Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Interactive Learning & Card Sorts

We all know that time is our enemy in the classroom. We are always racing against the clock and the calendar to get all our standards taught and to the level in which students hopefully retain the content. Not sure about you, but I'm always looking for more effective ways for students to learn and practice in the classroom. I hate to say it but my first few years I was that teacher that gave out a boring worksheet for every concept we covered. I would allow students to spend more than half the class period doing independent practice and mostly talking. Needless to say we never covered all the standards and that was when we didn't have as many to cover either. Looking back I realize I was CRAZY!!! We can't allow students to just sit around and waste time when we have so much to accomplish.

So how do we try to fix the wasted time issue? Well first we have to stop doing whatever we are that is causing us to waste time or be unproductive. Then we have to make a change; do something fun or outside of the box that will interest students. Also remember that you may fail several times before you figure out what works for you and your students but being a teacher is trying and never giving up.

For me I realized I had to actually try to teach instead of take the easy way out everyday by handing out a worksheet and calling that "teaching". I have tried several things over the years: group work, student whiteboards, interactive notebooks, games, and most recently technology. I am so thankful to have all these things in my teaching toolbox that make me more adaptable to my students' needs.

I'm super excited to share with you something that is new to me this year which I truly love and that is card sorts.

 It's nothing spectacular just basically a worksheet put onto several different little cards that students get to sort different ways. Depending on how you design yours for a particular activity they could be sorting a problem with its answer or sorting the cards into different categories. The cool thing is there are lots of options. I have made a template in Microsoft PowerPoint which is totally editable for you to use, save, change, and share. I'm always looking for something great in my classroom and who really wants to spend money on classroom materials; shouldn't we be helping each other become better teachers for our students? Well hope you enjoy!!

Here are links to 6 card sorts I've already completed. I printed them in portrait mode and 2 slides to 1 page.

***There might be typos I was entering and solving pretty fast today so check behind me***

Factoring by Trinomials
Verbal & Algebraic Notation
Combining Like Terms
Distributive Property
Solving Equations (with variables on one side)
Solving Equations (with variables on both sides)

Card Sort Template
The PowerPoint Template already has 1-32 number question boxes and A-X letter question boxes

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Math 1 Guided Notes

If your not familiar with the MTBoS group you are truly missing out. I never knew what it was like to share ideas and resources with other teachers until I came across all the amazing bloggers and twitter users out there that love math just as much as I do. It's interesting to think that I have been a teacher for 7 years now and this is the first year I really felt like I had a PLN. Part of that is that it took me several years (unfortunately) to gain the passion I have now for teaching and I never sought the help I needed back then to be a better teacher. So, now all my spare time is used reading blogs and creating new materials for my classroom to hopefully motivate and encourage my students and their learning. I have found that in the MTBoS group if you just ask someone for help they are right there to answer any question you have and will even share materials they have on the topic you might be searching information on. I've been inspired by so many of you guys that I wanted to give back in some way too. Today I created a google doc with links to PDF files of all the guided notes I've been working on so far this summer. It's definitely a work in progress because I am trying to change them from fill in the blanks to complete sentences so students only have to highlight important words and we can save time in class. Everyday that I complete a new set of notes I'll be adding it to the google doc which will automatically update. So check back later if your looking for a specific topic. After the notes are completed I plan to make annotated copies so you can see exactly what I plan to highlight and write out. Then I will be working on card sorts for most topics and technology assignments. I will create another google doc for these materials which some of you might be more interested in. I do have editable copies of all my notes so if you want the original word file just leave a comment or send me a message on twitter and I'll be glad to email the file. Hope this helps someone in need and thank you to all those who have supported me this past year on my journey to becoming a better teacher. 

You can also find this document under the math 1 tab on my blog homepage :)

Just FYI you may find some documents are inspired or even copied from others that I have found reading blogs. Please shoot me a message with your blog name and I'll be happy to site you as my inspiration and resources for the notes. 

Bloggers Who Inspire Me...
and many many more!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Reflections (Part 2 - Semester Two of School Year 2015-2016)

This semester was a huge step in the right direction for me as a teacher. I really went out of my comfort zone with some new apps and programs to motivate students and increase mathematical thinking. My favorite math app/program is definitely Desmos. I heard about the graphing calculator program a few years ago but just didn’t have the resources in the classroom to push using this program especially when at the time it basically did what our TI-83 calculators were capable of computing. However, later this year when I saw all kinds of great posts on Twitter from the #MTBoS group I knew I had to check it out. After doing a little research and thinking about when I could use this in my classroom I decided to start with my quadratics section in my Math 2 Honors class. My first activity builder was for the topic changing forms of quadratic functions. The awesome thing about Desmos Activity Builder is you can make a copy of someone else’s activity and edit it to fit the needs of your classroom. After testing out our first activity I realized this program is definitely going in my bag of tricks for the years to come. I can’t wait to see all the new features Desmos will come out with in the future.

Another resource I tried one time but will 100% use again is NearPod. This program is amazing!! It can be time consuming if you are a perfectionist like I can be at times. The NearPod that I created was pretty cool I’d have to say because it was a lesson on quadratics involving a game of Angry Birds, a video on YouTube, and a graphing activity through Desmos. I pretty much used every trick I had to see just how far that would take me with my students and I succeeded. My students loved every minute of the lesson and were engaged from beginning to end. This coming year I plan to create more NearPod lessons I'm just not sure if I want to use them as a recap for each unit or individual lessons.

My greatest accomplishment this past semester was trying standards based grading. I always thought this was such a hard way of grading but found it pretty simple and very informative. I was able to see exactly where each student was falling short and knew the areas in which I could help them grow. I love the idea now I just need to figure out the best way to carry it out.

A few other things I did this past semester that were a success:
  • Guided notes completely filled in except for examples (students only have to highlight important info)
  • Explain Everything (allowed my to annotate over top of my guided notes & save as pdf files)
  • Google doc (contains links to all course materials - notes, practice, quiz, test)
  • Organized notebook with tabs & guided notes
  • Card sorts (quadratics & exponential/logarithmic sections)
  • Use whiteboard & dry erase markers
  • Square roots with the number line (clothesline) activity
  • Human box-whisker plot
  • Whiteboard templates (quadratic formula/completing the square/factoring trinomials)
  • Jinga Review

Things I learned from semester two:

  • I still need work on differentiation in my classroom
  • Desmos is a great mathematical tool (must use frequently)
  • NearPod is a great app to keep students on track with where you are in the lesson & formative assessment
  • ThatQuiz is amazing for students to get immediate feedback on practice
  • Need to fix standard based grading (grade percentage & retake process)
  • Guided notes completely filled out really saves time (must change all notes this way)
  • Need to be consistent with classroom management
  • When students know they can’t be denied bathroom privileges they take advantage of you (figure out a method to help this situation or just give up & don’t care anymore - I stress out about this because I get so annoyed when I’m interrupted in the middle of the lesson)
  • Log sheet to keep up with where students go when they ask to leave room is a must keep (make them fill it out because you will not do it if you are busy or in middle of teaching)
  • Tardy forms are a must keep (need to make it a habit of getting them out of the box daily & record who was tardy for each class)
  • Do not let students be disrespectful; cut it off immediately do not second guess yourself
  • Find teachers who want to share in your journey no matter where they teach or where they live (everyone needs motivation and accountability)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Reflections (Part 1 - Semester One of School Year 2015-2016)

Well my plan was to reflect on my teaching all year long but changing my teaching style in the middle of the year caused me to put the blogging on hold. This year was so stressful at times; it was all I could do to keep my head above the water. Although, in the end it was all worth it being able to see all the amazing things I accomplished this year in the classroom. This is the first in a series of reflections for the year. I may not remember every little detail from this school year but I want documentation for the highlights that I do remember so in the years to come I can see the progress I’ve had over the years.

When last school year ended I was searching for more; wanting to finding something that would help my students learning and increase their grades. That year I had several informal meetings with my assistant principal about my progress in the classroom and a lot of our meetings ended in the conclusion that I needed to work on differentiation among my students. With that in mind I spent my summer working on transitioning my quizzes and tests into a differentiated style so that no students would be left behind. The quiz was designed so that if you chose option 1 (EOC Word Problems) you received a 100, option 2 (Content Calculations) you received an 85, and option 3 (Content Notes or Rules) you received a 70.

I thought this process was awesome at the time but when I brought it into the class I think it confused students way more than anything else. I think we may have continued this process for the first three quizzes. Luckily I came across a website called ThatQuiz that allowed me to create my own online assessments and the website graded the assignment.

I’m so blessed that I found this resource because I could focus my efforts in other more important areas since I gained all the time back that I would have been grading assessments for the year. This program offers multiple choice, matching, and slides. Check back soon for more detailed information on the website ThatQuiz.

For the remaining portion of semester one technology became my focus. I started thinking in the direction of a flipped classroom and tried this process for a few months. I was using educreations to create video lessons for each standard and using ThatQuiz for formative (practice - non graded) and summative (quiz/test - graded) assessments. The positives that I found in a flipped classroom were that each student had the opportunity to experience learning in an individualized manner and students could learn at their own pace. The negative I found was the learning process overall for the class was so chaotic. I found myself struggling to help every student because they were all at different places in the curriculum and always had different questions. While other teachers may find this is not an issue I could not handle this process emotionally due to all the stress; so towards the end of semester one I tried hard to bring back all my students in a group style instruction. I still continued to allow students to push forward into the new content if they were ready but we did large group instruction at the start of each new topic to keep students focused and more homogeneous. The semester ended ok in my opinion but I still had a lot to tweak in order to make this technology process work for all.

Things I learned from semester one:
  • I still need work on differentiation in my classroom
  • Technology is my friend
  • I’m not ready for a completely flipped classroom
  • Most students enjoy technology
  • Some students are nervous/unsure of technology and still need regular resources
  • Students rushed through some assignments that were on the computer and refused to work out problems like I wanted; need to fix issue
  • Do not use only technology to interest students... some like hands on activities, direct instruction, guided practice, etc.; keep it well rounded
  • Need to work on classroom management
  • Do not let students be disrespectful; cut it off immediately do not second guess yourself
  • MTBoS rocks keep connected and growing in this profession; you need it to survive