Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Algebra 1-2 Quarter 3 Overview

There isn't a lot to say in this post. I'm still committed to Standards Based Grading in my classroom so the most important thing to start every year with is a list of student centered objectives that I will use for assessment. There is a lot of debate as to how specific / narrow the objectives should be, but I found this is the level I need to still stay in step with my colleagues who use traditional grading methods.

Quarter 3 Objectives
Unit 7: Statistics
I can create dot plots and histograms
I can describe the shape of a distribution
I can calculate the mean and median of a distribution
I can calculate standard deviation
I can calculate IQR
I can create a 5-number summary and a box plot
I can use statistics to compare shape, center, and spread of two distributions
I can describe the effect of outliers on shape, center, and spread
Unit 8: Sequences
I can expand a sequence from explicit or recursive form
I can translate a recursive sequence into its explicit form
I can translate an explicit sequence into its recursive form
I recognize that sequences are functions whose domain is a subset of integers
I recognize arithmetic and geometric patterns
I can write an explicit function to represent an arithmetic or geometric sequence
I can write a recursive function to represent an arithmetic or geometric sequence
I can use an arithmetic or geometric sequence to model real life situations

Unit 9: Exponents and Exponential Functions
I can simplify with the properties of exponents
I can convert between radicals and rational exponents
I can identify linear and exponential functions given a situation
I can identify linear and exponential functions from a table
I can sketch the graph of an exponential function
I can model exponential functions with equations
I can find a growth or decay factor, including percent change
I can model real world problems with exponential functions

We have 9 Weeks this quarter from January 6th until March 6th so that means I have approximately 3 weeks per unit since the units are fairly evenly distributed as far as standards go. Unfortunately that only gives me about 14 instructional days including testing which is less than 2 days per objective. For today, my focus is on creating a unit project for the Statistics unit, which will probably be some survey question where the students need to collect or find data, create multiple graphical displays, and analyze the results in a formal report. Thankfully, statistics naturally lend themselves to student-led instruction because there are so many ways to interpret and bring meaning to data. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcome to the New Year!

It's been two and half years since my last post and as I sit here thinking about this next semester I wonder where I'm going. I'm halfway my third year of teaching and I've realized that while I still have passion, I'm lost. I feel very confident in my understanding of the new standards and the changing climate and opinions for the future of math education (less direct instruction more discovery learning) but I just don't know how to make it happen in my own classroom in my own school climate. This is not an easy change, and without training or experience many of us are just floating along trying to do what we can with what we have.

With that foreboding introduction let's ring in 2015 with a game plan and a hope for improvement. My resolution? To create unit plans and unit binders for each unit that I teach. To start, I'd like every unit to have one unit focus lesson that is student led. This might be the introduction, the conclusion, or a connection in the middle. Although my instruction will still probably 80% or more direct instruction I-do We-do You-do, I think it's important that I make small steps towards making my students responsible for their own education.

What can you expect to see on this blog? My work, one unit at a time for Algebra 1-2 and 3-4:

  • Student-friendly objectives
  • Lessons including one student-led discovery lesson
  • Reflections and classroom observations
  • Interactive Notebook Pages

Welcome to the New Year!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

They Don't Teach You That In School...

I'm now halfway through my third week of school and the one thing that blows my mind each and every day is the "mess". At no point in my teacher preparation program, or any of my three internship semesters, or even my student teaching semester, did they ever mention how much paper traffic there is as a teacher. I have piles upon piles of "things to read" and "worksheets to file" and even with a TA we can't seem to stay caught up. Each day new things are added to my physical mailbox and my virtual mailbox, plus the things that I create, plus the things that kids leave for me. I mean seriously, why is there so much paper?

I worked out a dinky filing system before the semester started figuring that I would need something to keep organized. It's like trying to power my house with a potato. The problem is that my life is in full swing now and I don't have the time to recreate my organizational system in a focused, methodical way. I'm scrambling to come up with something on the fly that will carry me through the rest of the year.

Can we please add Classroom Organization 101 to every teacher preparation program? Sheesh.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Made4Math Monday #3?

I'm losing count of my #Made4Math posts since I've inconsistently participated... oops. Anyway, this past #MyFavFriday had a theme of "favorite review game" that I didn't know about and rather than posting a second #MyFavFriday post I decided to turn my review game into a Made4Math (I did make it afterall, for a math class!)

Without further ado: Jeopardy!

I've used this both for semester reviews and chapter reviews. The kids beg to play Jeopardy review. I'm not sure where my mentor teacher got this from (if you google jeopardy review there are tons of templates) but I just took it from her. Any time I want a new Jeopardy game I just change the category titles and use PPTs "MathType" to make new problems. All of the squares are linked, and when the PPT is working at it's best the point values turn blue if they've been clicked. I usually keep track on a clipboard just in case.

The Set Up

  • Students are in groups of 3-4
  • Each group has a single whiteboard, marker, and eraser
  • Each student has a sheet of paper
The Rules:
  • Every student must copy the problem and solution on their notebook paper (label with B10 and E25)
  • One student writes the final answer on the whiteboard for the group (rotate so everybody participates)
  • When I call boards up you must hold up your solution to have your answer counted
  • Groups can only gain points (there is no loss for being wrong)
  • Groups can only pick questions worth <15pts in the first few rounds
  • The groups select questions in order (group 1, then 2, then 3, etc) since many groups get the solution correctly
  • In the last 5 minutes the teacher will select a question category and point value. The students will bet however many points they'd like that they will get the question right. The teacher reveals the question and the groups gain/lose the amount of points they bet depending on if their answer is right.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Homework Policy

The topic of #HSSunFun this week is our homework policy. This year (my first year teaching) I've decided against homework completely. Yup, I assign 0 problems a night. This was an idea I picked up from my mentor teacher who was decidedly against assigning homework. Here are the main reasons against homework:

1) Students don't bring homework back
2) Students cheat
3) Students practice incorrectly and then have to be retaught

On the few days that I *did* send homework home when I was a student teacher I found all of these to be true! I want to add that the students who go home and complete the assignment are more often than not the students that don't need the practice as badly as others.

When I look at assigning/grading homework in the big picture it must be the absolutely least accurate snapshot of student progress. Most often I don't have the time to check every single problem for every single student which means grading homework for "completion" (grade padding) or not grading it at all. Neither of these solutions really ring true for me so I simply don't assign it.

That's not to say my students don't need practice, and don't need to be completing problems to master skills. I emphasize to my students that the balance of not having homework means getting work done in class. I average 2-3 problems done during notes (guided) 10-15 problems done as a class on whiteboards or as groups on worksheets (individual but teacher-monitored) and 6-8 problems assigned as classwork in notebooks where I provide students with the correct answers (individual and self-monitored). If the students don't finish the practice it's their responsibility to work at home (my version of homework) but I try to provide enough time at the end of class for 80% to finish. Occasionally I will give a Challenge problem where the students have to either 1) describe the process to solve the problem 2) correct a mistake and explain the inaccurate thinking or 3) create a problem and explain their choices with the problem. The Challenge problems are always assigned overnight and checked at the beginning of the next day, but not graded. The idea that I'll be reading every student's response at the beginning of the next day has so far been motivation enough to complete it or at least attempt it.

At the end of each week the students turn in their notebook for a grade. As I'm grading notebooks I look to see that the structure is accurate (page numbers, table of contents, notes on the RHS), that their practice problems are completed (the LHS) and I read/respond to their reflections if they've written one. This notebook grade is on the same scale as my other objectives and is weighted as 20% of their overall grade.

Another form of "homework" my students have is to practice for tests. I have a classroom website where I post worksheets and provide links to websites for additional practice and it's up to my students to take the initiative and work on their own. We're only 1 week into school so nobody has particularly taken advantage of this (I have had about 4 students come in the mornings to ask for help and practice) but when it gets down to the nitty gritty and students want to test a skill / improve their score, but have to prove that they've practiced, I have a feeling this feature will increase in popularity.

I may change and update as I become more comfortable as a teacher, but for now my opinion stands that practice completed in class > practice completed at home.

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Favorite Friday

This #MFF is dedicated to my favorite lesson from the past two weeks of school...

In AP Computer Programming I did not have access to any software whatsoever. No JDK, no Eclipse, not even TextPad. This tested all of my first-year-teaching abilities all at once. For the first few days I divided my class into "Veterens" (Four students in their third year of programming) and newbies. The veterens had the responsibility of introducing the newbies into the general structure and requirements of a program. This activity was just o.k. When I really hit gold and got my class on board was during my "Computer Hardware" lesson. Using spare parts I had from a reject computer, I demonstrated to my class the inner workings of an actual computer. 

I got to pass around the power supply, a graphics card, the motherboard, the heat sink, the processor, memory cards, and a DVD Rom. We also practiced putting the parts together and learned first-hand how every part of a computer is 'keyed'. The students were most impressed with the "platter" and "arm" of the hardware and how the computer "fragments" information (hence Random Access Memory and defragging). After seeing the live parts, the students had to take pictures of each part, a picture of the tower, and a sheet of butcher paper and create an "Anatomy of the Computer" poster with labels and explanations.

 Here's the final product:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Made4Math Monday - on Wednesday

Now that my classroom is set up (or at least the kids are here and there's no going back) I wanted to start gearing my "Made4Math"s towards activities I'm trying for the first time or reusing from my student teaching and part time work. This activity was thought up literally the night before and then executed!

Introduction: As students walk in the door I handed them each a sign containing a number that they had to put on. I was wearing '0' in case any of them were confused as to what I meant by "put this on". The signs were made by tying yarn to sheet protectors and writing with a whiteboard marker. I like that I can erase and reuse these signs to do other activities like binomial match ups, or asking students to find their factored form with quadratics.

Warm Up: We went through our whiteboard warm up routine as normal. The warm up for today was two PEMDAS and two Substitution problems.

Activity: Once I had checked the warm ups I asked if any students had ever played the getting to know you game where the class has to organize themselves by birthday without saying a word. About 5 or 6 responded in each class. (I've played that game 4 times). I told them this game would be similar in that they couldn't talk or ask each other for help. Then, I asked the students to organize themselves by their numbers. That's it. I had a few students come up to me and ask if I meant "rational" and "integer" (which I did) but I told them to interpret however they choose.

Wrap Up: What I was hoping to emphasize with this activity is that we have a lot of natural instincts when it comes to how numbers are grouped. All of my whole numbers were together, my negative integers were next to them, my decimals and fractions grouped up, and perfectly enough my radicals, pi, and e all stood separately on the opposite side of the room from everybody else- Perfect! After a little rearranging I called out a few numbers like "The square root of 25" and asked the class what number that was. Once they realized it was actually 5 the square roots of 25, 100, and 144 auto corrected themselves. Then I called out "-9/3" and asked the class what that number was. Again, the reducible fractions auto corrected themselves. Once our whole class was correctly placed I pointed out how the radicals, pi, and e were on the other side of the room, and how that matches the relationship between irrational and rational numbers. Then I asked the class where I fit in the groups and they said "in the middle". With a little prompting I got them to get specific and place me between the positive and negative integers.

Notes: The activity took about 10 minutes post-warmup and including collecting the signs back. Afterwards we took our "official notes" in my real number foldable and did recognition practice on our whiteboards.