Saturday, August 26, 2017

Week 1

The first week of the 2017-2018 school year is done!  We started the week with a solar eclipse and ended it with a hurricane here in Texas!  Lucky for me my week at school wasn't as crazy as an eclipse and a hurricane!
I decided to put off going over things like the syllabus and rules and procedures until at least the second week of school this year.  I dove right into working on establishing group norms and what good group work looks like as well as introducing mathematical mindsets and growth mindset to my students.
I'm on a block schedule and I have three preps.  I did the same activities with all three preps, but because of the difference in the lengths of my Monday/Wednesday/Friday Geometry classes and my Tuesday/Thursday Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 classes, it was a little tricky to keep track of what I was doing with each class each day.  This week definitely reinforced how important planning is!  I use for all of my lesson planning and I love it.  You can create whatever template you want with whatever components you want, and my favorite part is they have state standards already included.  You just choose which standards align with your lesson.  They even have a screen where you can see how many times you've taught a specific standard and on what days you taught it.  It's great!
In addition to the activities listed here, I've been showing the videos from the the first Week of Inspirational Math on Jo Boaler's  We watched the first three this week and I'll show the last two next week.  None of them are longer than about 3 minutes, they're very well done, and the messages are GREAT for introducing growth mindset and mathematical mindsets to students.

On Monday, I did Sara Van Der Werf's 100 #'s task.  It was a fantastic first activity that led us right into a discussion of what good group work looks like.  I made an anchor chart that summarizes the group norms we came up with based on this activity.

Next we did the Four 4's Activity.  You can find the directions for this lots of places, but I'm including the link to the one from Youcubed.  This was by far my favorite math activity we did this week, and it was a great first day activity because EVERYONE can contribute, no matter where they're at mathematically or how they feel about their math ability.  At the end of the week I put posters up in the hallway challenging the kids to use four 4's to find all the numbers from 1 to 100, so hopefully this can be an ongoing activity that the kids can work on.

On Tuesday, we did these two activities plus I had time to do Sarah Carter's Broken Circles activity.  Some of the groups had a little trouble with this since one person in the group starts with a complete circle.  I had to repeat multiple times "REMEMBER, NO ONE is done until EVERYONE is done" in order for some of those kids who had complete circles to let go of their pieces to help the rest of the group.  I added the words "NO ONE IS DONE UNTIL EVERYONE IS DONE" to the bottom of my group norms anchor chart after this activity.  We had a great discussion about talking responsibility for your classmates learning and how to help each other.

On Wednesday we did Broken Circles and then Fawn Nguyen's Noah's Ark task.  This was probably my second favorite math task from this week.  I love that it's basically a pretty complicated system but one that can be solved through some pretty basic logic and reasoning.  I did have to give a few hints here and there to get all the kids to solve it, but there were also lots of kids who got there on their own.  Whenever a group told me they had an answer, I always responded with "CONVINCE ME!"  I told them I didn't just want an answer, I wanted them to prove to me why their answer was right.  I was so impressed with their explanations and the fact that I saw several different ways to get the answer!  I encouraged kids to take the task home and challenge their families to solve it too.

On Thursday we did the Noah's Ark Task.  We also played Sarah Carter's Rainbow Logic and Traffic Lights.  The kids (and I) liked Traffic Lights the best.  

Then we did the How Do You See the Pattern Growing activities from the Week of Inspirational Math on  It was so enlightening for the kids to see all the different ways that their classmates saw the pattern growing.  We talked about how important it is to be able to explain how you see patterns, to understand how others see them, and to be able to see them in lots of different ways in order to make sense of the algebra that we use to describe them later.

We finished up on Friday with Rainbow Logic, Traffic Lights, and the How Do You See the Pattern Growing activity.  It was a great first week and I think the time lost to covering my actual course material will be paid back in spades by the thinking routines I'm establishing for my students now.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New Classroom Setup

For a variety of reasons, I am the only one of the four teachers who were at my school last year who came back this year.  My principal decided to have me move rooms just so that all of us would be prepping a new room together.  I didn't mind - I find moving to be cathartic and it motivates me to declutter and streamline things.

In the spring last year, I received a DonorsChoose grant to create flexible seating in my classroom.  I implemented it a little before the school year was over and my students LOVED IT!  I added to it over the summer and am so excited to see how the students react when they return next week.  Much of what you see on my walls came from people in the #MTBOS - shout outs to all of you who have contributed to my classroom decor!

I love my desks.  I raised, lowered, and even removed some of the legs to accommodate different seating heights.  These camping chairs were $7 at wal mart and the kids love them.  I have two groups with this type of seating.  I got the love seat for free from someone in my neighborhood.

The group with the stools have desks that have been raised.  This allows them to see over the kids on the sofa and provides a different type of seating.

I got the exercise balls as part of my DonorsChoose grant.  I had a student unpack my things as they came in and I think he accidentally threw away the plugs for these, so I ordered more over the summer.  I think some of my students are really going to enjoy these.

This is the back of my classroom.  The bulletin board by the door is a birthday board.  I am THE math teacher at my school, so I have every kid in my class at some point.  This will be a good way for us to keep track of student birthdays for the whole school.  Between the birthday board and the white board you can see a couple of my peg boards that I added this year.  I'm so excited about them!  The buckets underneath hold golf tees and yarn that the kids can use to make graphs on the pegboard.

Here's a better look at one of the pegboards.  You can also see my "Who's Out?" board (thanks Pinterest!).  I got it for less than $2 at wal mart!

So much good stuff here!  And ALL of it came from the #MTBOS!

My desk area.  The teacher desk is the only thing in my room I'm not crazy about - it has NO drawers.

My rolling cart from Target holds math manipulatives and supply boxes.  I love having all the things students need in one central location.

I'm trying out classroom jobs this year.  This is where I'll keep track of who has what job each period.  I also made badges that the kids can wear during their class period so that I (and the other students) know who has what responsibilities.

Monday, August 14, 2017

My First Day Plans

Yes, yes, I know - I'm doing the #SundayFunday post on a Monday!  But I wanted to participate in the blogging challenge even if I'm late....

I would not have the plans that I have if it weren't for the amazing people in the #MTBOS who are always so ready and willing to share their stuff!

This year I'm teaching Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2.  I am THE math department at my school - we're only in our second year and with a student body of 150 kids, it was determined that one math teacher would do.  So here I am!

My plans for the first day (for the first week, for that matter) are the same for all of my preps.

I'm going to start with Sara VanDerWerf's 100 #'s activity so that students know from day 1 what my expectations are in terms of group work and collaboration.  I've never done this activity before, so I'm very excited about it!  After the activity we'll debrief by coming up with some group norms for the year.

To give them some practice working appropriately in their groups, I'll start them on the Four 4's activity next.  I don't know that we'll have time to do much with it, but I'm going to challenge them to come up with ways to get the numbers 1-20 to start.  I'm going to hang some paper in the hallway so that over the course of the next few days or weeks they can try and come up with solutions for the numbers 1-100.  I've never done this activity before, either, but I'm excited to try it as well.  I think it will really help me as a teacher to start off allowing my students to struggle productively - something I've had trouble doing but something I KNOW is good for them.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

My ONE GOAL for the 2017-2018 School Year

I work at a public high school in Texas, but my school is a school of choice - students must apply and be accepted into my school.  We are an Early College High School - our students will (ideally) graduate with a high school diploma AND an associate's degree in four years.  We just opened last year with a freshman class of 76 students and will add a new class each year (we're adding about 80 students this year).

The target demographic for our school is first generation college, low-socioeconomic and at risk students.  Since we just opened we do have some students who don't fit our target demographic, but most of our students do.  For almost all of our students not only are they taking college classes for the first time, they're taking Pre-AP classes for the first time, too (all of our high school offerings are designated Pre-AP).  We help our students find success in our program by providing them with TONS of academic and social supports.

I am happy with how our first year went - almost all of my students passed their Algebra I EOC last year.  Many have already passed the math portion of the TSI (similar to the Accuplacer) that is required in order for them enroll in college level math down the road.

But I do feel like I could put in some work when it comes to being more aware of where my students are mathematically on a student by student basis.  As a whole, I can tell you what skills my students have mastered and which ones need more work.  I know what deficits most (but not all) of my students come to my classroom with.  I know where most (but not all) of my students will get hung up when introducing new concepts and I can usually plan my instruction accordingly.  I know how to engage and motivate most (but not all) of my students.  But I don't feel like I know where each of my students are at on their math journey on a truly individual basis.  So that's my goal for this year - to spend more time one-on-one with my students.  I want to spend more time watching them do math and less time showing them how to do math.  I want to spend more time listening to them explain their thinking and less time telling them what or how to think.

I'm so thankful for the #SundayFunday blogging challenges and look forward to using them to help focus and refine my craft as a teacher over the course of this upcoming school year!  ;)