New Year, New Focus

Yesterday was my first day back.  We also started our new semester. I do love that we end the semester before Christmas break and come back fresh in January. It also gave me the opportunity to think about how I would like to do things differently or re-focus this semester.  My Algebra students will be working on geometry topics, transformations, triangle congruence, the basics. We are going to be changing to the Integrated Pathway next year so this semester our focus is to get all students where they need to be to step into an Integrated course next year. Tall order.

I am also auditing the Mathematics Vision Project textbook in my algebra classes. We are currently working on the functions, because my students have never seen or dealt with this before. The lessons we worked on yesterday and today are here. We worked on pages 3,4 yesterday and 5,6 today. I decided to put these students in new groups, which caused a little bit of ruffled feathers, but not for too long.  Yesterday we worked as a class on page 3. We talked about what order we should put things into our graph, and “why”. I explained that the “whys” are going to be especially important as we focus more on geometry. We had a wonderful discussion, almost everyone participated and had great reasons for their ideas. We built the graph, talked about how it could change depending on what order the tasks were done, it went well. I then had them work in their groups on the graphs on page 4. They did the lines, and gave up immediately on the exponential graphs. Even when I suggested making T charts, it was all over. We finished those today together, because HW never gets done.

Today in groups I assigned one graph per group and had them discuss which situation their graph described, and “why”. They had really great discussions, came up with great conclusions, challenged each other when they didn’t agree with a group’s decision, and were able to assign all the graphs to situations. In groups again, they did page 6, finding similarities and differences for the given graphs and using words like discrete, continuous, positive, negative, parallel, all appropriately.  I can only hope the rest of the semester goes this well.

In geometry, yesterday I had groups discuss what we had learned last semester and to share out what they recalled and questions that came up from topics.  They were well aware that I was activating prior knowledge before we started again, and told me that it was because student brains “melt down” over breaks, their term not mine. It seemed to put them in a good mood.

After going to the GAFE summit, I am really trying to change my ideas about utilizing cell phones, etc. in the classroom. I told the students that as long as they are being used appropriately, to do their work, that I would like to be able to incorporate them into our class. This brought out cheers, and I thought, “uh oh”, but when I told them to come up with definitions for bisectors, medians of triangles and altitudes, then went right to work. I was actually surprised at how many of them went for a book to look it up, even the ones who will try anything to have their cell phones out during class. Class was quiet, but not silent, while they searched, wrote out definitions, shared them with their group mates, and double-checked the definitions they found on-line with the book. I was impressed. After they found their definitions, they constructed perpendicular bisectors, angle bisectors, altitudes and medians of triangles with compass and straight edge. They said they all felt that they really understood the terms, and thought it was a great day. I would say that engagement was 98%, awesome for these groups.

I’ve got to keep finding ways to encourage them to be involved, but as long as the technology thing keeps working, I think that will help. It is much more natural for them to use technology to look things up, and makes them happier to do it the way they are comfortable. I just hope I can stay on top of it.

GAFE Summit

I was fortunate to attend the GAFE (Google Apps for Educators)  Summit the past two days.  As usual after attending PD Conferences, part of me is exhausted and overwhelmed, and part of me is excited to incorporate my new knowledge right away. I have been leary of allowing students to utilize their cell phones in class due to their tendency to become distracted by social media and games, rather than focusing on their work. I am thinking about some ways that we can utilize the technology, unfortunately we don’t have any Chromebooks, IPADs, or other technology that I can put into students hands in the classroom. We do have a computer lab, but there aren’t enough computers for my larger classes. I may be able to work out a way to have groups work together, but space is an issue.

I believe that utilizing the technology can be wonderful for students, I also know that I have a learning curve to overcome in implementing this usefully. I want to choose one or two things to begin, I’m thinking of possibly creating a web site where students can log their HW efforts, and share their struggles and successes. I thought of this while sitting in a session with an English teacher sharing how she has her students keep their reading logs on line and writing book reviews on line. I don’t know if this will work well for math but I’d like to find a way to make students more accountable for HW completion and focus on their problem solving which will make them more successful in the long run.  One of my issues is again, access to technology. Not all of my students have computers at home.

Another thought I’ve been considering is to utilize Interactive Notebooks with my Algebra students. We are focusing on becoming fully CCSS implemented by next fall, so these students will be doing geometry and statistics this semester. I think it may be good for them, they have been doing algebra for so many years and it will be new. On the other hand, it will be challenging. I have talked a little with Jessica, after reading this blog. I like the idea of these students having notes and practice all in one place. I can’t assign HW to them, it just won’t get done, so in class activities will be mainly the practice they are getting. I am looking at several different ways of handling the practice, in a way I am looking forward to this.  It certainly can’t be worse than what we went through last semester.

A lot to think about and the semester starts Monday. . . . .

Breaking the Mold

 Although I was not named here, I am accepting the challenge put out by Justin Aion.  I have been reading his blog for  approximately two months now, and have found myself questioning and reflecting upon my practice as I follow his progress this year in his classroom. I call this piece “Breaking the Mold” because it is out of the ordinary for me to put myself out publicly, and by starting this blog I have done that, but in responding to this challenge I am really doing that.  I have also been challenged by Stephanie Ried, and I will add her answers below this.  I am finding myself really enjoying learning from so many quality teachers and hope to become one that can offer some wisdom soon, as I become more comfortable really sharing.
11 Random Facts about me:
1.  I am “Nonnie” to 5 wonderful children and have a 6th on the way.
2.  I love the fact that it surprises people that I have 5 grandchildren.
3.  I am a Christian, and lead worship at my church.
4.  I was a registered nurse before returning to school to earn a BS in Math and M.Ed.
5.  I love to read just about anything.
6.  I competed in gymnastics as a teenager and was a cheerleader in middle and high school.
7.  I have been singing in programs and church since I was 5.
8.  I have overcome many challenges in my life, and feel they have made me very strong and persistent.
9.  I really love teenagers.
10.  I get angry when I see people being mean or rude.
11.  I love opera.
My 11 Questions from Justin:
1.  Why did you pick your current content area?
      My father suggested it when I announced I was going back to school.  He said math was always my best subject.
2.  If you could pick any other content area, what would you pick and why?.
      Probably music or singing. They mean a lot to me.
3.  What is one thing that you would like to become expert in doing?
      Architecture. I love to design.
4.  If you won $100,000,000, what would you spend it on?
      Paying off bills, then caring for others.
5.  If you could have one piece of tech that doesn’t currently exist, what would it be and why?
      Not really sure, I’m still working on learning to use the tech that is available.
6.  What is you favorite lesson that you have taught/seen?
      Doing Einstein’s puzzle with Algebra students. It makes them feel soooo smart. 😀
7.  If you could  fight one historical figure, who would you fight?
      Hitler.  I absolutely hate the power he had over people and the hate he was able to create in others. 
8.  What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? (2 things only)
      Earn a PhD in Mathematics, build a recovery ranch. 
9.  If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
      Salad with lots of fruit and veges. It’s the only thing I can’t see myself getting tired of.
10.  What makes your favorite book your favorite?
         “Five Smooth Stones”.  I love the history, struggle, and challenges that were lived in it.
11.  If you could change one physical characteristic about yourself, what would it be?
        My weight.
My 11 Questions from Stephanie:
1.  If you could teach in a different subject area, what would it be?
      Music or singing.
2.  Public education or private education?
      Both have advantages and disadvantages.  Public b/c it offers education for all; private b/c it allows freedom of teaching within       a belief system.
3.  If you had to make a New Year’s resolution for your classroom, what would it be?
      Improving the atmosphere of collaboration and learning for all.
4.  Share someone/something that allowed you to view yourself differently.
      My first high school math teacher. He made me believe in myself as an intelligent human being.
5.  Funniest slip up you’ve ever made in front of your students?
      Not really sure.  I’ve had so many. . . . . .
6.  Eat out or eat in?
     Both. I love family meals, and also a meal out.
7.  Favorite blog you’ve been reading and why.
      I have two.  Justin Aion, because he is so real and transparent.  Michael Pershan, because he asks such great questions.
8.  What’s the best professional development experience you’ve had an what made it so great?
      Reading Apprenticeship. It challenged me as a new teacher to really think about what I wanted to happen in my  classroom,
      and then gave me the opportunity to become a PD provider myself, teaching others what I had learned experimenting in my
      classroom.
9.  Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
      Creating curriculum, providing PD to teachers and coaching and encouraging teachers to be the best they can be.
10.  What song best describes you, as a teacher?
         “Hit me with Your Best Shot”
11.  Favorite book of all time.
        “Five Smooth Stones”.
My 11 Questions:
1.  What motivates you?
2.  What would be your  all-time favorite job, no limits?
3.  What is your favorite movie?
4.  What is your favorite book?
5.  What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
6.  Who do you admire?
7.  What is your dream lesson?
8.  Movie or Play?
9.  What type(s) of music do you enjoy?
10.  Athlete, intellectual, both, or neither?
11.  Sweet or Sour?
I’m not naming anyone, but would love to hear from anyone who is interested in sharing with me.
Sorry it’s so long.  Thank you Justin and Stephanie for challenging me to step outside my box.
I wish a blessed 2014 to all.