Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Making Connections

The other night my husband made a very insightful comment.

I was talking with my 13-year old son about his recent experience at camp. He mentioned a fellow camper who was a student at my school but I don't know (I live in a different district than I teach). He said, "Mom, don't you remember I asked you about if you know [insert student's name here] last year?"

Me: "No."

My son couldn't believe that I didn't remember him mentioning her last year.

And then my husband piped in:  "Your mom doesn't remember things unless she can make a connection with it. If it doesn't apply to her, she doesn't remember it."

I don't usually agree with my husband, but this time he was exactly right.  I don't remember things unless I can make a personal connection with it. I have trouble remembering my closest friend's siblings' names but I know what high school my daughter's friend's mom went to because we played them one time in a big game and we've chatted about it.

And yet here I am, expecting kids to remember every little tiny rule that I talk to them about. Why can't they remember how to find the vertex of a parabola in standard form? Or the process of completing the square?

Because I haven't helped them make connections. I realize that not every math concept is going to have a real-world connection, but to show students the connections between topics would help them internalize and create a flow of information as they're working.

So that's my goal this year. If I can't make the math personal to each student, I at least want to help them connect topic to topic to hopefully make them stick.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The beginning of the end...

Ah, August. Where summer comes to die and back-to-school nightmares are born.

In the past I've dreamt I was a French teacher (and don't know French), a gym teacher (where I'm supposed to be teaching volleyball), and a multitude of times I'm a math teacher without plans, or a class, or missed classes entirely.

Usually by mid-August I'm so ready to get rid of these dreams that I just want school to start. And that's saying a lot since we don't have air conditioning at my school and it's usually in the 90s when we go back. Fun.

This year's a little different, only because my district is going through a lot of construction and teachers don't report until August 28th. Which either gives me an extra 2 weeks of nightmares or an extra 2 weeks to plan. Depends on my attitude at the moment. :)

I'm looking at it now as the opportunity to get my act together before I have to go back.

My latest focus is the first day of school. Last year's was great and I'd totally do that again but I have two classes in which I may have a bunch of repeaters. I feel like I might need to change it up a bit.

One thing that I'm definitely not changing is using Sara Vanderwerf's Name Tents. The idea is that the students come into class on the first day and create a name tent. Last year I had them put their name on one side and their favorite number on the other. Then they had to talk to the people at their table and explain why it was their favorite. (I hate it when people have a random favorite number.) This gave me the chance to wander around and talk to kids about their number. It was fun.  The inside of the tent had a 5-section table in which every day the kids wrote a question/comment and I responded. Every day. Yes, it took some time on my part, but it was fun to read and respond. One of my students' dads teaches at my school, and he told me that he'd heard about what I was doing. So you know if the kids are talking about it it means something to them!

I think I'm going to change it up just a bit this year. Instead of leaving it open-ended for the kids to make remarks, I'm going to give them prompts. I got these from George Courous' blog post called "Five Questions to Ask Your Students to Start the School Year". Except that because our week starts on Tuesday I'm only using 4 of them. :) Not only do I think this will give me some information about each student, but it will avoid the kids writing "I'm hungry" or "I'm hot". (I know, kid. Me too.)

Here's my version of the name plate:  pdf     word