Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Own Blogging Challenge

I think there is a 30 day blogging challenge going on, but I'm not sure.  What I am sure of is that I want to blog more, I stink at it, and I know that blogging more often should help me get better!
My plan is to blog every single day of May.  May is going to be an interesting month.  It starts off with my very first observation of the year!  YIKES!  I don't mind being observed at all, but now that I have tenure I only get one a year which is kind of scary since I feel like I only get one shot!   We are reviewing and preparing for our state tests the following week so I decided to do a lesson on similar triangles since we haven't really done much with that this year.
The second week will be NJAsk, that is going to be a boring blog week I'm sure!  Then we get one week of regular school and then its off to Washington, DC with the 8th grade for 4 days!  I LOVE our 8th grade trip each year.  I've toyed with moving down to 5/6th grade but the DC trip is definitely something that holds me back from moving down.

I think the biggest struggle I am going to have with my challenge is titling my posts!  I hate trying to come up with a title each day!  Any suggestions?

Monday, April 7, 2014

NJCSA Conference

Today my school attended the New Jersey Charter School Association conference in Atlantic City.    Overall, the conference needs some beefing up, with better sessions for teachers and more vendors.  However, I can't complain today because I attended an amazing session called Getting Messi:  How Mistakes make Mathematicians and Scientists.  The presenter was the winner of the Fishman Prize for Superlative Teaching (which I didn't even know existed today, but it is really cool!) Check it out here: http://tntp.org/fishman-prize/winners/fishman-prize-2013/keith-robinson  Anyway, the session was all about Mindset!  My passion of late especially since taking Jo Boaler's class over the summer and now participating in the Perts study.  Most of the ideas presented I was familiar with but did come away with some ideas for really creating the growth mindset culture, such as presenting my "fake" mistakes for students to analyze and awards for class culture such as for the hardest worker, or the best question asker, etc.
The best part was I was a winner of Carol Dweck's Mindset, which I've never actually read.  So excited to get reading!

Then after lunch I got to be a speaker at a session!   I was kind of thrown into it as another teacher was going to do it and backed out at the last minute.  I am so glad I did!  We talked about some of the things our school did to increase math fluency, deeper conceptual understanding and incorporating the 8 mathematical practices.  It was really easy, I talked about our "Mad Math" program, how we set it up, how if runs, some of the changes and improvements we made since last year.  Then I talked about using KWI (What do I know, What is the questions, What are my ideas for solving) for multi-step or word problems along with TAPPS, Talk-aloud-partner-pair-share also for problem solving.  Finally I talked about using kid friendly translations of the 8 mathematical practices and how I introduce three to four main practice to focus on when I introduce the objective of the lesson and also how I have them hanging above my number line and refer to them often throughout the day.  I got to present this with our math coach and the Director of my school.   It was fun, I could talk about teaching math all day long!

Friday, April 4, 2014

The End is Near!

Wow, so much going on and I haven't blogged in FOREVER!!
I have hit the end of year panic, but what makes this year scarier is that since we adopted our new textbooks and haven't "covered" every chapter yet, I feel very very scared.  However, I do feel like I have deeply and thoroughly taught all of the "new" content that my students need.  I only have some geometry and probability to go through and my kids have all been taught this in previous years.  I am tackling this by continuing with the pacing guide of my textbook and supplementing with our NJAsk Coach workbook.  I think its working pretty well, I've told the kids that they should be annotating the text (Yay!  Adding some ELA skills in there!)  So we can really pinpoint what needs to be reviewed/covered before the big day.  
What worries me the most is that we had our 4th benchmark testing of the year and my kids tanked.  I mean so bad that I spent about three days looking for mistakes in my grading spreadsheet, answer key, etc.  When I asked them about it I got two types of responses, "Mrs. Nehila, I looked at the test and it was stuff you taught in the beginning of the year!  I can't remember that!" or "I was just so tired, I gave up!"  Neither response was encouraging.  However to the first one, I've been trying to instill the message that if you forgot it, you never learned it the first place.  Frustrated is an understatement.  Again, I feel like what the heck have I been doing all year?  I might as well have been staying home eating bon-bons with these types of results.  Its just sickening!  
Next up is Common Core.  While I don't know how it is for the younger grades or for ELA and it very well may be bad, I don't have a problem with the 7th/8th math standards.  I think they are laid out pretty well, and I really like how my textbook progress through them.   Now onto my rant which actually turned into a cool conversation with the president of our PAC!  She posted this:
So after reading all of the horrible hate comments, I decided to add to the commentary:
She liked that response and then asked some other good questions about how parents can help their students with homework and stuff.  I told her to show them the way YOU know how to solve the problem.  I told her one of the best things about common core is that it encourage students to think about problems and show their work in many ways.  As long as they understand that is the goal!
The conversation ended with us discussing a "learning about common core" session at a PAC meeting!  Yes!!

Finally, the next exciting thing I want to write about is that I am going to be a part of a presentation at the NJ Charter School convention in Atlantic City on Monday!!  Our school raised our math scores last year, so we are talking about some of the things we've done.  I will report back after our session on how it goes.  I am excited and not the least bit nervous.  Should I be?