Thursday, January 28, 2016

Oh, fractions.

My poor 1st period class has to put up with me figuring out how I want to present things. And then after I've used them as guinea pigs, my 2nd and 10th period classes reap the benefits.

Today was one of those days, big time.

We've been multiplying and dividing rational expressions for several days. Longer than I'd planned, actually, but with me being observed and then being out for one class on one day, they dragged on and on.  Today was the intro to adding and subtracting.

I thought it would be ok. I know that the idea of finding common denominators to kids who aren't super familiar with their multiplication tables (really!) is tough. But I thought we could reason through it.

Unfortunately, that wasn't quite the case for my first class.  Maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought. Maybe I'm letting the girl who was super frustrated (and then got upset) influence my memory.  But I took the 10 minutes between classes (because homeroom) to write up a new set of notes for my next class and things were fine. One of the kids even said he thought that adding was so much easier than multiplying.  (Though we haven't gotten to the real meat of the problems yet.)

I broke it down for my 2nd period class. I laid out two problems side by side. Same numbers in both but included variables the second time around.
We found one answer then went to the second.  Is there a difference in method?  Nope. Just have some extra n's hanging out.

Did a couple more like that, then I threw in some variables in the denominator.  Big deal?  Nope. Just need to include an x in the common denominator.

So now what if the variables on the denominator have some exponents?  We discussed how we can build up denominators by multiplying (so make them bigger), and that includes the exponents.

Next problem:

Again, NBD.

We're working up to the idea of including binomial factors. But it's definitely doable.

Let's contrast that with the problems I did in my 1st class. I think I'd be crying too.

I'm supposed to be out tomorrow for a PD; I'm actually considering going late so that I can stay and work with my 1st period class again.  I think I owe them that much.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Last-minute review changes

I pulled back the reins in my Math 1 class this week; for some of the kids the idea of having no set assignment for the day was getting to be a bit too much.  It didn't help that it's been a crazy few days - we had Monday off for MLK Day and a snow day yesterday.  I thought we needed a little bit of a routine to happen.

On Tuesday I told them (and wrote on the board) the plan for the week:
Tues/Weds:  work on projects
Thurs: Vocabulary Quiz
Fri: Unit Test

Which after our snow day would need to be amended to:
Tues/Thurs: work on projects
Fri: Vocabulary Quiz
Mon: Unit Test  (ugh... a test on a Monday?)

And because we need some routine is now:
Tues: work on project
Thurs: Vocabulary Review, specific project assigned (finish for HW... it's short)
Fri:  Vocabulary Quiz, second project given
Mon:  Unit Review
Tues: Unit Test

I think having a specific activity for the day, while contradicting the freedom that I was trying to give for this unit, was much more helpful in getting them all back on track.

I wanted to give the kids an opportunity to work through a vocabulary review together, so about half an hour before class started I was trying to find something I liked.  My options:
1.  Kahoot. I checked out the public Kahoots to see if anyone had posted one similar to what I wanted (they didn't).
2. Socrative. I checked out the Socrative Garden of activities to see if one worked (none did).
3. Quizzizz. I went through the Quizzizz that I'd included previously in the Blended Unit but didn't like how it went through the questions individually instead of as a whole class.   (Maybe there's a setting for that option but I didn't see it.)

I ended up throwing together some quick questions on Plickers; we've used it before so the kids already have their own plicker assigned to their name (I keep them so I don't have to constantly reprint).  It worked out well!  And I can go back later to see how the kids did as a whole on a question or specifically how a student did on a question.  It would be nice to see an overall student report, but nothing's perfect.

Here's today's project - a Padlet for them to post pictures of real-life geometry terms.  I embedded a chart as the wallpaper to divide the screen up into parts, but you can see it gets a little wonky.  I'll need to find a better way to do that next time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The first deadline is looming!

When I introduced this blending unit last Monday, I told (and showed) the kids what all was due when.  I had given them a packet of "notes" and associated MathXL assignments, plus some assorted online and paper assignments.

Today, 8 days later, some kids are still working on the notes packet  (the ones I made screencasts for) and haven't gotten to any other assignments. Think they'll hit tomorrow's deadline?

I'm wondering if I should have made some intermediate deadlines in there... last Friday for the packet and MathXL (which would basically be one section/day) and then activities this week?  I was trying to give them the opportunity to pace themselves, but apparently some students weren't able to do that.

I thought this was interesting... these 4 kids were all working on 3 different activities. One was on MathXL, two were constructing polyhedra, and one was working on the packet (he has been out for a concussion and missed several days). This was what the whole class was like today!  

Today's keeper of a quote: "This is actually kind of fun!" (in regards to some of the activities that I let them choose from)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Blending wins.

"I've been working on the project at home. Is that ok?"

"I had a couple of questions about one of the assignments. Can you help?"

(FYI, my answer was yes to both. Emphatically.)

A trick on the TI Calculator

I know, I am a blogging machine. I'm sure it will slow down verrrrry soon.

Just wanted to make an observation in case in can help anyone else.  Or maybe I'm the only crazy fool who didn't know this?

In Math 3 (think Algebra 2ish) today we started finding zeros of polynomials that wouldn't factor. You know, the big messy ones. For now we're keeping it real but will move on to those that have imaginary solutions soon.

So I was showing the kids how to graph the equations and use the calculator to find zeros.

I totally showed them Desmos first because it's so nice and easy... all you have to do is click the x-intercept and it tells you the value!  Magic.  But I'm not going to let them use their computers on a test, so I wanted to make sure they know how to use the calculator, too.

Anyway, we graphed the function, found the zero option in the calc menu (these kids are so unfamiliar with the graphing calculator that it's scary) and then went about the business of finding the zeros.

I always struggle showing the kids how to move the little "spider" so it's on the left side of the zero here and on the right side of the zero here.  But did you know that you can type in values for your left and right bounds?!  Not only does it avoid the using your arrows to move around the screen, but it encourages the kids to actually look at the values in the graph to know their zero is between two certain numbers.

Considering that from here we went to synthetic division to divide out the "nice" zeros and then quadratic formula to solve the resulting quadratic, I didn't want the kids freaking out about having to use the calculator to find zeros.  This definitely helped.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Tuesday Tech

I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions, but I'm going to try harder to use available technology to make my life easier this semester. And hopefully my students' lives more varied.

So here's what I've done the past 2 days.
1. My blended unit in Math 1. (See previous posts).

2. As I was sitting down on Sunday afternoon to come up with some review problems for my Math 3 classes, I read an email from a colleague that said 3 of our copiers were down. Perfect.  My plans for a review worksheet were dashed! The kids would be so disappointed!  (not.) Instead, I ended up creating a Quiz on Schoology for them to work through. I used ExamView to pull in multiple choice questions, added in a couple of fill-in-the-blanks, and Monday's assignment was done.

Not only did I save 78 pieces of paper but I created a something that gave kids immediate feedback in two ways. If they solved an equation and didn't see the correct answers as possibilities, they knew they were wrong. The activity also was a self-grading one, so as soon as the kids hit submit they received their results.

Today in class I was able to look through the results and see what the lowest-scoring questions were. Those were the ones we reviewed together.

(If you don't have Schoology, you could always do this in a Google Form and use Flubaroo to grade it.)

And I haven't done this before why?

3. I went to Which One Doesn't Belong for my Precalc warm-up today. It was fun to hear the kids discuss why "A" didn't belong to the group of 4 instead of "B".

4. I assigned my Math 3 kids a Polynomial Project where they use Desmos to create a function that matches an image they uploaded.  Because Desmos isn't just amazing for its Activity Builder.

I'll make it my goal to report at least every Tuesday with what I've done. If no one else bothers to read it that's fine... I've gotten so many good ideas by re-reading blog posts and remembering things. It stinks to get old and lose your memory. :)

Day 2 of the blend

We're halfway through day 2, and I've already learned a few things:
1. Kids need shown where things are multiple times.  I am thinking that yesterday was overwhelming for some of them, so I started today showing (again) where I've posted all of the links, info, materials, etc.  I saw light bulbs go on.

2. I have to let go of control. I pride myself on being very flexible and go-with-the-flow, but I also want kids working on what I ask them to be working on. At this point it's up to them on what they're doing... and I have to be ok with that.  It's going to take me time to adjust.

Although I still might be separating some boys.

3. ClassDojo will be very valuable for me, I think. I am using it to keep track of how well the kids are staying on track, and it's an easy click to input something for each kid (and take attendance). I haven't looked at any sort of results yet; hopefully it'll give me a nice spreadsheet of info.

4. I've made myself be OK with the idea that the screencasts I post aren't going to be perfect (just like I'm not perfect in class!). I've made 4 out of the 5 and I'm fine with me stumbling over words or having to erase because I wrote the wrong thing. If I decide to use this unit again next year (and by golly, I hope I do because of all of the time and planning I've put into it!) that may be something I can work on.  If you have a few free minutes and want to check them out, here's a link to the playlist.  I keep them on mute when I do playback. :)

5. My colleagues think I'm nuts when they see in my classroom talking to myself... a friend stopped in yesterday after school when I was in mid-screencast and wrote "I'm worried about you." on my board. :)  Another asked me today what I was working on; she said that a friend down the hall put together a unit on transformations in the same vein. I've already emailed begging for it.  Because we're all in this together, right? (Cue the High School Musical music.)

6. Putting together this unit was a lot of work. I'm hoping it's worth it. Because right now, every single kid (minus 1) is watching, working, and hopefully learning.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Geometry, blended style.

I'm a member of a Blended Learning Fellowship at school; I was part of it the past two years with my role as a Digital Learning Specialist and stayed with it this year as I headed back to the classroom. The funny thing is that I'm the least-blended fellow.  It takes a lot of work!  Whether you create your own materials or pull from what is out there, it's definitely not a "turn the page and do the next 30 problems" type situation.

When trying to plan for my next unit (the dreaded Geometry) in my Math 1 class, I knew I needed to try something new. These kids actually learned this material last year (in the first half of Math 1) and honestly, should have learned it the previous several years, too. But we all know that that doesn't necessarily mean they remember it!  What that did mean for me is that I didn't want to reteach it all, and I wanted to give them some flexibility. Some of my kids will remember pieces of the unit, so I don't want to make them start fresh.

I began to think that blending the unit - pulling together all types of resources, both live, online, and on paper - was a way to approach it.

Unfortunately, it wasn't that easy. I sat for hours and hours (literally) over Christmas break putting notes together, finding a variety of activities for the kids to do, creating a Checklist for them to work from, and starting to put screencasts together.

Here's the things I had to think about:

1. Their Checklist.  You'll notice that some activities are mandatory, some they have a choice.
For their "Target Skills", I'm giving them a packet of notes and am creating screencasts for each topic. That way if they look through the packet and need some guidance it's built in for them.

2. The timeline. I *think* it will take 2 weeks for a student to work through the notes, associated MathXL assignments, and their choice of Activities.  And then another week to complete two "projects", a vocabulary quiz, and a unit test.  I'm going to be flexible if I see that kids are working and just honestly need more time.

3. The in-class reporting. I set up Class Dojo to keep track of how the students are working while they're with me (I can do +1 for good, -1 for bad, etc.). I am also going to have the students fill out a google form each day stating what they worked on, what they plan to do the next day, and what they need copies of.

So today is Day 1. Here goes nothing!

The first day was pretty smooth. I spent a lot of time looking up kids' usernames for MathXL and getting some of the slackers logged in.

The kids seemed a little confused about the freedom I was giving them. Their days are so regimented that they just don't know where to start.
Student:  So what should I do first?
Me: You pick!  But you might want to think about...

And some kids jumped right in to what I thought would be the third-ish assignment, then were confused because they didn't know the material.   I gently encouraged them to rewind a bit.

I saw at least 3 kids watching a screencast, so score some points for me there!  But now I need to make a couple more :)