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!

Monday, November 27, 2017

#SundayFunday: My Teaching Story

Here is another better late than never #SundayFunday post :) At least this one is only 5 weeks late and I'm making up ground! Here is more info if you'd like to join in the fun.

It's really no surprise that I ended up being a teacher. I had a very difficult childhood. I won't go into the gory details, but although my mother did the very best she could with the resources she had, she could not protect me from everything. My early life was filled with neglect, hunger, inadequate shelter & clothing and abuse. I was surrounded by illegal activities and poor role models.

At school, no one knew what I was going through and no one treated me differently. That is exactly how I liked it. I did not have the means to develop skills in areas like music or athletics, but I could take advantage of my free appropriate education. I quickly learned that if I worked really hard, I would excel, and that is exactly what I did. I loved the feeling of control that I had while studying and achieving success. It was the only place in my life where I could be rewarded for my effort and where I could decide my fate. This is probably why I decided to teach. I knew that there were other students like me and that I wanted to be a part of potentially the only consistent and safe aspect of their lives.

It was not until many years later, as a special education minor in college that I started to notice that I had many symptoms of learning disabilities. I spoke with my professor and she helped me to collect the needed educational records and schedule the necessary testing. I learned that I have a processing disability, namely dyslexia. It was nice to know that there was a legitimate reason that I needed (and still do) to put in 2-3 times the amount of effort as the average person to achieve the same results. Since I was never diagnosed in school, I learned to accommodate for myself. I use these skills daily to get through my day even now.  My biggest benefit from having a learning disability is that I can relate to struggling students.  I can offer suggestions on overcoming challenges that come from real experience.

I was fortunate to land a job as a long term substitute in the same district where I student taught. It was a great first year and provided the supports that I needed both professionally and personally that I needed to transition into adulthood. I'd probably still be in the same teaching position had the lady that I was subbing for not decided to take a second year of maternity leave before resigning. I had to take another job to gain benefits and move myself along as a professional.

I spent the next 13 years in my current position. I have been blessed to meet many wonderful people through my current role. If I had not changed schools, I may not have learned about hybrid learning or standards based grading. I also may never have been pushed to begin speaking at conferences and expanding my PLN to the #MTBoS. All of these ideas have improved my teaching tremendously.
And today, I find myself at another cross roads. I've had a challenging year filled with non-educators making the majority of the instructional decisions in my classroom. I'm currently weighing my options of A) powering through the year and hoping that next year will be better or B) moving on to a position where innovative teaching and learning is appreciated.

Wish me luck :)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

#SundayFunday Math Games - First of Many Posts

This is another very late (6ish weeks overdue) #SundayFunday Post.  I should actually be able to catch-up now that it seems there will be monthly prompts rather than weekly :)  Here is more info if you'd like to join in the fun.

I've been meaning to write a long series of posts about my favorite math games.  In the past, I've written much about practice structures.  In my mind, practice structures are fun ways to practice recently learned skills while games would be more review of slightly older skills.  I'll start with posting my two favorite math review games.  Eventually, I'll follow-up this post with other game summaries.

In general, my favorite review games focus on content, get every student involved, do not reward speed over deep thought, and involve some type of chance.  The first two items on this list are pretty obvious.  Jo Boaler has written much about the harm teachers and schools do to students when focusing on speed in math.  Here is one article explaining the concept and a poster (see the last page) for setting up classroom norms based on Boaler's work.

The reason that I like to involve a chance based component to math review games is that it keeps all students involved.  Sometimes, when one student or teams gets far behind the other teams, they can give-up and start opting out of the game.  I like to use game design that keeps everyone in the game.

My first favorite game is Ghosts in the Graveyard.  Read the previous link for a good explanation of the game.  The short version is that students earn ghosts to place on tombstones by answering review questions correctly.  I even require students to correct their work until they have answered the question correctly before moving to the next question.  I number the questions and teams of 3-4 work on one question at a time, bringing me their solutions to be checked.  If they are correct, I give them a ghost to place on a tombstone.  I mark the ghosts with group numbers.  During the last 5 minutes of class, I stop the game and we calculate scores.  I'll use a random number generator to make each tombstone worth a random number of points.  This means that a team could "win" even if they have fewer ghosts than another team because the ghost placement is based on chance.  This game is also easily adapted for other times of the year.  I've played Pirates on the Sea, Turkeys in the Oven, Flowers in the Garden, and many others.  Here is a pirate version that I made for solving equations in algebra 1

Another game that I like is Risk.  Again, read the linked post first for a clear explanation of the game.  Basically, students start with a certain number of points.  They attempt a question and wager a number of points based on their level of confidence.  The answer is revealed and students add or subtract the number of wagered points depending on whether their solution was correct or not.  Little prep is needed other than having a bank of questions.  I will sometimes pull from the textbook or from a generator like Kuta.  Here is a form that I created for this game.  You could just as easily play the game with no form though.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

#SundayFunday Favorite Education Books

This is a very late (6ish weeks overdue) #Sunday Funday Post.  I love to read education books and I always learn something new to use in my classroom.  It's hard for me to pick just a few books, so I'll share some of the most recent ones that I've read.

First up: Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning by Jan Chappuis.

This was required reading for a grad class, but it was one of the best books that I've read on formative assessment.  I know that feedback is so important for student learning but often wondered about what it would look like in practice.  This book offers tons of concrete examples.

I made it one of my professional goals for the year to give more formative feedback and fewer grades.  These pointers have helped so far.

One of my biggest take-aways was that the teacher is not the only one that can provide meaningful feedback.  Peer and self feedback can be just as powerful.

 I've also rethought my stance on stance on multiple choice assessments.  I think that most of my experience with multiple choice tests has been negative, but I've learned that if the choices are chosen with care, these items can provide great feedback to the teacher.

Additionally, this book encouraged me to reflect more on the strategies that I use for student practice.

Second: Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students' Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching by Jo Boaler.

My big takeaway from this book was that I can change the mindset of my students by creating the right classroom environment.

One challenge that I always face is that when I try to create productive struggle, students and parents push back.  They want everything to be easy because they equate ease with intelligence.  I'm so sorry to see that many of my students have never been given the chance to overcome a challenging math task.

I also found myself relating to many of the anecdotes in this book.  I've had many parents tell me that they hated math.  Then in the next breath, they tell me that I should be lecturing and giving worksheets every day.  They think that is the best way to learn math :(

One of the most concrete examples from this book are the homework questions.  I am not currently in a position where I can eliminate traditional homework, but I've been using these questions as part of exit tickets.  My students have been very reflective and giving me meaningful feedback about their learning.

Finally: The Classroom Chef: Sharpen Your Lessons, Season Your Classes, Make Math Meaningful by John Stevens and Matt Vaudrey

One of my takeaways from this book is that I need to do better with honoring student contributions to class discussion, even when that contribution seems very off base.

The book is also filled with several specific lessons as well as general practices that you can use in your classroom right away.  I've used this "around the world" activity several times already.  It's been a hit.

Lastly, this book has driven me to consider more alternative forms of assessment outside of a traditional test.

I hope you consider checking out one of these books :)  They all contributed to my classroom this year!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Using Nearpod for Daily Homework Checks

Today I posted this to Twitter and got some interest about how I use Nearpod to check homework.

I also posted this picture on my last blog post.

I can not take credit for the idea.  It was shared with me by a coworker.  I just added the Nearpod component.

I have been using the free version of Nearpod for a while and Cathy Yenca shared how you could make the most of the limited space in the free version by using generic templates rather than full lesson.

Here is how it works in my room:

At the start of class, students write down the number of a homework problem that they wanted to have explained.  Other students in the class sign-up to explain problems when they can.  If no one signs-up for a given problem, I will explain it if it is different from the other requested/explained problems.

To add Nearpod to the mix, I use this template daily.  On the first "Draw it" screen, students take a picture of the entire homework assignment.  On the second screen, students take a picture of either the question that they signed up to explain or one that I have all non-volunteers select.

Then, I push out the images of the problems to all student devices as students explain.  Unclaimed problems usually still have a correct solution when I flip through the other pictures.  Therefore, I usually just push out one of those while I explain the unclaimed problems.

That's it!  I have been doing this for about 3 weeks and like it so far.  It can get a bit long on time if lots of problems are requested, so I need to find a fair way to select who will explain which problems when several of the same type are requested.  Other than that, I think it's been successful.

Monday, October 16, 2017

#SundayFunday Classroom Tour

I'm slowly catching-up in my #SundayFunday prompts!  This is the prompt from week nine of the Sunday Funday blogging initiative.  It's never too late to join in!  You can read more about the challenge here if you like.  This week's challenge is to write about our classroom set-up.

I posted a few pictures from my classroom on Twitter prior to the start of the year.

At the time, I was looking forward to incorporating more group based whiteboard practice (Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces #VNPS) and continuing with the rotational station based model of blended learning.  Although I had successfully implemented this model involving small group instruction, group work, and individual work for the 4 previous years, this years' students struggled more than usual.  It may have been that I had more freshmen than ever before and they had not yet developed the confidence and self-discipline needed to work productively while I was with a different subset of students for small group time.  For whatever reason, the model was rejected by students this year.  It is unfortunate, because while using this model in the past, my students consistently scored the highest in our building on our state end of course exam (Keystone).  Also my previous students frequently come back to thank me because they were more prepared for the level of independence needed to compete in a college class where most of the work is completed outside of class in study groups and individually.  

So, I'm doing the best I can knowing that I am limited to a lecture/worksheet cycle this year.  I know that it is nowhere near best practice, but it is what I am being required to do this year.  In an effort to promote some classroom discourse, rather than full periods of lecture, I have now arranged my room like this:

I also wrote a few weeks ago about some of the "stuff" in my room and how it is used.  You can read about it here if you like.  However, here are two last tricks of the trade for you:

1)  Bank pens!  I bought 3 this year.  The base is stuck to my table with adhesive (no idea how well it will remove later) and the pen is on a retractable string.  So far, so good :)

 2)  A homework routine:  A coworker told me about this.  Kids sign-up for questions that they would like to see worked out and other students sign-up to explain them.  If no one signs-up for a question or two, I will discuss some of them as needed, but overall, the kids pull their own weight and help when they can.

That's it for this weeks #SundayFunday.  Maybe I'll be caught-up in a few more weeks :)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

#SundayFunday Warm-ups and Closures

I've gotten very far behind in my #SundayFunday prompts, but I'm hoping to catch up!  This is the prompt from week eight of the Sunday Funday blogging initiative.  It's never too late to join in!  You can read more about the challenge here if you like.  This week's challenge is to write about our warm-up and closure routines.  To be honest, I've had a very difficult start to the year.  The routines that I've used for the last 4 years including hybrid learning and standards based grading (also see the 7 posts following this one if you like) have suddenly been deemed inappropriate in my current placement.  That, however, is another post for another day :(  Because of these circumstances, I am still looking for a good routine for my current constraints.  I look forward to reading the other posts to see what everyone else has found success with.  In the meantime, here is what I've done in the past.

I created a 2 page handout that my students would use for about 3 weeks.  

This handout includes space for #MTBoS favorite warm-ups including John Stevens'  Would you Rather, Dan Meyer's Graphing Stories, and Andrew Stadel's Estimation 180.  I used the blank boxes for Mary Bourassa's Which one Doesn't Belong and content specific warm-ups.  For the content based warm-ups, I would review student progress towards standards based grading mastery and choose a warm-up based on a common, widely needed area of practice.

For the exit tickets, I used these prompts on most days.  I can not say for sure where I found these questions.  They were collected from various resources.  This year I've switched to using the Socrative exit ticket and using one of the linked prompts as the third "teacher question."  I've also started using the homework reflection questions from Jo Boaler's Mathematical Mindsets book.

Following the 2 page warm-up and exit tickets, you will find a reflection sheet that my students used daily as part of the hybrid classroom.  I have not reworked that form yet, but it might be something that I can use as a journaling or weekly reflection in the future.

I hope that you find something useful here and that you check out some of the other #SundayFunday posts!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

#SundayFunday: My Favorite Lesson so far This Year

This is week seven of the Sunday Funday blogging initiative.  It's never too late to join in!  You can read more about the challenge here if you like.  This week's challenge is to write about our favorite lesson.  I have a hard time picking a favorite lesson, especially one that I have not already blogged about.  I love all of the following:

However, I'd like to write about something new.  So today I'm writing about CPM's "How High Will it Bounce?" lesson.  I added some technology to this lesson to connect estimating a line of best fit and using a graphing calculator to find the linear regression line and correlation coefficient. 

Here are some screenshots pictures and videos from the lesson.

Today in #alg2chat we used @CPMmath's "How high will it bounce?" lab to practice linear regression #teach180

Finally, here is one sample of the student blogs:  Baybars C – Bouncy Ball Lab Blog

Thanks for stopping by!  Don't forget to check out other Sunday Funday blogger favorite lessons :)