Tuesday, August 16, 2016

First day of school times 2

The first day of school is so exhausting! And in high school, we follow an A-B schedule, so I get to do it twice! It's important to me that the students do math even from the first day, and I love teaching rituals and routines in the context of the lesson.

The best compliment came from one of my students in the last period of the day who told me, "I think I am going to like this class - it's the first time all day I've done something besides listen to my teacher talk about a syllabus!"

 We started off with this puzzle. I LOVE using these types of puzzles in my classroom - they are self checking and encourage problem solving and teamwork. I told students they were not allowed to write anything or use a calculator. They had to talk about their answers. I love all the different hearts- so much less intimidating than a variable for day 1. I enjoyed listening to students talk through these, make mistakes and problem solve to fix them. Plus, my students thought it was fun - win for everyone.

Since we had the team work mojo flowing, we went right into this Broken Circles Activity from Math=Love (She has free downloads for all group sizes, copies of the rules, and reflection questions).


My desks are grouped in threes, so I first had them complete it in groups of three, but I later discovered that the activity is way more fun in a bigger group. Each student has to make his/her own circle, but they have to do it in complete silence. I loved that the A pieces went right together to make a circle and that student was looking at the other two, thinking "What is wrong with you guys?" Try as Person B and C might, their pieces could not make a circle - I did have to clarify that I had not just cut the pieces poorly. When the students realized they had to work together, and A had to share his/her pieces, the circles fit together nicely. Sarah had some great reflection questions too and students did a great job identifying the ideas of teamwork and collaboration.

Finally, it was time for some colorful fun - this Back To School Pennant! There are directions for a glyph and students color it based on their favorite class, favorite season, number of siblings, and birth month. One student asked me, "What months are considered 'Fall'?" To be fair, the weather here in Florida doesn't change too much, but when I told him fall would be September, October, and November, he said, "Oh, football season! Well then that's definitely my favorite!" These pennants looks awesome. Not only was this activity fun for getting to know the students, it reinforced the idea of taking pride in your work. I told them to treat every assignment like it will be hung in a museum - take your time and do it right.



Sunday, August 14, 2016

My classroom!


When I was little I would love to play school in my basement. I would decorate the wall, write on the board, and play with my school supplies - and that is exactly what pre-planning always feels like - playing school. [Of course when I played school in my basement, I never had to sit through a two-and-a-half-hour faculty meeting ;)] After a week of pre-planning I finally feel a little organized and definitely excited to start a new school year. This will be my 9th year teaching, but I am still a little nervous, anxious, and excited about meeting the students Monday. I wonder if that ever goes away!

First the "before" pictures - classroom disaster! That is the contents falling out of my storage cabinet from when they moved it to wash the floors under it. And the entire contents of all the bookshelves in the room was piled on my desk. I definitely had some work to do.


I am grouping my desks in threes this year. Last year I started with pairs and moved to groups of 4, but someone always complained about having to sit with their back to the board, so I think groups of 3 will fix this problem. I would have two groups join to make a foursome for group work last year, but this year, we will eliminate that by always being in a group of 3. I think this will provide for great interaction. 


I love the number line across the top of my board - students reference it all the time!
 I also love writing the date as a math problem, and reciting that math problem when someone asks me the date. Students usually get excited to help me change this every day.

 I have these dry erase board (actually showerboard from the hardware store) in two spots in my room to have students work out problems. Sometime students are more willing to take risks when they don't have to be "in front" of the class. These are on the side walls. Also featured - my laptop cart. I am super excited to try these digital activities this year!

I mostly like to start the year with bare walls and let my students decorate it with their work. Research from books and my years in the classroom tell me they are much more likely to look at it if they created it. I do like to have a few anchor charts around the room though, and I find that if I make a point of referring to them in instruction and answering questions, then my students start to as well. I LOVE this Algebra 1 Word Wall from Scaffolded Math and Science. It has prime real estate right between my windows this hopes that students learn everything on here about linear functions.

The 8 standards for mathematical practice. It's a freebie I picked up here. I love that they are written in student friendly "I Can" statements, and I can easily reference them as well, like "Make sure you attend to precision."



So wise Yoda is. Thanks Target Dollar Spot!


I LOVE this "Math-y" Welcome sign that Sarah from Math=Love shared.

 My pencil cup with some worn down pencils. This is where I keep the freebies and then when it gets low I offer free upgrades to refill it. You can read more about that here!
 My student station for INB supplies. I also keep extra copies of any handouts on that back table for anyone tardy - they know to check there if they come in late.
 These boxes are so organized - hopefully they stay that way once the students get their hands on them!

 I LOVE this hack I found on Pinterest to keep my cords organized. The binder clip hooks on the side of my desk and my projector cord is attached so I can easily connect it to my doc cam or laptop.
Ready or not - the kiddos come in tomorrow! If nothing else, at least my room looks nice ;)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Contrasting Cases

A few years ago after an informal observation, an administrator suggested I call on more students who answered problems wrong and invite them to share their work with the class.  This seemed counter-intuitive to me, but I decided to try it anyway.  I had a student explain their incorrect answer before he knew it was wrong and another student chimed in right away explaining to his peer his misconception.  The light bulb went off – the student correcting the mistake really must understand it if he can find an error, and other students who answered it wrong are receiving instant feedback and correction.  It was a simple suggestion that is now embedded in my instruction on a daily basis. 

So I was delighted when I found this free resource packed with problems where students have to decide who is right. I love using these for Warm Ups and Exit Tickets. I project this on the board and have students respond on a small piece of scratch paper. 

Each problem has Alex and Morgan explaining their work. Sometimes they get the same answer, and sometimes they don't. When one of the two gets it wrong, it's always a mistake I have seen my students make, so it's a great way to address common misconceptions. When they get the same answer, it's a great way to reinforce that there are multiple approaches to a problem and have students justify why either way works.

I used this particular problem as a Warm Up after we had reviewing multiplying polynomials, and here is what a few of my students had to say:

Sometimes I take a few of my favorite answers and put them on the document camera, so that students can see what a strong answer looks like. I want them to not only be able to recognize who solved the problem correctly, but also use math vocabulary to explain their work and be able to correctly work out the problem to further justify their response.

I took the sharing one step further by picking out some of my favorite responses and having one of my early-finishers create this poster. It hung by my door, so that students could check it out when they had a few extra minutes or when they needed to disguise the fact that they were lined up at the door before the bell ;)



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

How I Used Midpoint Formula to Install a Ceiling Fan



Summers in Florida can be brutally hot, and my darling children, 4 and 1, love nothing more than to dump out every toy they own play in our living room. Without a ceiling fan, that room quickly became a sauna, so this summer we decided to install a ceiling fan. Well we paid electricians to install a ceiling fan - I know my limits. Although I wanted no part of running wire through the attic - I could put my math skills to use for positioning the ceiling fan. Here is our Living Room:

To get the maximum air flow and for purposes of symmetry, we wanted to ceiling fan centered in the room.

Suddenly, my living room became a coordinate plane and I calculated to the nearest eighth of an inch where the fan should go.

When the electricians came the next day, they wanted to check my math (even though I told them I was a math teacher). He whipped out his tape measure and also measured the width of our living room to be 193 1/4 inch. Then he simply folded his tape measure in half and found the middle to be 96 5/8 inches and did the same thing with the length of our living room.

I quickly made a mental note to model this for my students - what a great visual for midpoint and a great way to conceptualize what we are doing : finding the halfway point between the x-coordinates (in this case the width) and the y-coordinates (in this case the length) and then finding where they intersect. Whether you use the formula or not, you are using the same steps. 

When I introduce midpoint this year, I am definitely going to tell students this story about hanging the fan. I think I will tell them that we want to hang a fan centered in the living room and ask them what information they would need to accomplish this.

Then I will give them the dimensions and see what they come up with. I feel like midpoint is intuitive enough that they could accomplish it. Because not all midpoint problems start at the origin, I want to extend their thinking with this scenario: My living room and dining room are actually connected into one long room. How would this change the coordinates of the midpoint (helping them to see we are still finding the middle of the length and the width of the living room, but translating it up 132 inches to account for the dining room).

Off to enjoy the cool breeze in my living room for the next week or so until school starts!
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