Saturday, December 8, 2012

Things that make you go hmmmm

Really happy with the way the week ended.  I gave a quiz to my students and almost all passed.  I think I had 2 or 3 out of 72, and I'm talking A's and B's passed.  What did I do differently this week?  Well after Monday, when my math coach came in, I went back to basics.  I just gave them what they needed to know  in about 10 minutes (being careful not to TELL them things, but ask questions that lead them to what I want them to know) and them boom practice, practice, practice! 
As I get ready to write up lesson plans I am keeping this format. Since my class schedule is weird and I have my classes for different amounts of time each day, I will plan a more complicated activity such as stations or something for my longer days only.  This means I'll probably have to make 5 different sets of lesson plans, but so what!  I loved how this week went and I want my kids to keep "getting it!"

Friday, December 7, 2012

I like teaching again!

I cannot stay down for long!  I am still stressed and worried and swamped with work, but I decided I need to blog more and reflect more so here it goes...

My math coach came in on Monday, and I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I love her!  Every time she comes in, I truly learn something that I can apply and immediately see results.  Its the most awesome thing.  So this time we focused on my expectations for my class and my urgency.  Now if you asked me I would say that "why yes, I do have high expectations for my class!" but if you looked at what I was giving them to accomplish during their class time and how long I was giving them to do it, you would think something else.  And I didn't even realize it!
So, I started displaying this Online Stopwatch after my lesson and tell them that they have to get x amount done in that time.  They freak out at first, but by golly they get it done and they are just spending pretty much the whole time completely focused on their work it is awesome.  I notice some kids are actually fatigued when they leave my room!

In my 7th grade class I am teaching combining like terms and distributive property.  I really liked Sarah Rubin's ISN page for combining like terms and I got to thinking about the lines that she has separating the terms.
I decided that in order for my 7th graders to even understand where the lines go I had to make a rule they could follow no matter what.  So the first thing I taught them was to look through the entire expression and anytime they found a MINUS sign to apply the "KCC" which is Keep Change Change, or keep the 1st number, change the subtraction to addition and change the next sign to the opposite. Anyway after they go through and KCC, they separate all the terms into boxes.  The only "thing" allowed between the boxes is addition signs!  Then if they were just combining like terms they can go ahead and put all of the "boxes" that have the same stuff inside together and add.
If they have a term with parentheses, they have to take care of that first.  To me this always seems like a "no-brainer" you multiply the outside number by all of the things inside and  I would proceed to draw the familiar arrows going from the outside factor to the two terms inside, etc.  For some reason this is difficult for 7th graders. So I thought about my boxes again (picture example to follow.)  Actually I had read about the box method and FOIL about a year ago and taught my 8th graders it with much success, so I figured I would go with it for distributive property...It worked!!  Here is a picture of a problem they were able to simplify with all my crazy boxes!
All in all it was an awesome week.  My 7th and 8th graders took a quiz today and had great results.  I hope we can all keep this pace up for the rest of the year!

On a side note, I've kinda fallen off the "flipping" wagon.  Will post more of that at another time!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Edcampnj, #shiftclass, charter vs. public

Whoa, long time no post.
I have reached the point in my teaching career where I think I would be better suited flipping burgers.  What is the statistic, most new teachers leave before 5 years or something like that?

I am so done.  I hate the paperwork, I hate the pressure of "if the test scores don't improve you probably won't have a job here", the apathetic students, etc.

The worst part of it all is I blame myself.  I want my students to succeed, I want to be a great math teacher.

I have heard that it takes 8 years to be a good teacher.  Is this true?  Does it sound right?  I guess the problem with starting a teaching career as an older person, every minute counts.

I went to edcampnj today.  It was fun, but... there were only a few high points for me.  1.  I connected with another teacher who I went to college with.  We were both older students with kids, etc.  But she is my "soul mate" in the teacher world. We haven't gotten together in awhile so this made my day.  2. While most of the sessions seemed to cater to ELA, the last session was about Khan Academy which I have previously hated, but after today I am like "wow so cool!" and this has to do with being introduced to the "practice", "coach" and reports section.


Saw the term "shiftclass" tonight and I am in love.  There are a lot of things I am thinking of with this, my version is that I post in video fashion the "notes" of the day for them to put into their notebooks.  I see how this is probably the PROPER term for flipclass.  But aaaagggh this is such a complex subject.

Back to my college buddy and edcampnj, it was held in her middle school.... they may be adding more 7th grade math teachers next year.  I LOVE my school.  Its a charter school.  Long hours, lots of responsibility, low pay.  I think I am updating my resume.  Sad/excited/hopeful/confused.

I need to blog more. I need to reflect more. I want my students to achieve more.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Good

So I've been going through a "down" phase with this school year, but happily, there are some good things going on that have me very happy.
I have a 7th grade student who is new to our school.  One of the things I did the first week of school was to make a "Twitter board" and the students had to make math tweets on index cards that I hung on the board.  I told them the tweets should be about math, but could also be about the new school year and that they should include the hashtag #math.  My new student's tweet was "New school new opportunity to do better" that really stuck out to me.  He started off showing "signs" of being a trouble kid, but did well on his pre-assessment.  I pulled him aside one day and asked him if he liked math and what he wanted to do when he got older.  I told him that he could really do well in my class and could have a lot of opportunities in his future.  I've noticed that since this conversation, this student is one of my top kids!  He has passed all of his assessments and is just a model student in class.  My goal is to try and have more of these conversations with students!

The other good thing that happened lately is my Donors Choose project got funded!  I asked for 4 refillable tape dispensers and 50 rolls of tape for my ISN's and I got it!  What a neat process!  I got a 50% match right off the bat from Quill and then a match code from Donors Choose so it was easy to get funded.  I need to think of some more projects!

Those were the two major things that popped out at me.  There are a some good little things going on, and if I can get some more time, I would like to try to get on here to blog more regularly!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fail Fast and Reflect

My kids are failing, which in turn means that I am failing.  This post is going to try to help me sort out what isn't working, what is working and how do I fix it!

What is working:

  • ISNs- My students have been 100% prepared with their notebooks everyday, which might not sound so impressive, but in my experience this is huge. Not only do they bring them, but they are organized and they are taking them seriously.  I gave an open notebook test this week and the kids were very relieved to find that the notebooks actually helped them!  I think that alone let them see the value of taking accurate notes.  Step in the right direction, but I will address a problem that I am having later on in the Problems section!
  • My version of flipclass- This somewhat goes hand in hand with the ISNs.  They are copying the notes from the videos into the ISN's.  Which is probably better than if they were trying to take the notes down in class.  
  • Edmodo- Kids love it!  I even have other teachers using it now.  They are communicating with me more and asking for help.


Problems or what isn't working:

  • Groups/tables-Especially in 7th grade.  They could not stop getting off topic and just chatted up a storm.  The past week I have put them back in rows, actually I have them come in and sit in their groups with a 1 team leader at each group who checks that they copied their notes.  Once that is done, they turn their desks around to form the rows. Then I do a short mini lesson while they are quiet, using popsicle sticks to draw names to answer questions then they do their work independently/ silently until I tell them to pack up and turn the desks back to groups.  VERY teacher centered and I HATE IT!  But what do I do?  They are not taking responsibility for their learning and I don't know what to do!
  • Student centered learning- In my mind, I thought they would watch the videos which only consists of the big idea and vocabulary.  Then come to class ready to get to work and learn together how to "do" the math.  Not even close.  Its not even like they are waiting/wanting me to spoon feed it to them, they could just care less!!!  I know that I have to engage them in the math, make it more personal, etc, but I don't know how to do this everyday.  This is how I feel:  I've spent the past four years learning how to teach, and now everything I've learned is totally wrong and I have to relearn it all over again. 
  • Materials-  I've complained about this before but my textbooks and resources SUCK.  They were totally expensive and the principal is not letting me get new stuff.  Luckily since I work at a charter school, I don't have to use them, but it just seems like a huge waste.  Plus a ton of work curating my own stuff. 
Solutions:
  • I think I am on the right track with training the 7th graders by putting them in rows. They are learning to work quietly and stay on task.  My hope is that after a few weeks we can start getting back into groups and working at the same level-on task and quiet talk.  I am going to start this with 8th grade next week.
  • I am going to implement a little competition between the groups and classes.  I am still working on it but it will be based mostly on academic achievement but a little on behavior.  I am hoping this will start to motivate them to learn.
  • I need to figure out how to move my lessons back to student centered.  I loved the jigsaw activity I did two weeks ago and I want to do this with 8th grade, but I go back to my group problem.  I may try this with 8th before putting them in rows.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Toolbox and the ISN

I rarely come up with my own ideas when it comes to teaching, I am the queen of stealing!  I get so excited when I do come up with something that I haven't seen before but works. So something I started doing which seems to be really effective is what I refer to as The Toolbox.  (Now I'm sure that other teachers do this, but it was just new to me.)
At the beginning of the lesson I tell them the "tools" that they need to have in their toolbox in order to master the new skill.  I actually make a slide with a toolbox graphic on it and have them put it in their ISN.
For example for combining fractions they needed:

  • Add and subtract integers
  • Find the LCM/LCD
  • Simplify fractions
Then the best part is I had them write the page number that these topics were on in their ISN!  Now when they are working and get stuck, I tell them to go their toolbox. It seems to be an great solution so far!



Thursday, October 4, 2012

PLCs and Week 5 Reflections

My school has started to embrace the idea of PLCs or Professional Learning Communities.  So this post is a reflection about that, and my 5th week of school.

So to start off, my first "real" contract job is the charter school that I work at.  I LOVE the fact that it is small.  I teach 7th (36 students-two classes of 18) and 8th (36 students-three classes of 12)  But one thing I don't like is that I am the ONLY 7th/8th grade math teacher.  To say I felt isolated is an understatement.

This year with the formation of our PLCs I already feel so much more supported!  We had our first meeting today.  It was with me, my principal and our all purpose aid-who just happens to be an awesome math teacher!!  She has been coming into my room for at least 3-4 of my 5 classes each day as long as she is not covering for an absent teacher.  I think it is so great!  I love having an "outside" set of eyes to point out things that I miss. She has already given me so many great suggestions that I wouldn't have caught unless I was "on the outside looking in."

What I have found so far with my pre-assessments and my first mini unit test, is that my students don't test well.  They know what they are talking about during the lesson and the work they are doing in my class, but they either don't retain it or are just bad test takers.  So I need to figure out how to fix this!  If anyone reads my blog and has a suggestion I would love to hear it!!!

Next, about flipping: I LOVE Camtasia Studio, the only problem is that I have to shell out the $179 to buy it.  Is it worth it?  My trial runs out in 4 days and I think I am going to buy it.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Grammar and the Math teacher

So I put up a quote on Edmodo "Learning without thinking is labor lost; thinking without learning is dangerous." (Chinese proverb) 

I wanted students to see that if they are getting all of their assignments "done" but not learning from it then they are missing the point.
Got this response back from one of my students and I have mixed feelings.  On one hand I am happy that she feels that way, but on the other...hmmmm even as a math teacher it makes me cringe.  (this is an 8th grade student)

"I think math is very important because if we didn't have a mind we wouldn't know anything and we won't have a full education. Thank you Mrs. Nehila for teaching us everything you know your support and your respect. We wouldn't be nowhere without you."

Rethinking Group Work

Today I had my kids work on an open ended problem that went something like this:
Two friends are taking a trip from Los Angeles to NY.  The rental car costs 15 cents per mile and $25 per day.  They plan to stay 1 week.  How much will their trip cost?

Now usually I would give them roles such as leader, time keeper, supply manager, recorder etc.  But today I decided to try something different. 

I've been bothered by the kids that even though they have a "job" do not participate in the problem. So I broke the problem up into 4 parts basically: 1. Write a verbal model to help us answer this question  2.  Calculate the cost of the rental car.  3. What are the other expenses the two friends will incur?  4. What are other ways they could travel to NY? (This was just extra, but I wanted to have 4 groups) 

Then I had each student count out from 1-4 and all the 1's worked on the first task, all the 2's on the second and so on.  Each student was responsible for making sure they had something to bring back to their table.  It was so awesome hearing them all engaged with their task.  Even my sped kids were busy making sure they had the notes copied correctly and understood what they needed to explain back at their groups.

After about 20 minutes they returned back to their tables and shared out what they found.  They had about 15 minutes to share their notes and then another 20 to write up their answers.  They were told that their answers had to be in their own words and if any papers were exactly the same they would get a zero.

The responses were really good. My students would always write down the bare minimum.  For a question like this I wouldn't be surprised to get a paper back from a kid who "worked" on it for 45 minutes with the only thing written down  -->   $945  These kids were running out of room on the paper and asking if they should attach another sheet or write more on the back!!!  YEA!!!!!  I am really excited about doing this again and more often!!!



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reflections 9/26/12

Just a quick minute to jot some things down.  I really need to keep this blog going to do these reflections but I just can't wait until I "have time"  because that is never going to happen!  

  1. So its the end of the first mini unit, they have the test today.  I am not thrilled with how the assignment sheet went at all.  They need so much more structure, less choice.  Some choice is good, but too much is not!
    It is too much for me to grade!  I wanted to check every single problem, but it is too overwhelming.  So I need to rework my whole assignment sheet.  I will post it when I finish.
  2. I am going to start putting more content into the videos.  Basically all I had was vocabulary words for them to copy.  Now I am going to add an example of a basic problem and they will have to do 1-2 problems (basic) for me to check as homework.  Not all are getting on Edmodo, so they only thing I worry about is them copying the answers from each other.
    But the reason I'm doing this is because I have to get them doing meatier work in class, like zero basic computation problems.
  3. Next the best thing I noticed, my 8th graders have started out with a geometry unit, angle pairs, triangle angle sums, etc.  and they are writing and solving these very complex multi-step equations.  I am so proud of them!!  The reason it stands out to me is because they don't question their ability to do it.  I just start them off a little bit and they get right to work.  I think about how if I was teaching "solving multi-step equations" they would struggle, but since there is more of a goal to finding the solution (what is the measure of the angle?) they persevere.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Will They Retain It?

That is the question.

So halfway through week two and these are my observations.
I teach 7th and 8th grade.  My 8th graders are doing wonderfully.  They have the maturity to handle this.  I still have a little silly-ness and have had to pull a few kids into the hall for a little private discussion, but for the most part they are working hard and when I question them with my now famous "but why?" questions, they are responding beautifully.  I feel like the fact that I am focusing on vocabulary more than ever they are explaining themselves so much better.  Ya think? LOL

My 7th grade needs work.  They are babies.  They need to be taught to self monitor themselves.  They need so much guidance and structure.  It is coming along.  I am slightly worried that they wont finish their assignment work by next week, but right now I have to realize that it is MY job to make sure they do so.

I will be testing them on this material next week.  I am excited and nervous to see how they do.  In some ways I don't feel like I have "TAUGHT" lessons, but in other ways, I feel like I have taught so much.  Its all kind of loose and sporadic and comes up as needed.  I really love it, but will feel so much more comfortable after the test when I can say "oh yes! it is working! They do get it!"

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My Flipped Classroom

At the end of last year I discovered "the Flipped Classroom" by stumbling on a recorded webinar by Crystal Kirch (forever thankful for that day!) and over the summer researched and planned and surfed and tweeted and watched webinars all in an effort to better differentiate and engage my students.  
I had lots of different visions of how my classroom was going to "look" and the actual procedures that I was going to teach them the first week.  However, I was bringing in a lot of new elements-flipping, ISNs, and layered curriculum!  I was a nervous wreck...I truly believed that these things were sound, solid ideas that would benefit my students, but I wasn't 100% convinced that I could pull it all off (especially being only a 2nd year teacher.)

Now I have to preface this blog post with the fact that it is still the beginning of the year, and I don't know how this will all translate to actual student results which is the only way to gauge if this is a success or not.  But I can tell you what I have let this evolve into feels so natural and RIGHT that I want to share a few things that I am doing.

My Take on Flipping
So first off, my homework is not a video lesson.  The video homework consists of only a very important concept (stolen from Katie Gimbar) which is the big idea of the concept, the main vocabulary and a quick example.  I screencast a powerpoint and even tell the kids that it isn't a terrible thing if they don't listen!  All they have to do is copy the slides onto the right side of their interactive student notebook! Basically I wanted to free up that portion of class time.  Some copy slower than others, some don't pay attention etc. and I wanted to make sure they had an organized notebook to study from later.
The next day I put up a do now based on the concept.  Remember I didn't "teach" them how to do it. I allow them to work out the problem by themselves and they can use the notes they took, usually a few of them have no problem and they share with their table.  When most are done we go over it.  I have one of the kids who got it right away "teach" it by sharing what they did. 

Table Talk
Next I have them spend 5-10 minutes discussing the topic from the video, how it relates to the do now, and what difficulties they might be having with it.  I walk around and listen and ask each table some questions, including having them show me how to do a similar problem (may introduce white boards next week)
We did a foldable type activity with both grades, but what I noticed is it only works if I have 1:15 with them. I only get that one day a week for each class on different days.  So I will be planning something for each concept but only those whose 1:15 falls on that day will do it and the other classes will do their first practice set on the left side of the notebook.

Layered Curriculum
After the talk it is off to work!  They have folders where they keep the assignment sheet I posted here and all of the work they are working on.  As they are working I check their ISNs to make sure their notes are taken and complete (homework check) and then start asking the higher order questions, meeting with students to assess and discuss their progress.  This is the real golden part of the class.  This is the time where I pulled that kid from my other post and got to work with him.  And that was only one class, there were other successes that day in other classes too, just being able to guide the students and really head off any misconceptions right away was so wonderful.  The tiered assignments are really great too.  I have kids that work at so many different paces and levels and to have stuff ready for them to start working on is awesome, like I said they are just working their butts off the whole rest of the time!

Some of my concerns:
  • They are focused and working hard-is it just because its the beginning of the year and this is new?
  • Will everyone get their assignments done by the end of the unit?-its still too early to tell.
  • I feel like I am reaching my 8th's at a deeper level than my 7th's is this because they are smaller classes or because I know them already?
  • Finally, will this result in retention of the concepts which I have found to be the biggest problem with my students?  I actually had a student tell me "aw Mrs. Nehila, I washed that outta my hair two weeks ago!"-I was like "What???!!!!") 
That's where I'm at so far.  I'd also like to say that not everything was a 100% perfect.  There were some things in there last week that didn't work, mostly with timing like the foldable activity and a video mishap that I don't even want to share!  I guess that is why we reflect and revise constantly!

By Golly I Think This Is Going To Work!

I left school yesterday on cloud nine.  It was my third day of running my class with all of the things I've been planning and working on all summer and let me just say I couldn't be happier.  I LOVE this so much.  I think the reason I am so excited and optimistic is because it doesn't feel gimmicky or like I'm doing busy work stuff.  I am watching kids work their butts off on math like I have NEVER seen before!  That is what I am so  pumped up about.
I even have a student in 8th, who has always been (had him in 7th last year) a behavior issue, it was always a success just to keep his behavior in check.  Well yesterday I got to sit at  an empty group of desks, work one on one with him and sent him back to his table where he worked quietly until dismissal.  I think I had tears of joy in my eyes.
I also noticed I am asking so many higher order questions and pushing the kids so much harder.  I've gone from, "no you don't have to show work" to "not only do you have to show work, but explain why your are doing what you are doing."  I am pushing them to use vocabulary correctly, I was amazed at how many of my "smart" kids were writing things like "divide 90 from 2" for example.

Ok I am getting chills again.  I need to keep this short because now I am going to go through all of my lesson plans this week and tweak them just a bit with all the little successful tweeks I did this week!  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Goal 1 and 3 met!

Reflect, reflect, reflect right?

So today was our first day of "what a great day in Mrs. Nehila's math class looks like."  I assigned the first video for 7th and 8th grade last night.  Their job was to write notes on the right side of their ISN.   I only had 1-2 in each class who didn't watch the video.  They were actually embarrased/sad that they didn't have it completed!  -Thats a first!  I explained that they will face consequences for not watching and taking notes and that this work will still have to be done.  I also explained that I am available before/after school and at recess for them to come and watch it!

My biggest challenge is that my class times are different for each class.  Every class is about 50 minutes except for certain days when I see certain classes for 1:15 minutes.  It turns out that one of my 7th grades gets the full 1:15 five days a week while the other 7th and all the 8th only get it once per week.  Anyway, it kind of changes the way I want to structure class.

My first class today was the 8th grade class that had the full 1:15.  It was AWESOME!  I was still teaching procedures during this time, but this is what we did:

  1. Do Now
  2. what I call "Table Talk" where they discuss the video-this was guided by three questions I gave them: What was the video about?  Where can we use this math in real life/if you cant think of anything then Why are we learning this? and What are you confused about.  
  3. Left side ISN work: (probably stole this from Sarah at  http://everybodyisageniusblog.blogspot.com/ ) They taped in two pieces of construction paper with Supplementary and Complementary written on top.  Underneath they wrote an example of each.
  4. Finally they got to work on the assignment sheets.  As expected some blew through the basic level work and I guided them to the next level.  They even got that done!  I need to really raise the bar for these kiddos!!!  
The longer 7th grade class got through 1-3 but not 4.  I just reviewed the assignment sheet.  The other 8th graders didn't get as far as the first class.  Tomorrow is a 1/2 day and my classes are only 28 minutes, so I will have all of them work on the assignment sheet.  My 8th grade that is ahead will do some other stuff, like help me investigate features of Manga High that we can't figure out.

So overall, it was a success.  The assignment sheet really gives them a sense of urgency.  I am hoping that continues.  They should be feeling like there is a lot to get done, lets make every minute count!
I need to raise the bar for my upper level work, the kids that got through it today should be challenged more.
My 7th graders are a chatty bunch but for the most part stay on task.  I know admin won't like to see them so loud though.  I will have to practice volume levels with them.

Thats all for now, Open House tomorrow night... lots to still do!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Goals for the 2nd Week

Start of the 2nd week and I am feeling a little more at ease.  What an exciting year this is going to be with all of the new tools I am implementing!  I say exciting to be positive, but actually I am so nervous!  I have to keep reminding myself that if everything is not perfect, its OK, I will improve and the things I am doing are going to be so much better for my kids than what we did last year!

So my goals for this week are: 
  1. Introduce the first real math video and class format.  We've been doing procedures and assessments so far.  I had them watch a video to learn how to sign up for Edmodo, and they seem to really like Edmodo :)  and I've had them working in groups since the first day.  All of these things are working nicely.  I had to put them in rows today for the assessments and I hate it!  Can't wait until Wednesday!
  2. Make sure they get the hang of the ISNs.  So far we have the table of contents and their expectation/policies pages done.
  3. Hope I don't overwhelm them with the Assignment Sheet outlining all of the assignments that they need to do in the next 2 weeks!  I quickly showed them the sheet last week and they seemed a little stunned. I will be controlling it for a while until they get used to it, then I hope to release more choice to them when I see they are ready.  

I keep going back and forth with how I am going to make my videos, I really like the idea of the one take videos using the 6 whiteboard slides, but found out that I really can't do it at home.  So, even though I didn't want to do this, I downloaded the Camtasia Studio 8 trial and of course fell in love with it.  I kept it totally basic and just recorded a screencast of a powerpoint.  Since my laptop doesn't have a microphone, and I am literally broke until 9/15, I figured out that I could record the audio on my tablet and just add the wav file to the recording!  It worked great!  Now I just have to get better at it.  I made a 7th grade video 1st and then the 8th grade video.  I totally sound like a robot in the first one, much more relaxed and the way I want to sound in the second. I will finish up the rest of the videos for my 2 week unit tomorrow during my prep.  I am keeping my videos EXTREMELY basic so I should be able to crank them out quickly.  




Thursday, September 6, 2012

Exhausted and Loving It!!!

Well we are three days in and actually the word exhausted is probably an understatement.  One promise/goal/resolution I made to myself was that I would blog and reflect a lot this year.  I worked over the summer at developing the habit and it has grown on me, but I am at that point now of whoa, so much going on where do I start.

I will start with the whole "flipping" situation since that was what I did most of my research and planning on over the summer.  So far all I have done is told the kids that they will be watching videos as a portion of their homework and doing most of the hard problem solving in class.  They didn't seem worried, concerned, or really any emotion, it was kind of like "OK, whatever, that's cool."  I did have them watch a "how to sign up for Edmodo" video that I made with Screencast-o-matic, and they liked it, they are LOVING Edmodo which makes it really fun. They are posting like crazy already.

A while back I shared a bunch of videos and info with my team and so far the 7th grade ELA teacher is gung-ho and hopping on board.  We are going to make a parent video together which we will show at back to school night.  It is so exciting seeing someone else get as into it as I am.
I haven't made my videos yet though...  I am behind on this and I want them filmed 2 weeks in advance, that is my goal.  I plan on having a marathon recording session over the weekend.  I'm not too stressed about it though because I plan on keeping it way simple.  My reason for flipping is to free up class time to get the students to do more work.  The biggest time killer I've found is to be when students copy notes (definitions and such) off the board.  So, my videos are going to be basically just vocab and maybe one example.  We will still have a whole class mini lesson each day.

This week I've been teaching them procedures and focusing on working collaboratively.  In an effort to practice I have them discussing their summer projects and I have been pleasantly surprised by how engaged most of them are!  They are still on their best behavior and haven't begun the ritual of testing me yet, but so far the ability I see in them is much more than what I've worked with in the past, so this is exciting.

Since I mentioned behavior, I will address what has been happening in that area.  This is technically my second year teaching, I needed a lot of help with classroom management, I am the momma bear, and love all the kiddos so they took advantage of me.  Last year was better than the 1/2 year I had when I started, but I still needed work.  The nice thing is that I notice I am doing things a lot better so far.  Its so cool when I think  "ooh last year I wouldn't have handled that the best way, but NOW I know better!"  It is still the first week and I know they are on their best behavior. However, I do see behaviors and attitudes that I like much more than I did last year.  There is only one class I am worried about, and I told them straight up today that they are being warned as a class to watch it.  I think they got the message.  Oh and a student from my homeroom had a rough day, attitude from the very minute he walked in I gave him his talk and warning and then found out he was rude to other teachers, so no playing around, called home and having a parent meeting tomorrow.  I hope that little story gets spread around to the kids ;)  One of the things I told all of them is that I will have all of their parents on speed dial.

Well I am beat and my daughter is at the finals of Americas Got Talent with friends so I am going to watch it and hopefully spot my girl on TV!


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Why Do You Teach Math?

For the 3rd week of the Math Bloggers initiation I will write about why I decided to teach middle school math.  In a way I feel like I am taking the easy way out, I would love to write about my favorite math problem or misconceptions, but when I sit down to write I keep drawing a blank.

Anyway, my story is kind of interesting.  I am not the type of teacher who knew since she was a little girl that I wanted to teach.  I kind of discovered it 16 years after I graduated high school.  However, I guess my story starts back in high school.

9th grade Algebra to be exact.  My parents had just divorced and I moved with my dad to a new town and new school.  I was not the model student in any of my classes, but Algebra 1 was a disgrace.  I failed miserably and ended up in "business math" for 10th and 11th grade.  Luckily for me, only 3 years of math were needed back in the 80's to graduate and somehow they counted my failed Algebra class as one of them.  Due to my mediocre job in HS, I didn't have much hope for college.  I ended up trying a basic math class at the community college but dropped out.

Fast forward 16 years, I was married, had two kids and was a stay at home mom.  Over the years I worked as a secretary, bank teller, mortgage loan servicer and an inside sales rep.  I knew it was time for a career, not just a job.  My sister and I brainstormed what I could do, what I might be good at.  At the time I was also the leader of my daughter's Girl Scout Troop.  My sis said that I would probably like to teach since I LOVED leading my daughters troop.  As soon as she said it I thought to myself "Wow!  She's right!!!"  So I marched my 32 year old butt down to the community college and signed up!  I didn't know what I wanted to teach at the time, I just figured I would get all of my core classes taken care of and think about it later.
 
The more mature, experienced me thrived in college.  I was a 4.0 student and found that I loved my math classes!!!  When it was time to really decide what my major would be and what I wanted to teach two things influenced me to choose math.  First of all I love a challenge.  Since I always "sucked" at math, that was what I was drawn to.  When I realized that I could actually be good at it, thanks to some good teachers I thought, "Imagine helping kids who weren't naturally good at math to like it and do well!" I thought that sounded like the best thing ever! Secondly, I was OLD, I had to choose a major that would help me get a job when I graduated, which I calculated to be when I was 40 years old!  So math it was :)

It has so far been exactly what I imagined.  The hardest job I've ever had but certainly the most rewarding (besides being a parent of course!)  I can totally relate to my students who think they are bad at math, and am still in awe of the one who it comes naturally for.  I make sure that both are encouraged and nurtured to push themselves farther than they think they can go!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My First Unit

I was super excited when I read one of this weeks prompts for the Math Blogger Initiation project.
Find one worksheet or activity or test or unit or question or powerpoint slide or syllabus or anything that you are proud of. Share it.

Well, I wasn't exactly excited when I read it on 8/21 when it was sent out because I didn't have anything I was proud of-yet. See, over the summer I have been researching and studying and trying desperately to make my class better. I kept coming back to the following three ideas: the flipped classroom, Interactive Student Notebooks, Layered Curriculum. They all sounded like they were exactly what I needed to help me engage my students and differentiate instruction. The two MAJOR areas I had to improve and FAST! It also seemed so overwhelming. There was no way I could do all three...way to much! However, over the past 2 days it has all just come together(well on paper anyway)!! I just knew that if I had left any of these things out this year or did not give my best effort in trying them I would be left with a big "What if?" floating around my head and I despise that feeling!

What I am actually sharing here is my layered curriculum assignment sheet. The reason I am so proud of it is because of how hard I worked on them-I did 7th and 8th :) So it is not perfect, but I am so proud of myself for getting it done, this is a 2 week mini unit. I know that once I get rolling with this my assignments will greatly improve, mostly a lot of solving problems from the book, worksheets etc. But I did make sure to get a lot of word problems especially the worksheets. I know I need more collaborative projects, but I have to start somewhere.  

Unit 1-A Assignment Sheet
I will also outline the structure of my class.


The master plan goes like this:
1. Do now- always some sort of assessment which will not be graded but used to focus the students work. (I'm going to try out www.masteryconnect.com for the 7th grade with this one.)

2. Daily small group discussions on the current topic (the topic from last nights video if there is one)  Since they are young I will train them to just answer the following questions as a team:

  • What are we learning about?
  • How does it relate to what we already know?
  • Can we think of real life examples?
  • What are we confused about or stuck on?

While they are discussing in groups I am checking their notebooks and assessing their learning, they will have to copy the vocab from the video and do 2-3 example problems they get from the video, this will be when I check that they did homework.

3. Mini-lesson which will probably be making a foldable to add to the right side of their ISN and something for the left side.

4. Finally they will have anywhere from 55 to 30 minutes to get to work!  I am going to require the first 65 points for C level.  Our school motto is "Failure is not an option!" so I am really going to prove to them its not just empty words.  I will also expect every single one of them to attempt the B and A levels.  This will take time, but I am hoping that the first week I can really convey my high expectations for them.  And if not I will show them I mean business, with my school being so small I can have all 72 parents on speed dial if I have to! 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Classroom Set-up and 2012-2013 Goals

Yes!  My first Sunday Funday post!  I will be setting up my classroom mostly on 8/27 and a little on 8/28.  we have PD from the 29-31, but I think I may have some time during those days to do some work on the room too.

So here is what I am starting with: (this was the last day and desks were just pushed to the sides)





The first thing I am doing which will be new is that I am turning my desk around and pushing to against the back wall!  That is going to buy me at least 2 feet in that corner!!  Woo hooo!
I have been procrastinating, but I need to get to Walmart or Target to see how much basic flat sheets cost.  I did my bulletin boards last year in old sheets and I loved it, but I don't have any more old sheets to use and I want my board backgrounds to be black.  So if I can find the sheets at a reasonable price I will get them if not, it will be black paper.  I will use some yellow border since I have it, and for the rest of them I will use tissue paper borders (I saw this on Pinterest)
For the board behind my desk I like to make "homeroom central"  I post my HR schedule, Student of the Week and Month, our class picture, etc.
On the small board between the windows I want to make a calendar.  Not sure yet how to do it, paper, or dry erase contact paper.  Still planning this, but it will be a calendar of some sort!
The biggest board on my back wall will hold student work.  I am so not good at bulletin boards!  I feel like I am a creative person, but this just puts me in my place, I am NOT creative!  I saw another idea on Pinterest that I liked with the yellow caution tape and the sign "Caution Student Work Appearing Soon!"  or something like that.
My wooden bookshelf will hold resources like textbooks and supplies.  On top I put five of those cardboard magazine holders up and inside go students work folders.
The board by the flag is my word wall...I would love to make it different this year, other than just posting up the words.  Liked an idea I saw with paper plates stapled at top with the subject, then a streamer or long strip of paper hanging down.  Each word strip would be clipped to the streamer/long strip.
The two boards at front are my grade level boards, I put 7th on the left and 8th on the right.  This is where I put their homeworks and  Do Nows.  I put up these thin dry erase mats that I found in our supply closet, so that I can erase it everyday.  I am toying with the idea of having a math student of the month in addition to my homeroom student of the month, and I would put the 7th and 8th SOM on these.  The little table up front holds my laptop and Elmo.  The black rolling cart is where I keep my calculators and other supplies.
The student desks will be grouped in 2 groups of 4 and 2 groups of 5 since my biggest class is 18.

Goals for 2012-2013

  1. Start to use foldables and possibly  Interactive Notebooks!  ( I am still scared of this idea)  The foldables will be easy to implement, but the interactive notebooks, I don't know, I see all the posts about them but I am so nervous about starting and then not following through. 
  2. NO boring lectures!!!!  Flipping, PBL, questioning etc!  I have learned so much over the summer and my goal is to implement it this year.
  3. The biggie is to continue my blog!!! To reflect on all the above things I will be doing, but also to blog some more mathy things too.
  4. The biggie biggie is to continue my workouts and hopefully drop the 40 pounds I've gained since I started teaching!!!!!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Although I've been somewhat consistant blogging this summer, I am still new and decided this would be a good idea. I also hope it pushes me to post a bit more about my math teaching, not just teaching in general.

I decided to pick this prompt for my first week:

3. Talk about one or two specific things you plan on doing differently this year... and how specifically you are going to implement them/get the buy-in. Why do you want to do these things?  (If you are a new teacher, what are two specific things you plan on doing this year?)

Oh boy how timely.  I just found out on Wednesday that my 7th graders did terrible on the NJASK.  I expected my 8th graders to do poorly, (long story) but I actually managed to improve them 66% despite the fact that only 31% were proficient.  My 7th graders however were only 42% proficient when last year these same kids were 82%  What the hell?

Ok, so I need to figure out what went wrong and do it quick.  The only thing I can think of is that I don't have a really good record of their achievements.  I started this job (my first teaching job) with a terrible curriculum and a terrible textbook for both grades.  I don't have great preassessments, or benchmarks either.

So the first thing I am doing differently is making sure I am BACKWARDS planning!  I am going to redo the assessments and then from there redo the unit plans and then redo the lessons. I know it is kind of a "Duh" but I feel like I would have been so much better off if I could have followed a textbook chapter by chapter and then tweaked it each year as I gained experience.  Oh well.

The next thing I am doing is flipping my classroom.  Now let me clarify this.  It does not mean that every lesson will have a video lecture for homework and we will do worksheets in class. To me flipping means that the kids are going to work harder than me in class.  I may record videos and show them in class and have them do practice in class and home.  Or have them watch at home so we can work in class.  I am not making a big "Introduction" of the flipped classroom to my students or parents, it just going to be the way we do things this year.  I also plan on doing some PBL, and  I am most definitely doing foldables in my class.  Finally, I will also be doing a lot more practice timed tests.  I am thinking of doing some centers and/or menus to get these timed tests in.

Now about the buy-in, that is going to be the hardest part.  My new 8th graders had me last year and will not expect to work so hard (TOO BAD!) and my new 7th graders have a reputation of being very apathetic.  The only thing I am thinking right now is to go with our school motto "Failure is not an Option!" I am going to really hold them accountable to that motto.  I am envisioning many phone calls to parents and even group meetings with the Principal.  Whatever it takes, because for me, Failure is NOT an Option!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Need to Vent

Ok, I have to get this off my chest.  I hate to share this with the world and it is terribly embarrassing.  My 7th graders did miserably on the state test.  During the year with me they actually got dumber. I don't understand, I know I am a new teacher but I learned a lot this year and ended really strong.  I never expected this.  When I student taught my students got the highest scores in the school.  Last year was a weird year because I came in halfway during the year, so this year was going to be my big accomplishment.  I did improve my 8th graders by 66% from where they were individually, but the entire 8th grade also did terrible (I and my administrators kind of expected this), but my 7th graders were so smart, they honestly did well over the year, there were a handful I expected not to do well, but what really makes me want to puke is the really smart ones who went down in points.
I know I have to stop crying about it and put on my big girl panties and FIX this.  I know I can teach these kids, and I love it so much.  My administrators are super supportive (even though my poor Principal is going to have to present this to the board and I am embarrassed for her)  The only thing I should be worrying a lot about right now is that she is now scared about the flipped classroom.  I am going to work my butt of the next two weeks to make a total "action" plan for the year with everything I've learned over the summer and share it with her and my math coach.

Ok, enough whining (well not enough "wine"ing I did buy myself a bottle of Skinny Girl Sangria to numb my brain or I will not sleep tonight.)

Has this happened to anyone? I can't suck as bad as those numbers show, I just can't.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

21 Days and Counting!

I have to stop and take a moment to say that I am simply amazed at how much I have learned over this summer!  I also have to thank Crystal KirchFlipping With Kirch) for the 1st webinar she did on Sophia.org.  It was that recorded webinar in May that I watched in my classroom after school one day that started this whole new learning revolution for me!
For me "The Flipped Classroom" has been all about flipping the vision of what my classroom looks like and how I teach, not just recording a video for homework and practice in class.
With 21 days still to go, I don't know if this year will be a success with the new things I am implementing.  However I do know for sure that it will have to be much better than the way I've done things for the past two years.
I still haven't gotten into the nitty gritty of lesson plans yet.  For some reason I can't do that until I have my class lists.  One of the nice things about my small charter school is that I know almost all of the students.  I know my incoming 8th graders very well since I had them last year, and I know my incoming 7ths pretty well.  Tomorrow I go into school to set up the new school year on our school management system, closing out last year and putting students into their new homerooms.  I found out that my school just hired a new IT guy, so I wonder if I will get to this next year-I really like this little task LOL.  Anyway, its a mental thing with me, I need to see their faces and think about their personalities before I plan the lessons.
Well, off to set up for my kids Swim Banquet...one of my official hallmarks of the end of summer!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Finally - 1st Four Days!

I've been stressing over my first week.  Last year, we all went to see Harry Wong, and I was sold on doing nothing but procedures and routines the first 2 weeks.  I still agree with the fact that the routine and procedures and getting to know the kids are the most important goals, however, I also think that it is equally important to set the tone that the subject is important too!
So I've been trying to figure out how to include both, without jumping too far into the "curriculum" to really let them know that BOTH are equally important.  I am so excited that I finally came up with something!  I have to preface this with a warning though, I am an EXTREME steal-er.  I am an expert google-er and steal almost everything I use in class from other teachers!   So part of this is stolen (my summer project) the rest is my idea and I'm so proud of myself!
Let me also start off by saying I teach in a very small charter school, my 8th graders are my last year 7th graders -so I know them inside-out, and my new 7th graders I've had in homework clubs, field day, etc and pretty much know at least everyone's names. So I don't have to do that much "getting to know you" stuff.  I did give my incoming 7th graders a survey that was due before the end of the year and got them all back (ONLY 1 student does not have access to technology at home!! Most had WAY more than me!!!)
Ok back to the plans:

What I want to cover the first week:
Rules: Come to class prepared and ready to learn
           Listen and follow all directions
           Respect yourself, you classmates and your teacher

Procedures: Entering and leaving class
                   Turning in work
                   Leaving seat (bathroom, nurse, garbage, supplies)
                   Working as groups  (sometimes they will be working together, other times the work is expected to be done individually but they are able to collaborate)
                   Emergency (Fire Drills, Lock Down, etc)
                   When I need whole class attention

We will go over these starting from the first day explain and practice.  I will make videos of these and homework for the first week will to be just watching these videos.  The next day we will have discussions based on the videos.  I like this because this will ease them into the videos without the stress of learning math from them.  The rest of my procedures will come on an as needed basis. These are the ones that I think are the most important for getting started...am I missing anything?

Ok, now for the fun mathy stuff!  I made the summer assignment for both 7th and 8th grade a Math Scrapbook.  This part I totally 150% stole from somewhere online and I am sorry but I don't know where. If you recognize this and it is your work please tell me and I will probably send you a gift certificate for a coffee or something!
               
Anyway, hopefully you can get the gist of my project from the picture.  I asked 7th grade to do 4 pages and 8th grade to do 6 pages.

The first day I will have students share their project with their group.  Now, I know from experience that everyone won't have their project the first day.  The students that have them get to be the stars of the day!  So what happens is they are only sharing with their groups (4 and 5 students in each of my groups) they are getting feedback from group members that it is complete, the others are checking the project against the checklist I provided, and making sure it is "A worthy",  these students are going to be allowed to make corrections before they hand it in!  I will be circulating the groups talking getting reacquainted with everyone.  I will let those who don't have theirs to be sure to bring it tomorrow so they can get feedback tomorrow!

The next day  we will start with discussion of the video (rules and procedures) then back to our projects, starting off with those who didn't have them yesterday. If for some reason they ALL had them ready, they can use the time to "fix" them up with help from their support group.  The goal is that everyone is getting an A on their summer project.

3rd day-start off the same way, then this day we are going to have a little competition, each group will have to decide on their best scrapbook from their group including making a presentation why it is the best.  At the end of the day we will pick the "best of the best"

4th day- start off the same as the previous 3 days then those who never finished their projects will spend the rest of the class time working on them-EVERYONE will hand in their summer project by Friday.  The rest of the class will be viewing and voting on the BEST of the BEST from all classes and decorating the room with the rest of the projects.

I am so excited about this plan.  Some of the things I wanted to improve was giving my students a real taste of our motto "Failure is not an option!" and I feel like this plan starts the year off with that message, considering their summer project is a test grade.  Second, I was horrible about displaying student work and my bulletin boards, so my Friday activity gets work up and the kids involved.  Thirdly and most importantly I hope that this gets them taking about math and gives them a real feel of how I want my class to work this year...no more silent rows and boring lectures!

                     

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Four Weeks to go!

Today I stopped by my school and picked up my laptop.  I've really enjoyed my tablet this summer but it does have some limitations.  The latest update did improve some things though I am happy to say!

So while there I got to see some of my students who are in the summer program.  It was great to see them today (I really love this bunch of new 8th graders) but I was sad to see their assessments.  I can't wait to see how the changes I am going to implement help them.

I also started working finally on my parent letter.  I am sort of embarrassed to say that I haven't done letters in the past, just postcards to my homeroom parents.  We have back to school night the second week, so I see them all early. Anyway, here is what I have so far: Parent Letter 2012



Friday, August 3, 2012

Tick, tock...

I am the kind of person who needs to first see the big picture and then pull all of the details into focus. I've been having a little trouble with this since I plan on radically changing the way I run my classes this year. And, since I am still a new teacher, I don't have lessons that I love and could just "turn into" videos and start that way. I truly feel like the past year and a half has been my own "what not to do" lesson.
Anyway, I started forming a vision of what I want to do this year.  My big picture turns out to be the explore, flip, apply model, which you can read more about here: cyclesoflearning.com
The part I am still fuzzy about is the apply part. I've read about so many good strategies that I think will work with my students, and my two favorite are modified assignments and layered assignments.
For modified, I would give a quick assessment as a do now and based on results student would work on similar assignments, but with different levels of difficulty. For layered, students would receive a list of tasks to complete, the required tasks would be in the C level, then they could earn points in the B and A levels.  (See Layered Curriculum)
I know that I could try both to see how they/I like them, but then Im not sure how to set up my grading. I want to decide soon and start planning my first units but feel like this is holding me up.
I would love to hear opinions from more experienced teachers!
I just want to do the best I can for my kids this year :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Section 4: Foster a Positive Classroom Environment

I am definitely losing steam with my "book study." My original goal when I started was to read and study each chapter, reflect on the questions at the end and post them here.
The thing is with about a month left until school starts I'm totally feeling anxious because there is still so much to plan and prepare!  I have even started having difficulty falling asleep because my mind is going a million miles per hour.
That being said, this chapter of the book has a lot to offer, it has everything to do with your classroom environment, from making the kids feel safe, routines and procedures, keeping them engaged etc. Lets get to the reflection questions.

1. I never really thought about the safety of my classroom.  I teach at a very small charter school, we only have 36 kids in 7th and 36 kids in 8th grade!  My classes are made up of 2 7th grades with 18 each and 3 8th grades with 12 each!  I LOVE this about my school!  So, I know my kids very well and I think that goes a big way in keeping them safe!

2. and 3. Oh boy!  Question 2 asks if my class is student-centered and how can I improve the layout so every student is fully engaged.  Question 3 talks about how well do you use the time that your students are with you.  This has been my obsession since May!  I can honestly say that last year Sept-April, it was absolutely NOT student-centered.  Rows ruled, I planned big presentations, told them exactly how to do everything.  Starting in May things began to change.  I made groups and had the advanced kids work totally on their own discovery style and the lower level kids worked with me in smaller groups.  While it was a million times better than what I was doing, it wasn't exactly perfect.  This led me to hitting twitter and google hard to find better ways to teach.  I ended up at a Flip Class webinar by Crystal Kirch and my life changed!
Right now I know that getting them out of the rows and getting them to actually work goes a long way in keeping them engaged.  My struggle is creating my class routine.
 In the past it was: 
1. Do now, discuss homework from last night
2. Lesson (I do, we do) then independent practice (you do)
3. and if time share out or exit ticket (which we hardly EVER got to finish.)

What I am thinking about now starts the day before:
1. Stop class activity 10 minutes prior to end, pose a difficult question relating to the next lesson.  Have students work independently writing/trying to solve the problem in their notebooks.
2. Homework is video with basic skill needed to solve problem given at end of previous class.  1st activity next day is discussing previous problem with group first than share out with class.
3. Practice skill (which used to be the homework)  Ask 3 than me, I meet with each student to assess. etc.  Students who finish the required practice set move on to choice of activities.
REPEAT

Ahhh I just love how that plan looks!  Now, some of the things that I am struggling with are, I don't plan on doing a video every day, what does the class routine look like when there is no guiding problem?  I want to group them by ability and I don't have faith that everyone will be able to do a google form that night so that I can do that before class.  I may have a do now question to quickly assess them in the beginning of class then change their seats.  I want to start using interactive notebooks, when does that happen?  Do they use them to take notes? Activities in class? These are the things I need to think about this week!



Monday, July 30, 2012

Homework!

No, not the homework I am assigning, but hw I gave myself after #flipchat tonight!  I read about this cool website www.ifttt.com and had to try it out! So my 1st "recipe" as they are called is anytime I write a blog on Blogger, it sends a tweet to Twitter with the title and url of the blog. Pretty neat, right? Itwlrks with a bunch of different websites including youtube and vimeo, so it would be useful for posting my flipclass videos to my website if I chose to go that way.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Burnt out-but some great finds!

I have to remind myself that summer is also a time to recharge and rest, I've been so obsessed with PD this summer that I kind of wore myself out!  I am still rereading my classroom management book, Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Teacher, but took a little break, Twitter has me going in 1001 different directions so much good stuff to read and research. Here are some things I found this week.
I discovered the Layered Curriculum website and immediately loved it, however, it might just be a little TOO much to start with along with my flipping.  I have decided to start more slowly with that, but I will absolutely incorporate some choice and points for grades right off the bat.  Our school motto is "Failure is not an option!" I love the idea of giving them a point sheet that has the lowest grade as a D. I am actually thinking about making the lowest grade a C by having them keep making corrections until they get at least the C.
Another cool website I discovered this week is Powtoon and its really easy to use and super duper cool, but I feel like I am just not that creative!  I really need to sit down and decide what  message I want to communicate and then start. I am so guilty of just wanting to "play".
Just today I read a blog and found this Mastery Connect I signed up for the free account and just peeked in for a minute. From what I can see so far is that it is a social site where you can search for and share assessments.
Another awesome thing I found was that Edweb has a whole series of webinars on Common Core that are available to watch! Holy moly you can really get sucked into this!
Finally since I have nothing better to do this summer, I signed up for the free 5 week course on Design Thinking at Edutopia. What is Design Thinking? Not really sure! But I think it has something to do with creative problem solving. I guess I will find out!
Oh one more thing, gosh no wonder I've been feeling overwhelmed!!!!, I also signed up to participate in Connected Educator Month at P2PU it starts August 1st also.
Whew, I think that's it!  Unless you like zombies, Amazon has a free book right now called Dead Things, pretty good so far!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Going through my piles...

These are some of the books I have laying about at all times. While I am trying to do a solo book study on Discipline Survival Guide, I feel the need to reread all of these as I make my plans for the new year.


Section 3 Cultivate Your Role as a Classroom Leader-Reflection

Reflection questions
1. I think as an "older" new teacher I have agood handle on this. I am a mom too so that helps as well. My students definetly look to me as the leader and even when some misbehave the others turn to me to fix it.

2. Do my students pay attention to me? I would say for the most part yes. I feel like if and when they don't it is because I'm talking like Peanut's parents.  So the whole key to that is to shut up!!!!  Actually, in addition to Flip Class and Layered Curiculum the other teaching strategy if you want to call it that, that I have latched on to is Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say

3. One thing that I am being firm on is parent contact. We are a very small school, I only have 72 students total. I am going to make sure I build very good relationships with every single parent. I really feel that will be the key to my success this year.

To do
I feel that I have not made a lot of progress this summer with redoing my lessons for flipping. I wanted to get at least 3 units done and recorded, but now I will be happy with just one!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Section 2: Adopt a Comprehensive Approach-Reflection

Chapter Reflection Questions
1. After reading the list of common mistakes, the most glaring one that I make is being inconsistent. When I think about it, I really set up my classroom to fail. When I look back at some of the trouble I had over the past two years, it was always when I wanted the students to sit still and quiet while I talked/demonstrated for 15+ minutes. I know that they should be able to do this, but I have to admit sometimes my lessons were boring as hell! So, my biggie no-no, is that I would let a little misbehavior slide, because if I could just "get through" this example or explanation I could let the good kids get to work and THEN I could handle the trouble makers! As the kids say SMH! I slowly learned by the end of the year that it doesn't work for me or for them. If I look back, the last month or two, I was pretty much having them do "flip class" work without any instruction or real structure at all. Given those two points, the last two months were joyful and productive and I loved going to class everyday. I am so excited to see what happens when I add the videos and structure to make it even more meaningful.

2. I have always thought that I was clear about communicating my high expectations and that students understood them, which is why when they didn't act like they did, both of us were confused. One of the many ways I am changing my class this year is how I grade. Each unit will have a point system and the students will choose how they earn those points. Since our school motto is "Failure is not an option" I am removing the F grade completely from the points, the lowest they will get is a D. I think that is going to have a huge impact on my kids. I will ask them "what could you do if you knew you could not fail?" I think that by them knowing exactly what I expect from them and giving them control of it will take away any doubt of my confidence that they can be successful.

 3. I haven't figured out all of the details yet, but this year I am definitely getting the students involved with creating the discipline plan. The two things that I will not budge on though is that disrespect of any kind will not be tolerated and parental contact will always be involved. I plan on recording my students teach and model the rules and procedures and keep that video accessible. We can even review it after long breaks.

  Based on my reflections these are things I need to do before Sept: Create first units activities and points Make lists of procedures Decide how to I will have students create the rules of the class

Friday, July 20, 2012

Section 1 Successful Discipline Rests with You-Reflection

1. I do agree that every teacher has discipline problems, it is the way that they react to these problems that determines the success of their classrooms.
The implication of this belief for me, means that I must be proactive and think through how I will handle situations, not try to create a room that has NO situations or problems.  Previously I just thought that if I made my plan and communicated my expectations that I would have no trouble at all. Big mistake!

2. Honestly, it has been so long since I was a student and I have blocked out a lot of my memory from my younger years that this is hard for me to do.  I would love to be able to visit some other teachers, and Im going to try to do that this year.
Last year my math coach suggested that I take an extreme approach and write all of the students name on a white board and if they so much as said one word I was to give them a check that was detention, then 2 checks for 2 detentions and 3 checks sent to the office, etc. It did get them under control, but what it really did was just train them to watch for when I picked up the marker. I hated it and so did they.

3. I think I can provide them with structure and boundaries as well as freedom and choices by including them from the beginning in making the rules and procedures of the class. 
Since I plan on running my class very differently (flipped and lots of collaberation) I will make the activities that first week all about making and possibly filming the rules and procedures.

Actually, I absolutly love the idea of filming them teach and model the rules! There is no question that I am going to do that! Ok now off to start working on those activities!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Classroom -REFLECTIONS

Okay I will start this off by saying that dicsipline has always been my weak point. I don't know why since I have two kids who never give me ANY problems, but that might be it the reason itself.
I felt last year went pretty well, I definetly had some issues, but I also had a pretty rough group of kids (ex. Talked back/nasty to the principal and called one of  the most loved teachers a "fat skank")
What I really learned last year is that class management is almost effortless/non-issue the less I lecture and have them in groups. That is exactly how I stumbled on flip class methods yay!
So I was given the opportunity last year to read Julia Thompson's book Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Classroom for an Amazon review.  It is an excellent read chock full of useful info! The only critique I have is that itis a little overwhelming. Since I got it last year literally 4 days before I went BTS and had most of my plans and ideas formalized already I didnt get to implement and apply what I read in the book. ( or it seemed that I was already.)
What I hope to do here is use my blog as a book study.  Julia gives reflection questions at the end of each section and I plan answering them here. I would love to connect with other teachers reading this!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Resources for class activities

These are the resources I will be using to plan class activities.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
I really love the activities in their journal Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School.
Illuminations
This is a website from NCTM, with interactive lessons and activities.
Mathalicious
I used one lesson from this last year and the kids liked it.(Tyson v. Lebron)
I will add more as I think of them.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Secret Fear

Did you ever see that show Hoarders? Yeah my secret fear is that someday I will be on it.
I took these pictures of all the school stuff I have cluttered mostly in my bedroom, but sometimes it does leak out into the dining room. 
The reason its so bad I justify to myself is because I have no space!  I don't always have so many piles, but I wanted to bring a lot of resources home over the summer so I could redo a lot of my lessons.
My goal this week is to organize all of it and really use it like I intended!





Sunday, July 15, 2012

One full week of blogging done!

I think it was pretty successful. There were only two days I didn't know what to blog about and I really feel like I made some progress with getting an idea about how my class will work next year.

Something that helped me blog was setting up a recurring task in Astrid. I have been playing around with different apps and that is one I like.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Start Hard

It may be because I am a new teacher that I think I have this great idea, but I am super excited about an idea for more student engagement.
I have been taught to teach math using the I Do, We Do, You Do method. Starting out with easy computational problems and moving to word and multi-step problems once they "get it".
My brilliant new to me idea is to pose that difficult word problem first. My thinking is that when I model the math to them there will be an interest in why we are doing it in the first place. Duh when I write this out I feel so stupid for not doing this already.
The other part to this is how do I get them thinking about the question beforehand. What I've come up with is that will be the last thing we do each day, and they will have 10 minutes to write about the problem in their notes, it could be anything from writing down what they know to solving it if they know how. Then their next video will be on that topic and at the end of the video I will give the solution to the previous day's problem.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blog blog blog...

Since i challenged myself to blog every day, here I am with nothing to say! Looked over some curriculm stuff today, nothing exciting. Here are some fun summer things going on-
Tonight I am headed to the Plays in the Park production of Damn Yankees. I ABSOLUTELY love going to the Plays in the Park. There are three productions each summer. We've already seen My Fair Lady this year and then in August it will be Grease which my 15 year old daughter is really looking forward to seeing.
My workouts have been fanfreakingtastic thanks to my coworker who wanted me to train her this summer. She is awesome! Not afraid to lift heavy and she has great form!! (My side hobby is bodybuilding and powerlifting btw) She is super fun and motivating me too its a win/win :-)
Tomorrow I am taking the kiddos to Six Flags, oldest wants to see Cobra Starship concert but her friend backed out so we are all going.  Should be fun and very exhausting. I will probably post another "fun" blog from there.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A vision is forming...

My post (rambling) yesterday was focused around the idea that I don't really know what my class is going to look like next year.  I am starting to form some ideas and I am pretty excited about what I came up with this morning.  I need to write it down before I forget.


  1. Start off with a basic video on the "topic" kind of like a how to, the mechanics of a skill, etc.
    1. Use a guided summary sheet to help students take notes.
  2. Students will come into class the next day and take an assessment on the skill.
    1. The result of the assessment will sort them into three categories separated by color.  I am thinking blue, green and yellow.  I don't want it to be hugely obvious as to which group is the basic, on level and advanced, but I'm sure they will figure it out anyway.
    2. Once they finish the assessment they will show me their work and I will assign the color, they will go to the colored folder to take their assignment for that day.  Once everyone has their work they should be seated in groups of the same color, still trying to figure this out somehow.  How do I get them together by color if they finish at different times, etc.  Maybe I will give them a 7 minute time limit and then show the answers on the board and have them self categorize  I am just afraid of them wanting to pick a color based on what their friends get!  -OK this needs some more thought!
    3. Groups-
      1. Basic-I will spend the most time with assisting/reteaching etc.  Basic or Level A problems.
      2. On level-the middle guys!  Level B problems starting basic and getting higher level.
      3. Advanced-Level C work mostly word problems etc.  
        1. All group work will be self corrected with answer sheets.
    4. After the leveled practice piece students will mix together into mixed groups of the three levels and work on either a complex problem or project.
    5. The last piece will be another assessment (based on leveled color.)
Lots more to think about but I am pretty happy with this vision so far! Our school motto is "Failure is not an option!" and I feel like leveling the work and assessments will help achieve this.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What will it look like?

I am really grateful that I first learned about the flipped classroom at the end the school year. It is really nice to have the time and leisure to really learn and digest all of the info available before I start next year.
Today I have been thinking about what I want to accomplish this coming year. This will be my "almost" third year teaching. I started in November 2010 with a really challenging 7th grade class who became my 8th graders this last year and a poorly written curriculm. I "got through" the first year in kind of a shellshock and felt that this year I learned a tremendous amount. I did pretty well establishing routines and procedures but my lessons were just not engaging. By the end of the year I had my classes in groups almost every day and truly enjoyed being the guide on the side. I was looking for my style and finally found it. Stll, I feel like there is so much more I wanted to do, especially as far as differentiation goes. Thats when I stumbled onto the flipped model, I think it was actually Crystal Kirch's webinar where I got my very first glimpse of this! What immediately appealed to me was being able to work with every kid every day. With my lessons I was totally teachng to the middle, and feeling guilty for slowing down for the low levels and boring my high levels to death!
I'm at a point now where I feel like I can anticipate the good and bad I will encounter if I flip. At first I was all gung ho and was going to spend the whole summer recording videos because I was thinking EVERY class period was going to be flipped.  Now I'm not so sure.

Monday, July 9, 2012

9 weeks to go...

In some ways that sounds great, 9 more weeks of vacation! But then I think of all the things I want to do and I almost start to cry...how will I get it done.  Part of my problem is that I still don't love my regular lessons, this is only going to be my second full year of teaching. I've made a new plan and to go with common core standards which don't officially start until next year, but it looked like the NJAsk was leaning that way already, so I figure if I'm going to start making these videos, I better make them long lasting.
I know for sure that I will make guided note sheets for each unit, I feel that will work better for my students as opposed to having them write summaries. Some of the things I want to research this week and try to plan is how I will assess and grade, and how to mix in problem based learning.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reflection and growth

So I've been reading some blogs about blogging, and two things really hit me. One is that I'm told one of my strengths is reflection, yet I never write things down or keep track of these ideas and two I am afraid to blog because I am a terrible at it but as this blog pointed out you have to write to get better at it.
I am challenging myself to write something everyday. Even if its just a paragraph or two.  Ideally i would like to keep it organized, but the only rules I am imposing on myself is to limit exclamation points and smileys :-) !

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Homeroom Ideas

I have an 8th grade homeroom for about 20 minutes each day. Last year they had a choice of writing in a journal or reading, but they still wanted to just sit and chat.  I need to create a more structured environment.
I think what I'm really asking is for ideas that are not just busy work, like my journals and reading.
Any ideas?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Summer project

Each year my school requires us to give summer work to our incoming students. Usually its a packet of math worksheets for the middle school kids.
Last year I assigned a book report using the book Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett  http://www.scholastic.com/blueballiett/chasingvermeer.htm
I had them write a report about the kinds of math used in the story. It was ok, and mostly my A+ kids were the ones who did it.  The others, well, they had emailed me over the summer and said they couldn't find the book and so I scrambled and signed them up for Academic Skill Builders and had them play some games.

This year I had a few ideas like having them write a report describing three to five examples of math they or their family  have used over the summer.  It could be anything from shopping, time, temp etc.  Then I threw it out on twitter and got back a response from Patrick Honner and really liked his ideas: http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/25/these-days-are-numbered-eight-summer-math-ideas/
Then I started thinking about how I could tie this in to preparing them for class next year and edmodo.com.  I knew already that I was going to give them the option of sending it to me on Edmodo.com.  My current 7th graders are already set up and I won't archive their classes until September, and new 7th graders will get a taste of Edmodo for the first time!  I will also encourage discussion but they will have to use their own examples.  And if they are the ones who just CAN'T get online...they can write it up and hand it in on the first day!

So what I'm going to do is give them a choice of a few of these projects!  I like choice.  The nice thing is that for the ones who embrace edmodo.com, I will really start working with them over the summer.  Posting relevant items about their projects and fun websites, maybe set some Manga High challenges etc, to get them ready for next year!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Frustrated!

So I rerecorded  the stinky video over the weekend.  Still had issues trying to get sound on Youtube, but it was working just fine on Sophia.org.  Well, for some unknown reason it seems the sound on Sophia started giving me trouble too.  I just don't get it!  I am also not sure how this practice is even going to go since I envision spending at least the first 3 weeks or so of next year training the kids how to do this.  I don't expect much  at all  tomorrow.
Anyway, I did get them using this really neat website...www.teachbanzai.com  which is a financial literacy web activity.  They really got into it and worked hard on it!  (well my 7th graders anyway, 8th graders have SERIOUS senioritis and I'm ready to choke them all)