Getting Around

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Naked Classroom - HELP!

Hard to believe, but I'm two weeks away from the beginning of my school year.  I should be able to get back in the building sometime this week, so I've been thinking about my room.  I didn't get my room until after the school year started last year, so it spent most of the year being undecorated except with student work.  I am very, very bad at decorating, as anyone who has been to my house can attest.

I need help!

Here are some pictures of my classroom.  What would you do with it?  The only true restrictions are that the lab tables cannot be moved and my desk can only be rotated but not moved away from its area.  Oh, and nothing highly flammable near the lab tables, since I do teach science for part of the day.  Both bookcases can be moved, but I don't think the glass case by the cabinets can.

View from the back of the room. The cork board hangs behind where I sit when the students aren't there (who has time to sit when they ARE there?):

View of the entry.  The screen on that wall is unused, but it's unclear at this point if I'll be allowed to have it taken down:

View of the way back:

The wall of cabinets, mostly filled with previous teachers' stuff: 

The big, blank wall.  The eye wash station messes the spaciousness of it up a bit and the TV in the corner hasn't worked in years. I had been keeping turn-in folders and supplies on a desk along the wall so people weren't always walking over to the bookcase by my desk, but I'm not married to that:

I had been thinking I might get some cheap Asian-inspired screens to put between the two parts of the room to make it feel cozier when we're only in the front part, but I'm not sure if that's making more work for myself.

I am not into foofy decorations.  I like stuff to be useful or to show evidence of learning.  I'm hoping to use a lot of anchor charts this year since I scored a sticky easel pad from a friend over the summer (only ELA teachers get them at my school).

I had a wish that someone would make me a flannel coordinate plane that I could use like a giant feltboard on the large wall, but I haven't convinced anyone that I need it badly enough.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

How Do You Know That?

In math and science we try to get kids to use evidence to explain their thinking. We'll ask how they know something, what evidence they have to support their assertion, or we might provide a sentence starter of some kind. We seek to make this a habit, and now I have evidence that, for some people, it really is a habit.

I had the pleasure of taking a car trip with two friends who also happen to be professional astronomers. As we were discussing how the gravel road we were traveling on in a backwoods area was no longer going to be maintained by the county, I mentioned that the mapping software I used to make an alternate route to our destination suggested that a different road than the one we were on was a better choice for our trip anyway. But the map had no indication of what type of roads the other route used.

Have you ever traveled a gravel road for any length of time? Your brain starts vibrating after awhile. We were at that point.

Both of my friends were relatively new to the area, so I was surprised when the husband remarked that all the roads off the main road were gravel, so he couldn't see how a route that goes farther away from our destination and then returns could take less time. I was quietly wondering how someone new to the area knew this, since there's no reason to travel on this gravel road except to go to our destination, to which he had only been once before. But, since he's a smart guy and he was doing the driving, I kept that slightly challenging thought to myself.

And then his wife quietly asked, "How do you know that?"*

Aha! This particular habit of mind appears even in her personal life!

The question is, how to we make this a habit for our students? I have no answers, but now I know it's possible and I have a real-world observation with which to support my assertion.

* For those who are curious, it turns out that my friend is also an avid cyclist. Biking down the main road, he was frustrated to find that every turn was onto a gravel road. While we cannot assume that some of those roads don't turn into paved roads further in the forest, it does seem unlikely given what little is back there.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

It's Clear Math Teachers are Feeling Rested When...

they start blogging again.  Either that, or they all went to Twitter Math Camp and this is their homework.  Amazing how many posts have gone up in the last week or so.  It's nice to hear all the voices again.

I love it.  My mentor and I have already started setting out our plan for the next year.  It's so refreshing to work with someone who doesn't love a pacing guide.  We've got a mathematical theme (everything's going to be related to basic geometry), a progression that makes some sense, and a plan to try to create a mathematical community that spans across classrooms.  It feels good.

I go back to school in less than a month.  I realize some of you are still working off the end of your years, and I'm a little jealous.  But I'm also excited to be planning!