Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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Monday, November 12, 2012

A Day in My Life #DITLife

5:10 am So, it is Monday morning and my alarm goes off as it does every work day. I really don't want to get up. I was up too late working on stuff for today and I am tired. I snooze the alarm a couple of times.

5:25 am I crawl out of bed and start my day. I begin getting ready for school and head to the family room to check email, Twitter, and Facebook. Today I don't have to get lunches ready since both of my children are buying their lunches - yay!

5:55 am I eat a quick bowl of cereal and finish getting ready for work. As I finish getting ready, I can hear my daughter stirring and am silently praying that she doesn't get up before I leave.

6:15 am I am now in the car - earliest I've been in a week or two and I made it out before my 9 year old daughter got up - double win! I begin the 25 minute drive to work and start to think through what's ahead in my day. While still on the road, I call home for the first time to try to wake my husband.

6:40 am  I finish the drive to school and park in my usual spot next to one of our Social Studies teachers. I walk into my classroom, drop my stuff and head to the office to sign in. I hurry back to write a class-wide reassessment on multiplying polynomials and factoring for my Algebra 2 students that at this point I think I am going to give on Tuesday. I head to the teacher's lounge to make copies for my 7th Grade Financial Literacy class later on and drop off the assessments to be copied in the office. I return to my classroom and write on the board what my students are learning today. I then put together the opening slide for my students and begin prepping my station activities that I had put together the night before.

7:15 am One of our special ed aides stops in after she arrives and we discuss the plan for my Algebra 2 class for the next couple of days as well as what we're going to do about a student in my Math 2 class who needs to make up an assessment from Friday. We chat about the football game Friday night and she shows me the signs she and her daughter made in support of our undefeated football team. Once she leaves, I continue prepping the station activities and call home again.

7:30 am Students start heading down the hall, but no bell. Seems like there's a problem with them this morning. My first period class, Math 2, begins entering the room. At 7:37 am, still no bell as there should be. So I go ahead and start announcements and take attendance. I hand back their assessments from Friday and we head down to the computer lab to work on ALEKS. We arrive at the lab to find it locked. I send a student to the office to get it unlocked and about 5 minutes later, the principal comes to unlock the door for us. Students spend about 30 minutes working on practice problems based on what they need to work on. Meanwhile, I finish the last of my station prep and find the lemonade stand website online that will work without me circumventing the Web Filter for my Financial Literacy class.

8:30 am My first period class heads out the door to the bell, which is now working. Second period enters and are already wondering how they did on Friday's assessment. I had forgotten to pull down their first nine weeks grades and as a couple of students check their grades and comment there's no change, I confirm that I haven't updated grades yet. I hand back their assessments, expressing my disappointment in how they did as a class and reminding them that they needed to practice more than they probably did. I also remind them that factoring is a key skill they will need throughout Algebra 2 and their mathematics courses and that it is important to their success. I announce that we are going to work through 6 stations, 5 minutes a piece, and everyone is re-assessing tomorrow unless they already earned a 5. As students are getting their supplies for the stations, I am readjusting groups since 5 students are absent today, which throws off the groups I had already set up based on how they did on the assessment. I assign students to groups and they are off and (mostly) working.

9:05 am Now that students are in their second station activity, I am realizing that I grossly underestimated the time it would take them to work through the station activities.  I make the decision that they will work through 3 stations today, 3 tomorrow, and re-assess on Wednesday. It is important to me that they practice this thoroughly so that they will do better and have a stronger grasp on the skill. I announce as I am moving the last station around that we will re-assess on Wednesday and continue practicing the stations tomorrow.

9:20 am Second period is coming to a close and students are cleaning up. They leave and my third period class enters. Third period is pretty much a repeat of second period, except that I tell them up front that we are reassessing on Wednesday. I also have three absences and decide not to adjust the groups, feeling that the absent students will have a better chance for success if they are integrated into existing groups.

10:15 am Third period finishes and I head down the hall to meet my 7th graders. Normally, I would bring them to my classroom, however today, I am taking them to the computer lab, which is in the hallway between the high school and middle school. Mainly I am doing this  because the school nurse is doing vision screenings today during my class. Rather than trying to have lecture on new material or an in class activity down in my classroom (which is a rather lengthy distance from the middle school office where the screenings are taking place), I decide to have students work in pairs or threes doing the "Lemonade Stand" game as a part of our discussion on supply and demand and as a transition to discussing about setting prices tomorrow. This group does pretty well with this activity and work the entire period. However, a little more than halfway through the period, the middle school principal comes over the PA system and announces that it is time for our monthly building fire drill. While she is announcing this, I am quickly checking for where I am to take my students. Then off we go. My students handle it very well. We return to the computer and finish our activity.

11:08 am The bell rings and my middle school students are off to class and I am off to lunch. I stop in the office to drop my stuff, duck into the bathroom, head to the cafeteria to get my lunch and head to the lunchroom. Lunch discussion revolves around the football game Friday and plans for this coming Friday's game and other light hearted topics. I really do enjoy the people I have lunch with.

11:35 am Back down to my classroom to set up for my fifth period class. Students begin to enter class around 11:44 am. A couple of my students express their concern about how they did on the assessment Friday. This is now the third time going through this for me and it goes a lot like the other two periods. This is also my smallest class and it's a little easier to get around to touch base with each of my students to see how they're doing with the material and just generally how they're doing. This class also has the largest range of ability. I have some very strong students academically and some very weak ones as well. If I have to say a class is my favorite, this one would be it this year. They have some real fun personalities and I do enjoy them.

12:35 pm Stations are winding down in my fifth period class and I bring out the dice for a couple rounds of "Polar Bears Around an Ice Hole." I've been doing this with them for several days now and many of my 17 students have gotten it. 2 more get it before the end of the period. I think it's running its course and I'll have to bring something else out to pique their curiosity. Maybe I'll bring out Set next.

12:42 pm The bell rings and off goes my fifth period class. My sixth period class enters and this is the last class I teach of the day. This class goes much like the other three went, but I can see that several students aren't putting forth the effort they really to be to improve. This is my largest Algebra 2 class and I'm not able to make it around to touch base with as many students as I'd like to. One of the students asks if he is coming down during seventh period (my planning, his study hall) to get help as we had discussed on Friday and I tell him that I'm not sure if I'll get down to get him, especially if he's not taking the class work time very seriously (which he doesn't).

1:35 pm Sixth period is out the door and I am right behind them, heading to the office to read the afternoon announcements. There are a lot today and it takes quite a bit of time today. I drop the announcements off in the principal's office and head back to my classroom. We are supposed to meet as a department today but I am dreading it. I really feel like I am pushing my two colleagues to meet and that they don't contribute much, let alone want to meet in the first place. My senior colleague comes in and says that my other colleague is "tied up." He asks what I've got today and I ask if I can pick his brain a bit, since I don't have a lot more time with him. He will retire at the end of the school year. We talk (well, mostly he does) about student work ethic and motivation and how to keep students reaching for the level that we feel they should be achieving. It's nice to know that some of the frustrations that I have had with the group of students he now has he is having as well. He and I share a lot of the same viewpoints and I know he is a solid teacher. I left our conversation feeling like I am not in a bad place and that I am doing okay merging old and new. We finish talking about our upcoming evaluations and I realize that I have not signed up for which class my principal is going to evaluate me in. So, off to the office I go to sign up and decide on Thursday when I am introducing graphing quadratic equations, vertex, and axis of symmetry. I decide to go with my 5th period class.

2:20 pm I am heading back to my classroom to get some work done. I work on finishing my note sheet for Thursday and go to get it to send to copying. I do take a break in there when students are dismissed (at 2:30 and 2:35) and monitor the halls briefly. Once I get the first draft, I realize I want to make some changes and head back to my classroom to make them. I reprint the sheet and get it from the teacher's lounge and take it to copying. I head back to my classroom and wrap it up for the day.

3:08 pm I get in the car and head towards home. It is raining and the drive is not particularly fun. I am thinking through my day and thinking of what is yet to be done today. Mondays are incredibly busy in the evenings for us.

3:33 pm I pull into my driveway, take in my school bag, and stop at the bathroom. I grab snacks for my children and snack for choir. I get back in the car at 3:40 and head to get my children at their bus stop at their day care. On the way, I make three phone calls - pay the paper bill, check in with my husband, and chat with my mother.

4:00 pm My children get off the bus and into my car. We head to church for choir practice. When we get to church, both kids bring in their back packs. My daughter starts on her math paper and my son gets our his reading book to read his story to me. He reads rather quickly and gets bored. He heads off to play with another child who is waiting for the start of choir. My daughter is struggling a little with her paper and we work through the problems. She finishes her paper at 4:33 and heads into choir. On my way out, one of the other moms, who is also a Girl Scout Leader, catches me and we talk about an upcoming Girl Scout event that will be on the agenda of our meeting later.

4:40 pm I am now home and typing my agenda for this evening's Girl Scout Leader meeting. I also check email and play a little on Facebook before dashing back out to get my kids.

5:30 pm I pick up my children and drive through McDonald's for dinner for the three of us. We head home to eat. When we get home, we find out that McDonald's screwed up my daughter's dinner order which upsets her. She is now off her ADHD medicine, so who knows what the evening will hold... We eat and my son gets ready for gymnastics. My husband gets home at 6:10 to pick up my son to take him to gymnastics. My daughter and I leave at 6:20 to head back to church for the Girl Scout Leader meeting.

6:30 pm We arrive at church to find that we aren't supposed to be in the atrium - someone else is. However, they want to be in the basement, where we were booked. We agree to swap spaces and all is good. My daughter is not willing to work at the table I want, but she says she'll work on writing her spelling words at a different spot. I remind her that she does not get her iPad until the words are done. My meeting starts at 6:45 and I start it pretty much on time. Surprisingly, we get through the agenda in an hour and I spend time talking to new leaders at the end of the meeting, setting up an evening meeting with the newer leaders after Thanksgiving. Throughout the meeting, I have to check on my daughter, who is not working on her spelling words. Once I'm done, she still doesn't have them finished and I am angry with her.

8:00 pm We head home. I change my clothes and sit with my daughter until she finally finishes copying her 20 spelling words 3 times each. While she was working on her spelling words, my husband and son came home. My husband hasn't eaten so he heats up dinner and deals with my son while I am sitting with my daughter trying to get her to finish her spelling. While she is working, I am checking my email and finally skimming Twitter. I think as I am skimming that I really ought to trim the number of people I follow - there's a lot to catch up on from 6 am, when I last checked Twitter. She finally finishes at 8:45 pm. She heads to bed. I tuck my son in and finish supervising my daughter getting ready for bed, tucking her in just after 9:00 pm.

9:00 pm I sit down on the couch and join my husband. He's watching the football game but he changes to Dancing With the Stars. I finish looking at a couple of things for school tomorrow and start blogging this (I didn't look to see when I started). I am now finishing this at 10:57 pm and will finally crawl into bed about 11:15 pm to get up tomorrow and do it all again. Instead of meetings, laundry awaits. :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Factoring Practice #made4math

I had blogged last Thursday that I thought my Algebra 2 students would do pretty well on their factoring assessment on Friday. Guess I shouldn't count my chickens before they hatch... It's not that they did badly, for they didn't, but they didn't do as well as I had hoped and expected. I really want them to have a solid factoring foundation as we proceed through the year. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take the math placement test that many colleges use to decide where students place into college mathematics. One of the biggest things that struck me was how many problems used factoring as a part of the process in solving the problem. Now that I have seen that, I want to make sure my students have that solid foundation in factoring. I decided that I would hand back their assessments on Monday and then set them up into groups of 4 (and some 3s) to work through 6 stations for 5 minutes a piece.

Here are the 6 stations:

Station 1 - Correct their Assessment
I have set the groups up so that at least one person has mastery of factoring (or very close if I didn't have enough in a class). I want them to actually rework the problem(s) they have missed so they can figure out what they did wrong.

Station 2 - Multiplying Polynomials
I used something I found in the Row Games Box Files I have access to. I have adjusted it for time.

Station 3 - Factoring using GCF
I have a match puzzle that I am using here. Students will have to factor the problems and match them to the answer to create a 3x3 square.

Station 4 - Factoring x^2 + bx + c
I set up a Four in a Row Game - students will play in pairs. They will draw a card, factor it, and then mark their initials on the card where the 2 factors are. First to get four in a row wins. This file has 2 different cards for the same set of factoring problems. The factoring problems are on page three - top half goes to page 1 and 2 cards, bottom half goes to page 4 and 5 cards.

Station 5 - Factoring ax^2 + bx + c
This came from @algebrainiac1, who responded to my tweet after their assessment with several ideas. This game is called "Old Poly" and I am assuming it's based on "Old Maid." Directions are on the first page. I did leave a full page of blank Old Poly cards if you wished to add cards.

Station 6 - Factoring by Grouping (2 and 2)
I did an "I have, Who has" for this one. I think @algebrainiac1 had suggested it also. I did add the directions at the end.

Hopefully, this will help students review the concepts well before reassessing, which will be on Tuesday. I hope this helps someone out. If you cannot download the files via box, feel free to email me at lmhenry9 at gmail dot com and I'll be happy to email you the word document(s).

Monday update - I originally thought it would take them 5 minutes a station. I underestimated the time. These can mostly be done in 10 minutes. 15 minutes would probably be better. For Old Poly - I have way too many cards and would probably adjust that number down in the future.

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Thursday, November 08, 2012

One Down, Three to Go

Last Friday marked the end of the first grading period. Sometimes, it really amazes me how fast the first grading period sometimes goes. Other times, it seems like it takes forever. I am still trying to figure out where this year fits in. It certainly has been the busiest first grading period I have had. It was not until the last week where I actually felt like I had a small amount of breathing room. Of course, that breathing room is starting to get swallowed up again as I rest a bit this week. We had conferences Monday after school and I have been spending most of this week in the evenings just trying to relax a little bit instead of pushing so hard to work on lessons. I can definitely say that I feel burnt out a little bit and it's only the beginning of November.  I am looking forward to Thanksgiving Break here in a few weeks for some much needed R and R.

There have been lots of exciting things going on. Our school's football team finished the season undefeated. The last time they were undefeated was in 1978 and we won the state championship that year. This weekend is the second round of the state playoffs. Good luck to our boys!

I wish I could say exciting things were going on in my Math 2 class. I really feel like I am struggling with them. Geometry is not my favorite material to teach to start with, and I just really feel like I am struggling to engage them. I have them first thing in the morning. It is an interesting dichotomy of students. I have some students who have struggled in their mathematics and are turned off to the idea of math period. I have some students who are special needs and can get the mathematics with a little help. These students work hard and give me good effort daily. It seems rare that I can get everyone on the same page. We are  finishing up parallels and transversals and will be doing slope next. Then we get into congruent triangles. Not quite sure what I am going to do there to improve this class. Lower ability classes have never been my strong suit and I really wish I could figure out how to teach this class better.

In Algebra 2, we are finishing up factoring. I cannot believe how well the students have done through all of it. It was very gratifying to hear several students say today as we played the review game that they were looking forward to the assessment tomorrow and that they were confident with how they would do. The foundation laid by their Algebra 1 teacher last year  has made a significant difference. I see two things that have been helped by their previous teacher - an instilling of an expectation that they are to work and the content foundation that was laid for these students. I cannot believe how much difference there has been this year. I have not had to teach some of the concepts that I have had to in previous years. Students came in knowing what they should have, and when that happens, it is much easier to briefly review and move on to what I should be teaching.

Next up in Algebra 2 is graphing quadratic equations. I am debating how I am going to introduce it to them. They have seen the basic shape from when we did transformations. I am debating whether and how to use the Dan Meyer classic "Will it hit the hoop?" or something with Angry Birds like Sean Sweeney did or in another fashion or something else. I know when we start graphing quadratics, they won't be able to find the equations that the parabolas form, but it can give some interesting motivation. I've got some thinking to do before Monday....

In one of my Algebra 2 classes, I have quite a few highly motivated and intelligent freshmen. There a few of them who pride themselves on being able to come up with correct answers and maintain a 100% average (and are highly competitive as you might guess). One day last week I brought out the dice and shared the "Polar Bear Game" with them. If you are not familiar -
The name is the game and the game is in the name and the name of the game is "Polar Bears Around an Ice Hole." Like petals around a rose, how many polar bears do you see?
They don't all have it yet, but several of their classmates do. It's been fun to watch them struggle a little - especially since they are not accustomed to struggling. I think the best moment was when one of the other freshmen (rather intelligent, but not in "their circle") watched for 2 rolls and on the third roll had figured out the riddle/answer correctly. He was the first one to get it. After that, several other students have started to watch and have gotten quicker than a few of these high-achieving students have. It's been cool to watch. Guess I'll have to find something else to try with them here in a few weeks or so... (Suggestions are welcome!)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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