Friday, January 27, 2017

#MTBoSBlogsplosion Week 4: Daily Failures

This month I'm joining in the #MTBoSBlogsplosion by @ExploreMTBoS.  The final week's prompt is to write about failure.  So many of us blog about our successes.  This is so important because we feel validated and we share great lessons.  We all grow together by sharing our best lessons.  We can make advancements in our teaching working collectively than we can working alone.  That said, as an outsider, it can be deceiving.  Math teachers all over the world are posting awesome lessons every day and it can make you feel inferior.  Maybe you only have one blog/tweet worthy lesson per week or month.  The truth is.  Many of us teach 3 or 4 different classes, so to blog about 1 lesson out of 80 is not really representative of our daily work.

This week, I've decided to keep a list of all the mistakes I make.  This is a great week to do it, because my mistakes should be minimized.  We are giving midterms on Monday and Tuesday, which means I only have 3 teaching days.  So maybe I'll make fewer mistakes this week than usual.  Here we go:

Monday:  Today was to be a pretty easy day for me.  I just had to finish grading midterms, enter that info into our LMS, add report card comments, and start lesson planning for later this week.  My first mistake of the day was related to making copies.  Oh our copier is the bane of my existence.  When it works properly, you are supposed to 'print' your documents.  Then you go to any of the 6 copiers in the building, enter your access code and 'release' the items you printed.  Unfortunately, our copier jams all the time.  And when it jams, it does not just finish printing your job afterwards, it deletes that job and all other released jobs that were waiting to be printed.  So, my first mistake of the day was getting over confident and releasing more than one document at a time.  Sure enough, there was a jam and i had to walk back to my room to start the printing process all over again.

Monday's second mistake was that in all the printing/jamming/printing, I accidently copied 2 sets of 1 document and 0 sets of another document.  Luckily, I noticed the mistake when I went to make answer keys rather than when I went to pass them out later in the week.

Tuesday:  Today was also meant to be a pretty easy day.  It is a make-up day for students who missed or had exam scheduling conflicts.  The rest of the day was set aside for teachers to collect data on our SLOs and our supervision goals.  Both of these are part of our evaluations.  The SLO (student learning objective) came about as an alternate to using only standardized state exams for teacher evaluation.  Basically, in PA, you can choose a wide sweeping goal to work on, and collect data to show student growth.  I chose working with triangles in geometry.  I had tons of pre- and post- tests to sort through to show how students were progressing.  I had to compile all of this data into a spreadsheet to turn in at the end of the year.  Here is a screenshot so you can see what I mean.

Highlighted sections show that students performed better on their post- test than their pre-test, so they showed improvement.  Of course, I lost my place multiple times while creating the document.  I ended up typing scores in the wrong row/column and highlighting the wrong pairs of cells.  Not a big deal, but annoying if you get through an entire column before noticing your mistake.

Tuesday's second mistake came while collecting evidence for my supervision goal.  The competency that I chose to work on this year was "2b: establishing a culture of learning."  My goal is to have students care more about their peers.  Teenagers can be a little oblivious to the needs of others, and I want them to not only care about their own learning, but also that of their peers.  So, I was collecting evidence for this standard and totally forgot that I must also collect artifacts for the other standards in the domain.  So after submitting my midyear reflection and artifacts to my administrator, I had to go back to add the other standards in domain 2.  Again, not the end of the world, but very inefficient.

Wednesday:   Today was the first day of classes with nearly a week off for midterm exams.  Algebra 2 class started with a warm-up of graphing rational functions in transformational form.  When it was time to go over the problem together, I asked for volunteers to give me each step.  When I asked for the vertical asymptote, a students correctly offered x=-2.  I proceeded to graph the asymptote at x=2.  We got all the way to plotting intercepts before I realized something was not quite right.  So asked the class how I knew something was wrong.  Thankfully they were able to tell me that I had plotted a point on the vertical asymptote, which we are not allowed to do, so either our asymptote or our point must be wrong.  Then a student said that they thought I had graphed the asymptote wrong but that they were not confident enough in their own work to point it out.  :/  

Thursday:  At the collaborative station, my students used +OZOBOT's for the first time.  For the first time out, I only took out 3 bots since I have 3 nice carrying cases.  Usually, I place supplies for each class in a corresponding drawer, but since both of my classes were going to be using the ozobots, I was just going to move the robots from one drawer to the next in between classes.  Of course I received a phone call from the office in the middle of this process and I totally forgot to finish.  Luckily, I realized this during the warm-up of the next class and I was able to quickly rearrange the supplies.  Again, a pretty minor mistake, but still one that caused me some stress.

Friday:  I nearly made it to the end of the day without a reportable mistake, but then I made a doozy in algebra 2.  We were learning about polynomial long division.  We started with a numerical example that they would have solved in elementary school.  We got to the remainder part and I explained how we would write a fraction using the remainder as the numerator and the divisor as the denominator.  Then I wrote the fraction as remainder/dividend instead of remainder/divisor.  No one said anything, until we finished the algebraic example, which I wrote correctly, and then someone asked about why we did it differently.  Six other kids all chimed in at the same time that they thought that I had written the numerical example wrong, but were not sure enough in their thinking to correct me.  Ugh.  Dumb mistake on my part. Luckily we fixed it in their notes, and we had done the algebraic one correctly.  I'd say these are my most common mistakes.  Careless mistakes like copying incorrectly or transposing something.  Very annoying.  Thankfully, my kids take it in stride.  Today, one girl told me that it was ok and proceeded to sing the Miley Cyrus Everybody Makes Mistakes Songs.  I joked with her about how that just made things so much worse.

So there you have it, a chronicle of a week worth of mistakes.  I think this was a little worse than usual.  TGIF! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

#MTBoSBlogsplosion Week 3: Blog Props

@ExploreMTBoS is hosting a blogging challenge for the start of the new year.  It's not to late to join if you like.  Read more about it here.

This weeks challenge involves reading and sharing one of our favorite #MTBoS blogs.  My favorite newish blog belongs to Katrina Newell.  She posts great resources for interactive notebooks and for google interactive activities.  I found Mrs. Newell's Math Ideas and Resources for the Secondary Math Classroom via twitter.  My school is planning on going 1-1 next year with iPads, so I've been eyeing up Katrina's great google activities.   I'm hoping to use some of her activities as is next year as well as use others as inspiration to create some of my own.  Katrina even frequently offers several versions of the same assignment that are differentiated to the needs of various learners.  She's kinda amazing :)  My favorite google interactive is probably this one on geometry proofs involving segments.  This activity would take the place of a cut and paste type of activity that I might usually do.  Instead, students save their own copy of the proof, then drag and drop the steps of the proof into the correct order.  Please stop Katrina's blog and give her some props!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

#MTBoSBlogsplosion Week 2: Soft Skills - Collaboration

In reading this weeks #MTBoSBlogsplosion prompt, I realized that I do a pretty poor job of explicitly teaching soft skills.  I'm looking forward to see what everyone else posts to see what I can add to my daily routines.  My curriculum is so jam packed that I really don't have the free time to take a an entire period to teach a soft skill.

The one thing that I think I do well is building the capacity of my students to work collaboratively.  This is because I use the hybrid rotational model of blended learning.   It's also largely due to the fact that I stumbled across the Kagan  geometry book a few years ago.  This book gave me activities to have students learn geometry through collaboration.  I love the focus on vocabulary and notation that are so important in geometry, but also the varied collaborative structures.  Each structure gets students actively involved in the learning process and some even incorporate movement into class.

My favorite structures are Boss/Secretary and  Rally Coach.  I don't usually tell my students the name of the strategy, I just describe how I'd like them to work.  These strategies encourage students to defend their reasoning and consider the explanations of their peers.  By giving simple roles to each partner, the work is more focused and you have fewer students sitting and watching their partner do all the work.

So what soft skills are you good at developing in your students.  I hope to read about the following ideas on your blogs:  self motivation, empathy, initiative, flexibility, tactfulness, ... and so many more.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

#MTBoSBlogsplosion Week 1: My Favorite Lesson So Far This Year - Candy Catapult Quadratics

For the month of January the folks at Explore MTBoS are challenging you to write one blog post per week.  This weeks challenge is to write about a favorite.  You can read more about the challenge here.

So far this year, my favorite lesson has been Julie's Candy Catapult.  Use the previous link to read about how she created and implemented the activity.  I used the activity over a period of 3 class periods at the direct station in my hybrid classroom.  This worked out to be about 60 minutes total for each student.

First I allowed the students to choice their own group of 3.  I explained that we were going to use this catapult to shoot candy across the room.  Then then would do some calculations so that they could predict where the same candy would land when we shot from the top of a student desk rather than from the floor.

I needed a lot of help from Julie and from the members of our physics department.  I wanted to be sure that I was not misinforming my students.  Students shot 3 Sunkist Fruit Gems from the catapult on the floor.  One student fired the catapult, one student watched the measuring tape to see where the candy landed, one student used their cell phone to time the shot and recorded the horizontal distance traveled by the candy and the time that it was in the air.  They took the average of these 3 trials and used this information to move forward in their project.

Students knew how to write the equation of a quadratic given the x-intercepts.  They used (0,0) and (average horizontal distance, 0).  They used a=-490 for the coefficient.  I had each group distribute and enter their standard form equations into +Desmos.  Julie used this to help students in the next part of their project, but I just used it as a visual check.  Some students distributed incorrectly and ended up with lines or parabolas with negative x-intercepts.  Seeing everyone else's graphs helped them to spot the mistakes.

This was the end of the first 20 minute station.  During the next day, students measured the height of the desk, figured out that this would change the y-intercept of their parabolas.  They added this value to their old equations.  Then they used the quadratic formula to solve their new equation for the time when their candy would hit the ground when launched from the desk.  Next they used a second equation to predict the horizontal distance that the candy would travel when shot from the desk.  This was the part that I was unsure of.  I did verify with the physics folks that, ignoring air friction, the horizontal component of the catapult shot was a linear function.  Thus, students could use a proportion relating the horizontal distance and time for both trials.

This is where the second 20 minute station ended. I laminated one of these targets to place on the floor under my measuring tape.  Students slid the target into place based on their predictions and shot three more pieces of candy from the desk.  They recorded the distance from the target that their candy landed each time and recorded their best shot.

As you can see, some kids rocked it, others, not so much.  We ended with a celebration of our awesomeness and discussed the possible causes of error.   For the last day, we did not use the full 20 minutes.  We used the remaining time to do some review for an upcoming test on quadratics and the eat the candy :)

Here is a link to the student document that I used.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Practice Structures: Pass or Play

This card game that I just made-up and I call it Pass or Play.  Students will solve problems and play the corresponding cards in sequence.  I created two versions of the game so far, one on segment and angle addition postulates and one on interior and exterior angles in triangles.  I also wanted to create a version for my algebra 2 class, but I could not think of a topic where I could come up with consecutive numerical answers.  If you have ideas about other topics for which to use this activity, please share.  Since this is a brand new activity for me, I have only tried it for a few skills.

Here are the rules of the game:

Here is the version for segment and angle addition and here is the version for interior and exterior angle of triangles.