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!)

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