August 27, 2012

I Wish...

Week 2 Prompt: What do you wish had been a part of your teacher training or mentoring?

Before stepping into the classroom, I wish someone had told or taught me about...

  • The amount of time meetings take up in your day. I learned this quickly last year. I felt so bad turning away students before or after school, because at least a couple times during the week I had to run to a meeting. By the end of the year, meetings were like okra to me...not my favorite.
  • The amount of email a teacher receives on a daily basis. I felt like at the beginning of my first year, I was constantly checking my email. I was  overwhelmed with trying to reply and read. I don't do that anymore. I wait to read everything during prep or after school. It can wait.
  • How to communicate with parents. I wish we had scenarios or something in college to help us in working with parents. I remember that first parent phone call...I was so nervous! I know it just takes practice, but I still wish someone had stressed parent communication to me in undergrad. Maybe I could have developed an avuncular charm?
  • Print materials at least a day in advance. The copy machine in the math lounge at my school is a vainglorious contraption. The things loves to be the center of's always breaking down! I never won last year. Now I try to print everything I need at least a day ahead of time, otherwise it could go either way with the temperamental copier. 
  • How to be organized with the paper flow. Students turn in work. I grade. Pass back. Repeat. I've been doing less collecting this year, but I still feel like I have sooo much paper. I wish we had learned some tips from our Hemingway-esque college professors.

This is my list for now. I think this would have been longer last year during my first year. I felt so overwhelmed. Year 2, going much better!

August 21, 2012

Proud of My Birthday!

Week 1 Prompt- Take a photograph of something you're proud of...explain what it means to you.

Psh. Easy peasy. Thanks for this topic Math Blogging Initiation team!

Right now I'm most proud of these drawings that are on my filing cabinet right behind my desk:

I'm in my third week of my second year of teaching. My first year teaching was...well not as bad as I expected if that makes any sense. These drawings actually represent one of the most memorable moments in my first year.

It happened during algebra block (two hours of math for students with low math skills). I had a paraprofessional with me in the classroom; he was the one with a sense of humor. One day in March, he tells his station (algebra block is taught using stations) that it's my birthday. So they secretly drew these birthday cards for me while I was teaching in my station. I really didn't know what was going on. At the end of class, I was given my birthday cards AND the kids sang happy birthday to me.

As you might have guessed, it was not my birthday. My birthday is in December, but I just couldn't tell my students the truth after all their efforts. It took a lot of self-control to hold back laughter.

It means a lot to me now, because I see these kids on campus and they say hi to me or tell me that they miss our class. This just helps me realize that I did make an impact my first year, and I hope to go even further this year.

Oh and my paraprofessional is now an official teacher this school year. You better believe I will get him back if I ever have to cover his class!

August 20, 2012

Made4Math: MATHO!

I'm copying @LaurenDeReche's review game theme since I also missed the memo for #MyFavFriday. Without further ado...MATHO!

Based on my experience, this game has been more successful with my lower level algebra class than with my regular algebra class. I don't really know why. At one point last semester, we had quizzes every Friday so we were playing MATHO every didn't get old! MATHO is played just like bingo, the only difference is the name. I actually don't have an electronic version of the MATHO cards but I found this one online

You could also make your own with Word (I just whited out a bingo card, wrote MATHO, and made copies).

Here's my MATHO review that I created for negative and zero exponents. I'll have the slide with all the answers displayed, and students fill in their MATHO cards. I give them about 5 minutes to fill out their cards. Then we just go through each problem. If it's a difficult topic, I'll help them get started on problems or even do the first two together. Candy for the winners!

I like MATHO because it's easy to create (select problems from worksheets or study guides) and takes little planning. Throw in some non-math questions to keep students interested. 

****Shout out to @lmhenry9 for teaching me how to share files! :) *****

August 19, 2012

Ah! Homework!

This week's topic is the ever so dreaded homework debate.My first year teaching I assigned homework almost every night for the first unit. I collected homework and graded based on completion. As the year progressed, I was not happy with the homework load and decreased it to 2-3 times a week. Then I changed my philosophy and wanted to focus more on classwork rather than homework. I didn't see test scores drop because of the change, so I continued that for the rest of the year.

Year two. Homework has now been combined with classwork and both go under the "assignments" grade. Last year I had a "classwork" grade as well as a "homework" grade, unnecessary-what was I thinking?! For this year, I really want homework to be a bare minimum. In algebra 1, they've had one take home assignment in the first two weeks. We do a lot more in class assignments, and I have students grade each other's work. I still collect the assignments, so I can record in the grade book and to identify struggling students. In my advanced algebra class, I have been giving homework because they are doing much better with homework completion (only 1 student is not doing the work). They self-check themselves and turn it in. I have been taking off points for the number of problems missed, but I plan on changing it and base it on completion.

A couple of notes:

  • 68% of the semester grade is based on unit tests and the semester final (per district mandate).
  • My district is moving towards having students' entire math grades based on quizzes/tests/final.
  • The two preceding bullets make me want to eliminate homework completely (if you have done so in your classroom, tell me about it!).
  • Suggested reading: Allfie Kohn's Homework Myth. 

August 16, 2012

My Favorite Lesson Plan Book

Like most beginning teachers, I sought out advice and guidance from the more experienced teachers when I first started teaching. One teacher was really helpful, and she gave me something that looked like this:

It was great a tool, and it did save me during the first unit. But then I got tired of carrying it around and eventually it just stayed on my nightstand. Not very useful at this point. And then OneNote came into my life. If you haven't used OneNote before, you should try it out! Here's a screen shot of my notebook:

I just love how I can see everything. I have tabs for each class I teach (algebra block, algebra 1, and accelerated algebra). I break down these sections by creating pages for each week and within each week's page I have my days figured out. I have all 37 weeks of school at my finger tips. 

As you can see, my planning isn't too detailed...and there's a reason for that. Earlier this year, I convinced the algebra team to create a OneNote for our content team. That one is wayyyyy more detailed, and the one I use more often. We put powerpoints, worksheets, activities, assessments, and lesson objectives for each day into our notebook. OneNote has enhanced our collaboration. It's amazing!!!! 

August 13, 2012

First Made4Math Project!

I actually stole this paper tray storage from a colleague at school. She said she found it on Pintrest, so those who are Pintresters can look there for more directions if need be.

To make your own paper storage you will need:
5 boxes
Packing or duct tape
Spray paint

1) Start with cutting off one of the ends on all boxes. This creates the opening for your paper trays.

2) Stack boxes and then tape sides. I placed tape strips vertically on the sides. I found when painting that it's better to have your tape be side by side leaving no space between strips of tape (i.e. less cardboard showing). I also taped the "back" with horizontal tape strips to join boxes.

3) Lastly, spray paint your paper storage. I live in a desert, so it was easy to do a couple coats in a short amount of time.

And here is the finished product!

I made two of these, and I was thinking of doing an "In" and "Out" paper system for each class period...but then I thought maybe I could use them more as "Absent" papers and designate each box for the day of the week. AH! I still can't make up my mind.

August 12, 2012

Committing to ISN

I need to make it official. I wanted to try one new (feasible) thing in my classes this year, and I decided it would be ISNs (interactive student notebooks). I'm not rolling it out in all of my classes, just one. ISNs will now be part of my Algebra Block class. These kids are low level math students and get to be with me for two class periods everyday. Similar to the Read 180 program, if you've heard of it, I have an aide and we do three stations daily (the last station is the ALEKS program on the computers).

I want to do this. These kids need something more than just regular notes. I hope the ISN will assist me in getting these kids caught up with their regular Algebra 1 counterparts.

ISN starts Wednesday! Can't wait!!!