Friday, May 31, 2013

The transition to summer vacation

What is your end of year routine?  Do you have one or do you just shove things in closets and head for the beach?  I'm slowly developing mine and deciding what changes I need to make to allow the fall to run as smoothly as possible.  My big projects to tackle on my to-do list fit into a couple of primary purposes: organize my room, prepare for a few bursts of productivity in the summer, and get a jump start on the fall. 

1a. Purge the filing cabinets.  Seriously.  I do not need the worksheets that the last teacher left in the filing cabinets five years ago.  Not only were they beneath the state standards when I took the job, but we're now implementing the much more rigorous Common Core.  When in doubt, recycle.  A drawer a day until the end of the year would let me come back in a good frame of mind in August. 
1b. Take home and file/organize papers I want to keep and materials for lesson planning.  I am a horrible filer!  Horrible!  In that way where I don't do it, there's a mound of papers on every surface, and I just hope no one wants anything from three months ago.  New plan: sort papers out by CC standard and just keep one master of each.  

2. Weed out the bookshelves.  Again, I do not need other people's cast offs or left behind books.  I have a half dozen really useful books I use again and again for masters.  The others, not so much.  Offer them up on our employee web portal and see if another teacher wants them.

3. Prep beginning of year things.  This bogs me down every year.  You see, teachers don't use the photocopiers at my school.  At the beginning of the year, we get very bogged down since one person is doing all of our copying.  Forms and worksheets I use at the beginning of every year should be copied now.  I hesitate to make my syllabus yet due to the CC switchover, but it might be worth it. 

4. Inventory supplies.  This is a new one, but absolutely necessary.  I buy more school supplies for my classroom than I care to count.  Some things I've actually built up a little inventory (cap erasers, lined paper, index cards) and others I've run out of completely (spiral notebooks, red pens).  I'm making a checklist of how many of each are in my room so when I get ready to purchase this summer, I'm spending wisely.  This list only includes supplies that I typically buy at Staples, Walmart, or Target in large quantities.  My plan is to save this list for next summer and use it to decide how much I go through so I can plan even better.  Download your copy of this inventory sheet here and edit it to match your classroom's needs. 

5. Map out the classroom.  This is required by my school, but SO terribly helpful that I would suggest it to anyone.  Before we leave in the summer, we inventory our furniture and draw a map of how it should look in our classroom so the custodians can get everything back into the correct place after they clean the floors.  I usually have to nudge a few things or swap a couple of tables that look similar, but it saves me at least an hour of work.

6. Take home PD materials.  I'm attending a few PD sessions this summer, one to address CC implementation and one to address the new teacher evaluation system we're using next year.  I have some materials that I need to take with me and I need to make sure they're not hidden away in a cupboard where I can't access them. 


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My kids wrote a page about one math problem...

...just because I said "prove it" instead of "tell me why."  My directions were that simple, and they took 10 minutes to really dig in and do a great job. 

Yesterday, I used a matching activity from Flamingo Math to have students match piecewise functions and their graphs.  I left off the domain and range aspect because I haven't taught interval notation and I wasn't ready to focus on that aspect quite yet.  The kids worked in partners to sort out the cards.  I didn't make them record anything.  When time was up, we discusses particular graphs or equations that gave them trouble.  (One note: if you go download the activity, which you should, card E1 has the incorrect inequality symbols in the domain constraints of the function, so change them prior to making your copies.) 

Today, their first independent activity was to go back to the pile of cards and select one match.  They were to glue the cards to their notebook paper and I asked them to, "prove to me that you are correct."

I was so impressed by my kids' hard work on this assignment.  Most of them ended up filling all of the blank space on the front and many of them continued onto the back.  Some of them wrote paragraphs.  Others used lots of labels and arrows to make their point.  I'm counting it as a quiz grade; they did so well after struggling with the concept a day or two earlier.

This student wrote so much...

That she used about 1/3 of the back, too.

Clearly a different approach in doing proof from the text-heavy examples above.

One thing I need to clarify: since we've been learning about parabolas and absolute value functions most recently, they're interchanging the terms "slope" and "a-value."  Sometimes, the terms do serve the same purpose, however they've never before used "a-value" for linear functions.  We use y=mx+b.  The connection they're making is great; their terminology needs some refining. 

Have you ever had a lesson or assignment that had kids doing awesome work beyond your wildest dreams?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Interactive Notebook Left Side Assignments

While I still have a month left in this school year, I'm working on getting ready for next year.  I'll be doing full Common Core in all of my classes and starting an interactive notebook.  One thing that has had me a little puzzled is what the students would do for the left side.

If you're not familiar with interactive notebooks, they're a way to get students to record input information (typically notes from the teacher, often in the form of foldables) on the right side and process that information into a meaningful output (problem sets, etc) on the left.  That left side sounded so BORING to me so I searched around for ideas.  Cobbled together from assignments I've seen posted around the internet and what I did as a kid, I put together a list of 20 possible Left Side Assignments.  I won't give my students choice about which assignment to do every day, but I hope to give them more and more freedom as the year progresses.

We'll glue this page into the notebooks.  My plan is to maintain a Table of Contents both in my notebook and on chart paper.  I'll note on the chart paper which options they may choose from for the left side.

Do you have any other awesome left side ideas that I should know about?  

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

P.S.- It may be interesting to note that my first experience with interactive notebooks was in my AP US History class.  I disliked the class and honestly got very, very little out of the notebooking.  I realized several years later that the main reason I didn't get anything out of it (besides my general disinterest in history) was that I wasn't given a firm foundation in how to make good choices about what was worthy of inclusion in my notebook and what was really just a detail that I wasn't responsible for retaining long-term.  I'm committed to making the notebooking a purposeful endeavor for my class, so I'll be showing them how to make those good choices and offering feedback for how to do better.  My history teacher?  He just handed out 110-120% as a grade if you used a lot of color.  I know I used 4 or more packs of Crayola markers that year.  The causes of the War of 1812?  Not so much... 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

321 Exit Ticket

I just have a simple freebie to share with everyone today.  I'm using a 321 exit ticket as part of a project I'm putting together for my Master's.  The template came out cute and I thought I might save people some time if I shared it.  Enjoy!

If you've never heard of this kind of exit ticket, you simply give kids three categories or three questions.  I like things of increasing cognitive demand.  One simple one I could use for 8th grade geometry would be:
3- Give three examples of quadrilaterals.
2- List two polygons for which the area formula is A=bh.
1- Write one question you still have OR make and solve an area problem if you have no questions. 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Systems of Equations Mystery Bags

The pre-testing crunch time is stressing out my poor Algebra I class.  After quite a miserable day on Tuesday, I knew I needed a different approach to our lesson for today.

I started the lesson with yet another example of a systems of linear equations word problem.  Cars and motorcycles were the topic for my male-heavy class.  I could see the boys' expressions change when it finally "clicked" for them since we were talking about a topic many of them care about.

Then I brought out the "mystery bags."  Outside each brown paper bag was a systems word problem.  Inside the bag was the answer to the question comprised of real objects that the kids could count out in many cases.  We worked through them as stations and the children found more success than they had been finding previously.  Hooray!

Here's a document with the problems we used and clipart of the answers.  For the candy, pencils, and yarn questions, I used real objects, but I've included the clip art for all of the questions.   Sorry if the pagination is a little off in this file.  You might need to add or delete some spaces to get the problems on their own pages.  Box isn't being friendly, but I know Word works better for most people than PDFs since you can edit as needed. 

Download here:

Mathematically yours,
Miss B