Month: July 2014

The #July2014Challenge comes to an end…

…but it is only the beginning.

I am heading into my second year teaching math. During my first year, I spent it keeping my head above water while completing 10 online classes to gain my permanent teaching certificate and preaching every Sunday as an Interim Preacher at a church about an hour away. The only thing I used the web for math was to find a lesson or an idea for upcoming classes.  I figured there would be a wealth of information out there to help me, I just didn’t have time to go and find it.

This summer, I determined that I needed to find more resources to help me with the craft of teaching, and I found it through the #MTBoS.  There is a wealth of information out there, and I have gained quite of bit of information on what to do for next year, but now it is putting it into place. Here are a couple things I will implement this year:

  1. Standards Based Grading:  I love this idea, and long to implement it well in the classes.
  2. Wall of Remediation: With the new textbook series (Go Math from HMH), there is an included book with skill sheets that I can print off and have students complete.
  3. Gradeable.com: I want to reduce the stack of papers I bring home, and think that gradeable will be able to help me with this.
  4. Whiteboarding: Kelly O’Shea has a bunch of games and ideas that I think will do well for me.  I am planning on getting larger $2 white boards, but my mentor gave me 30 12″x18″ whiteboards for each student to use.
  5. An Online Math PLC:  See mymathplc.wordpress.com for more info as we go on, but I wanted to collaborate with some folks who are doing similar things, so we shall see what happens!
  6. Using more engaging tasks in class:  Dan Meyer’s 3 Act Math Tasks, Problem Based Tasks, etc.

A couple of thoughts on the blogging challenge:

On looking back at the blogging challenge, I knew I wouldn’t do all 31 days.  I am a procrastinator, and I knew there would be times that I just would not blog.

One of the feelings that came up, as weird as it may sound, was that I began to be fixated on how many people followed me, and how many people read my blog.  I don’t like that feeling. It feels like I am trying to impress someone, and feel vindicated when someone likes a post and follows me or my blog.  This can begin to drive my ego and sense of identity. Again this is weird because I have under 2 dozen followers and less than 100 pageview, but yet I think about it.

So as I go forward with blogging, I want to keep this in check. I have considered a 180 blog this year, just so I can have a record for myself of what I have done, but we will see what happens.  For my 2 dozen followers and 6 readers, thanks for following! And I promise I won’t let it go to my head.

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Why I Procrastinate – #July2014Challenge

#mtbos30 Day 16 (missing days 10-15)

All of my life, I have been one who procrastinated. Mostly, it was to avoid pain. I greatly dislike being in some sort of pain or discomfort, so if I could put it off, I would. This extends from school work to exercise to yard work to dealing with issues with myself to dealing with other people.

As you can imagine, it gets me into trouble from time to time. As a teacher, if I wait to grade papers, it piles up, and up, and up.

Recently, a friend of mine said this about her husband:

The reason why he procrastinates is because he is a perfectionist. If he doesn’t have the perfect solution, he won’t do anything.

And there it is. By no means would I have ever labeled myself as a perfectionist, as with most projects, I work them until they are about 80-90% done, and then I stop. But I never thought about the reason why I stop. For instance, on my back porch I have built an outdoor bed out of pallet wood.  We have a mattress on there right now, but it’s not the right one, and I want to finish it with arms, but I don’t know exactly what I want it to look like, and how to do it. So now, the bed lies unfinished on my porch.

I want to begin writing assessments for the upcoming school year, and I have found a couple that I want to emulate, and have been using Examview Generator to create a couple, but it isn’t just the way I want it. So now, it’s been a week since I tried to generate a test.

I know my students are this same way. They get behind on a project and don’t know what they want to do, and they don’t like any ideas that their parents come up with to help them, so they don’t do anything. (I know this feeling, I lived there in middle school!)

So what can I, they, we do about it?

Well, I am sure that productivity gurus all over the world have answered this question well, but I just haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. But here’s what I try, and will try to do with my students. What’s one thing I can do to start this?

I had a huge mess of bushes in my backyard as the house sat empty for five years before we moved in. How do I start reclaiming the yard? Let’s take out a reciprocating saw and go chopping away.

A student is completely stuck on a math problem. What do they do? Ask questions, what do they know? What is this like? What is this question asking for?

Sometimes all we need to get started is just a little shove, a little bump, a first step as to what could be. Now finishing well is another problem I need to deal with….later.

Mindset – Jedi Edition #July2014Challenge

#MTBoS30 Day 11

At a Professional Development workshop for the district this summer, we were introduced to Carol Dweck’s Mindset. We were given a copy of her book, and I believe there was a bit of buy-in from the teachers there.  I mentioned before that I wanted to do a Star Wars theme this year including a Jedi rubric for Standards-Based Grading.

In doing some more reflection on mindset, I decided to take a couple of different graphics and mash them together in order to refer to “fixed” and “growth” mindsets in my classroom.

Growth_Mindset_Posterdarkside

Kindness in Teaching #July2014Challenge

#MTBoS30 Day 9

Kindness must be used with wisdom within a structure of justice and fairness. Consider the role of a teacher. Love moves and empowers a teacher to be kind toward all the students; otherwise it will be mere favoritism toward some. Kindness moves the teacher to encourage the dull and the average as well as the bright students. But if kindness forgets about honesty, it will turn into cruelty. For instance, a teacher criticizes a student essay honestly, toughly, pointedly. Not to do this is to rob the student of a chance to grow through an interchange of power. But there must also be a gentleness, a feeling for the student’s anxiety about his own abilities. And so kindness searches for something in the essay that can be praised, at least for its potential. Kindness compels the teacher to look until finding something worth commendation. —Lewis Smedes Love Within Limits p. 17.

I met with a mentor today, a first meeting hopefully that will last for awhile, and he reminded me about truly caring for students.  He said something along the lines of “The one thing I want to impart to every new teacher that I get a chance to talk to is to love the students. Show them you care. When you show them you care, they will go the distance for you.” 

I get that. I really do. I know that students need love and care shown to them. I know that students will go the distance for you when they know they are safe and free to make mistakes and you won’t judge them for it.  I know it, but it is sometimes hard to show it. 

There are those moments in teaching when a class mistreats your sub, bombs a test in which you went over every single type of question twice, when a student you have given multiple opportunities to throws you under the bus for whatever reason. Those moments are difficult to show love, compassion, and kindness. What is easy to forget is that students will test you to see if your love is conditional. Students will try to prove that there is a limit to how much you care for them. It could be just another excuse for them to quit when they think you have on them. 

I read the above quote and realize yet again what is at stake in the classroom. It is more than high-stakes testing, Marzano performance observations, and whatever subject you are teaching. What is at stake is the value of a single person. Every student will remember something from you. Sometimes it is your sense of humor (or lack of it!). Sometimes it is your manner of teaching or the tasks you give. Most often, it is how you treated them.  

I had a professor in Seminary who was one of the kindest men you could ever meet. A friend of mine said about him, “Even if you raise your hand and absolutely butcher the answer to the question he just asked, he’ll make you feel really good even when you’re wrong.” 

The self-worth of a student is constantly in flux due to social media, their home-life, their relationships, their performance in the classroom or the athletic field.  In my classroom however, I have the power to control what I say, how I react, and how I treat that student. Whether or not my words or actions change them at that moment, I can’t control. But I do know, that love and kindness have the power to change a person for a long time. Each student is deserving of that love, no matter what. 

 

Scanning & Grading Assessments #July2014Challenge

Day 8 #mtbos30 #July2014Challenge

One of my struggles last year was grading quizzes and tests quickly and getting them back into the hands of the students. I would end up procrastinating for a day or two and felt the loss of momentum one they received it back, saw the grade, and then checked out if it was a bad grade, and celebrate if it was a good grade. As I move into SBG, I am working to manufacture some different results. In my blog searching this summer, I came across this great series of posts from Shifting Phases:

Mylene had the students write a duplicate copy of the quiz to hand in, and one to keep and grade together. I think that could be a bit cumbersome for a test with longer answers, and using twice the amount of paper. Then she posted this:

Now this is a good idea!  Scan the quizzes so you have an electronic copy of the quiz, and the students don’t need to create a second copy.  And, you don’t have to manage all of those papers! So I have been wondering about taking this a step further. What if I got a scanner, maybe just a Document one like the Doxie Go and had students scan in their quiz, and then check their answers in a book and then sit down to make corrections until all students are done.  Then I would have a digital copy I could check and grade and hand a grade sheet back to the student the next day. Well, the Doxie Go won’t work for me as you can’t hook it to scan directly into a computer, and I can’t use it on my school’s wireless network because we don’t have an open BYOD network.  So I went ahead and bought a Canon LIDE 210 to do the scanning, hooked directly up to a computer.

Now, what I would LOVE to figure out is this.  What if every one of my students had a QR code that they could clip to their quiz and then scan it in. And then some magical piece of software will read the code and place it in the correct folder for each period. I can then tag all of the quizzes for that day with the right concept number, and have an automagically organized digital copy of what every student does for the year?  That would rock!  I haven’t figured out how this could work…

…until I came across Gradeable, and I wonder if this can get me closer? If you have thoughts, please post it below!

SBG Topics for 7th Grade Math #July2014Challenge

Day 7 of #MTBos30 #July2014Challenge

Last year was my first year teaching 7th grade Math and 8th grade Pre-Algebra (2nd year as a teacher, I was the AVID coordinator my first year). The curriculum was several years old, and not aligned well with the NGSSS (Next Generation Sunshine State Standards). I pretty much taught to the workbook, assigned problems, thought students understood what they were doing, and then they would bomb the test. I then retaught the material, and gave a re-take and some did better.  I had a difficult time trying to figure out how students learned, and how to teach concepts while also giving them practice through the workbook.  Needless to say, most of the time I felt like I was Charlie Brown’s teacher.

The great thing about teaching is that the next school year is a brand new year. I have a year of teaching math under my belt. Our district has moved middle and high school grades to the Florida Standards (FS), which in 7th grade is almost exactly the same as Common Core. I received some great PD that came through our district by way of Math Solutions. Our district is moving forward with a new curriculum by Go Math. And, I have spent this summer struggling, learning, reading blogs, and stretching myself to do something different for the upcoming year.  Enter: Standards Based Grading.

My first task was to break down the standards into topics to be taught.  I was given a sample copy of the new textbook, and I took the time to break the lessons and units into individual topics. The topics are labeled 7-01, as I may be teaching 7th and 8th grade again this year, and want to keep the grade topics listed differently.  According to several SBG blogs I have read, 36 topics may be too many. With only 36 weeks to the school year, and really about 24 before the AIR test, I don’t know how many we can touch on.

I found an OMGR! (one more great resource!) which comes from the great state of Utah. They have broken down the Go Math textbook into the CCSS and identified specific page numbers for each standard. Hopefully it will help!

7th Grade Concept Thoughts – Link to PDF

7thConcepts

 

Inoreader – Keeping up with all y’all: #MTBoS30 Day6

When I went out on my binge reading of all blog posts concerning SBG and stuff, I really wanted a good feed reader that could pull together all of the great blogs that are out there.  I was an avid Google Reader user, and was sad when google killed it (insert sad trombone sound here.) I use Flipboard on my phone and iPad to keep up with my Facebook, Twitter, and other assorted news feeds, and I tried to create an RSS feed that would feed into Flipboard, but it was too clunky to make it work, and hard to add new feeds (read: it took 4 steps to do it, and I get extremely lazy!) After some searching, I came across Inoreader, It wasn’t Google Reader, but it turned out to be pretty decent.  So here’s what I did to make it work for me.

  1. ino buttonSign up for an account.  Easy, free, and painless.
  2. I downloaded the Inoreader widget for Google Chrome.
  3. Whenever I came across a blog I liked, I hit the Inoreader button:
  4. Then this little box popped up, and I hit the plus sign:

ino2ino3

After you hit the plus sign the first time, a couple of options turn up, click the plus sign next to the first Feed, and this will subscribe you to all of the posts.  The second one will subscribe you to any comments.  I haven’t subscribed to comments, but you can! Now I can keep up with the 50 or so  great blogs I have stumbled across, without having to go back and visit each site every time!  Hope this helps you!

One More Great Resource! (OMGR!): #MTBoS30 Day 5

In an attempt to remind myself to go and look at some great resource websites, I am hoping to publish some semi-random posts at different times that showcase a great website I came across. Feel free to comment and share one below!

Today’s OMGR!

http://dpsmsmath.wikispaces.com/home

As with most wikispaces, this OMGR! is not great to look at. It doesn’t draw you in with great colors, great fonts, nice graphics, but its greatness lies below the surface.

In my searches this year for more resources on the CCSS (or FS in Florida), I stumbled into this site. I was hoping to find some “I Can” statements written to the standards, and bam! Here they are! Then  I dug deeper into the site, and came across these unit maps for 7th grade.

And the creme de la creme of the site was a little hidden. In my travels I came across this blog post about stations and wondered if there were any books available that had the stations already created. I typed the word “stations” into the search box of the dpsmsmath wiki site, and came up with this. The 3rd, 4th, and 6th results of the site had a book for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade station activities tied directly to the CCSS.  That result alone is enough to make a Math teacher who is trying desperately not to spend too much money on his teaching habit to shout OMGR!

In a classroom not too far away…#mtbos30

 

Last year, in my first year as a Math teacher, I wanted to create an atmosphere that was a bit more interesting than just a math classroom. Superhero movies were coming out left and right, so I wondered if I could come up with some sort of tie to it, and here’s what I came up with:

  1. Superheroes solve problems.
  2. Math has problems.
  3. You solve math problems.
  4. Therefore you are, a superhero!

Cheesy, I know.  I had great plans to come up with superhero questions to post on my board, but after I posted my first one, I didn’t do it again. I had the room setup with tables, and above each table I hung a mobile of some comic book pages from a specific superhero group. The groups were: X-Men, Justice League, Fantastic Four, Avengers, Transformers, and Teen Titans. During the first half of the year, whenever I called on a table to give a specific answer, I would call out the team name. I created these by buying some comic books from the store, cutting out the pages, and then taking some foamcore and cutting pieces and taping them into boxes, and then I attached the pages with the spray glue.

mobile1mobile2

It definitely generated some interest, and I had several conversations with students during the year of “who is better, Deadpool or Superman?” I caught several of the students just gazing at the comic book mobiles before, during, and after class. I think if I would have stuck with it, it could have been cooler.

This year, I played with a new theme, possibly one involving tools, trying to get students to see that they have different tools to use in their math tool box to create solutions to problems. But then I saw this post, and I knew what I had to do next:

 

mathwars-800

 

jedi rubricI love the Jedi Master rubric, and feel that it is something that we can do to carry it through the year.  It’s all a great idea now, but we shall see how it works throughout the rest of the year.

 

 

 

 

*Update – 7/5/14  – I didn’t know if it would be helpful, but I decided to go ahead and post a few of the files I used for my superhero theme last year.

The Evernote Train

 

 

hero_evernoteIt has taken me a long time to learn to love Evernote.  In my earlier days of searching for productivity hacks, Evernote came up as one of the 10 best tools on every list, and I never saw the benefit of it. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, I went on a binge blogreading spree looking up all things SBG, PBL, and every other new wave educational acronym you can think of.  I had poured through dozens of websites, and was forgetting where I found some great link that I looked at two days before.

I re-downloaded Evernote, and gave it another try. I setup a free account, and then downloaded the Google Chrome Evernote Widget. What happened years ago was that I tried to save one or two links, and then forgot about Evernote. In order to make Evernote effective, this what I did.
elephant1.  Download evernote for your computer, and then go in and setup a couple of folders based on what you typically look for.  I created “SBG,”  “Common Core,” and “Teaching Helps.”

everside2. Then I spent about two hours searching through all of the helpful websites that I wanted to clip, and then I clicked on the little elephant hanging out on the top right of my chrome window. This is the widget I linked above. It brought up this sidebar.

For blogs, I would make sure that “Article” is selected, and it will highlight the area that will be saved. (On the left hand side, of this image is what will be saved.) Typically, Evernote will clip just the blog post, but if you want to include the comments, just scroll down and click on the + sign, and the window will grow and capture that as well.

Also, under “File,” will be the list of your folders.  Select it, and choose which folder you want to put the article in.  You can also use the Tags feature, to give some more specifics about why you are saving this.  For my Common Core folder, I have tags such as “Fractions,” “Number Sense” “Ratios,” in order to place specific activities that I can find later for each unit that I teach.

Click “Save” and you’re done with this site!  What is great about Evernote, is that after a saving a dozen or so websites, it automatically suggested which folder to place the article.  It’s not 100%, but it is learning your habits, and helps you organize.

3. The free Evernote account allows you to save 60MB of things each month. I began saving a lot of links, pdfs, activities, and I ate up my allowance within two days.  So I bit the bullet, and paid for the premium at $5 a month.  I figured that if I quit using Evernote, I could cancel it.

evernote search4. Now that things are saved in evernote, you can look in your folders to find what you have saved. Or if you have a vague recollection of something you want to see again  but not the site you went to, just type the word and every note with that word will pop up!  For a previous post, I remembered someone posting about the wall of remediation, but I couldn’t remember where, I typed it in and “whoomp, there it is!”

It took using Evernote for every web clipping for a solid couple of days, and then I realized how much it would help me.  Everything I have found is saved and searchable.  All of my bright ideas can be jotted down. Now comes the hard part, pulling it altogether and doing something with it!

I decided that I would share my folders, so anyone can look through and even subscribe and find something helpful.  If you create a great Evernote folder, feel free to share it as well!

Standards Based Grading Folder

Common Core Folder

Teaching Helps