Sunday, August 27, 2017

#SundayFunday: Organization

This is week four 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 organization.

Organization: Well, seeing as how I'm posting this entry several hours past the deadline, I certainly could use some organization pointers for sure.  However, I do have a few pointers.

Do everything digitally if possible.  My students will have 1-1 iPads before the start of the second marking period.  Until then, I'll continue to use my class cart of laptops.  I am fortunate enough to have those as part of a grant that I signed-up for circa 2007.  The machines were updated one time in those 10 years, so the technology available is anything but cutting edge, but it is functional.

The reason I love organizing digitally is that it is easier for me to make lots of folders inside of other folders and to move/update things as needed.  I still have lots of binders (one per unit per course) but I use them very infrequently.  In fact, I'm hoping to ditch them in the next year or so.  I even scan answer keys and name them similarly to the student documents so that they show up next to each other in my folders.

Every year, I create one  digital folder per unit per course.  Then at the end of the year, I put it all in a dated folder.  That way, I can can look through previously used items or create new ones.

I organize for my students in a similar way.  I use the free version of Schoology.  I create one folder per unit and I date documents for each day.  That way students can get started independently while I'm greeting kids in the hall.  They can also easily find make-up work, or work ahead if they know they will miss school.

Classroom layout:  This year, I'm trying to de-front my room.  Student groups are along all four sides of the room and my small group instruction area is in the middle.  I have also added group white boards for Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces.  You will notice there is also lots of room for movement based activities like Dance Dance Transversal and Quiz Quiz Trade. 

My only concern so far (our first student day is tomorrow, so I'll probably have more issues soon) is about having my back to two groups during small group time.  In the past, my small group instruction table was in the front and I could monitor the independent groups easily.  

Gradebook:  My pointer here here is to have a category weighted at 0% of the grade.  This is where I record information on work completion and participation.  I also keep partially graded assignments there temporarily (so no one's grade is negatively affected if  I'm only halfway through grading the assignment).

Managing Students and Email:  First, make mail groups for each class you teach.  Then you can easily send out information quickly as needed.  I send out a welcome letter at the start of the year.  I also send out a FAQ document with my grading policy, required materials, tutoring info, etc.  Later in the year I'll send out reminders about the end of the marking period and school events like parent conferences and free lunches over the summer.

Second, create a folder/label for every student and keep every email for them until the start of the following year.  This is great for documenting academic/behavioral issues if needed.

That's all I can think of for now.  I'm sure more ideas will come to mind as I start the school year :)  Please read along with the other #SundayFunday posters and join in yourself!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sunday Funday: Classroom Management

This is week three 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 classroom management.

I'm about to start my 14th year in the classroom and classroom management is something that I still strive to improve.  When I first started teaching I felt the need to have lots of rules and procedures along with consequences, all in writing.  My go to resources were Harry Wong's The First Days of School and Lee Canter's Assertive Discipline.  

Both books have some great ideas for new teachers, but you need to wade through other ideas that won't work for you to find the ones that will.  I even took Sarah Carter's idea of using a few of Harry's quotes to put up in my room.  Unfortunately, my kids just laughed at his name :( 

Within a few years, I found that the many rules and consequences were not really one size fits all.  I also found that the better my lessons and relationships were, the less I needed the rules and consequences.  I soon found Love and Logic which is a much better fit for me.  Again, I had to search through the ideas to find the ones that work for me.  The pitfall of Love and Logic is that it can come off as sarcastic if you are not careful to use the ideas that are a good fit for your style.  I wrote extensively about Love and Logic last year in this post.   Now, my only classroom rule is "Feel free to do anything you like that does not negatively impact anyone else in any way."  It's a great catch all because pretty any much any old rule that I could think of would fall into this category.  My consequences are now personalized.  When possible, I try to take a Restorative Justice approach.  There is actually a graduate school near me that offers a master's degree in restorative justice in education.  It it on my long list of things that I'd like to do at one point.  Basically restorative justice focuses on the idea of making things right when you have done something to cause harm.

Related image

So there are my general thoughts on classroom management:  Focus on relationship building and respect, design engaging lessons, have one overarching rule, and personalize consequences.  Now, here are some of the specific prompts for this week and how I might address the issues.

1.  Sometimes, we do pick the right task, and are doing the right things, when something goes wrong.  How do you handle that?  

If the problem is with the lesson, I fess-up to students.  I think they are surprised the first time that I stop a bombing lesson.  I take responsibility for misguided intentions and regroup.  Sometimes I'll fall back on direct instruction at this point, especially if I've burned half a period on a lesson that was not working.  If there is no way to salvage the lesson, I might have students work on a long term assignment.  I always try to have some sort of project or even just spiraling practice that students can work on at any time.  That way, the entire class period is not a loss.

2.  What are your policies that help your class run smoothly?  

First and foremost, you must explicitly teach routines.  For several years, I have taught in a station rotation model.  I taught each station separately including resources for when students get stuck both academically and with technology issues.  Then we also practiced transitions like moving from one station to the next.  I loved music cues for this.  This year, I am switching up the station model a bit to allow for more small group instruction.  There will be less teaching needed for this model, but I'll still take the time to practice transitions with students.

3.  What are your go-tos?  

This year I'm excited to use visual random grouping for group work and the equivalent for selecting students to share solutions and participate in class discussion.  I'll use Alice Keeler's group maker add-on to create groups.  And I'll use a random number generator to call on students.  I think this will help with classroom management by teaching students that they are always expected to participate and make an effort.  They are also expected to work well with anyone in the class.

I'm also trying CPM's team roles this year.  I have never had much luck with group roles in the past because I have not enforced them.  I'm going to make more of an effort to make sure that my group work is effective this year.  I may try Mindset Kit's participation quiz as a way to help with this.  I found this rubric that I may use for this.

4.  How do we engage the student that doesn’t like our class, or is disrespectful?  

I struggle with this one.  Especially because I am so non-traditional.  I have quite a few students that beg me to lecture, especially at the start of the year.  They opt out of independent and group work, hoping that I will jump in and save them with lecture.  I find that persistence is the key.  I wish I had a better solution, and I'm open to suggestions.  I know that I'm doing the right thing by requiring students to take responsibility for their learning, but I have trouble communicating this.  I try to explain it like learning to ride a bike.  A lecture will not help, you need to get on the bike and feel the balance for yourself.  

5.  When do we contact parents and what do we say to them?  

I contact home often during the first few weeks via mass email.  I send out information on class routines, grading policies (modified standards based grading), required materials, and reminders about upcoming quizzes.  I back off after that and just send reminders at mid-marking period and at the end of the marking period.  This opens the doors for communication.  Later when I need to contact home for academic or behavior issues, things are a bit easier.  I also invite parents to observe since they are unfamiliar with station based learning.

6.  What resources have helped you that others could turn to? 

Here are a few more books that I have pulled some ideas from in terms of my daily routines.

David R Johnson's books: Motivation CountsEvery Minute Counts, and Making Minutes Count 

Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion

That's all for now, don't forget to read other Sunday Funday posts :)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Sunday Funday: First Day Plans

This is week two 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.

Last week, we wrote about our goals for the year.  I touched on my first day plans at that time, but here is a bit more info.

I mentioned in the last Sunday Funday post that I wanted to begin incorporating HyperDocs as a way for students to be engaged in independent work while pull daily small groups.  Here is the HyperDoc that I'll use on the first day of school for my students to get to know me and each other.

I got the idea for the Meet me by Slides activity from one of Alice Keeler's books.  I read all three this summer, back-to-back.  So I'm having trouble recall which book it was.

They were all good by the way. Even though I don't intend on using Google Classroom and will only have student access to iPads for the most part, I was still able to get a ton of ideas from these three books.

Here is what the first two slides of my Meet me by Slides assignment look like.

I'd also like to try having students record themselves saying their name and embedding the audio file into their slide.  I'm a little nervous about having 30 hot mics giving tons of feedback, but it would be nice to have pictures and correct pronunciations for me to practice from :)

In addition to the interactive slides assignment, I also plan on having kids do a bit of review on Delta Math and create accounts for it as well as Schoology.  We have approximately 30 minute periods on the first day of school, so this lesson is pretty short.  That said, should there be any extra time, my students and I will enjoy a quick game of Greedy Pig.

I hope that you all join in with Sunday Funday soon!  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Practice Structures:WAR Revisited

I previously wrote about using the card game WAR as a wad to practice math skills.  Rather than using a standard deck of cards, simply make your own cards containing questions that have numerical solutions, then play as usual.  You can read the original post for more details.  In that post, I shared two versions of the game. One for exponent rules and one for evaluating logarithms.

Here are a few more versions that you can use.  Be sure to share if you create any of your own :)

Kindergarten - Numbers to 20 WAR
Grade 4 - Milligrams, Grams, Kilograms WAR
Grade 6 - One Step Equations WAR
Algebra 1 - LCM & GCF WAR
Algebra 2 - Powers of e WAR

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Practice Structures: Old Maid Revisited

Last summer I wrote about using the card game "Old Maid" as a way to practice math skills.  Rather than looking for two of the same card, you are looking for a matching question and answer.  You can read the original post here for more information if you'd like.  At that time I included a download for a version of the game for writing a system of equations from a word problem.

Here are some new versions that you can use as well.  Feel free to create your own and share as well :)

Grade 1: Adding Two Digits Numbers
Grade 8: Solving Equations Using Square and Cube Roots
Geometry: Congruence Properties

Friday, August 4, 2017

Sunday Funday: #Goals

Goals, I have too many right now.  This Sunday Funday prompt comes at the perfect time for me to solidify them and hone in on just a few so that I can reach those goals.

My big aspirations for the year include tweaking my past standard based grading policies and well as blended/hybrid learning structure. I also want to begin to incorporate HyperDocs, visual random grouping, vertical non-permanent surfaces.  Finally, I'd like to include more projects and technology in my classroom.  And this is the narrowed down list!

First, I'll start with HyperDocs.  I came across this book The HyperDoc Handbook: Digital Lesson Design Using Google Apps in my efforts to reorganize my blended/hybrid format and to include more meaningful technology.  The idea of HyperDoc is to create an interactive student-paced lesson.  One of the issues I've had in the past few years has been getting my students to engage at the independent station with fidelity.  You can read a bit about what I've tried in the past here if you like.  Scroll to the bottom of the post for 5 blogs that I wrote when I first started using the model.  I've tried several methods of trying to get students to engage with this station, but did not have much luck.  This year, I'm hoping that by using HyperDocs, I will find more success.

Here is the HyperDoc that I'll use on the first day of school for my students to get to know me and each other.

Once we get into the school year a bit, I'll use HyperDoc time as a way for me to accomplish small group instruction.  I'll try to design the HyperDocs so that they can be done independently while I pull groups.

My next goal is to tweak the variation of standards based grading that I use.  It's been a long time since I wrote about SBG, and I really need to do another separate post with updates.  I love SBG, but I feel like it creates a very segmented course.  Sometimes students end up seeing math a unrelated topics.  I like to include projects to combat this notion, but a project is difficult to measure in an SBG environment.  I also like to give a tiny grade for effort and participation, which is impossible with full SBG.

Here is the HyperDoc that I plan to use on the second day of school for introducing students to my version of SBG.  70% of my students grades will be standards based, 20% will be traditionally graded projects, blog, and other accuracy based assignments, and 5% will be based on participation and work completion.

As for Visual Random Groups (VRG) and Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (VNPS), these are concepts that came up at TMC16.  I've never been a TMC, mainly due to the cost of travel, but I always follow along on Twitter and the wiki.  Because I was trying to wrap my mind around these ideas so close to the start of the school year, I was not ready to dive last fall, but now I am.  Laura Wheeler did a bang up job of summarizing these ideas in this post:  Visibly random groups & Vertical non-permanent surfaces.  If you want more formal reading, you can view these papers by Peter Liljedahl:



I made a pretty large financial investment in my classroom this year buying 6 whiteboards and tons of markers to get me started with VNPS.  I'm ready to build student success with these classroom routines.

Here are some screenshots that I borrowed from Laura's blog post.  But seriously, go read it!

Lastly, I'd also like to incorporate more meaningful projects (one per unit) and technology into my classroom.  I'm hoping to score some CPM sample texts at the PCTM conference.  I hear rave reviews and that there are many applications and projects with in their curriculum.  Hopefully that will help me fill in the gaps.  For the technology piece, I hope to have students collaborate via Google Docs at least once a week and I also want to start having students write blogs on occasion summarizing their work on projects and activities.  I'm planning to use EduBlogs as my platform.

So there you have.  My slimmed  down list of goals for the year.  It's probably still to ambitious, so I may need to adjust some of these as the year progresses.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Practice Structures: Color By Number Revisited

Color by number has long been one of my favorite ways for students to practice math concepts.  Even my high school kids enjoy the break from less fun forms of practice.  I wrote about using color by numbers for math practice here in this original post.

In that post I shared two practice sheets.  The first was for factoring quadratic form trinomials and the second was for finding areas of regular polygons.

Since then, I've found a page with a ton of color by number activities for grades k-5.  Coloring Squared has tons of pictures, all pixelated, so they are extra fun :)  Here are two examples from their site.

Grade 3: Multiplication and Division Problems With an Unknown
Grade 5: Multiplying Fractions

Finally, here are a few more sheets that I created.  Feel free to use them and share any that you make :)

Two Tangents From a Point
3 x 3 Systems
Multiplying Rational Expressions

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Practice Structures: Error Analysis Revisited

Last summer I wrote about using error analysis as one of my favorite ways to practice math skills.  Since then I've found a few more resources and created a few more that I'd like to share.  In general, error analysis activities involve purposefully making common mistakes, then having students try to find them.  Here is a link to the original post if you'd like to see it.  In that post I shared an example for the segment addition postulate and midpoint as well as a second example for multiplying polynomials.

Here are some other examples that I found.  I did not create these.
Grade 2: Adding and Subtracting up to 3 digits.
Grade 8: Solve Linear Equations.
Algebra 1: Graphing Linear Inequalities in two Variables

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Practice Structures: May Ship Sails Revisited

I previously wrote about a game called My Ship Sails that can be used for practicing math content.  It is a card sort style game where players pass cards in attempt to collect all of a certain type card.  You can read more about the game here in the original post.  In that first post, I shared two sample games.  The first game was about end behavior of polynomials and the second game was about conditional statements.

Here are two new games.  If you try the game or make a new version, I'd love to hear about it.

Grade 1: Coins
Grade 7: Angle Pairs