Thursday, April 23, 2015

#AprilBlogADay Number Talks

I've been reading about these for so long and finally took the time to fit it in.  What fun!  The coolest thing is that my students really seemed to enjoy it and bought into it 100%!  I started off easy and kept it short the past two days.  Yesterday I gave them 56 + 7
 Here are some of the responses I got.
63 because I know that 56 + 4 is 60 and 7-4 is 3 so 60+3 is 63
63 because I counted up from 56
63 because I added 6+7 is 13 then 10 plus 50 is 60 and add the 3 is 63
and one of my favorites:  Well, I know that 7x8 is 56 and 7x9 is 63 so the answer is 63 since I know the 7 times tables.

Today I gave them 16 x 25.  I thought I would get eye rolls and pencils (I told them to solve it with mental math.)  Again they all bought into it and I could see their brains all working on the problem (I think that is my favorite thing of all time.)  
Here is what I got:
400 because 25 x 10 is 250 and 25 x 6 is 150 so 250 + 150 is 400
400 because 25 x 10 is 250, 250 divided by 2 is 125 and then add 25 to get 150.  150 + 250 is 400.
Then 16=4x4 and 25=5x5 so 4x5=20 and 4x5=20 and 20x20 =400

I really like the discussions that are starting to come from this.  Most students didn't really understand why the kid who divided 250 by 2 did that and I had him explain it further, then had other students summarize or restate what he said.  It was cool to see their light bulbs going off!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

#aprilblogaday Spring Break Nothingness

Today was one of those days that I did nothing but play silly facebook games and was proud of it!  Its spring break and I am enjoying this down time!  Tomorrow I plan to go into school, organize some paperwork and make copies and videos for the week we come back.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

#aprilblogaday 6th Grade Measures of Center and Variablilty

Before break we touched a little on these topics with the intent to dive in a little deeper once we come back.  I feel like students got the basics down and could calculate mean, median, mode, range, and make a box plot etc.  But I don't think they really get the why part. There are two lessons I know that I am going to try with them next week that I'm really looking forward to.

The first is from the Mathematics Assessment Project
I have done these types of lessons before and the students really enjoy them.  I really like the activity where they match their cards and then send out a group member to check other groups work.  I have to decide if I will try to fit this in one class period (50 min) or two.

The second is from Mathalicious which is one of the best web resources I ever found.  The tasks are so good and interesting and it is just set up so well.  Here is the task I'm going to use: Wealth of Nations  This is based off a video I've seen before and it is mind blowing.  I really hope that my students see what a big deal this is and also make the connections between the spread of data and what that means in real life.

Monday, April 6, 2015

#aprilblogaday Spring Planning

Spring Break 2015!  Woo hooo!  After a lovely holiday with my family and getting to really know and love our new puppy, I have only two thoughts on my mind... Spring cleaning and spring planning for the rest of the school year.  The nice thing is both are great distractions from each other.  When I don't feel like cleaning I sit down and plan, when I'm burned out from sitting at the computer I go back to cleaning.

I'm amazed at how fast this year is going and I know that once we go back it is going to FLY.  We have our 4th benchmarks on the 20th and then EOY Parcc the second week of May.  After that it's going to be crazy trying to keep the kids engaged.   I am hoping to use games and projects to end the year. So for the rest of this week I will blog about resources or ideas I have for accomplishing this!

I'll start off with my plan for 5th...a few years ago I won a classroom set of Hands On Equations.  I am excited to use this whole program from start to finish.  When I tried to use it with 7th grade it was already too late.  I really feel that this system works best with students who have not had a lot of formal practice solving equations.  

I am really excited to introduce this to my students and follow it trough the program as written.  I am also going to look into purchasing the second set of books, solving word problems with the set.  I'm already thinking about how the next year when students are 6th graders it will be easy to refer back to the sets so they can make connections.

Friday, April 3, 2015


Something I have not blogged about but I am very involved in is the fact that our charter school just voted to unionize.

I have had very mixed feeling about this, but I am someone who voted yes.  It seems that at my school there are teachers who are perceived as the negative Nelly's and are only looking out for themselves. These are the teachers who organized and got this going.  I am someone who didn't have an opinion at first about it.  I would consider myself someone who is in the select group of "favorites" in my school, I'm not sure if that's just because there is no doubt that my goal is 100% student advancement and success or what.  Even as I type this it sounds weird.  I know the teachers that got this started and I know that they want our student to excel and succeed too.  They also want to be treated as professionals.  However, I decided to find out all the facts and not just say NO because I didn't want to be kicked out of the "in crowd."
I know that my salary is about 5,000 less than I would be making in a public school, but that is not why I teach anyway.  Its not just about the money and benefits.  I like the idea that I would be protected if something horrible happened.  I teach middle school, I know what could happen.
After getting more information from the union, I am also excited about the benefits for our school. Its no secret that the NJEA or teachers unions in general don't really like charter schools.  I think that they have finally seen that we are not going anywhere. They are now fighting against the corporate for-profit charter schools, which we are not, we are public.  There is one of those opening in our town next year and our school is a little worried about losing students to it.  I think having the union on our side (along with their money and resources) can only help us.
There are tons of PD we will be able to take advantage of, plus there are pride grants which will help us with our mission of community building.

One of the biggest concerns I had about this was the long drawn out contract negotiations.  I've heard horror stories of teachers working without a contract for 4 or more years.  That would stink especially since our admin has presented us with a new salary guide which would give me a 5-10 thousand dollar raise.  But I'm thinking since we are such a small school these negotiations won't be as dramatic as those in large districts.  Admin has already come up with the salaries, I think a little tweaking will make everyone happy.

Is it going to be a perfect transition? Probably not, but I am optimistic that there are going to be more pros than cons for our whole school as we take this journey.

Blog a Day April Challenge!

Yes!  I am happy to have found a blog a day challenge!  I am going to play catch up here and post two more blog posts so I feel complete for April.

I always do best when "playing along" with these blogging challenges, plus its always great when there are suggested topics to write about.

March Reflections

I have to say these past two months have been one of the most challenging  and emotional times I can remember.  The challenges certainly include the PARCC testing we had this month and after seeing such great success I had with flipping my class, I was so disappointed when I noticed the old attitude that "the test is over, I don't have to learn" coming from the students.  It was something I didn't expect at all since they know they have another test in May.  We had our 3rd marking period report cards and conferences this week and I'm feeling pretty down about the way the year is going.  
In addition to this stress, we lost my dear mother-in-law two weeks ago.  She was diagnosed in August of last year with pancreatic cancer and about the end of January took a turn for the worse, we went out to KY to see her in the middle of February and that is the last time I got to see her.  My husband went out again by himself a week before she passed.  
I took another week off of school to go say goodbye and mourn with our family in KY.  It was a very sad and hard time.  
However, the Friday before we came home a little miracle came into our life.  My father-in-law lives outside of town in the country and people are always dropping off unwanted kittens and puppies.  Well we found the cutest little puppy who just melted our hearts and we ended taking her home with us.  Meet Ruthie (named after my mother-in-law)  She is less than 12 weeks old, and the vet thinks she is a Yorkie/Jack Russel mix.  

Ruthie and Sarah the exact moment we found her.
Country dog is now a Jersey girl and spoiled by all of us!
I am disappointed in my lack of blogging, I have had so many things going on that I should be writing down and its really bothering me.  
Yesterday I received a note from one of my 5th graders.  He has been struggling terribly this year with social and academic issues.  The day after his report card conference he gave me the letter.  I don't have it with me, but he talked about how he is not smart and can't challenge himself among other sad statements.  He also tried really hard to participate in class.  I've been trying so hard to help this student and I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  I know that I have got to change his mindset about himself and build him up, I hope that I can do it!