Friday, October 30, 2015

Thoughts from the Week

A few things that got me thinking this week:

1.  I used Kahoot in all of my classes this week to review topics. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not a big fan. The kids love it (they were all like, "Are we doing Kahoot? Yay!") but I don't know that we accomplished anything by using it that Socrative wouldn't have done either.  My biggest ick is the emphasis on speed in answering questions.  Just because someone can't answer faster than anyone else doesn't mean they should get fewer points.  And then there are the kids that select an answer immediately just to get the points.

So maybe I'm not "doing it right" but I'm not sold.  I do like, however, the huge repository of Kahoots that are available.  That was nice.

Oh, and another thing I didn't like - the answers are so small at the bottom of the screen (and I was projecting my laptop screen) that they're hard to see. I was actually writing each answer on the board as soon as they came up so the kids in the back could see them.  That's annoying.

2. We've been solving quadratic equations in Math 2 this week. I'd originally planned on moving into the Quadratic Formula today, but I got to thinking yesterday.  It's Friday, the day before Halloween, and I have a 10th period (last period of the day) class. Not real conducive for learning new material. I decided to set up stations to get the kids practicing solving using different methods. I had a station for solving by factoring, solving by square roots, and solving by completing the square, and factoring practice. In the last station the kids were given a bunch of different quadratic equations and told to determine how they would solve each equation and justify their response (but they didn't have to solve).   I was very pleasantly surprised on how it went, especially with a squirrely 10th period group.

Oh, and for each station there was a QR code on the instructions so the kids could check their answers. Their work documents also had QR codes linked to videos if the kids needed some reminding on how to do the skill.  Some of them thought that was pretty cool (and actually scanned the QR codes to check their work!).

I'll definitely keep this activity in the rotation.

3. It's going to be a weird week next week. On Monday a math teacher from another school is coming to hang out for a couple of periods; it's a PD day for them and from what I understand they were given the freedom to check out other classrooms.  Tuesday we have a PD day (because of elections) and I'm heading to a school to observe the Harkness Method in use. On Wednesday I have a pre-observation meeting with my principal in advance of Friday's observation. (Which I'm somewhat nervous about but not as nervous as I would have been a few years ago. But I'd still like to find something fun to do... maybe a Mathalicious activity?  I've seen one that would fit in nicely.)

And for this weekend - at least 3 soccer games (maybe 4), trick or treating, and lots of planning for my Math 1 class. We just finished up the "review" that I wanted to start the year with (though you know they'd have claimed they never saw it before) and it's apparently time to figure out what I need to do with them for the next 3 quarters.  No biggie.

Monday, October 26, 2015


I'm disappointed in myself.

After starting out the year problem solving, asking questions, having the kids write, and trying to mix up different types of activities in class, lately I've resorted to the boring.

Warm up.
Homework answers.
New stuff.


That's so not how I want my classroom to be. I want to make the kids think. I want to keep them on their toes. I want to have an active learning atmosphere.

I get it in bits and pieces. In Math 1 we've been torturing ourselves with reviewing (supposed to be reviewing, though you'd think most of the kids are learning it for the first time) exponent rules. Definitely not the most exciting thing. But on Friday I created and gave them a Tarsia (jigsaw-type) puzzle, and the engagement was amazing. Every single kid was working and trying to fit the pieces together.  I need that to happen so much more often!

Today started a new quarter and a new dedication to re-making my class.

I've been checking out Mathalicious activites, trying to figure out how to incorporate more Desmos, more applications, more options for the kids to actually think about math.

I need to hold myself more accountable for doing what I want to do; for doing what I know needs to be done.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sub plans and second quarter changes

I've spent several days out of the classroom in the past few weeks (a couple of days because of an out-of-town funeral and today for a PD session on Blended Learning) so I've gotten back in the groove of creating sub plans.

What a pain.

It's easier now than it was for those first two days - I have all of my seating charts done and a template created for the actual plans. But then creating and leaving activities for the kids takes a lot of time. Isn't it just easier to be in school?!

I'm particularly happy with what I left for my Math 3 kids today. I started with a 6-question factoring "check" that I'd posted on Schoology (our LMS). What I like best is that I was able to check their results while at my PD and see how they did. I left a few comments for kids who seemed to struggle a bit, but it was nice to see that they remembered how to factor after a 4-day weekend!

We've made our way through factoring by GCF, Grouping, and Trinomials, and I was planning on having them just review those today until I thought about how easy it would be to make a screencast for them to watch about factoring Differences of Squares. I posted it on Schoology and as of 1:44 PM, it has been watched 56 times. Not too bad for my 75ish kids!

I was then able to leave an assignment that incorporated factoring differences of squares in addition to the other types of polynomials. I have preached incorporating flipping and using videos in the classroom and now I just need to force myself to do it too.

On the other hand...
My Math 1 class has definitely started showing their colors. They started out great and I still have some superstars, but several of the kids (who are entirely capable) have taken to slacking off.  I need to work harder in that class; I've gotten into the "give the notes" rut and need to incorporate more activities and applications and engaging activities.

I'm also going to go back to my standards-based grading hybrid that I used in my General Algebra 1 class several years ago. I miss seeing the breakdown of what skills they actually have versus a "Solving Linear Equations: 20/25". I'm also going to offer retakes on quizzes after they've completed a review assignment (which I'll probably do on MathXL so that they can get an instant score and not be able to requiz until a certain minimum).

Just because I'm never 100% satisfied with the status quo, I was able to go to the OCTM Conference last Friday and saw Johnothon Sauerland present his version of Precalculus via the Harkness Method. This went back to my interest in the Exeter math program, which teaches kids through this discovery method. I'm hoping to get to go observe Johnothon on our next PD day in November. I can already see the amount of work ahead of me if I decide to try this in my Precalc class next year.

I need to start resting up now.