Getting Around

Friday, August 24, 2012

Because Math Wasn't Enough

I got a call last Friday after school from my principal, asking if I'd be willing to add 2 sections of science to my schedule. As I am very part time right now, I told her I'd be thrilled to.

It started yesterday. All of a sudden, I'm clueless again.

I didn't have enough desks the first day, so I sat two kids at the demonstration bench for my largest class. My math class was confused, since we were moved to a science room. There was chaos yesterday, and a thin veneer of order today. I can honestly say that I was as ready as I could be on such short notice and with no after-hours access to the school building.

A huge bonus has been getting my own room. But since I didn't get it before school started, I didn't have anything set up. The previous teacher in the room had left all her stuff, so when I walked in I didn't even have anywhere to put the small number of items I have in the building. The fabulous custodial staff brought me the desk I had been using in my shared room and a chair with working wheels, but it did mean that for a day all my dirty laundry was spread all over the full desk for all to see. I did score a huge collected of shaped sticky notes from the previous teacher, so I can't really be mad at her for leaving me a mess.

I also don't have enough lab stools for everyone and it's unlikely that I'll ever get them. I told the kids that the only way they'd be allowed to sit on a lab stool for labs was if they had a doctor's note saying they had to sit or an x-ray showing me the damage to the lower extremity. I'm not really that mean. I think.

Anyway, it was a busy week. I have lots of thoughts I need to process but I haven't had the time to process them. My weekend will be devoted to reading through the teacher's manual for the science curriculum. A kid asked me today if we'd get to dissect anything, and I had to admit that I didn't know yet. I told her I'd get back to her on Monday. Don't want to break a promise, so off I go.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Divisibility War

The math department at my new gig decided to start the year off teaching divisibility rules. I teach the seventh grade "regular" students, and they usually need a lot of practice. Since they all seemed to know 2, 5, and 10, we zoomed through the rest of the rules and decided to play a game.

I tried to find a good game to practice divisibility, but all I could find was one involving rocks (why rocks???). So, I used my go-to backup, War.

I think every math teacher in the universe knows how to play War, so this is just a variation. All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil for each kid and a deck of cards for each group. I would like to think I invented this, but I can't imagine that someone, somewhere hasn't done it before and better.

Here's how it works (for 2 to 4ish players):

1. Divide the deck up roughly evenly, taking out the face cards and Jokers.

2. Everyone flips over two cards, putting them side-by-side.  Each card represents a digit, so a 4 and a 6 are 46.  If you get a 10, just use both digits, so a 10 and a 3 would be 103.

3. Using a chart on a piece of paper, write down your number and then make a check in the column for if it's divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10.

4. Whoever has the most check marks wins the round and keeps everyone's cards.  Players can check each other's charts. If an error is found, the person finding the error wins. If there's a tie, the person with the smallest number wins. If there's still a tie, the winners divide the cards evenly.

5. When all the cards are played, the person holding the most collected cards wins the game. Shuffle and start again, because we all need more practice.

6. When doing it with two cards gets easy, switch the three cards/digits or more.

I never got to it because we ran out of time, but I would have let my enrichment kids change the order of the digits in order to maximize the number of factors.

The other math teachers decided not to cover the rules for 4 and 8, but I find them very handy for factoring. I told my students they were bonus rules that I taught them only because they were smarter than the other seventh graders.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I'm Organized???

With all the hoopla about interactive notebooks going through the twitterblogosphere these days, I decided that I was going to do them with my 7th grade math class this year. Today was the big day where I walked them through my interactive notebook and we did a foldable, thanks to the stuff posted by other wonderful math teachers at

In addition to the notebooks, I also used this great communication idea for the first week:  Today, one student commented to me on his name card that this is the most organized math class ever.  Overlooking the fact that "organized" was badly butchered spelling-wise, I'm floored.  I'm fairly organized at work and some adults have the strange impression that I'm organized, but no child in his or her right mind has ever called anything I did organized.

I'm not sure I can live up to that expectation...

Monday, August 13, 2012

The First Day of School

I survived the first day of school!  Actually, it was a bit anticlimactic.  I handed the kids name cards (instructions were on the board), a student survey, a welcome letter, my grading policy, and a sign-off sheet they were to take home. I couldn't believe how many of them couldn't follow the direction, "Put your name on the name card." Lesson learned for the future.

Each period of the day was assigned to do some administrative task with the students so that it wouldn't fall to the first few periods to get it done. I think this was a good idea. I had to have them write their names on their student handbooks/planners and then go over the first few pages. That wasn't bad, but it took way longer than I thought it would.

After the kids were dismissed, several of them left papers around. I can see we'll need a procedure for that.

The other period I work as a floater, going to all the math classes to see who needs help. It only took a few minutes to introduce myself to each class, and then I stayed in the room I share to see how the other teacher did his first day. It was pretty much just like mine, only he got stuck with going over more pages in the handbook than I did.

I warned the kids I didn't plan on doing that much talking all year. They looked doubtful.

My biggest challenge right now is getting technology to work. The IT people are swamped, and I can't log in.  While I'm sure the secretaries don't love me for doing paper attendance, I think it's better than driving the IT folks crazy with repeated phone calls from random phones since I don't have a phone number yet where they can reach me when they have time.  One of the building's tech coordinators has a call in, but I told her not to make a big deal about it until some of the rush of the first few days of school is past. I'm not being a pushover here, just trying not to be someone's PITA teacher.

Everyone has been very helpful and supportive even though I'm only part time. I love my school so far.

We have pictures tomorrow.  Does anyone else do pictures that early in the year?