notes or an online activity or I remember to take a picture of student work at the end of the day.

This year I'm lucky enough to have only 2 preps, CP geometry and Honors algebra 2.  I try to represent both classes equally in my #teach180 posts.

Now, finding the time to blog about this has been a whole other challenge.  I'm aiming to collect my tweets and reflect on a group of them every other week.  So here we are, finished with 41 days of school.  I'm going to try to blog about 10 days at a time.

Here are the tweets and some comments as well as links to some of the resources:

Days 1-4:  For the first 4 days of class, I spent about half the period on content and half the period on beginning of the year stuff.  I didn't want kids to space out while I went over a syllabus (for their 6th class in a row) and I also wanted them to get in the habit of doing good work right from the start.

 I blogged about Draw What I Say here and I downloaded the direct variation from @MathBerts  here.    It took a little while for students to get the hang of the domino activity because many of them never actually played dominoes with their families.  I find that this is the most common challenge that I have in incorporating games in my class.  I typically have to teach how to play the game before we can use the game to practice content.

Day 5:  Starting on day 5, my students will work in stations most days are part of my hybrid classroom.  I've done PD on hybrid and wrote about it here.  If you scroll to the very bottom of the page, you will find links on how to get started in hybrid.

Day 6:

Here is a link to Clint's activity that I used for students to practice solving systems by substitution. I like that the activity is not just practice in solving systems, but also a chance to students to interpret the meaning of their solutions.

Day 7:

I wrote about this assignment here.

Day 8:

Day 9:  Starting on day 9, my students will be taking a cumulative quiz/test on every 5th day of class.  I used a form of standards based grading.  I wrote about it here.  I should probably write a new post soon explaining some of the changes that I've made over the last year or two.  This year, I am giving students variations of the same quiz (same topics) each week for the nine weeks of the marking period.  I grade the quizzes based on a 5 point scale and then students skip questions that they have already mastered on the following weekly assessments.

Day 10:

Here is Christina Nowlin's activity on applying distance and midpoint.  The link includes 2 versions of the task as well as a worked out solution.

It's not too late to join #teach180, please join in the fun!

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!