Monday, June 26, 2017

Student/Parent Survey

I just spent an hour or so revamping my beginning of the year student survey.

For the most part it's the same. I do it via a google form because I love having a spreadsheet of their answers! So I ask the basics - name, grade, class, parent name and email, previous math classes, etc. I also ask what some of their thoughts on math are:

This year I added a part 2.  Using FormMule (a google sheet add-on), I'm sending an automated email to their parent once the student submits the form.  Just a nice little welcome. The cool thing is that using FormMule, I can customize the email a bit. It will enter both the student's name and class where indicated.

Here's the email the parent will receive:

You'll see at the bottom of the email a link to a Parent Survey for them to fill out if they'd like to give me more information about their son/daughter.

I'm finding that as my own kids grow up (my son will be in 8th grade this year!) I appreciate all of the information I can get from their teachers. So hopefully starting the year with this will show my student's parents that I'm open to communication. And if I can get my act together, I'd like to send out emails throughout the year with information about what we're doing in class. Maybe at the start of each unit?

We'll see!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Desmos part 2

I woke up to a parent email the other day.

Not only is it summer right now (so I don't have any students), but this was the parent of a student I'd had in class two years ago.  This parent happened to be reading Education Week and ran across an article that I was interviewed for a few weeks before school was out.

(Did you think that non-teacher parents read that? I didn't.)

I was flattered that they thought to send the link to me, especially since the author had promised to but hadn't yet (she did later that afternoon).

And not only was I mentioned often in the article, but my picture was on the top!  Crazy.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

If this is what summer is going to be like... (Desmos part 1)

The first two weeks of summer have been quite a whirlwind!

On January 12 I received an email from an old college friend and classmate, Bob Batty. Bob is currently the Pk-12 Math Specialist for Darke County (Ohio). He'd been talking with another college friend, Scott Mitter, a teacher and department head at Kettering Fairmont High School about running a one-day conference for math teachers about using Desmos in class. They were wondering if I would want to jump in and help. And thus the Southwest Ohio Desmos Institute was born.

We put out a request for speakers and got an amazing response. After setting up a tentative schedule of sessions varying from a Graphing Intro to Creating Your Own Activities to Applications in Your Classroom on a google site, we opened up registration. We thought it would be good to cap attendance at 200 because of the facility (Scott offered to host); I don't know about the other two, but I never thought we'd hit that number.

And yet hit it we did. We even had to set up a waiting list!

There was an awesome variety of attendees...

(The big blue piece is the "I can spell Desmos" group. Apparently Dan isn't tweeting anyone for ideas.)

I'm not going to say that we didn't have some problems on the day of. Of course there were some tech issues (aren't there always?!), the building was in summer-cleaning mode and so the bathrooms were a little hard to find, but for the most part things went great.

We had a 10-minute intro to start the day, then two 75-minute sessions. Scott had arranged for some food trucks to arrive for lunch (that was cool!) and then we were happy to have a Google Hangout with Dan Meyer as our "keynote".  People were pretty excited to see him!  It's not every day you get to see a math "celebrity". :)  We finished up with two more 75-minute sessions.

Of course there are things that we would do differently (if this happens again). But for 3 math teachers to organize this I think we pulled it off pretty well!

And the feedback seems to agree.
(I have to say, I looked to see what the person who ranked the day as a "2" said. The complaint was that the day only addressed using Desmos for math, not for other subjects. I don't feel too badly about that because we only billed it as a way of learning how to use Desmos in a math classroom. The person didn't leave any feedback about individual sessions.)

Scott, me, and Bob post-conference

(Scott even had shirts made!)

So we'll see what happens next summer... or maybe during the school year?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A list of things to come back to.

Summer is so close. And yet so far. 8 whole days!

I just need to get through the next 4 and then exams will start.  And then it will be the end!

I don't have the time (or energy) to go into all of this now and I'm afraid I'll forget when I do have the time and energy, so here's my list of topics I want to come back to soon.

1. Explore Math. Loved it. Need to edit for next year?
2. My intent to use desmos more.
3. And, oh, speaking of desmos, I'm a fellow!  Woot!
4. Changing up homework plans. Again.
5. Teaching a new class next year. Time to start from scratch!
6. Southwest Ohio Desmos Institute coming up!
7. Education Week interview. And photographer.

That's all.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Missing assignments questions

I was finishing up 3rd quarter grades this morning (woo hoo for 4th quarter!) and was noticing the large number of missing assignments from my three Math 3 classes.  And yet nearly not as many in my Honors Precalc classes.

Here are the numbers:

In CP Math 3:   total of 220 missing assignments for 78 students = 2.82 per student

In Honors Precalc:   total of 37 missing assignments for 48 students = 0.77 per student

I know there are a lot of factors that go into this.

For me really boils down to a student determining if it's worth their time to complete practice problems.  I don't give a lot of problems; my Math 3 assignments are typically around 5 problems (maximum 10, I'd say) and Precalc is more than that.  This shows the amount of effort someone is willing to put in to be successful.

Another big factor in success is attendance. And again, there's quite a big difference in those numbers.
In CP Math 3, the average number of days missed during the 3rd quarter is 2.58
In Honors Precalc, the average number of days missed during the 3rd quarter is 1.63

This doesn't take discern between regular absences and field trips; the precalc kids are the ones more likely to miss because of a school activity.  So their number would probably be quite a bit lower.

I tweeted out these numbers and Robin Mathews (@romathio) responded.

I hadn't even thought about tracking, which I think separates the students based on ability.

So herein lies my new quandry.
Is tracking helpful because students have shown that they're going to perform thusly?  Or do they perform this way because they're tracked?

Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

(And just 8 more days til spring break. But who's counting?)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Try, try again.

Do you ever read blogs and twitter and be in awe with the awesome teachers whose class you want to be in?

Me too.

And can't they also be intimidating?  Like nothing ever goes wrong for them?

At least those are my thoughts. And my insecurities raising their ugly heads.  So today I'm going to be an illustration of how things can go terribly wrong.

I decided to try something I'd never done in class to review operations with rational expressions. I've read a lot of people describing how they've used Speed Dating (K8's description was the first I'd seen) in class so I decided to give it a shot.

Class #1:  Ouch.
So many problems.
1.  Rational expressions (aka fractions) aren't easy for a lot of kids. And the problems that I used were too hard to do in a short-ish amount of time.
2.  In creating the problems and answer cards yesterday I did a super bad job. Lots of mistakes in the answers. Ugh.  (But there was celebrating when they got something right that I messed up.)
3. I didn't think through the physical arrangement of the room. I was asking kids to move their desks, but then we didn't have enough room and had to move more, etc. And to add to that, we have concrete floors so every time a chair (or desk) moves, it makes a horrible screeching sound.  I was really feeling bad for my downstairs neighbor because I know they can hear everything.
4. We didn't have a whole lot of time, especially considering the previous 3 statements.

I was seriously tempted to scrap it.  But I didn't.  Instead, I took my free period (which thankfully was right after that horrible episode) and tried to fix things. I simplified the problems, I corrected the answers.  I thought about how to arrange the room.

Class #2:  Much better
And so thankfully this time many of the issues had been worked out. The kids weren't a big fan of actually getting up to move (they would have rather just traded problems) and didn't use the "expert" as much as I would have liked, but things were much smoother.  Doing the activity felt justified to me.

Class #3:  Perfection (if there is such a thing)
I was happy to end my day with this group.  I decided that, instead of moving desks, we'd just flip the chairs around so I didn't have to hear the desks screeching (and put back the room afterwards).  The kids did a great job of working through the problems, checking answers, and asking questions if they needed to.  They still didn't want to move and groaned about it, but it worked out ok.

Will I do this in the future?  Maybe.  I think it would be better for simpler problems in which we could rotate every minute (or set time amount).

Did the kids get better practice than they normally would have?  I don't know about that. We got at most 4 problems done, but they had a chance to check answers and ask questions on a specific skill.  Some of those kids would have just skipped a problem on a worksheet that they didn't know how to do; today they didn't have that option.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Exams are coming!

A few years ago the district I teach in moved semester exams from January to December. Not that the end of the semester actually changed, but the thought was that it would be good to have them before a two-week(ish) winter break.

I guess.

For my year-long classes, the change of weeks doesn't affect me much. But my colleagues who teach a semester-long class give their exam in December, have the break, then come back for 2 weeks before the class ends. Seems pretty awkward to me!

So this coming week is the last week of real classes we'll have before our (short!) winter break. Exams are Dec 19 - 22.

Anyway, every year I struggle with how to deal with the exam review days.  I'm more of the mindset that I want the students to practice what they personally need to. I don't lead a whole-class review (unless they request it) and I like to give them time to work/ask questions. I give a packet of review problems and post the answers (or have them available).

And every year I wonder how to "grade" these problems.
1. I don't want to grade for correctness.  It's practice for the exam.  And besides, I'm posting the answers.  And another besides, I don't want to take the time to do that.
2. I don't want to grade for completion.
      a.  If a student feels like they need to spend more time on a certain section than another, then I want them to go for it.
      b. Copying is running rampant through my school right now. So the probability is great that students who aren't working on the problems during class are just going to leave my room and copy it from a friend who has actually done it.  I refuse to reward the copy-ers.
3. If I choose not to grade anything at all, I feel like I'm babysitting in class for several days in a row. I can only imagine the number of Snapchats that will be sent around the school.

So I'm toying with the idea of just giving points to students who are actually working on the packet in my classroom.  Basically, those kids not wasting the 3 days in class I'm giving them to review.

I don't want to give these points on their quarter grade (because what does it show they learned?) and am thinking about adding it as a portion of their exam grade.  Because, really, it is showing if they worked on reviewing for the exam.

So my thought is checking to see if they are working for 3 days and add 3 - 5 points/day as part of their exam grade. If the students decide not to work then they know they are affecting their exam grade. And with these extra points built into the exam grade I wouldn't feel like I'd have to curve the grades.