Saturday, November 23, 2013

EdcampNJ 2013

Attended my second Edcamp today and it was awesome!  Besides the fact that it seems to be the only time I catch up with my dear friend from college, the energy of the crowd that attends this is so invigorating!  Hundreds of teachers all convening to improve their practice and increase student learning, it just send chills up my spine!

So I started the day at the Standard Based Grading session with Kristina Nicosia @kmsusca, and let me tell you, AMAZING is just an understatement!  I just sat there nodding my head in agreement after everything she said.  I've always been "afraid" to think too deeply about SBG because I knew that it makes such logical sense and that it will be so hard to implement, but once I started thinking about it, I couldn't keep doing what I'm doing. Get it?  Well that's where I am now.  It can't be unheard.  I have to somehow find a way to move towards this.  Everything I do now with homework, quizzes, tests, its just crap.  I've given two quizzes this past week that I can't even count because they just aren't getting it.  It's hard stuff, multi-step equations with fractional terms and negatives etc,  I am pushing these kids so hard and they are doing pretty good, they just haven't mastered it yet, but they are on their way.  Do I have to punish them because they are not getting it in my pacing schedule?  ugh!!!  So many things that were said in the session just have my mind going on overdrive.  So my research and focus will be on how to make this work for me and my students.

Next I ended up at the Technology tips and tricks for aspiring/novice teachers and administrators given by Jay Eitner, @ISuperEit.  Well, most of the stuff I heard of before, but Jay was a great presenter, and he told us about a really great new website for sharing teaching resources  I can't wait to get my SMID number so I can register!  

The afternoon sessions I attended were Assessments that Don't Suck! and Using Assessments to differentiate using Nutmeg Education.  
The Assessments session was jammed packed!  Learned about some really cool sites, like and RSA videos.  Nutmeg Education is pretty cool, just started checking it out about a week ago. They are only two months old so there are some bugs that need fixing, but its pretty much a way to keep track of assessments and then recommend remediation if needed.

Another thing I learned about from Edcamp is this new website  Still investigating it, but they had a scavenger hunt game for the day that was fun to play along with.  

I completely love Edcamps and wish they were held more than once a year!  Only bummer was that I didn't win a prize this year!  Last year I got a cool T-shirt.   Maybe next year!  They've already announced the date 11/22/14!! Can't wait!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Integer Tug O' War and K-W-C for the Win!

This week was very interesting with a mix of good and bad.
So I'll start with a problem I had on Friday.  My 7th grade class (the one with 10 IEPs students out 18 total) have been struggling with addition and subtraction of signed numbers.  I've tried two sided counters, number lines, and anchor charts hanging on the wall.  I then remembered a really cool thing I saw a long time ago I don't remember where, called Integer Tug'O War.  So I planned this great lesson around it and thought this would be the way to really help them retain the rules.  I shared with the spec.ed teacher and RTI teacher who both teach in my room.  They agreed that this just might be the trick!  So here's how it goes: I showed them a picture of kids playing tug'o war, it was only one side and you could tell that side was going to win.  I asked them a bunch of questions leading them to say that the team was going to win and probably because they were bigger, stronger, etc.  I asked them if the rules about an even number of kids on each team didn't matter what might you think about the winning team?-They had more players.  Ok, so with that I showed them this:
I started with something easy like -7 + 5 and asked what team would 7 play on? They all agreed "Team Negative!" and what team is 5 on?  "Team Positive!"  Who wins?  They were really into it and shouted out "Team Negative!" I asked them how did you know?  They said because it is 2 bigger!  Yay!!!!  So the answer is -2.  We did 2 more examples and it was awesome.  Then I put up 4-10 and asked if we could still play tug o' war addition.  At first they said no because it was subtraction and then they realized they could change it to addition (yay! again!!)  At this point they were still good, we did a few more subtraction problems.  Then I put up something like this -10 + 31 -26.  They really liked this because even the kids who were not struggling so much had difficulty with problems like this.  So here is where it turned bad.  I asked the kids if they thought this would work with fractions and decimals also and they all agreed that this method would help them remember the rules.  So I gave them a mixed worksheet  to practice and we got to work on it, the three of us circling around the room checking and helping as needed.  Well, one of the students was still having a little trouble, so the other teacher made an announcement to the class.  She said "If you feel comfortable doing the problems the other way you are used to, then just that.  This is just an option for those who didn't get it"  Well.... wouldn't you know most of them stopped doing what worked! I did an exit ticket and the students who shut down after her announcement did not get the answers correct. I was so upset and I did mention it to her.  I really love this other teacher and we have a great working relationship so this is really not an issue. But I just felt so defeated!  The good thing is that I think this strategy is still going to work with these students.  I know that if I say things like "well who wins tug o' war?" and "can you play the game with that (subtraction)?, that is going to be just enough nudge to get them to the answer.

Now that was an example of good gone bad, next up is bad gone good!!!!
My 8th graders are really good at solving what I call the "plain jane" problems, but they struggle tremendously with word problems. So I am constantly striving to find ways to help them organize their thoughts.  Last year I introduced the K-W-C chart (from Arthur Hyde's Comprehending Math) and they hated it beyond words.  Since I want to focus on problem solving more and more, I am determined to get them to start using this strategy.  It is the first thing I ask them when they are stuck anyway, "what do you know?, What are you trying to find out?, "What do you have to watch out for? etc)  I always tell them to just write that stuff down first since they know I'm going to ask them!  I don't know why they refuse to write these steps down. 
After two disastrous lessons where they had to write equations in one variable I couldn't take it anymore I decided I needed to force them to do the dang K-W-C chart! so I Googled a graphic organizer, found one and tweaked it, ran off some copies and viola! The next class was simply AMAZING!  For some strange reason they didn't even complain about it.  They were actually happy to fill in the information! Kids are soooo weird!  Plus they did some awesome problem solving and they didn't give up!!   Here is my KWC graphic organizer:  I hope that link works! I'm not too experienced with sharing docs!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Week 10 Update

Midweek update since I feel incredibly guilty for ignoring my blog!  I feel like I have nothing "good" to share, but I also know that any reflection is good reflection!

I am excitedly thinking about "flipping" again.  I want my class time filled with "juicy" problems not what I call the Plain Janes.   However, I know my students and if they haven't been exposed to the Plain Janes, they will shut down on me when trying to problem solve.  So... I am going to start filming the basics and having them preview it before class this way when they come in and have to solve the word problem that relates to the concept they will have the confidence to persevere.

Something new I'm thinking about for this year is grabbing students to be the "stars" of the videos.  I will narrate while they write out the problems on the board.  I hate my picture and how I look on film and I think they will LOVE this!  What a great reward for them too.

I filmed my first lesson yesterday and will give it to them tomorrow night.  I haven't got all the permission slips back for Edmodo yet, will get all of the missing ones at Parent Teacher conferences next week, but for now I am going to put the videos up on my school website.  Once we get Edmodo rolling I will have them answer a few questions for homework as well as watch the video.  I am excited about how this is going to work out.

In class I will feel more comfortable about running a "workshop" environment.  My mini-lesson will be focused on connecting the skill to the task.

On another note, I had a student from two years ago come visit me today.  I love this so much!  It amazes me how much they grow up from 8th grade on, and how much they appreciate me now!  LOL!