Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Get their attention!

In my last post, I noted that many of my students this year are "orange" personality types and kinesthetic learners.  Since my classes are already larger than normal and I now know I've got some big personalities, I recognized the need to get a good "attention getting" method into place.  I don't have the loudest voice, so calling for their attention isn't quite immediate and I hate using bells!  Kagan recommends a two-part chant and lots of teachers have success with a clapping pattern.  I have always felt awkward trying to use something like this in 8th grade, but I'm going to get over it! 

I've heard the chants like, "One, two, three, eyes on me" but they seemed too elementary.  The best one just popped into my head yesterday!  I'll use that famous military cadence, that goes, "I don't know but I've been told..." I'll chant, "3 point 1 4 1 5 9" and the kids will continue in the same cadence, "2 6 5 3 5 8 9." 

Not only will I get their attention, but they'll memorize 13 digits of pi in the mean time! My neighbor in the adjoining classroom said it sounded good through the wall- she thought I was doing a song! 

Follow up to Multiple Intelligences Survey

Yesterday, my students completed their Multiple Intelligences Survey but we ran out of time to actually discuss the results.  Today, we got to that part.  One of the points I wanted them to understand was that a low score in a certain intelligence doesn't mean that they will automatically be unsuccessful in that subject.  Rather, they will have to be looking for opportunities to express what they know through the other intelligences.  Kids who have a low mathematical score can be successful in math class, too. 

Visual-Spatial?  Draw diagrams to get your point across. Build models.  Use manipulatives.
Verbal-Linguistic? Have a discussion.  Explain.  Write sentences. 
Musical?  Sing a song.  Tap out the math to a beat. 

You get the idea. 

As we wrapped up, I asked the kids if any of them discussed what we had done at home.  About 1/3 said they had, and a few mentioned giving the surveys to friends or parents out of curiosity.  The most interesting comment came from a girl whose mother also works in education.  She said her mom is finally going to let her listen to music while she studies because it aligns with her learning style!  How cool is that?!?

Have you surveyed your students to determine their learning styles and multiple intelligences?  How did it go?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Learning about my classes

For the "getting to know you" portion of the beginning of the year, I thought I would focus on some things that could really inform my instruction this school year.

I collected some great ideas from the MTBoS, of course!  In the spring, I took a class on personality and I read "Showing Our True Colors" which helped me understand the behaviors of many of my students last year.  By the time in the year that I took the class, I had observed my students enough to know which color family they belonged to, but this year, I thought it would be nice to start the year with that info.  Thanks to Sarah at Everybody is a Genius and Sarah at Math Equals Love for sharing their ideas and links on the topic as well as learning styles and multiple intelligences.  I took the surveys and summaries and condensed them into a little booklet (three front and back pages folded in half).  We worked through it today.

Here's how I did it.  I introduced the notion that I wanted the students to know how to help themselves when it comes time to study and I want to be able to teach them in the ways that work best for them.  I pointed out that when the time comes that some of them need individual help, I'll be able to give them a method tailored to their needs if I know how they learn, think, or show their skills.

We started with learning styles because I thought kids might have had at least some background knowledge there.  I explained that some of us learn by hearing, others by seeing, and still others by doing.  They took the survey.  Then, I regrouped the students so they could sit with other people with the same learning style.  I asked them to read the provided tips and tricks for that learning style and to discuss how they had used those before or if they wanted to try any that were new.  We shared out.  Interesting, the visual learners in one class were quick to ask if they could write notes on the paper.  I pointed out that they asked to do that because they're visual learners! 

Next, we did the true colors personality questionnaire.  It's the hardest one for the kids, so I put it in the middle.  If I'd done it first, they would have been overwhelmed.  If I saved it for last, it might have been a struggle.  We modeled how to fill out the chart.  They had several words that they weren't familiar with but the nice thing is that there were lots of familiar words that they could lean on even when one word in the group was unknown.  As it turns out, "impetuous" was on the test they'd just taken in language arts.  Someone asked what it meant and I explained that it meant making decisions without thinking of the consequences.  A cheer erupted- most of them had gotten it right on the test!  Once the students had completed that questionnaire, I had posted colored papers around the room to correspond to the true colors.  Each kid found his group, wrote his name on the colored paper so I could keep a list, and they discussed if they were like the description.  The crazy thing is that 39 out of the 58 kids I teach in the afternoon are orange.  Oh my goodness, we are going to need to move and be very active this year to learn!  The funny thing is that even on the first day, I could tell I had a lot of energy in the afternoon groups!

Finally, we did the MI survey.  We didn't get to the analysis yet- that will be tomorrow.  We did fill out the graph shown in the picture below.  Tomorrow we'll talk about MI and learn our strengths there.

I'm so glad I did this!  I feel like it's going to be such a time saver as I plan lessons this year because I'll know better how to approach them.  Hopefully this will turn into less kids needing reteaching less often because I'll meet their needs the first time.  I'm also super happy that this year I decided to implement an interactive notebook.  I think it will appeal to my orange students and all of the kinesthetic learners. 

During the last period of the day, my principal came in and we got to talking about what a nice group of kids I have in that class.  I told her how surprised I was by their learning style results (about 50% auditory, 20% kinesthetic, 30% visual) and how utterly shocked I was that so many of the kids in Advanced Algebra are orange.  She's gold, so her eyes bugged out a little at those numbers, too!  She really liked what I did in class today; she even asked to take a copy of the booklet with her.

Here's a look at the front of the booklet that I made.  The front cover is courtesy of Sarah from Everybody is a Genius. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tomorrow's the big day!

Summer has come and gone and tomorrow will be the first day of school for my new 8th graders!  This year, I have 21 students in Common Core 8th grade math, two groups of 29 for Advanced Algebra I (really Common Core Algebra I), and a yet-to-be-determined class list for French I. 

I'm excited and ready, but I'm already looking forward to a nap! 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Measures of Central Tendency Cootie Catcher Update

The most popular post on this blog came out of a whim to make a cootie catcher for an activity with my homeroom last year during the first week when we get our homerooms for extra time.

Since then, people have asked for a printable and for rules for the "game."

First, here's a scan of my cootie catcher.  No, it's not typed or fancy, but at least it's filled in!

Second, the rules of the "game."

Give each student a cootie catcher.  Partner kids up.  One person chooses an outer section, the other spells its vocab word opening and closing the cootie catcher with each letter.  The first person then chooses an inner section and the second spells that color, again opening and closing.  This time when it's opened, the first person must choose a color and calculate one of the measures of central tendency, explaining it to his partner.  If they agree, they record the answer and switch roles.

I've also done this with simplifying radicals for a different class.  I made two versions on two colors of paper. Kids worked all of the problems independently, checked them on an answer key. This allowed for some coaching among the student and differentiation of levels.

I hope this file is a help.  Sorry it's taken a year for me to finally get it scanned and uploaded!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Officially back to work!

It was the Back to School kick off today at work.  We had our district wide meeting, complete with a visit from our State Superintendent.  Her visit meant a lot to me; we're a very small county compared to others in our state and not located close to the state offices, so it's unusual for us to get that kind of attention.  The central office had also organized a wellness fair for us.  Frankly, that just added to our stress because we wanted to get to our schools to work, but I have to admit that it was well executed.  At the end of the day, we met with our grade level team to discuss some of the mundane back to school items such as schedules and locker breaks.

I went back to school at 3 to do some work.  My room is so close to being done!  Tomorrow for sure it will be; I'll stay until it is.  I will need Thursday for curriculum work!

Here's a peek at my classroom library.  I bought a "real" bookcase last year to replace some very pathetic plastic crates.  It makes me happy that I can offer a good number of choices and have a dozen or more math-specific books that the kids can choose.  Of couse, those are the ones I featured on the top!

What are your favorite books for middle school math classrooms?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Monday, August 19, 2013

It's no wonder I always feel busy!

On Friday, I was talking with a colleague about the upcoming school year and the changes we're going to face, especially in regard to additional record keeping.  She said she was planning to make herself an afternoon checklist so that she would be sure to have everything done before she left the building.  She joked that it was because she was getting old, but I told her I could also benefit from such a list.  

This afternoon, I sat down to type out a list of the things I do after school.  Note that actually planning lessons and grading papers don't figure into this list.  I aim to do those things during my planning period or at home.  This list is just the other aspects of my job.  While I was at it, I also made my morning routine list.  I get to school about 45-55 minutes before the students arrive, so there's also time then to grade a small stack of papers or pull together some ideas for an upcoming lesson plan.  

Morning Routine
 Print lesson plans and papers to be copied
 Check mailbox, sign in, and deliver copy requests (We don't make our own copies; we have a staff member who runs the photocopiers.)
 Update boards
 Check e-mail
 Deliver TAP work (TAP is our in-school suspension)
 Unlock calculators

Afternoon Routine

During waves: ("Waves" are our dismissal groups.  We have 4 waves and the process takes 15+ minutes.  I typically have a handful of kids in my room who will be able to help with some of these tasks.)
 Change the date
 Lock calculators
 Attendance in Power School (We do this every period, but I have a tendency to forget the last class of the day every now and again.)
 Check e-mail
 TAP list, gather work
 Log parent contacts
 Photo 180 (This should be done during the day, but I'll have a back up reminder if I forgot earlier.)
 Label and file missed work (This should have been done during the day, but I'll also collect work for students with upcoming absences at this time.)

After waves: (I'll continue the list above and add in these tasks that aren't well suited to completion during dismissal.)
 Check mailbox
 Math Maintenance
 Daily grades in Power School
 Weekly files up-to-date
 Student files up-to-date

What does your routine look like?  

Mathematically yours, 
Miss B

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Guess Who- Linear Functions

I was hopping around the MTBoS this afternoon and I happened to reread a post by Sarah from several months ago in which she listed some thrift store/garage sale finds she was planning to use in her classroom. Among those finds was a Guess Who? board game which reminded me that I had purchased the same thing a long time ago and hadn't yet remade it into a math game.  

Guess Who? was a staple in my house when I was a child and I can remember toting it to many a babysitting gig, too.  It was perfect as a two-player game since I was an only child and just had to find one other person to play. I always wanted to be Maria because she looked the most like me, even with the funny green beret, and I learned a lot about probability by calculating the best questions to ask in order to eliminate about half of the people at a time.  

Sorry for doubling up on Made4Math this week, but I couldn't bear to wait for next Monday to write my post after making this beauty!  

Here's what my $3 at Goodwill and several hours of my evening got me:

Truth be told, the red one's not done yet.  :)

The family that owned this game before me must have been a tiny bit compulsive. ;) They had glued the character cards to the yellow flippers. I pried each one loose and then slid my card in along with the character card. The back of the flippers show the question mark design of the Guess Who cards and I was able to use cheap paper instead of thick card stock.

If you want to make your own set on another topic, just measure the cards and make a table with cells that size. I found these cards were 1 1/8" wide and 1 3/8" tall, but be sure to check if you have a different model of the game. The one I had as a kid had much larger cards.  Before I had this game board, I made a paper version using file folders for linear inequalities in my first year of teaching and it has been a classroom staple.  I made it all by hand, so I might not be able to blog it for a while.

I'm sharing the files I made below. Included are directions for how your students could play this game even without the game board. After all, this is cute, but who is going to buy a class set, right? I figure I'll make this one cute, draw a couple of kids names to play with this set, and let the rest of the kids play the modified way.  Now that I know I can modify them, I'll pick up another set or two if I see them at Goodwill again because I'd like to make one for quadratic functions for my Algebra class.  

This game ties in nicely to a couple of 8th grade standards:
  • CCSS.Math.Content.8.F.A.2 Compare properties of two functions each represented in a different way (algebraically, graphically, numerically in tables, or by verbal descriptions). For example, given a linear function represented by a table of values and a linear function represented by an algebraic expression, determine which function has the greater rate of change.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.8.F.B.4 Construct a function to model a linear relationship between two quantities. Determine the rate of change  and initial value of the function from a description of a relationship or from two (x, y) values, including reading these from a table or from a graph. Interpret the rate of change and initial value of a linear function in terms of the situation it models, and in terms of its graph or a table of values.
How have you repurposed games in your classroom?

Mathematically yours, 
Miss B

Problem of the Week: Absences

I'm not sure this will become a regular feature, but I've now written two posts that explain how I want to deal with an issue of classroom management.  I sort of like the title "Problem of the Week" but I suspect these won't be weekly, even if I do feature this regularly.  Let me know what problems you'd like me to tackle.  :)

This post will focus on how to handle make-up work for absent students.  Currently, I have a hanging file organizer for each class that contains handouts for students who were absent.  Read more about them here.  I like this system and it's made it much less likely that I need to sort through files to find papers for children.

Why does this system need to change?  Well, I realized that it works well if the make up work is all on handouts.  But what if the missing work was from a textbook, used manipulatives, was a game, etc?  It's near impossible to put those items in the pocket.  I realized a little "while you were out" form would greatly improve my communication with students who had been absent.

I'm not a paper work fan.  I do know, however, that there are always a few helpful students who want some extra responsibility.  I'll let those students fill out the forms based on our daily agenda (always posted on the chalkboard) and collect the day's handouts for the absent students.  At the end of class, they can place the papers and form in the class file.  I hope this will foster a spirit of helpfulness in my class.

Here they are as an editable Word doc.  It's this week's #Made4Math!

No cute fonts or anything today- my school-issued laptop died yesterday morning and  I suspect it needs a new hard drive again (this happened in December, too).  For now, I'm making do with my 6-year-old dinosaur of a PC until at least tomorrow and realizing how unaccustomed to PC I've grown in the past 5 years since I started working in a district that only uses Mac. The timing on my poor computer's demise couldn't have been much worse since teachers report back to school on Tuesday and I know our tech office is probably being bombarded with requests from all directions.  Say a prayer that the tech guys will be able to resurrect my computer and its files once again.

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fishy math in NBC's The More You Know about Graduation Rates

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for NBC's "The More You Know" public service announcements because they give short messages of encouragement which are a great break from typical advertisements.  When I saw this PSA, featuring Al Roker of Today, on Sunday during Meet the Press, I was vacationing with my family.  "What a great math problem to share with my classes this year," I exclaimed to my father.  He couldn't understand what I was talking about.  Watch for yourself and see if you took from it what I did.

Did you catch the math in there? "If we don't double the number of kids graduating from high school in the next 8 years, our country won't be able to compete globally." My knee-jerk reaction was, "Does he realize that's impossible?" We're already well above 50% of our students graduating. Take this article from NEA Today that cites the graduation rate at 74.7% in 2010.*  Doubling that, we'd graduate nearly 150% of the eligible students in a given year.  That's some fishy math. 

So, perhaps the answer here is that we need to look at the actual number of children.  If the birth rate is increasing significantly, the math could work out correctly.  I looked up the number of births in the US in 1992 (when students who graduated in 2010 would have been born), 1995 (2013 graduates), and 2003 (2021 graduates, "8 years from now").

1992 (class of 2010): 4,084,000 births
1995 (class of 2013): 3,892,000 births
2003 (class of 2021): 4,089,950 births

We can see that the birth rates dipped slightly in 1995, but are quite close in 1992 and 2003.  Let's take those children born in 1992.  Since 74.7% graduated:  4,084,000 births  • 74.7% = 3,050,748 graduates.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find graduation rates for years after 2010.  If we assume that graduation rates stayed relatively constant over the past three years, 74.7% of 3,892,000 births = approximately 2,907,324 graduates in 2013.  If we double this as Mr. Roker suggests, we'll need to graduate 5,814,648 students in 2021, which amounts to 1,724,698 more children than were born in 2003. 

What about immigrants?  Surely we have children graduate from American schools who weren't born in the USA.  Using some data from this site, I found that there were 40 million immigrants in the US in 2010 of which 6% were ages 5-17.  That equates to 2.4 million school aged immigrants or roughly 200,000 per grade.  If they all graduate, we still need to find 1.5 million additional students to graduate in order for the math to work!  It seems that my initial reaction was correct: there's no way to double the number of students graduating from high school in the next eight years.  Let's strive to increase our graduation rate and continue to reduce the achievement gap that we've been whittling away at for years. 

Going back to the original claim, I'd like to know what the threshold is for the USA to "compete globally."  Are we aiming for inclusion in the top 10?  Top 5?  First place?  I wasn't able to find that information on the NBC website.  You can compare high school graduation rates from around the world at this site.  Currently, Portugal and Slovenia are tied at 96% with the highest graduation rate and the USA ranks 21st.  If we were able to reduce the number of dropouts by half, our graduation rate would be about 87%, good enough for us to be tied with Hungary for 13th place. 

While I'm criticizing the math offered in the first sentence of the spot, I find there's a lot of truth in the rest of the spot and the text on the website below the video.  We do need to provide our nation's children with qualified, capable teachers.  Not only do we need to recruit new teachers to the profession, but we also need to support veteran teachers.  So while this clip touches on some valid points, I'd like to see the first sentence revised.  I suspect the good people at NBC meant, "We must decrease by half the number of students who don't graduate from high school on time."  Granted, that might be too verbose for a 15 second spot, but I'd still love an attainable goal!

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

* This Bloomberg Businessweek article lists the graduation rate as a percent of freshmen who graduate on time and has a nice graph to show graduation rates over time.  I won't be using 78% as I believe it excludes children who drop out prior to high school.

Ch- ch- ch- changes

I spent the last week vacationing in San Diego with my family.  We enjoyed the weather, the zoo, the U.S.S. Midway, and much more.  As soon as I got home today, I wanted to head over to school.  We weren't allowed in our rooms until this week, so I wanted to get in there as soon as I got home to get a handle on what I need to tackle in the next week!

I found a few changes are under way for 13-14.  First of all, a new interactive whiteboard system was hanging on the wall.  Surprise!  I had a SMARTboard that never truly cooperated with my computer, so I called it the "dumb board" and used it as a screen mostly.  After countless failed lessons ("OK, everyone, it looks like my computer's frozen, so I'll just switch over to a paper copy and the document camera..."), I threw in the towel and I don't think I used it once last year.  It was about 8 years old, so I suppose it was time for a modern replacement.  I just didn't know I was getting one!  Now we'll be trained next week how to use these darlings.  I'm hoping we get some new software too; the SMARTnotebook software was never my favorite. 

We're becoming a PBIS school, so we're going to have a school-wide "acknowledgment" system instead of grade-level incentives.  It sounds really promising, taking the better aspects of what we did before and making them consistent throughout the school.  I think we'll be getting rid of our grade-level economy as it would be largely redundant.  That's a bit sad, but it had its flaws, so I'm happy to try something new. 

Oh, and I totally rearranged my classroom.  I moved my desk to a different corner, put some cabinets in different spots (they're large and on wheels), and still have no idea where my document camera should live.  Right now, I think I want to try to keep my old projector to use with it so I can project from my computer and document camera simultaneously.  Good idea?  Bad idea?  I'd love input. 

Other big things on the horizon for 13-14 are:
1. NBCT process
2. Teaching the new Common Core for 8th grade math (and refining the CC Algebra I course I taught last year)
3. Implementing Interactive Notebooks for the first time
4. Continuing my role as STEM representative for my school and presenting follow-up inservice on STEM/PBL to the rest of the staff. 

Bring it on, 13-14!  

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Monday, August 5, 2013

180 Days

I just saw a fun idea over on Twitter and I'm going to (try to) jump on the bandwagon this year, along with everything else I'll be doing in 13-14.

Much like the 365 bloggers or Project Life scrapbookers, I'll be posting once a day for the 180 days of school.  You can expect lots of these to be just photos with minimal captions.  I'll try to keep up with semi-regular posts of interesting ideas and thoughts as well.  To see all of my 180 posts, just use the tab at the top of my blog. My first day of teaching is August 26th, but I might start with a few sneak peeks of my classroom the week prior. 

Based on suggestions from a few other bloggers, I'm starting an additional blog for these 180s so they'll be easy to view.  You can find it here:  Come on over and follow it so you can have a look inside my classroom everyday. 

Several other tweeps are going to do this as well and I'll add links to their 180s below.  If you're joining in, leave me a comment with a link so I can add to this list.  Also note what subject/grade you teach if it's not clear from your title.  Thanks!

170ish Days of Math (Out of the Zone)
180 days of Math Post-its (Teacher Leaders)
180 days of Geometry (Crazy Math Teacher Lady)
180 days (Restructuring Algebra) 
Peek Inside my Classrooom (druinok)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Problem of the Week

My Problem of the Week is how to handle when students all finish at different times.  It's inevitable, but only now am I finally getting a system together to handle it.  Read my last post for details. 

This post is all about my new Problem of the Week.  I think I tried something like this my first year, but it was more like a problem of the month, hardly anyone ever attempted it, and I might have abandoned it after 4 months.  Not a win at all!  I'm coming back with a better plan this time around.

First of all, I'm making a set of 40 problems (and my answers) this summer.  No need to search for them mid-year.   I've collected some interesting problems from Mathcounts and Exeter, along with a few other sites.  As I'm thinking through this more, I think I'm going to need some open-ended questions to really make this take off, so if you have good sources, please let me know. 

Second, I've totally rethought the process.  See, I could have kids do the problems on their own, turn them in to me, wait for me to check them, tell them if they're right or wrong, and move on.  Who does most of the work in that scenario?  Me.  And goodness knows I don't need another stack of papers to check!  Who should be doing all (or most of) the work?  The kids.  Enter the new system: each week, I'll post a new question to the POTW bulletin board area.  Students will be encouraged to write up their solutions and post them to the bulletin board themselves.  Then (and this is the part that I'm most excited about) other students will be encouraged to respond to the solutions posted and tack their responses to the board.  They can ask questions or make comments.  If I can get it to take off the way I envision, there will be a mess of notebook paper surrounding the question.  (Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, anyone?)  On Friday, we'll tear down the week's work and start fresh on Monday.

Third, I want this "discussion" to happen among my classes.  Currently, my school groups students into homogeneous classes for reading and math.  The students know this.  They also know which teachers or classes are "high" and which are "low."  I once had a student tell me, "You know I'm not good at reading because I am in Mrs. ___'s class."  I teach a middle-low group (8th grade math) and the two highest math groups (CC Algebra I).  I'd like to have these students conversing about math via the POTW board so that the students in a lower group see that they can contribute just as much as the students in the higher classes. 

Do you use anything like a problem of the week?  How does it work in your classroom?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

What to do with the early finishers?

Let me start by saying that even writing this is making me cringe.  I’m going to share what I perceive to be the most troubling problem in my classroom and what I’m planning to do to combat it this coming year.  Your input is valued and appreciated!

I’ve gotten better at teaching over the past five years, but there are still some things that I know I need to work on to make me feel like I’m doing as good of a job as my kids deserve.  One of those things is a better plan for kids who finish early or late compared to the rest of the group.  Here’s how it goes down all too often:

Ted doesn’t really need to show his work on these problems.  He does the math in his head and understood it from the get-go.  Racing through the assignment, he makes a calculation error or two, but conceptually gets it and finishes when most of his classmates are just about halfway through.  I engage Ted in conversation about the work when he lets me know he’s done.  I help him discover his errors and try to delve deeper into the meaning and application of what’s been done.  Children who aren’t yet finished have questions for me, and Ted picks up a book to read, helps a neighbor, passes out graded work, takes a bathroom break, or gets started on homework.  Or in the case of some students, Ted gradually becomes a minor distraction.    

No matter how great the earlier part of the lesson was, this is not how I want Ted to spend his time in math class.  I want him to be engaged with the material the whole time.  Other teachers at my school seem to get around this time inequity by assigning lengthy packets every week or two.  Students who finish classwork ahead of their peers then work on the packets while those who need more time to finish classwork end up taking the packets home as homework in addition to the daily assignments.  I don’t see this as a solution because the inequity is shifting to the home and the work in the packets isn’t requiring much application as they’re usually the joke/puzzle worksheets.  

This is one of the issues that has been on the back burner because I could sort of justify "it's only a few minutes" and because teaching five different courses plus a variety of interventions over the past 5 years didn't leave me gobs of time for solving this problem in a way that would work for me.  Getting this fixed will help me feel like I'm making the transition from "novice person who tries to teach a lesson" to "maybe kinda sorta a real teacher."  My beloved college professor asserted that one can teach a class, but one is not truly a teacher for at least seven years.  The closer I get to that magical number, the more I understand what he meant. 

During this, my sixth year, I’ll be making a few subtle changes to alleviate as much of this early finisher as I can.  I’ve made a “When you’re done” poster set to help guide students to appropriate and meaningful things that they can do when their work is complete.  It's hard to believe I didn't have something like this before, really.  You're welcome to download it in either Word or PDF.  As always, I use Noteworthy which makes Box get the pagination wrong because it changes the font of the Word documents, so the PDF is ready to go but the Word doc can be edited to suit your classroom.  

As you can see, some of the choices are based on the Interactive Notebooks I’m starting this year; I expect that students will use the INBs and add to them during these “extra” minutes.  I’m also halfway done a set of problems for my “Problem of the Week” bulletin board.  They’re a compilation of problems from Mathcounts and Exeter along with a few other sites.   More on the Problem of the Week in this post.  I tried to keep most of the items to a higher level than just "do an extra practice worksheet."  There is the expectation that they catch up on anything they might owe me, but after that the tasks are open-ended and higher-level. 

I also realize that this problem would be largely addressed by shifting away from the algorithm-practice-repeat method.  I’ve been working over the past two years to incorporate more inquiry-based lessons into my classroom but I’m not doing these every day all the time.  Practice will continue to have its place in my classroom and while it does, kids will need varying lengths of time to complete that practice. 

It’s hard to write a post that’s self-critical, but in doing so I feel like I’ve given myself a clearer understanding of what exactly the problem is, why I feel it’s a problem, and how I can start to change it.  Pretty good professional learning for free, if you ask me!  Thanks for reading and please let me know if you have other ideas for engaging those early finishers. 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Friday, August 2, 2013

Late work

I don't know if it's just me, but I often find myself with a small stack of papers that come in as late work, frequently well after the original due date.  In my district, we're not supposed to deny a child the opportunity to turn in work even if it's two months late, so sometimes work from April arrives in June.  At that point, it's not useful to me or the student since we're well beyond that concept, but I still have to grade it.

Since I assign different points whether the child was absent or just chose not to do the work on time, I often find myself going back to my attendance records to check.  This is a bit of a pain.  I've seen the binders that teachers use where students record that they have a missing assignment on the due date and they're neat but I wouldn't necessarily have that information at my fingertips if I'm grading papers at home.  I realized that I would be more efficient if this information was already recorded on the assignment.  So, I made some labels.  These can be printed on the standard 5160/8160 Avery labels that come 30 to a sheet. I wish I had some neon labels, but I'll have to be content with white for now.

Here they are, along with the directions that I'll post.  Labels are in PDF and Word in case you need to edit and I just put the directions in Word because you'll likely have a different procedure than I do.  Sorry for any wonkiness- Box doesn't love the font that I love (Noteworthy, available on Mac). 

I was totally ready to post this to Made4Math when I realized it's Friday.  I'm sure I'll concoct something else by then!  I'll be linking to The Teacher's Chair instead.  Have an awesome weekend! 

How do you keep track of the late assignments in your classroom?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B