Saturday, September 19, 2015

Never ending technology ideas...

So this school year started out really different for me... I wanted my classroom and teaching to stand out in a way it never has before. I wanted my students to say "wow I didn't know you could do this in a math class" or "Ms. Bradshaw you make math fun". I wanted them to learn, to really understand and make connections beyond just a process. So if that meant I had to change my mindset and go after things I never had before then that's what I'd do. 

Technology... That's where I'd start my transformations. But boy did I not realize how many ideas and resources there were out there. Ideas from using technology to enhance learning like graphing (with @desmos) to using technology for simplifying teachers daily tasks like grading (with It's like a buffet of never ending choices. You can take what you want, then go back for seconds or even third and fourths. The trick is to break between ideas much like you should do while eating from a buffet. Never eat so fast or get too much that you fill up quickly and get sick. That's where I messed up in the beginning. I started out in a sprint. I was so consumed by the technology that my life was passing me by and I didn't even realize it. I became so overwhelmed and stressed that I started to pull away completely. But luckily the #MTBoS kept me motivated and focused on my goal. The goal to impact students' lives. To intrigue them and bring about curiosity. Here are a few ways I have started to introduce technology into my classroom. 

1) Teacher Aide - Attendance and grading resource. This first one is for me and making my life simpler. I used to do this on paper and hated how every time a new student joined my class it threw off the balance of my attendance records or grading sheets. The names were no longer in order. Ahhhh annoying!! Now when new students enroll I can simply add there name and it gets alphabetized for me with no extra work. When I go to enter grades into PowerSchool I just scroll down and enter my grades from top to bottom with no skipping or getting out of order by mistake. Grades can be categorized and weighted. You can run reports on the class or an individual student. Attendance is enter just by clicking on there name. You have the option to choose present, absent, or late. You can also add a category like not enrolled. I use this category so that students who enroll later in the semester are not counted absent for the days prior to being enrolled in my class. This keeps the count correct for absences. Another great feature is you can upload student photos so taking attendance is such a breeze. No need to look for names just scan the faces and mark absent those missing in class. Lastly all reports can be exported by email and with the option for viewing as a spreadsheet.

2) Educreations - Interactive whiteboard. I love this app but I've only just started using it. I upgraded so I can import word documents, pictures, and google maps. I used the program to show a quick video slideshow of pictures of me and how I spent my summer for a first day "get to know your teacher" activity. The next time I used this in class was for showing shapes of graphs with real world example pictures. This is not just a whiteboard, you can also record your own voice to give a more detailed description of the images or work you are explaining. I just recently created a mini lesson on combining like terms. I'm pretty excited to see how students will take to the "flipped" classroom idea. I don't want all my lessons to be done using technology but I think this will be a great resource for review or for students that struggle with focusing during class. This gives them the opportunity to learn at their own pace. I'm also thinking that this is a great way to get parents involved in the learning process. I know many times parents want to help their children with homework or studying but just don't understand the material. So maybe using these videos they can learn and understand the concepts, then they can explain it to their children. 

3) Quizlet - Online flash cards and study tool for students. I learned about quizlet from a teacher that teaches medical classes next door to me. She has been using quizlet for a few years now and I've seen how motivated her students get with studying using this app. So of course I had to try it. I started with the basic term and definition cards but I wanted more. I upgraded to be able to import pictures so that my students could visual see the concepts along side the definitions. I've been using word to create the images to match the term. My students seem to really enjoy this tool because it helps them study and they can play games like scatter "matching" or race. They are also timed and score points which helps create a little good competition among students. With the upgraded teacher version you can also view your students progress which is very help to see who is studying and which terms might need more attention for review than others. 

These are just a few ideas that I'm currently using. Check back for part two of this post on some other ideas like desmos, thinglink, and YouTube that I'm learning more about. Hope this post motivates some of you to take the time and learn more about all the new technology and resources available for your classroom. 

God Bless!! 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

My interactive notebooks!

So about two years ago I was introduced into the world of teaching through interactive notebooks and now I'd say I'm pretty obsessed. I've tweaked things slightly each semester but the main idea I've held on to. The first semester I started using an idea similar to the left hand and right hand pages. Instead of having a student output on every single left hand page I used a student output page for the beginning of each topic. We would right down the learning objective, what they already knew about the topic, and after the topic was taught they would complete the what you learned section as well as proof problems to show mastery of the concept. Well unfortunately I had less than 10% of my students actually completing these pages  and the other 90% thought it was best to copy from those few students that actually put thought into the assignment. It only took one semester to realize that wasn't how I wanted to do my interactive notebooks. So I kept the page numbering and table of contents as high importance along with finding ways to speed up the process of INBs. 

Step 1: Material buckets were a MUST!  
Wish this was my first attempt at supply buckets. Nope this would be attempt 3 I believe. First their were zip pouches (which I now have an over abundance of), then there were unorganized baskets that had little square holes as a design (that several students thought it would be ok to cut them to make bigger holes), to my current solution of baskets with Velcro attached cups for separating supplies. This has truly saved my life this year and so far most all the materials are left ready for the next class and in good condition.  

Step 2: Create printed foldables with specific cut and fold type lines. 
It's hard to tell but the dashed line down the middle is a fold line, the darker lines on the left are actually dotted which I use for cutting, and the grey thin lines on the right are just to separate sections. 

By the middle of the semester most students understand how to cut and fold a new foldable with little to no instructions. Also this cuts down so much time. When I first started I seriously had my students break out the rulers and divide the total length by the number of sections I wanted to have for each foldable. OMG... What was I thinking???Atleast they were doing math while wasting time! 

Step 3: Guided notes make things so much neater and keep students from leaving out the most important parts. 
This is something I'm focusing on this year. I have great foldables but they are not guided. So it takes time but makes things smoother during class and once you save them the first time as guided your all ready for the next time you need it. 

Step 4: Do NOT waste your time or students grading these notebooks. They are notes. They should not get grades based on whether they followed directions or not or if they spent the night before copying someone else's notebook (only to leave that person's notebook at their house). It wasn't worth the time I spent grading or the half class period we spent peer grading. Over the summer I decided this year was going to be different. After reading a blog (I think Sarah's at mathequalslove) where she talked about allowing them to use them on quizzes instead. I thought this was brilliant. It creates the incentive for students to take notes so they get a good grade. Also for those students who really struggle and decide to leave all questions blank maybe they will choose to look back over their notes to atleast attempt the question this time. I've only given one quiz so far but I can atleast say that all my students were engaged and putting effort into taking the quiz and looking through their notes. 

Step 5: I prefer 3 ring binders... Only bc I make mistakes and we can insert a page if I forgot to cover something or taught a topic out of order. Also I like that they can insert their assignments, quizzes, and tests into the binder right after the topic covered on the assessment. 

Well that's how my INBs are done hope you enjoy. God Bless :)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Group Work & Supply Baskets

 Group Work is a MUST in my classroom. Considering I used to use the old school “talk at you” method this group work idea really took some time to warm up to. But after realizing students can and eventually will help each other I began to understand the cooperative learning process. It reinforced my lecture because students were forced to repeat what they just learned in order to help their classmates. This year my groups consist of 4 students which I seem to like better than my old groups of 3. Basically because no one should feel left out. Each group contains two baskets. One for supplies and one for trash. The supply baskets contain scissors, rulers, 10 markers, 4 pencils, 4 highlighters, 1 eraser, 1 pencil sharpener, 1 glue stick, 1 bottle of glue, 1 glue sponge, and 4 student feedback cards. To separate each group baskets we used different colored duck tape on everything in the basket so if something fell on the floor we could return it to its proper place. I also have 3 supply checkers for each class to help keep things organized.

Recently we added one whiteboard and dry erase marker for every student in the group. We are currently using these to answer questions after our do now instead of me going over every question. Trying to keep it fun! 

In case there are any additional items that students might need like white out, paper clips, staples (so when they run out they don't ask me), tape, colored pencils, extra markers, and loose leaf paper. So far they haven't wandered off but I also have some really good students. I simply explained that almost all there materials were bought with my own personal money and that I am a single mom on a budget so please respect me and the things that I help to provide for them. 

So that's my classroom group setup and now that I'm totally relying on teaching through Interactive Notebooks I love having my supply baskets for every group at their desks. Keeping things near and organized for them has made things so much easier and faster. Hope to inspire other INB teachers to get and stay organized. More to follow on how I set up each foldable to really cut down on confusion and time. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My first ever blog post

Hello MTBoS!! 

Super big thanks to Sarah @mathequalslove who inspired me to start my own blog and join the MTBoS group on twitter. About two years ago I had a big wake up call from my principal... basically I was put on probationary status and forced into weekly meetings to discuss my lesson plans for the coming week. Well that was the hardest and most stressful time in my teaching career not to mention I was a single mom of an almost 8 month old. Basically lesson planning is not my cup of tea, I'm more of a To-Do List girl than a full blown lesson plan teacher. But with that being said I pushed myself far greater than I ever imagined… Perfectionist took over… So wanting to impress my principal I searched the internet for ideas on INBs. Luckily I had two coworkers at the time who had already introduced INBs into their classrooms so I absorbed as much information as possible from them and began my slow transition into teaching through Interactive Notebooks. As I became super excited with this new creative side that I could explore I felt drawn to Pinterest and the blog MathEqualsLove while later discovering a whole network of amazing math bloggers. So here I am today starting on my own amazing journey. I hope that when you read my blog you accept my crazy random thoughts, misspelled words and grammatical errors out the wazoos, and my newness to this blogging thing.

So what to expect… This year I’m obsessed with organization and already have a few ideas to blog about soon. Also I really want to gear my students towards being unafraid of word problems and to begin processing in real life situations so I’m hoping to try out some great ideas I have seen on twitter. This blog is also my reflection time, to see my successes and failures, and to improve on them in a way that will always help me grow as a teacher and to look to the future no matter what.

Thanks for all your support MTBoS!! God Bless