September 13

Jumping aboard the Co-Teaching Train

 

This is my first year that I’ve had the privilege to co-teach a class.  After reflecting on the first 2 1/2 weeks, here are some thoughts:

Things going well:

1.  Formative Assessment – My co-teacher and I have freedom to regulaIMG_2283rly require students to do a problem on a 1/2 sheet and turn it in.  One of us can walk around to make sure students are on task and available for students with questions.  The other can collect the sheets and offer quick feedback.  We do this, typically at the beginning and end of class.

2.  Yin and Yang – My co-teacher has a great calming affect on our classroom.  This is especially good for students who panic when they don’t understand.  I can think of one student, in particular, who needs regular reassurance.  I, on the other hand, can best be described in three words, “too much caffeine.”

3.  Foldables – I think these have been helpful to all of my students for taking down key information and/or formulas.  In addition, students with IEPs may be allowed to use them on quizzes and tests.

4.  Planning – We have a common plan!  Though my co-teacher is often running around meeting with students during this period, he usually makes time to meet with me briefly to go over the next day’s lesson.  That’s been fabulous!

  Under Construction:

1.  Differentiation – It is still a difficult balance to not overwhelm some and bore others.  One day, as an exit slip, we gave a more challenging problem to about 5 students that I had printed out earlier.  It’s progress, but we’ve got a ways to go.

2.  Grouping – Though it is nice to be able to group students who are stronger with some who are weaker in order to explain misconceptions etc., some of the stronger students are leaving the weaker in the dust.  Should we group our weakest students together with either my co-teacher or I to coach them?  Not sure.

3.  Collaboration – There is not enough collaboration in this group yet.  I’m not sure if weaker students are intimidated by the stronger or just have lost interest.  I could also do more to encourage the communication.  I thought about doing some brain-based instruction.  Thoughts?

As I mentioned, this is my first year as a co-teacher and I’d love some feedback.  Those who have been doing it forever, fill me in! 🙂

 

 

 

 

August 6

Why I hate the first week of school (and other positive thoughts)

Typically, I would say that I am a POSITIVE person–cup half full.  You know the type…annoyingly so.  In fact, I’m absolutely sure that there are some teachers that are curmudgeons by nature at my school that find it difficult to even be in the same room  as me.  That being said, last year I finally admitted it:  I HATE the first week of school!  It’s not that I lack excitement about new possibilities or methods I might try.  I do!  That makes me excited about the school YEAR.  I’m talking about the first WEEK.  Here’s why:

They don’t know me.  My students, that is.  We haven’t established trust and rapport–we aren’t family yet.  I’m some stranger to them.  They may have heard about me.  I don’t know…they just seem cynical at first.  Like they’re saying, “Sure you care…prove it!”  That’s exactly what I go about doing day in and day out until the work of trust is firmly established.  But it’s hard work and it is just a given later in the year.  I remember, on the third day of school last year, one of my students said (read in teenage girl voice), “Are we going to do any lessons?  Like, will there be PowerPoints?”  I thought to myself, “Have I not been teaching for the last three days?”  It takes time for them to get to know me and how I operate–which is often different from their previous teachers, which only makes them even MORE skeptical of me.  Most importantly, I have to convince them that what I do is good.  I start to doubt myself and think, “By the end of the year, they’ll get me and, hopefully, math! RIGHT?”

A lost puppy.  Just as much as being positive is my nature, I’m a girl of routine.  I need to know where to be to be productive during prep and lunch periods.  I spend the first week, looking for those places–access to copier, not too many people so that I get caught up in nonsense chatter (which I am also VERY good at!).  I’m like a lost puppy and each night I go home saying, “I got nothing done at school today!”  Augh…Can’t wait!

Unrealistic expectations.  I think it’s a “mom thing,” but each new year I tell myself that I’ll be able to still make dinner nightly, workout, have quiet time, etc once school starts.  For the first week or so, I try to make sure that is the case.  By late September, I’ve long given up the dream.  My children return to their self-proclaimed status as “dinner orphans” and honestly, we’re all happier for it!  But that first week, I kill myself trying to add in an after school workout, making dinner and doing school work I neglected to do while wandering the building looking for a place to work.

No worries, though.  I know that the first week in each new year is like a newborn baby.  I will get to that happy place where they KNOW me…no more proving myself, I’ll stop spinning my wheels and, maybe this year, I’ll leave dinner up to my kids on that first week.  You’d think I’d learn after all these years!  Here’s to realistic expectations and a great SECOND week :).

December 30

Stop the Politicking–The Supreme Court of Education

While I’m no expert on politics, I feel their impact daily with the new federal and state mandates that trickle down into my classroom.  Each new president is the “education president” and has a plan that will turn around a fledgling American education system.  No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core, VAM for teacher evaluations, charter schools–all valiant efforts to be the equivalent “get rich quick scheme” of public education.  What anyone who works in a classroom knows, is that the problems are too deep, too complicated, too sweeping to be fixed so easily.  Each President and appointed Secretary of State has, at best, 8 years to return the US to its former educational glory. He/she must present his/her education agenda du jour before he/she enters office and must stand by it even if, after time in office, one has a change of heart, for fear of flip-flopping (see Peter Green article linked for more on that).

What I propose is a new decision making body for education in Washington.  What if we didn’t move the cheese for teachers and administrators across the country every 4-8 years?  It may sound crazy to you but it makes perfect sense to this teacher in suburban Illinois:  A “Supreme Court” of Education.  Like the Supreme Court, presidents could appoint men/women (hopefully educators–perhaps each National Teacher of the Year?) to a body that would right the ship of public education that would serve 10 years?  15 years?  life?  The implications of each important, but worth a discussion.  Let’s think outside the current constraints of the political box.

What has each successive regime brought us (both democratic and republican)?  Heavy standardized testing, school closings that (in Chicago) break the hearts of students and have families taking to the streets in protests, public funding going to private for profit schools that show not to be any more effective except for those who champion their for profit cause,  teacher shortages due to teacher disillusionment and distrust…Should we continue the course?  Top performing schools on PISA exams (International Exams) like those in Canada and Finland are doing the exact opposite!  Read more on that in the link attached.

From one of the greatest minds in the 20th Century:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”    –  Albert Einstein

October 5

Keeping from Disillusionment Amidst Constant Educational Reform

How it all began  When I was just a little girl, I began stealing extra dittos out of the garbage can at school.  These blue, fragrant copies became the basis for the curriculum for the home school I conducted in my basement.  The school had one pupil, my sister.  Who, I must say, was a willing participant and excellent student.  As such, I take full—no (insert conversation with said sister) partial–credit for her academic and personal success.

I’ve always known that I wanted to be a teacher.  As I progressed through each new grade it became the grade that I hoped to teach.  This continued through high school.  Although I knew that I wanted to be a teacher, my commitment to subject matter fluctuated from foreign language, to social studies, to mathematics, and back again.  To be honest, I can not remember how I settled on mathematics.  Perhaps it was the concrete nature of the subject or my success in mathematics.  I do, however, remember that one of the teachers I most admired during my high school years was also a mathematics teacher.

My first teaching experience began quickly after graduation nearly 20 years ago at  a medium sized high school in a rural community in the far far northwest suburbs of Chicago.  Excited and nervous to begin a career I’ve spent years training for, I entered the classroom of a teacher who had given up on the field altogether and was leaving for work in the private sector.  I wish I would have asked her why.  Though I had much theoretical training, I had very little experience, practically speaking.  My best education was about to begin.

What I lacked in experience, I made up in earnestness.  I asked teachers about their practices and ideas.  During those early years, I focused primarily on classroom management.  I knew if I could not engage my students in productive learning activities, our time together would be wasted.  During those years, I taught Algebra, Geometry and Sequential Algebra (the first part of a two year algebra program—as was the trend for lower-achieving students at that time).  Now, almost half of our students take Algebra in 8th grade.  I spent two years at my first position.

I began teaching part-time at a high school in a northwest suburb of Chicago after my daughter was born.  The community is affluent and teachers’ salaries in this district are among the highest in the state.  I taught Algebra and Geometry to lower-leveled students.  I found that I worked well with these students.  They responded well to my methods and I was pleased.

At that time I took a sabbatical from teaching to stay home to care for my two small children.  7 years later, I accepted my current teaching position at the fastest growing district in the state, where I taught remedial Geometry and Geometry.  It was interesting to step into a school that was hiring, on average, 2 new math teachers a year.

 I returned to the classroom to find that the world of education had changed.  The focus had shifted to standardized testing and the No Child Left Behind legislation.  In addition, terms like “best practices,” “PLCs” and “RtI” were thrown around.  I left with the odd feeling that, although I had stopped teaching, the world of academia had certainly not stopped spinning.  Education reform, as is the norm, was still at work, but had taken a new direction while I was gone.

I was adamant that I would return and find success in the classroom, after all it was a passion that was birthed early in my childhood.  I joined committees and did my best to catch up with both pedagogical and ed tech trends.  It wasn’t easy–but I did it.  I caught up, primarily with the help from a teacher who was younger and more current than I.  I’m so grateful for the help of good colleagues who were generous with their time and talents–creating an amazing atmosphere for collaboration and school pride.  Before long I was as current as the next educator.

I ALMOST caught my breath–but then, bad news regarding US performance on international PISA exams and a demand for new more rigorous standards resulted in the Common Core Standards.  Don’t get me wrong–I certainly want to be part of the solution and I believe the Common Core has so much to offer our students in depth of understanding.  But, yet again, the cheese has been moved.  It is easy to become disillusioned as a teacher–content and instruction will have to be overhauled.

One thing remains constant in education:  Change.  That’s it!  That’s what I’ve learned.  Teaching is the most political position outside of Washington and each new administration will have its own spin on how it will reform American education.  We have to run each reform through the filter of good pedagogy and a heart that wants what is best for our students.  Some things will pass the test & some will not.  However, I will never know unless I’m open to change.  It is SO easy to see what is already working and hold too tightly to it–missing out on the opportunity to go from good to great.

How do I keep from disillusionment?  I remember why I became a teacher.  I accept change as an educational lifestyle.  I love kids–I can’t lose focus of those things.  How do you do it?

 

    

September 28

My 10 Commandments of Teaching and Learning

This year I have a student teacher.  She’s fabulous–eager, positive, motivated!  One of her assignments was to ask my partner in crime and I about our “philosophy of teaching.”  I told her, “Actually–I wrote a paper as an assignment for a graduate class I took several years ago!”  Bringing it up again, it remains true today.  I have changed A LOT of things about my instructional strategies but these values I still hold true.

  1. Students must believe that you care.  By way of introduction, in my class, I tell all students that I am a member of their team.  Their success is my success and vice versa.  It is amazing to me that any student would think that a teacher is “out to get them.”  I want my students to believe that, more than anything, I want them to shine.  If I can get each one of them to believe that he or she is my favorite, I’ve done just that!
  2. Active students are thinking students.  Although I avoid lecture as much as absolutely possible, there are times when I believe direct instruction is the clearest method of instruction.  I want students to be sorting, moving, thinking, describing, hypothesizing…active!
  3. Never waste a minute.  In my classroom, everyone (including me) is working hard from bell to bell.  There is so much to think about and discuss, I don’t want to waste even a minute…and I don’t!  When students say that my class is the fastest class in the day, I know that I must be doing something right.  After all, time flies when you’re having fun.
  4. Students want to succeed.  Many of my colleagues have said that students don’t care.  They are lazy and uncooperative.  On the contrary, every student I have ever had has wanted to learn.  Some students have become experts at masking the desire to learn because they’ve been unsuccessful for so long, it is easier to pretend like you don’t care than to admit failure.  I truly believe that if students are convinced that you believe they can learn, they’ll start believing, too.
  5. Students have learned when they can show you they have learned.  Over the years I have become a huge advocate of the use of exit slips.  In my class, I refer to them as the “Ticket to Leave.”  I tie the question strictly to the objective for the day.  The exit slips have become an accurate litmus test regarding the success or failure of all of my instruction.  I also love being able to have one on one contact with each and every student.
  6. Be silly!  Though I am, without a doubt, a type A person, I am also very silly—particularly in front of my students.  When I let my guard down, so do they and we become like family.  By the end of each year, I truly love my students and I’m convinced I will never love another group as much…that is, until next year.
  7. Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.  I’m not sure who first coined the phrase, but I believe it!  Shhh!  Don’t tell my boss, but there are days that I think I’d do my job for free.  Everyday, I have eager students with a desire to learn and provide me with more encouragement that any person deserves.  I hope my students can find a similar passion in life.
  8. Everything that is self-fulfilling follows hard work.  I might have been a Puritan in another life.  I believe in a hard day’s work and feeling good after a hard day’s work. Sure, my students can take an easy class where they can simply breathe and earn an A or they can challenge themselves.  Though it may require more work, in the end, the payoff is a better education and the ability to think critically.
  9. Model good character.  I’m certainly not perfect, nor do I pretend to be.  However, I believe maturity is measured by progress in the qualities of goodness, honesty, integrity and humility.  In addition to the Pythagorean Theorem Corollary, I would hope my students would walk away from my classroom with a lesson on these critical character traits.
  10. Praise!  Praise!  Praise!  While I don’t feel students should receive hollow compliments, a thoughtful word of encouragement can change someone’s life.  Critics of this generation say that they’ve received too much praise.  I disagree.  The truth is that the world regularly beats us down.  We never feel smart or attractive enough.  Insecurity is the unfortunate mantra of every teenager.  During a time when parent-child relationships are strained, an uplifting word from a trusted adult is just what the doctor ordered!

How about you?  What would you add as one of your Ten Commandments?

 

September 7

Happy Surprises from “You, You all, We” in the Classroom

I wrote earlier in my blog about an article I had read on “Why Americans Stink at Math” by the New York Times (you can read both the post and the article by following the blog roll to the right) and how it just may have revolutionized how I teach.  Well, I’ve been continuing to use this method and I’ve stumbled upon some happy surprises. Here are a few:

Everyone’s engaged.  Yep!  Everyone!  I ask students to work individually on each problem and I walk around.  This frees me up to see who is staring into space–which rarely happens. Most students have some ideas about where to start.  They also want to be ready to share something with their partner when we switch to “You all.”  It’s amazing!  If students are stuck, I’m freed up to ask them questions about the problem that might trigger a thought.  From my Honors Pre-Calculus class to my average Geometry class–it seems to put everyone to work.  During the “You All” talk time, students seem to all be talking to each other ABOUT MATH.  Awesome!

Problematic thinking is head off early.  Because students generate the ideas, the most common misconceptions quickly come to light during our “We” discussion.  We are able to discuss each of them and why the idea might not work.  In addition we tackle, as a group, the points where students get “stuck” and identify why it is a difficulty.  At that point, we generate ideas to respond to the difficulty until every student is satisfied with the solution.

I facilitate, they solve.  By the time we finally get to the “We” discussion, I am able to direct the discussion so that students alone are able to (1) solve the problem and satisfy student curiosity about the problem  and (2) flesh out all the faulty thinking and “stuck” points.

Obviously, I’m sold.  The one down side is that each problem takes longer.  As a result,  I’m trying to find the perfect problems that generate the discussion I want.  I end up doing about 3-4 examples only.  In the past I would have done 5-7, but I don’t think I had the engagement or understanding I am getting now.  It’s a trade off–one that I’m convinced I should take.

Have you tried it?  What do you think?

August 30

Stop! Collaborate and Listen…

If you’re thinking this is a Vanilla Ice fan post, you’ll be disappointed.  However, “You’ve got a problem–Yo! I’ll solve it!” is the motto that my math team borrowed from the rap icon.  No, this is a post regarding some of the collaborative methods I use in the classroom.

The first method is MAN OVERBOARD.  In this activity I arrange students in groups of four and ask that they assign a “Captain.”  I leave this up to them–it’s always interesting to me whom they choose.  The Captain’s 1st job is to gather a marker board, marker and eraser for each member of his/ her group.  I present a problem and have each student work “secretly” on his/her board.  When the student has worked out a solution, he/she flips his/her board over.  When the Captain sees that everyone has finished, he/she will say “Man overboard!”  Then, the students flip their boards and discuss their responses until they can agree upon one.  The Captain also has the responsibility to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the agreed upon solution.  I’ve confirmed solutions for students in two ways:  either discussing it as a group when everyone has finished (this takes longer because I have to wait for everyone to finish) or I present the problems on cards that contain solutions on the opposite side.  Then, after the group has come to agreement, they have to reconcile their solution with mine as well.

The second activity is TAPS.  My friend across the hall found this on the internet somewhere and, like most things I do, it is either an exact replica or adaptation of something I’ve stolen from someone somewhere–most times I can’t even remember the source.  What I typically do is pose problems on individual slides in PowerPoint and print off the slides 6 to a page.  I write the solutions on the back of the cards by hand.  Then, I mass produce them so that each group has a set of problems.  I ask students to assemble in their groups of four and tell them that the person next to them in on their team and the people across from them are on the other team.  Students take one problem out of the envelope and all four of them work on the solution.  Teams are allowed to collaborate.  The first person to “TAP” the problem will have the opportunity to answer the question and check the solution.  If he/she is right, the team keeps that card and earns a point.  If not, the other team still has a chance.  One caveat is that students who are strong in the subject matter, and quick, can dominate this game leaving classmates in the dust and without adequate review.  I made it a requirement that the winner of each card present the solution to the rest of the group and answer any questions other group members might have.

Lastly I will present to you KNOTTY PROBLEMS.  I found this on a DePaul University website I’ve attached under “links.”  This activity requires a really difficult (AKA KNOTTY) problem.  Students are given several minutes to solve the problem and identify key frustrations or difficulties they are having with the problem.  Then, he/she presents the difficulty to an assembled group.  They listen without interruption.  After the student explains the difficulty, the rest of the group offers solutions.

I read recently that true collaboration really doesn’t happen unless the problem is too difficult/knotty to be solved by just one mind.  Just a thought.  

I’d love to hear what type of collaboration techniques that you’ve used, too–especially in a HS math classroom!

August 21

“You, You all, We”

I have to tell you–light bulbs are going off here!  My mantra for math instruction this year is “You, You all, We” and I’m amazed at the response from students.  It’s absolutely fabulous!  It’s amazing how many years of mathematical knowledge is inside those minds–yet, for many years, I approached my lessons as though they’ve never seen the concepts before (i.e. right triangles, Pythagorean Theorem, radicals, slopes).

For years I’ve followed the “Me, You all, You” mentality.  By that, I mean I would model for students the appropriate technique (Me), have them practice with a partner or a group (You all), and then expect them to perform the skill on an exit ticket (You).  While I’m still entirely a fan of exit tickets, I do think my philosophy of instruction may have yielded to a great paradigm shift.

It’s not that I haven’t take advantage of Professional Development–I have!  I’ve gotten a masters degree in Teaching and Leadership, went to many conferences, but it is all coming together for me after I read this recent article about “Why American’s Stink at Math” in the New York Times. That simple phrase “You, You all, We” connected some of the pedagogical dots between my training in problem based learning (PBL), STEM and courses on collaboration and engagement.

The past two days I’ve posed difficult problems, knowing (okay, hoping) that there was some foundation my students could draw from.  They amazed me!  I gave them 1-2 minutes to work on the problem individually (You).  I told them it was okay if they weren’t able to solve the problem, but to draw as many conclusions as they possibly could (for example, I asked them to write the equation for the perpendicular bisector given two endpoints–they could perhaps find the slope of the line, or find the midpoint, etc).  Then, they were to spend 2-3 minutes sharing with their partners what they concluded (You all).  I was thrilled at how quickly they engaged (even though it has only been days 1 and 2!).   When the conversation seemed to die down, I brought their attention to the board and asked students to share what they could about the problem (We).  In the end, I did very little more than facilitate.  It was fabulous!  The fact the some students were able to solve portions of the problem, but were stumped on others, highly motivated them to listen to the solution.

In year 10 of teaching–I think I’m finally connecting the dots–“You, You all, We.”  That’s all it took!

Hope you are all having a great start to your year!  So pumped to make this my #bestyearever!

August 13

Twitter: A Teacher’s Love Story

It all happened one summer…last summer, actually.  I was curious what all the commotion was about Twitter.  I even felt like the administration at my school was encouraging the use of Twitter.  Why?  Would they encourage us to use FaceBook?   There had to be something to it…and there was!  Nothing has influenced me more in my 10 years as an educator than Twitter–more specifically, the #mtbos (that is Math Teach Blog-O-Sphere).  I love collaborating with teachers, especially my Math Pal across the hall; but, imagine having the best educators in the country, no…world, across the hall?!?  That’s what Twitter has done for me.  I hope to share my new found love affair with the elementary and middle school teachers @CrystalLakeSD47s at their #translit47 conference tomorrow.   I’ve attached the link to my presentation HERE.  It starts very basic and builds.  I’m no pro, but I can help you get started!

If you haven’t stepped off the ledge with Twitter, maybe you might now?  Start by following me!  I’m @mrsjtweetsmath .  See you around the Blog-O-Sphere!

August 11

B2S Reflections for #thebestyearever

It’s been…um a few years since I’ve posted on this blog.  However, it has been a personal goal of mine to blog regarding teaching, even if I am the only one who reads it.  That being said, summer is a great time for teachers to retool, rethink and reflect on the year past.  There are so many things I love about my job, but my favorite is a new year–new students, new methods, a fresh slate.  Who would like a fresh start at their job every year?  Well, maybe not everyone, but I do.  With that in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts and reflections on things I love and things I’d like to work on this year, in particular.  I’m sure I won’t hit them all, but if I make progress in just a few, that’s good too.  A journey of a thousand steps begins with just one.  Here are my reflections:

What’s Working

My classroom is a loud and noisy place and that’s the way I like it.  I didn’t always like it.  I used to be very uncomfortable with movement and talking–when it wasn’t mine.  I felt like I might not be able to wrangle my students back to attention.  Over the years I’ve picked up tricks that have given me confidence to unleash my student and know that I can corral them back in (3, 2, 1; music, online-timers; warning bells; etc).  With that in mind, this is what I think works in my classroom:

Full Group Engagement/Accountability If everyone is not working and actively engaged then I’m not happy with it.  I know teachers often play games (Jeopardy, etc.) where only one or two kids are battling it out for the win.  If everyone is not busy, then I’m not happy.  One thing I do to ensure student engagement is that I assign group roles or label each paper 1-4 and collect one for a grade at the end of the class based on the role of the dice.  If everyone is engaged and working cooperatively everyone benefits. If everyone is not engaged, then everyone suffers.

Collaborate and Listen Research shows that students are more positive about school, subject areas and teachers if they work in a collaborative classroom (Johnson and Johnson, 1984).  For that reason, I have several “go-to” activites when that involve active learning and cooperation, many of which I’ve shared in this class.

  1. Man Overboard
  2. Taps
  3. Knotty Problems
  4. Stations
  5. Speed Dating
  6. Think-Pair-Share
  7. Challenge Me with Role Assignment:  Scribe, Artist, Communicator, Quality Control
  8. “I say…, You say…”
  9. Collaborative Groups

Communicating Problem Solving Strategies  Since the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice require students to “Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others” and “attend to precision,” I require students to present at least one problem per chapter to the rest of the class.  While this is difficult for some students, they increasingly grow in this skill and I have scaffolding in place for students who struggle to encourage them to speak.  For example, I offer students the opportunity for me to preview their work before they present.  This gives them them a little added confidence to present.

High Level of Differentiated Accountability  I place students in groups often and hold them accountable either by giving students roles or by assigning them a number 1-4 and then rolling dice at the end to collect work for activities.  Ina ddition, I have students work on “bellwork” and then collect each one, check it and separate correct from incorrect work.  If it is wrong, I like consult individually with each student or ask an “expert” student to work with them.  In addition, I ask students to perform the objective task with a “Ticket to Leave” so that I know exactly who understands and who doesn’t.  These tasks usually have students at 100% engagement.

Direct Instruction with Pizzazz I say “pizzazz” because I do not directly instruct in a typical, “I talk, you listen” fashion.  It truly is a discussion.  I pose problems that might have a connection but have a twist to former learning.  I ask students to walk me through the process, asking probing questions.  In that way, we are “discovering” together.

TI-84 Graphing Calculator  I use the TI-84 regularly for classroom instruction.  I feel like I have a good handle on its uses for Algebra II (and even some of the quirky technological issues that may arise) and how to use it for both group discovery and whole group discussion.  When we use the calculator as a whole group, I have found it really helpful to have a student model its use on the document camera.  I notice when I try to model it, I go too quickly and students find it difficult to keep up.

What Needs Improvement in my Classroom

For the most part, I like what I’m doing but I also know there is SO much that I can do to improve.  That is what I love most about our profession—there is ALWAYS room for growth!  The classes I’ve taken this summer have taught me that I have several weaknesses.  I will list them in order of priority of implementation.

PBL Problem Based Learning, rooted in Constructivist thought, forces students to go beyond gaining proficiency in algorithms and mastering foundational knowledge in mathematics, students in PBL environments must learn a variety of mathematical processes and skills related communication, representation, modeling, and reasoning (Roh, 2003).  This is, in part, due to a reluctance on the part of my district to wholeheartedly embrace the Common Core.  There is still a “drill and skill” mentality and curriculum to support it.  That being said, I’d still like to make room for at least one 3 Act type collaborative problem solving experience for my students per quarter.  This would allow students to draw conclusions for themselves making connections to former mathematical learning.

Scaffolding  I LOVE using groups, but I have been guilty of throwing groups together without the appropriate scaffolding and find that students are frustrated.  I need to assign roles and, even more so, teach the skills of active listening and speaking, supporting statements with viable arguments as stated in the CCSS MP Standard 3.  These can be taught to students and practiced.  Ideas for practicing these social skills can be found at http://www.edutopia.org/blog/deeper-learning-collaboration-key-rebecca-alber .

Variety is the Spice of Life   I would definitely like to expand my toolbox of Kagan Structures so that I could create a more collaborative environment where, according to Kagan, students develop a personal interdependence and desire to help each other learn.  Several structures I’d like to try in particular are Numbered Heads Together and Spin-N-Review so that students will have greater engagement and better performance.

Pit Stop In the middle of direct instruction I want to take a pause for students to “teach” one another or perform some other BRIEF collaboration like “mirror” or “think-pair-share.”  For example, if I teach a difficult example, I might pause for each person in a pair to take 30 seconds to explain it to their partner and then switch.  In doing so, students can reflect on their understanding.

Brain Based Learning   Brain breaks are a useful tool for students to use to help activate, energize and stimulate their brains by improving information storage and retrieval. Research indicates that brain breaks also improve students’ concentration and relieve stress.  I think it might be important for my regular Geometry students to have Brain Breaks and hand motions as well.  I plan to use the website gonoodle.com and place them in the middle of the lesson.

These are just MY thoughts–share yours–how will you make this your #bestyearever?

 

 

July 2

Roller Coasters, Summer Break and Other Thoughts…

My baby girl and our dog Rylee just outside our newly planted pumpkin patch.

My baby girl and our dog Rylee just outside our newly planted pumpkin patch.

The Blue Line

The Blue Line

The school year is like one big roller coaster that starts in August and stops somewhere in early June.  Though I absolutely love my job, I find that I have energy highs and lows throughout the year.  I stepped off the 2010-2011 roller coaster in June at the lowest point…weary and (like when I ride actual and not metaphorical roller coasters) a bit dizzy and disoriented.  I had wonderful classes and enjoyed the additional responsibility of the Math Team.  I just felt like I gave it my absolute all and here I am in June…collapsed in a heap.

That being said, it is summer break and my primary goal is to rejuvenate:  rest, relax, reset and other words that start with “re.”  It is (at least this is what I told my two beautiful children) a “No Project Summer.”  We are not going to “re do” anything–at least I’m not.  I say this as my husband is wrapping my son’s bedroom with a big thick stripe of navy blue paint.  They have ordered and are anticipating an Air Jordan vinyl insignia to add to the room’s decor.  Not me…no, I planted pumpkins today and did a tiny bit of weeding (and I do mean tiny).  Later I hope to finish a chapter in the Hunger Games (a book…reading would be unheard of during the school year–a luxury I just can’t afford).

With that being said, I’d like to say…I hope you are also allowing this summer to be what it is intended to be…a vacation.

Mrs. J

November 29

First Puzzle for Geometers

Geometry_Blog_Problem_1You can do this puzzle, Geometers!  Just click on the image & you’ll see the whole problem.   Feel free to ask “yes” or “no” questions regarding this problem right on the blog, but nothing else.  The first to e-mail a correct and thorough solution to me at ljenkins@district158.org  (you may also bring your solution to school but you run the risk of waiting and perhaps losing your chance…yikes!) receives 5 math tickets & candy (Plus the prestige of knowing you’re a geometry genius, of course!).  This post will be up for one week (until the end of the day 12/6) and then a solution will be posted.  Feel free to print it out to work on it.  It’ll boggle you for a little while…

November 11

Welcome to Mrs. J’s Blog! Register Today & Win

If you, beloved geometry student, register for the blog by next Friday November 19th and leave one friendly post stating one new fact or application you’ve learned in Geometry THIS  year.  It MUST be unique from anyone elses or you will not be entered to win.  What’s the prize?  Your choice $5 iTunes gift card or $5 Starbucks gift card.  Good luck!

May 19

Corporate Policy

360 review time!  Your boss read a new book on how to improve advertising presentations called Get It Right, Everytime!  As a result, each employee has to look at their presentation from every angle and write their own evaluation.  He wants you to consider design appeal, cost and presentation skills.  While you’re sure you gave it your all, you’ll have to put some real thought into your 360 review.  Post your 360 review here. 

This final Blog post is due 5/21!

May 14

Why we rock…

Today’s the day!  You put on your “power” suit and you have to admit…you look great!  Even Lily noticed when you walked in to work today.  Chip stopped by to make sure you were ready.  “Don’t let us down, kid,” he said.  What a vote of confidence, huh?  You’ve worked hard and you’re pretty confident that you’ve got a great design for the Wacky Wheat execs (parent company of Great Grains).  You take the last sip of your Carmel Macchiato and grab your design, specs and report.  You couldn’t be more ready.  Describe why you feel that your design is great.

This post is due Tuesday 5/18!

May 12

Putting on the finishing touches

You really want to dazzle the clients.  After all, think of all the time you’ve devoted to this design.  You take a sip of your coffee.  Lily reminds you its time for lunch.  You’ll think about this over lunch and dive in to your presentation this afternoon.  You start to think, “What am I good at?  How could I use it to put this presentation over the top?” 

How will YOU put this over the top?  Share one idea you can use to improve your presentation.  You idea must be UNIQUE  from your classmates and group members.  This post is due Thursday, May 13!

May 10

How to hit the target (and other thoughts)

“Perfect!” you say to yourself.  Your container will hold all the Great Grains and look snazzy at the same time and you were worried (you chuckle to yourself).  It’s fresh AND cost effective.  Now you’ve got to consider design and logo.  What software might you use to come up with a nice looking logo?  Remember what they taught you in ad school…it’s all about your audience!  Who IS your target audience?  Does your design interesting to that type of that demographic (people of that age, race, sex)? Answer these questions in today’s blog.  

This blog is due Tuesday 5/11!

May 3

Chip Stops By

You and Lily were chatting over last week’s episode of LOST when Lily gives you the eye that lets you know someone is behind you.  It’s Chip.  He is smiling like he just caught you up to no good.  With Hagen-Jenkins mug in hand he asks, “So, how are things coming along?”  He wants to know exactly where you are with the Great Grains gig.  You respond…

EACH member of your group should respond to this prompt.  Have you come up with an ad campaign?  Does the design reflect that?  Is it practical?  Use this week to answer some of these questions and post them ON Friday.