Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Day 20: Parents

As soon as I said I can't blog daily, I became determined to make it work!  One of the hardest parts of blogging everyday is coming up with a title.  I really want this blog to be a brain dump of the day and never know what to call it.  Since I had two interesting interactions with parents today, I decided to go with Parents, but more on that later.

Today in 5th and 6th Grade

Today in 5th grade we are working on division and it seems to be going well, since we started off with dividing by 10s, 100s, and 1000s.  I hate how kids brush things off as so "easy" when there is a lot of good math stuff to talk about.  We continued to talk about place value, but it seems that kids are more interested in "just tell me the TRICK"  when you explain to them that they have to understand first and then maybe discover their own tricks, they become confused.  It like that is what they come to expect.  (learning tricks) 

6th grade is going a whole lot better since I talked to them about persevering with problem solving.  We learned about unit rates today and even though the problems were pretty basic, they seemed much more engaged and the loved the fact that they could relate the unit rate to finding the value of one unit in a ratio.

Quizzes and Tests and Concept Checks Oh my!

This year I decided that I was not going to give any quizzes or tests (besides the 4 interm benchmark exams that we have to give) and that I was going to simply give concept checks.  My reasoning behind this was that once kids hear the words Quiz or Test they freeze up and their mind goes blank.  The concept checks can be taken over and over again until they get it. Isn't that the goal?  To get it?  One problem I'm running into is that since I'm not making such a big deal about their "Big Test" or quiz, I'm kind of forgetting to prepare them for it, meaning I'm not giving them notice to study.  My idea has been, if I teach it you need to know it, so you better study it!  I have to work harder on making sure students know when the first concept check for a topic or topics will be so they can prepare.  


So I have a really sweet 6th grader and I can tell she struggles a bit (hasn't really passed my concept checks yet, see above) but she isn't clueless, needs a little help getting organized and tightening things up.  Her mom is totally on her, which I think is a good thing.  She made her come to me after school for extra help but the cool thing is she showed but about 10 minutes later and stayed with us while we worked the problems!  She never saw the bar model before so she stayed an learned with us and it was awesome!  I wish more parents were like that.

Next up is one of my homeroom kid's parents.  My homeroom unfortunately has a problem with following directions in all of their classes.  I've already had two kids serve detention and two kids get suspended.  Yeah, they are already labeled the "bad class" and it breaks my heart.  They are really good kids who make bad choices.  So anyway, I'm narrowing down on the real problems of the class and one is a girl who had a bad reputation coming to me.  I tried so hard to give her a fresh start and not to listen to her teachers from last year who told me that she was trouble.  Well, she is living up to their expectations.  So I called home not knowing what to expect other than that this mom was probably called a lot last year to talk about how bad her kid was.  I started off by telling her that I wanted to talk about some behaviors I was observing and ask for her help.  I said that I've tried talking to the girl privately, using positive reinforcement, praising her everytime I caught her doing good and it was not working.  I was so worried how the mom would react but she was really supportive and receptive!  I'm not sure if its going to make a difference in the girls behavior, but I at least feel like it was a good step.  I always hate to contact parents without something good to say (although I told her I thought her daughter was a really great kid...which I do! She just makes bad choices) so it was nice to have a positive interaction.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Day 19: No Pictures But Still Heading in the Right Direction

In 5th grade we had a great conversation about exponents and powers of 10.  Some students have older siblings who introduced the concept to them but most had never heard of them before.  It really helped them connect the idea of place value and that the digit to the left is 10 x the digit to the right.

In 6th grade we tackled word problems involving fraction and decimal division/multiplication.  We did this similar to the ratio word problems and it had almost better results!  Since we use Math in Focus, the problems almost require using the bar model.  Some you don't need it but others it just makes the problem so much easier at their level.

For example this fun problem:  Mike had a large tropical fish collection.  He gives 2/3 of his fish to a local high school.  Then he gives 2/5 of the remaining fish to an elementary school.  In the end, he has 30 fish left.  How many fish did Mike have at first.

Three of my 5 groups got it using the beautiful bar model!  Best of all,the rest saw how much easier the bar model made it look.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Day 18: A Taste of What I Want Everyday to Be

October Goals

Ok, linking up with Sherrie for Week 7 of the MTBoS blogging challenge.  Trying to blog every day isn't really working so I plan to at least commit to this challenge!
This weeks challenge is to blog about your goals for October.  This couldn't have been a better topic for me!  
My official goals this month are: 
  1. Bring more struggle and frustration to my classroom! 
  2. Take more pictures of students' work.

Friday in 6th grade was pretty darn cool.  We had worked on solving problems with ratios on Thursday and I showed them how to use a bar model to solve them.  They came in Friday groaning about how hard the homework was.  So I told them we would go over the problems but they would have to do all of the work and that I wasn't going to show them the answers.  It was perfect.  They struggled and argued and proved their points and in the end found the answers they were looking for.  
Just some shots of their work, I want to take more pictures in class!

It was very uncomfortable for them and I told them that that was how I expected class to be every day.  They need that struggle and be frustrated but also have the determination to figure it out and finish in order to learn.  I think they understood that.  Thats why my main goal for October is to make more days like this.  
I have some ideas, but what always gets in my way is the time factor.  I only have at most 50 minutes with 6th grade (except for Friday which is their double block) so I'm still working on ways to do this.  I told them that solving these types of math problems might take a few days and not to feel bad if they don't figure them out in one class period.  It is a big change for them and I will really have to work hard at keeping them from getting discouraged.  

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Day 14 and 15 and 16 and 17

Just can't get a blog done each day.  Since today (Day 18) hasn't officially started, I'll save that for later.  I think a weekly reflection (aka the MTBOS blogging challenge) might be a better goal for me.

Things have been very interesting these first few weeks.  Like I've been saying 5th grade is so much different than what I've been used to.  Also, my homeroom is full of the "high-needs" kids which I think is also wearing me out.  I had two boys suspeneded yesterday for fighting in my classroom before lunch. Ugh.  Not a out and out brawl, but one boy bumped into the other by accident and then hands started flying.  Luckily all I had to do was yell "STOP!" and they both looked like they were going to cry.
Last night I had over 10 inches of my hair cut off, and I'm thinking of going in today and telling them I am Mrs. Nehila's mean evil twin sister and then acting the part.  We'll see.  Not a great actor so I don't know if I can pull it off.

Lots of good and bad stuff going on with the math so far.  I need to blog more about that and especially about the bad stuff.

One thing I'm having massive trouble with is getting my 6th grade lessons in with only a 45 minute class.   I do get a double block with them on Fridays, but I feel like I am just playing catch up.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Day13: I Am Confused-Can you help?

So this post is not really about my classes, but it is about math education.  My sister called me yesterday to see if I could help with my niece's math homework (3rd grade.)  She is learning the associative and commutative properties of addition. She had this worksheet to do, which I actually just now found here: http://www.superteacherworksheets.com/addition/addition-properties-variables-basic.pdf
These are the problems she wasn't sure about.  Now before I saw the whole worksheet, I just asked her to tell me what the examples said and she read the examples from the boxes on the first page.  I asked her to tell me what she noticed about the numbers in the example problems and she said the numbers were the same, they just either changed order or the position of the parentheses were changed.  So I asked her how that could help her figure these problems out and she got it.

Before my sister called me, she asked one of her friends.  Her friend actually got really angry and upset about the problems and sent my sister the following comments in an email. 

"This, problem, and the other, s problem, are patterns not math.
 This stupid, t and the other stupid, t are patterns not math."

So my smarty pants sister replied "well aren't patterns math?" (Yay sissy!)

And she got this reply:
"If they are, they still aren't *that* math.  I ran the problem by *** this morning to see whether she had been brainwashed at school, and she found that s=5, t=0, and u=16.  Would a teacher say she's wrong? 

That problem encourages our children to use flawed logic and leads them to believe that the answer they come across most easily (using a prescribed method) is the only answer.  That's bad enough, but they're being encouraged to think that way in other subjects, too.  Now imagine that type of thinking applied to religion, politics and interpersonal relationships.  

These are well educated, very nice people. I am suprised by their anger and response. What do you think?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Day 11 and 12: Back to School Night and the Morning After

I don't know if I can keep up the daily blogging.  I love the idea of having a record of every day at school so I really need to stick with it.  I really need to start remembering to take some pictures at school because I feel like if I don't feel like writing I can post a picture, sometimes pictures tell the best story of what happened that day!

We had our back to school night last night and I think it went pretty well.  I met my new families and got to catch up with some who I had older siblings in prior years.  Another reason I love my school is that since we are so small we do get to know everyone pretty well and I think my families are pretty great!

This morning was tough getting up and going in after leaving last night around 8pm!  All of the teachers seemed to be dragging today and I know I chugged down about 5 cups of coffee!

Today was a mix of good and bad with my homeroom.  I seemed to have gotten the group of kids who know how to push each others buttons.  I must say they have the potential of really growing up and out of it and I am excited to see that happen over the course of this year.  They had a rough day yesterday with following directions and tattleing, etc. and I came down on them pretty hard.  They really take losing their recess seriously unlike 7/8 who would just roll their eyes and say "whaterver" if I threatened recess detention.  So they pulled it together most of the day and actually got two compliments from other teachers which  made me proud.  Then we had some problems with missing money and items from someones pencil case.  Followed by some more tattleing and tears.  Its going to a long year!

I am working with the 7/8 math teacher on a model of direct instruction that is really working well for us so far!  I will share in a few days after we work on it some more.  Its really exciting how the kids respond and it makes teaching the procedural stuff fun!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Day 9 and 10 Ups and Downs

Daily blogging is no joke!  Yesterday I was just so mentally drained I fell asleep with the blogger window open!  Plus this morning I overslept, 1st time in 5 years that I missed my alarm!! Luckily I did have enough time to dress and run out of the house and get to school on time. Thank goodness my children are self sufficient now and I don't have to get them ready for school anymore!

So about the title, ups and downs.  Yesterday in 5th grade I had a major flop of a lesson. Ok, here is the gist, I tried following the textbook, (mistake) and the lesson was on front-end estimation with adjustment.  This isn't even really a standard that I need to teach, just for the mathematical practices.  The students were ok with addition, but when we hit subtraction all I could tell them was do it this way because I said so!  I couldn't for the life of me explain it without saying, this is the way you do it, so do it!  Does that make sense?  The textbook, which for the most part, I really love even said "Make a poster showing the two ways to use front-end estimation with adjustment for subtraction so that students remember."  Not how to explain why it works, just have them memorize!  UGH!

Here are the examples I used to teach them, which come straight from the book.

I really felt like a failure of a teacher with this lesson!  Today when I checked thier homework however, 90% of them had it done correctly thanks to the little "reminder" on the page showing them exactly what to do.  Those that still didn't get it, I told them as long as they can estimate the difference by rounding the whole number they would be fine.  My problem with the textbook is that if you want front end estimation with adjustment to get an answer closer to the exact amount, why round the "leftovers" to the nearest thousand?  For example, why not in the first problem estimate 800-200 and then add 600 to the 2,000?   Also, I still can't explain properly why we add the difference of the remainding numbers in the first problem and subtract them in the second.

Today was much better, I was able to effectivly use my second block for practice, remediation and enrichment like I intend to.  I'm still not 100% comfortable with the whole stations thing.  I have to just have differentiated assignments for them, so sometimes kids at the same table are doing all different things. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Day 8: Trying to Nix the Tricks!

Today my sixers learned fraction division.  I am embarrassed/but happy to say this is the first year I taught it without the Keep Change Flip!
First we modeled it by drawing rectangles on graph paper, then we moved onto the actual procedure.  I showed them the division problem set up as a complex fraction.  Then we played around with writing equivalent fractions.  So far so good!
Next I asked them what was the easiest number to divide by and a lot of them said 2 but a few said 1.  So I threw out some problems like 1,784 divided by 2, 85,954 divided by 2, etc  then the same numbers by 1, they quickly agreed that 1 was much easier!  So I asked them to look in their notebook vocabulary section to see if they could figure out how we could make the denominator equal 1.  They flipped to the vocab section checked the definitions and all agreed the reciprocal is what they needed!  So we wrote an equivalent fraction using reciprocal of the denominator.  Once they had their answer I drew a box around the numerator in the problem.  It was pretty clear to see the procedure and they seemed convinced!  One student had heard keep change flip before and I kept saying "Yes! That's right, multiply by the reciprocal!
We practiced for a while and I really liked what I was seeing!  I am going to give an entrance ticket on Monday to make sure they remembered it.

We also got our IXL accounts ready today, some students already have gone on and started practicing which I love to see!

Oh I almost forgot something I tried with my homeroom, at the end of the day I handed out an index card to each student and told them to write down the name of the person they though should be nominated for Citizen of the Week.  They all voted and the nice thing is that they picked the person I would have picked as well!  In addition to picking my student of the week, I am also looking for the kids that don't get any votes.  There are some kids who have been reprimanded already this year and sent to guidance and they vice principal so they were obviously not voted for, I'm looking for the ones who are getting missed. There were definetly two names I was surprised I did not see.  I will make sure to observe how these kids behave next week.  Are they my sneaky ones I have to watch out for?  Or are they being shunned by their class?  Not sure yet, but I will be doing this every Friday.  The nice thing is our school does a lot of awards and this will definitely help me choose.  I've always had such a hard time with that!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Day 7: Finding my Groove and Exit Tickets

Ok, I think I'm getting the hang of this!  I had a nice little revelation as I'm getting to know my students better and that is that while I have to come in with a totally new mindset on how to treat and teach 5th graders, my 6th grade students are similar to my 7th and 8th, just not as apathetic!  Wooo Hoooo!

I feel like I am doing a lot of informal assessing in class but I'm not getting the exit tickets in and that is bothering me. I need to try and use them and start my circle trackers back up.
I can see in my class who is getting it but I have no data to back it up.

Well of to my son's back to school night to meet his teachers!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Day 6 and a Present in the Mail!!!

Yay!  So a week or so ago I found out I won a raffle from reading one of my favorite blogs!  http://hodgesherald.blogspot.com/
Look at all these goodies!!  One of things I love the most are the check mark correcting stickers!  In addition to Great Job! and Way to Go! there is Nice Work!, Try Again, Much Better and Good Try!  Love those messages for the kids work!

Today went much better, even though I only got through half of the lesson I planned for 6th grade and in one of my 6th grade classes we were so involved and working hard we went 5 minutes over class time and didn't even realize it!  Yikes!

Split my 5th grade double block up and did stations for the 2nd half, but oh boy do they need to practice procedures!  Its hard to try implementing stuff like this once we've gotten into the curriculum but I know we'll never get anywhere if I don't!

Tomorrow I have the other 5th grade class for a double so we'll try it again.  I am also toying with the idea of flipping my class a little bit again.  By flipping I mean having them complete the notes portion of the class on the foldable.  Seems like I have 1 kid in two classes who don't have internet at home, I have to see how early they get to school then I can pull them in the mornings to complete the assignment.

In other news, 5th grade drama is starting to surface.  I knew that my incoming 5ths had some drama last year in 4th and they definitely split up  some bad combinations, but it looks like its starting again already.  I had 4 student out in the hall at the end of the day and I got 4 different stories. Most of it was he tripped me, she called me mean names, tattling stuff.  However one girl said that one of the boys said she was ugly because she was black and I need to get to the bottom of that.  Tried calling the school councelors but they didn't answer so hopefuly they will be able to speak to them tomorrow.  I am also going to do a "Tattleing lesson" of some sort during our 30 minute skills block at the end of the day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Day 5: Pacing and Timing

I guess its too early to tell, but I feel like I'm not going to get the things I need done, done in time.  My students need a lot of guidance this year, lots of reminders and very, very explicit instructions.  I think I'm learning though.  I was planning on using the double blocks I have with students to do double lessons, and then have days where we just spend the whole time practicing skills, but I'm thinking I will make the 2nd block a practice block instead.  I have 2 double blocks a week with 5th and only once a week with 6.
So for tomorrow with 5th, I will do one lesson in the first half and then the second half will be all about stations!  I'm actually excited about the stations I have been gathering tons of resources and our school bought a subscription for IXL which I'm excited to try out.
So for 5th grade tomorrow we will have a min lesson on place value where they will complete this foldable (idea taken from somewhere on the internet but I have no idea where sorry!)

Then I will give them some practice problems to try using whiteboards for quick assessment.  Then they will practice some problems from the book. 
The next block I will use the following stations:
Reteach or extra help with me
Extra Math
Problem Solving

Tomorrow I will report on how it all goes!  I guess my daily reflection should reflect on what happened that day and not just planning for the next!  Although I guess the plans I just made are based on the reflection of today LOL!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Day 4: Building Routines

Although I have said before how difficult the grade level change seems to be, there are at least a few teaching skills that transfer from grade to grade.
One of those things is the importance of creating good habits and setting good routines.  So far I absolutely love my do now routine which is practicing basic skills around the number of the day.  The number of the day has been the month and day, so for example, today's number was 98.
Each day students have three different boxes with tasks they have to complete. Today it was to write in expanded form, round to the nearest ten, double it, and then check the divisibility of the number by the numbers 2 to 10.  I know I'm going to have to tweak it for 6th grade, way too easy.  We are doing factors and multiples this week, so I'm sure going to add that on there!
Although we are only really two days into it, I am super excited about my INBs!! Not only am I excited to use them in class, but it makes lesson planning really easy too!  I just build my notebook pages and that is how I write my lesson plan.
Today students put in their Unit 1 Table of Contents and their vocabulary pages.  On the right side page I'm having them put a KWC organizer.
Awesome Unit Table of Contents page from Sarah at http://mathequalslove.blogspot.com/
For their vocabulary pages they write the definition under the tab.  5th grade actually had 3 sheets of vocab words, so on the second page of the second set they will pick one of the words and draw an illustration to represent it.  I can't wait to see their pictures tomorrow!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Reflecting on the First Week

This is my 5th year teaching and it feels like the first!
Meeting my new 5th and 6th graders has been so much fun!  I've known most of these kiddos since they were in Kindergarten and 1st Grade!  Still its hard to get names right.  One of the advantages of teaching two grade levels is I usually knew all of my 8th graders very well and had to only get to know my new 7ths.  So this year is a little bit of a challenge, I could tell I was getting better by Friday, and yesterday we had our back to school BBQ and could remember their names and even which class period they were in!  Oh and a bunch of my students from last year came to visit too!  I really loved that group of kids and I hope that they stay in touch.

I spent the first three days teaching routines and procedures of course and used games and iPads and started my INBs! While I tried to make this fun (its hard to tell because they are all so happy and eager to please, unlike 7th and 8th where they just stare at you most of the time LOL) I did stress that I'm very serious about learning, classroom community, and being able to feel comfortable making mistakes.  I've heard that last year some of the 4th grade girls were a little mean and did laugh at kids when they made mistakes.  I was sure to look those girls right in the eyes when I was explaining my thoughts on it and they did look wide-eyed like "Oh bleep, I better watch it!"

They really responded well to my "Class/Yes" procedure which 7/8 also did well with, but I think it fits better with the younger crowd anyway.  I'm using the scoreboard game with them in conjunction with our school's Battle of the Homerooms.  So the way Class/Yes works is when I say "Class", they say "yes" and they have to say it however I say it.  I have to try to remember to mix it up a little, I tend to get boring the way I say it.  The scoreboard is a chart I put on the front whiteboard and if they do the class/yes procedure correctly -everyone says it, stops what they are doing and does not talk after, they get a tally mark under the column with a smiley face.  If they don't do it correctly they get a tally mark under the frowny face.  Their goal is to get more smileys than frownys.  If they do, I give them 100 points for the day.  7th/8th could care less about the Battle of the Homerooms (well until the day the winner was announced each month) but 5th/6th still take it very seriously!
Every class won last week, but starting this week I'm going to kick it up a notch and add tallys for expected behavior.

I also introduced them on Thursday to our Number of the Day do now.  I can already tell it is going to be a big help in my classes.  Right now I have both 5th and 6th doing the same sheets, but I think I will be changing it up in the next week or so  to really focus on which skills they need the most practice on.  I think 5th is going to need some multiplication and they are both going to need fraction stuff.

I am looking forward to this first real week of math to get started!

If you would like to link up and share your first week or first day reflections  click HERE to go to Sherrie's blog and join us!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Day 3-The Great Locker Struggle

What a week!  5th and 6th grade is such a different experience.  So far I'm really happy and optimistic about the school year.  The only trouble I'm having right now is getting my little 5ths used to their lockers!

I have about 12 combinations memorized right now from doing them the whole week.  Then they take FOREVER getting their stuff and forgetting things after they've finished.
I know its only the first week and I have to be patient with them, but this is killing me!  They took 18 minutes out of my math class on Thursday, it was a nightmare.
Today we got out of school 15 minutes late because they couldn't get it together.  I know one problem that I have that the other 5th grade homeroom teacher doesn't have is that my lockers are stacked in three's and hers are in twos.  This means only 6 of mine can go at a time and 9 of hers can go.

I've got my timer set and they are only allowed 2 minutes, which should be 6 minutes for my whole class. I'm really hoping they get faster with practice!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Day 2: Is it Friday yet?

Holy hell this has been the most exhausting start of the school year in a long time!  So many ups and downs!  I am saving these ups and downs for my Sunday 3-2-1 summary, but I also feel committed to blogging every single day this year!!

Today I was able to do the Marshmallow Challenge with one of my classes.  It was AWESOME!!!

I'm still trying to get used to the idea of taking pictures during class.  I had two groups succeed in keeping the marshmallow in the air and they did a great job explaining their process.  Can't wait to see how the 6th graders do tomorrow!

Made it Through Day 1!

Whew what a day!!!  I survived 5th grade and 6th grade!!  My students are great and I am excited about the school year.  The day went way too fast and the only thing that I was disappointed in was that I didn't get to the Marshmallow Challenge with my homeroom.  I planned on doing it with each class when they had their double block, but since my homeroom was first period, a lot of the time got eaten by back to school morning announcements, and learning how to do our lockers!!  This is going to be a big challenge for me and my kids.  This is their first time with lockers and switching classes.  I have never taught kids younger than 7th grade so it an adjustment for all of us.

Marshmallow Challenge fail
The biggest hit of the day was the Kahoot! quiz they played with the iPads.  I made a quick "Getting to know Mrs. Nehila quiz" and they loved it.  I tried to make everything we did into routine or procedure practice.So I was able to introduce them to the way we pick group names (color/food)  How to work as a team, how to use the iPads, how to play Kahoot! all while getting to know me and the classroom.  I planned way too much which was good and the day went fast.  I am hoping to get all the procedures and routines done this week and start math on Monday, but we'll see.
Two other interesting things we did were the do now and exit ticket.  
For the do now, I had them write on a sticky note thier definition of a fair teacher and place it on the chart paper.  At the end of the day I took all of the sticky notes and summarized them into a wordle.  It was really cool to see the results: 

I love it, this idea I got from Charity Stephens' blog and can't wait to share it with my students!