Getting Around

Sunday, November 25, 2012

#msSunFun Flipping the Math Classroom, a Beginning

I will never be able to completely flip my classroom in the touted way, mostly because a good third of my students have no technology at home. My attempts at using slow netbooks in the classroom haven't been super so far, though I haven't given up. I have, however, been working toward flipping my classroom in a low-tech way. This week, I'll be putting some of my planning to the test.

In any event, I prefer "blended learning" to "flipping," mostly because I want to move to a self-paced environment rather than me calling the shots just in the reverse order.

The Friday before Thanksgiving my students took a unit test (tests are collaboratively designed, so I have to call them that for now). I was on vacation last Monday and Tuesday, so the kids haven't seen their scores. Actually, they probably will never see their scores because I didn't put scores on them! Avoiding the whole points debate, I simply wrote comments and checked off whether each problem demonstrated proficiency. I did keep a secret score sheet for the class that matches the departmental key scoring, just in case I get in trouble. Many students struggled with some of the concepts. Since I used a proficiency rating scale, I know who needs help with what.

I am creating my own version of the "Wall of Remediation," which I think I'm going to call something like "Panels of Practice." Once I get it created, I'll post pictures so you can see why that's my working title. Each student will get a little checklist of the worksheets they are to work on and in what order. Students who aced the test will get two mystery challenges, culminating in a class presentation that will move us all into the next unit. I will have the answer keys out and available.  The worksheets aren't regular worksheets, they're backwards-faded worksheets. I'm not great at creating these and this is my first time using them with actual students. We'll see how it goes.

If everyone finishes all their worksheets (they have to turn them in, unlike regular homework which is just a completion grade), I'll let them do online practice in Acuity or on Khan Academy.

Against the departmental schedule (which says we are moving on to geometry tomorrow), we are going to do this for three periods. The last unit was equations and inequalities, and I can't see moving on until they really get it. Then, on Thursday, anyone who didn't master a particular standard will reassess on that standard only. We have a departmental "B" version of the test, which I'm chopping up so students don't retake the stuff they already know. This is more work for me, but I think the kids will appreciate it when they realize they don't have to remember everything.

As I said, I'll try to post pictures when it's all ready. Thoughts?

Ideally, this will morph into the way the classroom is run all the time. I'm not sure I'll get any support from other teachers (other than my mentor) or administrators moving into this way of doing things, so it's all about the baby steps.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mental Shift in Planning

I will be out Monday and Tuesday of next week.  One of the other math teachers will be covering my math classes and a sub will cover my science classes.  The math teacher has young children, and you never know when someone will be sick, so I provided backup plans.

Usually, when we use technology, we have a backup plan in case the technology fails us.  In this case, the technology IS my backup plan.  Is that even sane?  Not sure.  It's definitely a shift for me.  I have an innate love of gadgety things and tools for students to use and I am ever-hopeful that things go off without a hitch.  I know they don't, so I plan for it.  Now, I'm doing it backwards.

There is a backup to the backup, but it's boring.  I hope the sub doesn't have to go there.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day PD

Students get tomorrow off. We will spend the morning doing technology PD as a corporation and then we will spend the afternoon in our schools. At our school we're learning the new data protocols.

What's that, you say? Darned if I know. We were told to bring data. What kind? No clue.

It's always an adventure on PD days!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Writing Two-Step Equations

One of our standards is writing two-step equations, but we don't seem to have any of that in our textbooks. Why is that? Is it because our books are Common Core but we haven't fully switched yet? I checked the textbooks both two years behind and ahead of where my students are supposed to be, but no lesson on writing equations.

I found a long lesson online that had a good progression of equations in it, including writing them. There will be a constructed response question that requires equation writing on our state standardized test, so it's not something I can skip.

I found writing equations and inequalities to be really stressful when I was in middle school. I don't think I ever got over my disorganized thinking about it. Even simple equation writing has me making a bunch of stream-of-consciousness scribbles until I get something that looks right. Then I test it to be sure. I watch those videos of very smart people underlining something in the problem and then circling some other thing and then somehow making an equation out of it. I'm a frickin' math teacher, for heaven's sake, and *I* find writing equations confusing. How to show my middle school friends?

If you have a really fantastic resource for teaching kids how to write two-step equations, please drop me a comment. I'll be doing this probably on Friday. Thanks!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I'm Better Than In-School Detention

Several of the kids were talking about their classes at the end of my day today. One girl told me she pretty much hates all her classes. Except my science class, which she says is slightly better than spending the day in ISD (In-School Detention).

Compliment? I can't tell.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Getting Crotchety in My Old Age?

I don't know why, but every time a student addresses me as "Miss" I get a little exasperated. It makes me think back to Mrs. Telesco...(insert wavy, flash-back video here)*
I am MRS. Telesco**!  Not "Miss" or anything else. I worked VERY HARD to become MRS. Telesco, so that's what you'd better call me!
(insert wavy, flash-forward video here)*

OK, maybe I didn't work very hard to "earn" my title, but I definitely prefer "Mrs." or "Ms." AND I HAVE NO CLUE WHY! Am I just being an old fart about this? "Mrs." appears on my name badge and on my door. I sometimes refer to myself in the third person with "Mrs." I made my preference clear during the first week of school. Are kids just lazy? Do they not understand the importance of calling people what they prefer? I make quite an effort to call kids what they like, even if they're just temporarily trying out a new nickname for themselves. I insist that we spell each other's names correctly.

On another note, while I probably won't be posting every day (it's that month where you're supposed to write a novel and blogging is the closest I'll ever get), you might get some weirdness from me this month. Just because.

* There's no budget for video. Use your imagination. I'm thinking something along the lines of "Wayne's World" would be appropriate.

** Mrs. Telesco was my Home Ec. teacher in middle school. What she lacked in physical stature she made up for in attitude. And I still don't know how to thread a sewing machine, despite her incredibly patient efforts to teach me.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Drinking the SBG Juice with Others Now

We PLC at my school district. This has come to mean a lot of things to a lot of different kinds of people, and it doesn't always work. But, it IS a work in progress and the leadership actually seems committed to sticking this one out. The math department (or, as I like to call us, the "mathies") got a talking-to the other day from an administrator telling us we needed to PLC the way we were taught and not the way we felt like it. This was very freeing for me, though I suspect other mathies were not so thrilled.

I found a colleague who's willing to try the "crazy" stuff with me. I'm sure you all know what a relief this is. I'm not the new kid also trying to rock the boat while I learn the ropes. Now I'm getting on board with what's supposed to be the program with someone in a position to do something about it.

The two of us recently started adding a chart to the back of our common assessments that lists the standards on the assessment as well as what the student's scale score was for that assessment (I think I've mentioned this before, but now we're several assessments in and it's starting to pay off). My fellow juice drinker added a comment area to this sheet which I think was exactly what I needed to focus my ideas for each kid. The other person who uses our common assessments is not drinking the juice, so he hasn't added the sheet to the back of his assessments.

After the most recent assessment, we exchanged email about "data," which is what we're supposed to be PLCing about. Non-juice-drinking guy sent something like this:
Class Average, 6th Period: Blah.Blah%, The biggest difficulties students had were with questions Blah (Blah% got it wrong) and Blah (Blah% got it wrong, but I think the wording may have tripped them up).  We need to review question Blah as well.
Now, how helpful is that? Meanwhile, my SBG-juice drinking colleague and I talked about what percentage of our students did well on each standard. I was able to remediate something that a good chunk of my class missed the very next day. I'll be reassessing just that standard tomorrow, which is a huge shift. Typically, reassessing means we have several versions of the WHOLE TEST, which then has to be graded. It's hard to show growth because the students might trip over something they got right the first time.

My ideal is self-pacing instruction and having kids assess when they're ready, but it's a long road. I'd love to assess one standard at a time and I'm working out how to do that while keeping with the common big tests. If we weren't PLCing, I would have done it already. That's the bad part. The good part is that with the PLC, I have a friend.

And I have data I can USE.