Sunday, January 24, 2016

Any Questions? #EXPLOREMTBOS2016


This week we are to write about questioning.  I think that this is one of the most important parts of teaching.  I will never forget the time a math coach who observed my lesson typed up everything I had said during the class.  We reflected on how many and what type of questions I asked and I was pretty embarrassed by the results.  Thankfully that was an eye opener and ever since then I have been trying to improve my questioning skills.   I always start with anything I want to "tell" my students I will rephrase into a question.  I still need a ton of work on this and now I find that my lesson planning is most focused on the questions I'm going to ask.

I also noticed a big part of this is not only asking the questions but making sure everyone has an opportunity to answer.  In my classes I notice that there are 3-4 students who want to answer every single question and the rest of the class is more than happy to sit back and let them.  So I started doing all the usual tricks like making sure I wait long enough, using craft sticks to draw names, using the name picker on the interactive white board, etc.  But I noticed that those students who don't want to answer will just say any old thing to get it over with.  Also, it still doesn't help me to know if everyone understands the lesson.

My new strategy is a tracking sheet I've started using in the past few weeks.  It works like this: my students watch a video lesson in class, when they are finished or if a small group of them are finished, I confer with them and ask specific questions that I have prewritten and sometimes I generate others on the spot.  I then mark on my tracking sheet if I spoke with them and if they understand based on the questions I asked.  The nice part is spending a few minutes with each student or small group of 2-4 students really allow me to find their misconceptions early and help them understand the concept better.  I also like having the space on my sheet to write the questions down that I plan on asking them.   Or the room to write down their questions as well as any other comments during our conference!
Here is an example.  Its really low tech and I've thought about making it on a spreadsheet, but I think I like it best hand written because I can switch up groups at a moments notice if needed.

Sorry its sideways!  The circle next to their name means I talked to them and the line through it means they got it or answered questions successfully.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

My Favorite #EXPLOREMTBOS2016


Without a doubt my favorite thing is my Hands On Equations class set.

I won this set at a math conference a few years ago when I was teaching 7/8th grade.  I used it the first year with my 7th graders, but since they had been exposed to algebra, they didn't really embrace this method and would get themselves confused.  But for younger students its almost like magic!
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Here is my nephew and son when they were 7 and 8 years old.  They were blowing through two step equations and then multi-step equations like it was nothing! 

So last year was the first year I was in 5/6th.  At the end of the year I pulled out the Hands On Equations and we worked through the entire program.  It was amazing.  Some of my struggling students had success that they had never had before in math class!
The best part was this year in 6th grade I have referred back to H.O.E. when teaching opposites, simplifying expressions and solving equations.  It is great to be able to pull out the set and see their eyes light up with understanding.  In the past I would have more than half the class try to tell me x + 2x + 6 simplifies to 9x.  This year only 1 or 2 made that mistake!  In fact when I asked them why you couldn't add the six to the 3x they would tell  me "because the x's are the pawns that are unknowns the 3 only tells us how many unknowns we have!"
I can't wait for the end of the year to start up again with my 5th graders!  

Friday, January 15, 2016


Here we go!  Here was my day, sort of typical but with an extra meeting thrown in. Figured I'd do today since the rest of the week was a blur!

5:00am:  Alarm goes off and I snooze for about 2 minutes...  I set the snooze for 5 minutes but
This girl decides that I am not allowed to sleep any later because she MUST eat!
Then this sweetness has to go for her walk, I'm dreading the first snow storm!
5:20: Hop in the shower and get ready
6:00: Cook breakfast for me and the pup (I eat egg whites and cook the yolks for her)
6:20: Put lunches together for me and the kid.  Make sure the kid's backpack is ready with his school Chromebook charged.  Hunt down his cell phone and glasses and put them on the kitchen counter with his Zyrtec (I won't tell you how old he is, but let's just say he's a little spoiled.)
6:40: Hubby comes home from his 3rd shift job and we chat and spend a little bit of time together.
7:00: Leave for school.
7:25: Get to school and head up to my classroom.  Get my laptop set up, print out a bunch current event articles that my students emailed to me so I can print for them.  The social studies teach won't do it.  Whatever.  Read other emails, empty out my bags, make sure room is ready for the day.  
7:50:  Go outside for morning meeting.  We used to have a nice auditorium where the whole school gathered to hear daily announcements, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, Mission Statement and Excuses poem, but now we have to do it outside as long as the temp is above freezing and its not raining/snowing.
8:05-8:15: Stand in my classroom doorway and get kids to their lockers in groups.  This was one of my big culture shocks I'd guess you'd say about switching from being an 8th grade homeroom to a 5th grade homeroom.  The students have such a hard time at the lockers!  This year is a tad bit better than last, but its still an event.
8:15: 1st class (5th grade double block)
10:00: 2nd class (5th grade double block)
11:40: Get students to their lockers and ready for recess/lunch and the afternoon.  Happy beyond words because today they are finally getting better about hallway procedures.  Its been a little rough since winter break, but having them "practice" during recess a few days really helped!
11:45: After dropping off students for recess, run back up to my room and get ready for the afternoon with 6th grade.  I have two 6th grade classes, and one of them is struggling with simplifying expressions so I have to make new copies of the practice pages from the 5th grade resource book.  Make copies and bring them back to my classroom and get my lunch. 
12:00: Eat while grading some papers.
12:30: Pick students up from lunch. 
12:35: 3rd class (6th grade) 
1:00: Go to Director's office to sit in on a conference call with a consulting company that we will be using for our charter renewal and possibly high school expansion!!!! So super excited to be a part of this process.  It will be my 2nd charter school renewal but adding the high school is going to be such an experience!  If, it's a go, there is still a lot of research to do first. 
2:10: Run back up to classroom, check in with the sub to make sure the rest of 6th grade went well, thankfully it was our RTI coordinator who I work very closely with so everything was cool and on track. 
2:15: Get my homeroom packed up for the end of the day and down to music class.
2:20: Back to Director's office for a meeting a students we are concerned about in 5th/6th grade.  There are a bunch.
3:25: Run back up stairs to put down my laptop and grab my coat.  Pick kids up from music and bring them outside for dismissal.
3:30:  Chat with a few former students who pick up siblings.  I LOVE when I get to see them!  One of my favorite girls that I've know since she was in 4th grade when she came here from El Salvador is becoming so grown up, she's in 10th grade now!
3:45: Bring my 2 stragglers inside so they can call parents. 
3:50: Back to classroom and sit for 2 minutes deciding whether I should stay to get caught up with grading and stuff for next week or shove it all in my bags and leave... Decide to start shoving.
4:00: Punch out and notice that my hours look weird. Go in and talk to the secretary and we investigate the software and the time clock.  There seems to be something buggy going on, my punch didn't show up and it looks like a few of my punches didn't take.  
4:20:  So we get that straightened out and I finally leave school.  I will never be able to walk out at 4:00,  I don't know how some people do it!
4:01: Call hubby and he asks me to pick up Subway for dinner.  I am so stingy and I hate spending money on fast food when I have food to cook at home, but this is my daughter's last weekend home and she wants it, so I go. We take her back to college on Sunday and I'm already starting to get teary thinking about it.
4:30:  Get the Subway and head home.
5:00: Home!  Walk the puppy. Eat dinner with family (teary eyed again thinking about the girl leaving) 
5:30: Start grading the 5th grade quizzes.  I usually don't touch work on Friday night, but I know that with the road trip to Rhode Island on Sunday and  wanting to spend time with family before girl leaves (tearing up again) I better start chipping away at it!
7:00: Walk pup again, this time a longer walk gotta get my fitbit steps up!  
7:30: More work, take a ride with girl to Sally's Beauty store for her to get hair dye.  I don't know how the child still has any hair. She bleaches it and dyes it a new color every week or so.  
9:00 Start writing this post and will then shut down for the night.  Watch a little TV or maybe my guilty pleasure-play a game or two of Twenty.
10:00: goal is to be in bed!  

Friday, January 8, 2016

Challenges and Resolutions

I love both of them.  I love a fresh start.  I love setting goals.  Sometimes I think to myself I've failed at the many challenges and resolutions I make each year, but then I remember that I never give up so I never really fail!
In 2015 I only posted 36 blog posts, each year from 2012-2014 I had posted 50 blog posts, so I felt a little bad about that.  So, this #MTBoS blogging initiative is a great match for my resolution to blog more!

This year I want my blog to focus on the math and teaching/learning.  My 100% focus is student growth/success.  In the past my blog was mostly "ooh I'm flipping my classroom", "oooh I'm trying math workshop!", "ooooh I'm a whole brain teacher"  The really cool thing is that I've married all three of these teaching techniques and it is really working for me!  When I say working for me, it means I "feel" like it is making me a more effective teacher, but now I want to really document if it actually is!

So here we go!  The first step was to dust off your blog and kind of say your are participating.  This is my blog post that does that!