Friday, August 31, 2012

Week 2 Reflection - Algebra/Geometry

Week 2 Reflection:

Go Cougars!  Beat Milford!  Let's go 2-0!

Algebra - gave my first assessment of the year this week (Algebra translations, rewriting expressions using exponents, evaluating expressions, distributive property, combining like terms) - the majority of students did pretty well overall - lots struggled with Algebra translations so I focused on that on Friday, the following day.

Now?!?  Differentiation - I need to find a way to keep those who are doing well moving forward while giving the intervention to those students who struggled.  Algebra always seems to have the biggest range in abilities/motivation/effort - how do you deal with this difference?  Create individual plans (sounds great, but a lot of work for me as a teacher!)?  Make up tiered activities and assign them to groups of students?  Please share!

The next unit focuses on solving equations and this is usually a better understood section of material overall, and I have an easier time creating problem sets.

Again, the lack of technology (interactive whiteboard not a go / Acer tablets not a go) has slowed things down quite a bit.  Of course, the scary thought is how all over the place students can end up once the technology is in place.  We will see.

Effort/motivation has been good overall student-wise.

Next week - solving equations (1 step, multi step, variable on both sides)

Geometry - spent this week on more constructions - overall the two classes did well.  A couple students struggled, but that was more of a lack of being able to use the compass consistently well more than an understanding of what to do.  I gave my first assessment of the year (constructions - copy segment, perpendicular bisector, perpendicular through point on a line, perpendicular through a point not on a line).  I could have done more if I had the tablets/internet access - *fingers crossed*

Students have homework over the labor day weekend - line design - opportunity to use straight lines to create some cool curvy designs, and the first "test" of responsibility as it is due on the Tuesday that we return.

Looking at creating some assignments that require the internet and see if students are able to complete them.  I can't go another week without some technology being involved.  And since I only have the 2 Geometries I think that'll be a good starting point.

Next week - Angle pairs (include Algebra), create student Avatar, begin the Geometry Rank system Ranks google doc (click here) (note: list will be edited since I have been unable to use GeoGebra at this point - again *fingers crossed*).  Also, going to try and introduce some more technology programs that we'll use throughout the year (twitter, etc.).

I will look at the Geometry Rank system closely over the weekend to get a better feel of the "flow" of topics for the next few weeks.  I'm ready to take things up a notch in these classes.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Week 1 Reflection

Week 1 Reflection:

Overall - a great group of students with lots of energy, good senses of humor, and a lot of the same strengths/weaknesses of classes I've taught previously.  I really need to look at how I want to differentiate the students, the activities, assessments, etc.

Cons:  Technology is slow at this time - missing some connectors for my whiteboard and students do not have the Android Acer Tablet as of yet.  It surprised me this week how much not having access to my interactive whiteboard threw me off.  It allows so much flexibility and adaptability on the fly during class.

Geometry / Honors Geometry - focused on isometric drawings / basic constructions (daisy designs, angle bisectors / perpendicular bisectors).  I so want to rock geogebra with these students but will have to wait on that once the tech stuff is worked out.

Algebra - mixed it up throughout the week - focused on algebraic translation, evaluating expressions, calculator basics, and a handful of various activities to see student personalities, effort, motivation, understanding, etc. - there are definite, noticeable levels in these classes - some very strong, and some not so strong students.

Things to think about for next week - pre assessing / creating parallel tasks / creating "I can statements" = SBG grade set up.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What's the deal with the Teacher Desk?

 What's the deal with the Teacher Desk?
This is something I am pondering as the new school year begins in just one week.
 Here's the situation:  brand new high school building; brand new classroom;  16 tables instead of individual desks (love this!); tall storage cabinet on wheels; "end table" type thing on wheels; a wall full of cabinets (high & low at the back of the classroom); two whiteboards with one hooked up with projector; teacher desk.
I can only plug my computer/phone in an area in the corner of the room (see pic) - so thinking of putting the "end table" there (which I did - see here):

Now, what to do with the tall storage cabinet on wheels and the teacher desk.  Some background info - I am not organized.  Never have been, and chances are pretty good never will be.  My desk is just another place for me to randomly set papers, pens, pencils, rulers, calculators, you name it.  At times my teacher desk has looked something like this (note: not an actual picture of my desk - just an illustration):

So, why the need for a teacher desk?  I put this question out on twitter and here's some responses I received:

So true!  As if the teacher desk is some "throne".  I spend the majority of my time working with my students so why create a physical barrier that takes that away?  Teaching is more than content and great lesson plans . . . its about interpersonal relationships and building of trust and confidence in the student. Also, so much of my work is going in the online direction that it's easy to move my computer to a student desk area and do my work.
Supplies & files . . . only if I were organized.  LOL!

Love it because I have one of those - a tall storage cabinet!

Conclusion:  Spoke with my inclusion teacher and she is going to take over the desk - she is very organized and being in my room for only 3 periods a day, it's a nice "home base" for her to keep all of her things.  I found a great place to put the tall movable storage cabinet - fits perfectly in the corner in the back (this will be my "go-to" area / a desk on wheels that will hold dry erase markers, boards, graph papers of varying sorts, etc.):  see here -

Here are a few shots of the layout of my tables (love this as it's very student centered which I want) - at this time I have 6 "islands" that can accommodate 5 students for a total of 30 students.  I don't have my class rosters yet, so it wouldn't surprise me if I end up adding another "island" to the mix.  I have the space if needed.  Best case scenario - I have the 4 extra tables removed and then have a lot more space to work with!!  *fingers crossed*

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Student E-portfolios (great video)

The State of Tech is always full of great information that you can use in your classroom right now!  This video looks at google sites and the use of online student portfolios.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Blog Post Highlight: Simplifying Radicals: Grade Conversions

I have struggled a lot the past few years when it came to giving grades.  There were times when I gave students the same grade that were not really on the same level in terms of knowledge and comprehension.  Also, I feel that the stronger students should be getting the better grades in the end.  Then I came upon a blog post that took the idea of being proficient and high performing into account and has a really neat/easy way to convert the grades.

I will need to create a list of outcomes for each unit (similar to the topics list I made for last year) then go from there.  I think this will be a great way to differentiate between the average student and the above average student.  I already have a google spreadsheet that allows me to identify those students who are average, mastered, etc. which I will use to help keep track of the outcomes.  This idea is standards based grading in a way that makes me happy.

The focus would be on the level of completion for each outcome and how those outcomes fall overall in terms of # of proficient outcomes and # of high performing outcomes.  Proficient for me would be - here's a problem, solve.  High performing for me would be word problems or added steps or giving the answer and having students create a problem that fits, etc. - high order thinking.

To read more detail on this - check out the blog post:

Simplifying Radicals: Grade Conversions: Let's discuss how to convert all of those Ns, Ps, and Hs into a number grade.  Ideally, you don't want to do this, but I don't think student...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

GeoGebra - first weeks of Geometries!

First couple week goals for Geometry classes:

1.  Googlesite - eportfolio
2.  Mini-Lego Avatar
3.  GeoGebra (d'oh)

4.  itslearning - going to use this site for assignments (descriptions/how to videos) - will use GoogleSite for displaying student creations/journaling - should be a great way to follow student growth and understanding throughout the entire year.

I still need to set up the Geometry Military Ranks so students can follow their progress (training) and see how they stack up with their classmates.  May use their ranks as part of project during the semester.

Does anyone use gaming or ongoing competition in their classroom?  If so, how do you set it up and run it?  Please share!

Differentiating Algebra

Here's my plan to differentiate Algebra I this upcoming school year & include some SBG/flipclass ideas:

1.  Create topics list.
2.  Create assessments for each topic (pre-assessment).
3.  Use the pre-assessments to gauge student ability.
4.  Table groupings (we do not have desks in the classroom).

  • Video Viewing - student has little to no idea whatsoever how to complete the problems.
  • Basic Practice (proficiency) - could be a set of problems in the book/worksheet, matching activity, etc. - really looking to create opportunities for repetition.
  • High Performing - this group would be looking at more difficult types of problem sets (i.e. involving fractions, decimals, word problems).
  • Topic Capstone - student creations!  Students will create quizzes, how to videos, worksheets, peer teach a student in one of the lower levels.
5.  Assessment will be ongoing - each topic will be assessed, but then there will a larger unit assessment as well.  That way if a student is having an issue with a topic I can continue to work with that student throughout the year.

One of the major issues I run into each year is trying to give the stronger students opportunities to branch out more in a topic and to tap into their knowledge levels.  These students traditionally seem to be the ones who want to share their know how and I think the high performing/topic capstone is a great spot for them.

My hope is that I could get all my students into the high performing level, but am not sure if that's realistic.  The first few weeks the students will be focusing on evaluating expressions/distributive property/equations vs expressions vs inequalities, solving equations,  and solving inequalities/graphing solutions.

I plan to use a color coded style of grading to keep track of the strengths/weaknesses of my students - then use that to create a percentage grade.  Still working on that idea.

The flipclass idea is one that fits my teaching style.  I want to spend the majority of my time working with students to make them mathematically successful.  I see the use of video/how-to's as a supplement to the classwork.  I understand that there will be topics/strategies that I will need to complete with the entire group of students, and I will plan accordingly.  I think that will be a great opportunity to keep things in perspective for myself and the students as well.