August 23, 2014

End of Year 3

Year 3 with my students was honestly a blast. My district began Common Core implementation, and I saw a significant difference between the "old" and "new" curriculums. Algebra 1 was 100% Common Core aligned (granted, we did not get through the entire curriculum), and I was definitely impressed by how much my freshmen rose to the challenge of writing and explaining their thinking.

College algebra, on the other hand, did not have a new curriculum. However, they ended up doing more writing and analyzing as well because the Common Core bug hit me. It was while teaching college algebra that I realized how much skill and drill these kids have endured in their high school careers. I was dumbfounded and devastated that these seniors (with a splash of exceptional juniors) were seeing concepts like solving equations, graphing lines, etc for the second or third time, and they still hadn't mastered these concepts. I was forgiving on exponential and logarithmic functions, but linear and quadratic functions should be something that is mastered in both algebra 1 and algebra 2. What depressed me more was when it came time for their university or college math placement tests; these kids were not testing into college level math courses.

This devastation is what got me thinking about teaching. I put forth an extra amount of effort during my third year (though I failed to blog about everything) because of the shift in curriculum. I didn't mind that part, because I saw these freshmen grow more mathematically than I had in previous years. But what bothered me was that in some regards we were still just teaching to a test. The pressure was on for the math department, and I think admin expected us to just be able to flip a switch and adjust our teaching style overnight. The Common Core implementation wasn't gradual; the learning curve was challenging and teacher frustrations were high. I tried to stay positive as long as I could, but the negativity finally got to me. I became a jaded teacher after only teaching for three years, and I decided it would be best to take a year (or so I tell myself) off.

August 14, 2013

Revamped Icebreaker

Week 1 has come and gone for me, so this post is a little late.

The icebreaker activity my co-teacher and I used was 2 truths and 1 lie. In the past, I would just have kids read their cards, followed by some students guessing, and then the kid would tell us the lie. Not this time. My co-teacher had the kids ask questions, and together we figured out the lie.

For instance, this is what one student had:
1) I was born in California.
2) I visited Texas in the summer.
3) I have a dog.

We had to model the questions in the beginning in order for student buy-in. So my co-teacher got the ball rolling by asking: what's your dog's name, what kind of dog do you have, how old is your dog, etc... Once the kids got the gist, they started getting really into it. Sometimes the kid in the hot seat would try to lie (I took mental notes), but most of the students would cave and say I don't know or that's my lie when they couldn't answer a question.

I liked the way we did this activity for a couple of reasons. First, you got to learn quickly which kids will be most vocal/willing to participate. Those who asked many questions during the activity are now the ones who ask questions or make comments during a lesson. Also, this activity helped promote questioning in my classroom. I want the kids to ask good questions, and I think this was a fun and easy enough activity to get them started on that path.