Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back to School-PD Day 4 of 5

Thursday was our last PD day and on Friday we had an optional day to come in and do our room.  Of course most of us were there since we weren't given a whole lot of time this week to do that.
Thursday started off with us going through the results of a climate survey we took last year, which basically said we were unhappy with the hours of the school day (8:00-4:00 which they shortened this year to 3:30) and unhappy with administration.  They said that they are going to work really hard to change those results.
Next we had new student/parent orientation which is always fun, I got to see some of our new students and even some old ones who graduated in the past 2 years.

Finally Thursday afternoon we sat down and sorted out our classes.  Unfortunately, my admin decided that they were going to ability group.  They built in double blocks for struggling students and everything. Sooo I guess we are just going to have to make the best of it.  I have to say I really like the groupings of kids that we made personality wise.  One of the things I love about working at my school is knowing all of the students.  I will have 4 new 8th graders and 6 new 7th graders, but hopefully they will fit right in.

The only other thing I am nervous about besides the ability grouping is that my classes are only going to be 48 minutes long.  On Monday I will get one of my 7th grade classes for a double class, on Wednesday the other 7th grade gets an extra class and on Friday the low level 8th grade gets an extra class. I'm not sure how I will plan these classes yet, I'm thinking the second class will be a big remediation class, maybe doing stations.

Now to the fun stuff, I finally finished my room and I LOVE it!  My room colors are what I call boring beige and puke-y green, so I just love to put as much fun color in as possible.
Here are some pictures then I have to get into some serious planning!  I hope to do another post with my first/day week plans for MS Sunday Funday!

I didn't take a picture of the other wall with the door because that is going to be my Math Word Wall, right now I don't have anything on it!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back to School-PD Day 3 of 5

Going to my "happy place" in my mind.  Taking deep breaths!

School starts next Wednesday and
1. We don't know our bell schedule yet.
2. We don't have our class lists yet.
3. Our student management system is not finished yet.
4. My 5/6 math teacher didn't agree with the training on Math in Focus and doesn't want to teach the bar method to his students.

I know these are things I can't control, so I'm going to just breathe deep and do what I can do!
Today's PD was simply training on our new math series: Math in Focus: Singapore Math.  I LOVED the trainer she was awesome!  I am really excited to start using the series.  I can totally work it workshop style, just most lessons will be 2 days like I was thinking.
So here is the takeaway from my training today...the goal is to create mathematical thinking!  Yay-love that!
They have thought of everything, as far as pretesting, remediation, transition, IWB lessons, enrichment, etc.

Ok, so here is the only thing I have to work on, there are about 4-5 teaching examples that are meant to be taught "whole group" with guided practice that follows.  It is meant to be taught in chunks in a we do, we do fashion.  I don't think I can throw all 4-5 examples up for a mini lesson and then have them work on the rest.  So that is what I'll be focusing on this week!  Lesson plans!!!

The bar method is really is basically this: it takes some time to get used to and if you are a real algebraic thinker set in procedures it will be really hard (that is why my colleague had such resistance) However, once you "see" it you REALLY see it and understand so much more.

Here is an example of a problem we did and how we did it with bar modeling: (not sure if I remember the exact wording, but this was the basic problem)

Mary cut a string into three pieces.  The shortest and longest piece have a ratio of 2:3.  The third piece was 1 and 3/4 inches shorter than the longest piece.  If the total length was 22 1/4 in. find the lengths of all three pieces.
Pretty cool right?  So this is just supposed to be a strategy something that leads them to understand why we would do: 2x + 3x + (3x-1 3/4) = 22 1/4

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back to School PD-Day 2 of 5

Whew what a day!  Our school is changing over to PowerSchool so today we had a half day training on the new software.  I am trying to be very positive about everything and I hate to complain, but our database is not set up yet so it is very frustrating, when I learn something new I like to be able to get in there and play with it.  So even though we got to try out a demo account, its not the same.
I am pretty excited about all of the new features and things we will be able to do!  One of the things I want to really try in the future is SBG which is available in the grade book!

Other than that it was more curriculum mapping and that was about it!  Looking forward to Singapore training tomorrow and we even have some yoga scheduled!  Should be interesting!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to School-PD Day 1 of 5!

One of my goals for this school year is to blog more often.  I am going to start out with the idea of blogging everyday, even if it is to just recap what happened that day.  I know that I will probably fall off but hopefully I will get 2-3 blogs a week and that would be cool.

Today was our first day back and it is really exciting with all of our new staff.  Everyone seems friendly and ready to go, so that is a nice sign!  Our PD today was Curriculum Mapping.  It seems my school has purchased the Rubicon Atlas software.
Since we got the link last night to sign in I had an idea going into it what it was all about.  Even though it seems like a ton of work, I am really excited to start using it.  My impression is that it is just a fancy way to write unit plans, but to tell you the truth my unit plans have never been as structured as I would like them to be.  With our new math series: Math in Focus and the new CCSS, this is a great time to start really structuring them.
I noticed that the Math in Focus really does a good job breaking down the standards, the content and skills so I'm just going through and plugging in the basics.  The fun part will be adding the juicy stuff to it like fun resources and activities.

We had about an hour or so in our rooms, I am SO glad I came in a few days last week!  I am way ahead of some of the teachers even though I don't feel as prepared as I did last year.  I will end this post with some pics of my room!
This will be my student work board. My daughter made an owl to go on it and it will say "Whoo does good work?  We do!"

Here is my SWAG sign! and where my word wall goes.

My IWB, I usually use the two boards on the sides for info 7th on one and 8th on the other: agenda/homework stuff. The posters at the top are the mathematical practices!
Still have a ways to go, but like I said I feel so much more ahead than if I didn't come in last week!  I will laminate my SWAG sign, and start working on procedures.  I love the beginning of the school year!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Classroom Decorating Day 1

Got into my classroom today to try and work on it.  I've been in for like an hour here and there, but not really doing anything but moving piles around and stuff. I'm at the point where I've accumulated a lot of junk and I have a bit of a hoarder side to me.  Anyway, I brought my gang (son-10, daughter and her friend-16) We made a lot of progress organizing my piles, throwing away a TON of stuff thanks to my daughter's friend and starting to put the room together.

I'm terrible with decorating and when I asked my daughter what I should do she suggested an owl theme since I really like owls (well, mostly hawks, but owls are more scholarly!) She decided to do the one bulletin board at the back of my classroom, this is where I usually put up outstanding work.  Can anyone help me with a title?  I am thinking "Whoo did a great job!" but I don't know if that's too "kiddy"
Here is what she has done so far, we stuck the owl into the tree but he will be perched on a branch she is still making that will go on top of the board.  I love it so far!

Now my next dilemma is my desk area, where that gray filing cabinet is I had a huge locker that I got rid of, but I feel like it all looks so sloppy.  I LOVE the fact that I have shelf space now (that little bookshelf is new and there is a larger wooden one next to it) and I can free up that gray filing cabinet for files.  My question is do you think I NEED to decorate the filing cabinet, desk, and bookshelves with contact paper, or duct tape?  I mean I would love to, but it would be time consuming and I really can't afford to spend too much right now.  Things are still a mess but this is basically the set up it will be for the year, when I say my room is tiny, I mean tiny!  I have to have everything pushed up to the back wall like that to make room for desks!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

2013-2014 Goals

I am linking up again finally with Julie at I Speak Math for a Sunday Funday!!

I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that summer is almost over!  Last year I felt so much more prepared with my goals for the upcoming year.  The only thing I wanted to do was to get my NJAsk scores higher.  While they didn't reach the goal I hoped, both the 7th and 8th grade scores did go up by 58%! I'm pretty happy with that!

This year is scary, my principal left, along with 5 other teachers.  I know that so much change in a school can be a bad thing.  I am really hoping that we will get through it and have a good year despite the changes.
In addition to that, we are finally moving fully to common core and got new textbooks: Math in Focus-Singapore Math.  For the past three years I haven't really used a textbook so this should be interesting.

My goals for this year are to incorporate the math workshop model into my lessons. I read this book because  Sherrie at Middle School Math Rules! started a book study blog on it and I was hooked!  I also took (am taking) the How To Learn Math course by Jo Boaler through Stanford University which is wonderful and the two just go together perfectly.  Basically I want to get my kids working on more complex problems and discussing them more.

Over the past two years I've found myself trying to figure out why my kids can't retain what they learned.  The book and the course talk about how when we try to teach kids to memorize procedures they will quickly forget it and we have to get them involved and really owning the math.  This is my goal for this year.
I plan to forget about "the test" and get my kids to learn to think!

My other goal for the year is to blog more often and more mathematically.  Most of the posts I made last year were not very productive and I need to change that!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Reflection Based Planning

There are two full weeks left before I head back to school and its time to start planning.  Right now my head is swimming from all of the things I have learned this summer and I'm not sure where exactly to begin, actually I know bits and pieces but need to put it all together.  I figure that the best thing to do is look at where I've been and where I want to go.

Last summer I discovered flipping and interactive notebooks and implemented them with limited success.

My goal for flipping was to provide a resource for struggling learners to be able to go back and watch the lesson again when needed and to be able to take me home with them since most kids say they "get it in class, but forget when they are alone." I also wanted to stop spending so much time on low level work in class and have students discuss and do more higher order thinking.  What ended up happening is while students copied the notes successfully and did like going back to them, I never properly taught them how to work together in groups and to take responsibility for their learning.  So in the end, I kind of went back to a traditional class.  Moving forward:  I am still going to provide basic skill videos and have them complete the low level problems for homework assignments.  I took a Flipped Classroom online training course over the summer that I really liked, the idea is that you should make one take videos with you in them in order to build relationships.  I made about 20 or so that were "eh" now that I have my vision of paring them down to the basic skills I am going to scrap them and redo them in my classroom.  The majority of the ones I did were out in my garage and the lighting was not so great.  I plan on basically modeling the example problems from the textbook.  This way, if someone can't watch the video, they could actually read the book.  Also, this year I will be using a textbook, last year I did not have one.
As far as teaching them how to work together and take responsibility for their learning...well I am implementing this year the math workshop model and that is going to take a whole lot of teaching!  I will probably make a post about how I am going to this in detail.

My goal with the interactive notebooks was to get students to take better notes, keep their notebook (instead of losing it, having one notebook for multiple subjects, etc) I have to say that only one of my 72 students lost their notebooks last year!   The nice thing too was that she was able to update the new one she got I want to say easily (it was a lot of work to recopy) but at least she was able to do it.  The thing that didn't work for me so well was the foldables.  My students took way too long cutting and gluing and coloring that they didn't focus on the math, we ran out of time, etc.  My desks are horrible to put together so it was awkward having a basket or bucket with the supplies on them so that was a problem as well.

Moving forward:  What really helped them was being taught HOW to keep a notebook.  It wasn't the IMN that was so magical, it was just that I taught them what to do with the notebook. This year I told them to get a 1 inch binder in addition to the composition notebook.  I am still thinking about how I want them to completely use the composition notebook, however, I know that I want them to do a lot of writing/reflecting in it.  The binder will be used for notes (I will do a lot of printed guided note pages) and their work.
Speaking of writing, one of the things I want to accomplish with their journals is having them do a writing assignment-like a mini research paper.  I'm not sure if I will make it once a quarter or only one for the year, but I'm thinking I need to go all in on it using the writing standard from ELA and everything.

That is where I am at for now.  I am going to be using this blog over the next few days to really plan out everything.  I feel like I am so behind compared to last year as to my planning, however, I feel so much more prepared mathematically and as a teacher going into this year thanks to some of the pd I've done this summer!  I am really excited to get started!
Over the next two weeks I need to plan: classroom setup and first week activities!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Books, Books and More Books!

So we are on a little family vaca in Baltimore this weekend.  My daughter turned 16 and didn't want a party, she wanted to visit Edgar Allen Poe's grave site.

 In addition she found a "free" bookstore that she wanted to visit.  It turned out to be the coolest place!  We dropped off a ton of old books that were collecting dust on our shelves and headed in to the "store".

She ended up with about 5 and I found this:

I actually got 4 of those Math on Call books, so that each of my groups can have one for reference :)  Later on we went to the Hardrock cafe and while we waited for our table went over to Barnes and Noble, they were selling the same book for $32 each!!!

I highly recommend The Book Thing if you are in Baltimore, I will definitely like to come back at least once a year or so!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mistakes Are Okay, Really!

In the How to Learn Math course, one of the big objectives so far is learning how important it is to let kids know that mistakes are good, they are how we learn and make our brain grow.   One of the things I know is that my students are going to have to be shown this.  I can't just tell them and hope that they magically change the way they have thought about math class for most of their life.  So I've been trying to think of how I'm going to do that and of course it will be my daily actions over time that will make this sink in, however, I wanted some way to really put it out there the first week and I think I might have found it!

Somehow the game Guess Who? popped into my head. Its perfect, because you can use all of your WRONG guesses to eliminate characters in order to guess your opponents character.  I don't have the cash to buy 9 sets of the game but I found character sheets that you can print out here.  The way I am going to have them play is each student will have a plastic communicator with a character sheet in it.  They will draw a card, made with the smaller images taped onto an index card (don't know if I have the patience to glue/tape all 9 sets-might just do a few and pass the cards around!) in order to get their character. If you never heard of the game, you ask your opponent questions in order to figure out the character they have, like "is your character a girl?" if they say no, you cross out all of the girls (if yes, you cross out all of the boys.)  You keep going until you've eliminated enough to guess their character.   Here is a rough set I made up already:
the game board

The cards to select the characters
My plan is to start using the workshop model right away.  Usually my first week is dedicated to setting up routines and procedures, so this will fit right in.  Here is what I have so far:
Opening:  Students will do a maze.  This will set up the discussion about using mistakes to find the right path.
  Minilesson: This is when I will explain the game and the rules for playing. I'm not sure if I will talk more about mistakes here, but I know that I want to keep this short: no more than 10 minutes.
Work Time: I plan on giving them about 20-25 minutes to play the game.
Conferring:  This is when I will try to meet with as many as I can and get them to start feeling comfortable with this process.  Maybe ask things about the strategies they are using, if they would take a chance on guessing without asking for clues, etc.
Sharing/Reflection: The most important thing I want them to think about is this- Can you win the game if every question you asked was answered with "No."? Hopefully they will see that yes, the "wrong" questions can lead you to the right answer!  I still have to work on the questions, I know I have to give them a LOT of structure, especially in the beginning of the year!  After discussing, I am also going to have them write about the activity in their notebooks.

I know I need to think more about structuring the sharing/reflection time, this is where my kids are going to need a lot of practice.
I'm still not sure of my schedule yet, we have 50 and 75 minute classes, and ABCD days, so each class gets a different amount of time each day.  I'm still not sure how to plan for this.  Last year was a mess, with one of my 7th grade classes getting almost a whole hour more of class than the other one.  Admin was trying to fix this, but I don't know yet what they did.  I've been thinking of making my daily plans for the 50 minutes and then doing something different for the 25 minutes that a class might get that day.  Any suggestions for this????