Thursday, July 28, 2016

Card Sorts for Groups

I love card sorts.  I use them pretty often as a way for my students to show me what they have learned or to reinforce what we are learning.  I typically do card sorts with pairs because both partners remain relatively engaged while they work together to match up or group cards.  I find that card sorts with larger groups are more challenging because I worry that some students will just sit back and watch others do all the work.

After a brief chat on doing card sorts with groups by @samjshah on Twitter earlier this week, I was reminded of a method for doing a group card sort that I learned a couple years ago.  I had completely forgotten about learning this at a school PD day and was thankful for the memory prompt.  The method was presented by an amazing teacher on my campus, Ramy Mamoud.

Okay, let's take for example a card sort involving Linear, Quadratic and Exponential relationships(you could use this Card Sort) and  a group of three students.



Here's how this card sort would work:
  1. Instruct the students that there is to be no talking during the first part of the sort.
  2. Have the students begin by laying out all of the cards face up in front of them.
  3. Instruct them to take the Title labels and lay them out to create three columns that the other cards will be added to.
  4. Now silently, without any help from each other, have them take turns placing the cards into the three groups, one student going at a time,  Reinforce that they must remain silent, even if they think one of their group members is making a mistake and placing the card under the wrong title.
  5. The first student in the group chooses one card from the pile and lays it under the title in which he or she thinks it belongs. The second student takes a turn and does the same.  The third student follows and the group continues going around, each member laying only one card at a time.  
  6. During the silent, no talking time, you can play music for the class.
  7. When all of the cards have been placed, have each group sit silently while you wait for all groups to finish.
  8. When all groups are finished with this first part.  Have the students take turns again, going one at a time, to move cards that they think may have been placed incorrectly.  
  9. If a student feels as if a card was placed incorrectly, they pick it up, explain to the group why they think it was placed incorrectly, and then place in the proper place.  If the group members do not agree, they should discuss and come to an agreement on where it should be placed.
  10. Finally, after the groups agree on the final placement of each card, the solution can be revealed.
  11. Follow up discussion might include having the groups pick a card or two that they weren't sure about, or couldn't agree upon and discuss as a class why that particular card was a struggle for them.
  12. Another follow up option would be to have each member of each group choose a card and then write their justification for putting it into the group that they did.
Some thoughts on why this method of a group card sort is a great activity:  

First off, this activity is very low risk for the student.  Because they must remain silent and cannot point out a card being placed in the wrong group during the first round, students don't have to worry about being called out for being wrong.  By the time the group goes around several time to place all cards, no one remembers exactly who placed which card, so no risk of being called out at the end of the first round either.  

Second, all members are totally engaged.  While one student is placing his card, the other group members are looking over the remaining cards and deciding which one they want to place.  They will typically look for a card that they feel that they can place correctly, so they are spending some time in thought about each card as they make their decision.  

Finally, during the second round, students have the opportunity to move cards and discuss their reasoning for placing in a different group giving them time to look at and discuss cards they maybe aren't quite sure about.

I'm so glad I was reminded of this activity so that I can incorporate it into my plans for this year!

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Assessment Reflection

Last year was the first year our district used new math curriculum and so it was a crazy year creating new material and new tests and everything to go along with the new curriculum.  As I went through the new year, I created some great tests and I'm sure a few not so great tests.  Grades on some were good, on others, not so good.  We did spend some time looking over the tests in class, but I really want to do a better job of having the kids reflect on how they did on their tests and of course be able to capture that data.  I do have my class averages for each test, which gives me a little information.

What I really want though is data on each question, but who has time to go through all tests after grading and write down how each student did on each question.  Valuable data, but impossible to collect by myself.  In the past I have had students fill out a reflection sheet after a test and then collect those sheets, but again, if I want to pull any data about each individual question, I would have to go through each of those papers and pull that out myself.

There has to be a better way, and maybe some of you all already have a great way of doing this that I haven't stumbled upon yet!

As I sat this week preparing my materials for a Google Apps PD session I'm facilitating for the teachers in our district in a few weeks,  I started thinking about how I could use Google Forms to collect this data.

I'm envisioning that on the day I hand back tests each student will access this Google Form to enter their reflection and data on their own test.  The data will be collected in a Google Sheet that will allow me to sort by question to see exactly how my kids did on a specific question and why they thought they might have missed the question.  Here's picture of what the form will look like, what do you think?  Would love any ideas or feedback that you think might improve upon what I have here.



I'd be glad to share if this is something you might find useful.  Just send me a note and I'll provide the link since sharing Google forms can be tricky.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Finally Summer - Back to Blogging and Tackling Homework Issues

I did a pretty good job of blogging this past school year, until I hit February.  It was at about that time that I became completely overwhelmed with everything and just couldn't.  I either didn't have the spare time or when I did find some extra time, I didn't have the energy.  So here it is June and the kids are out of the summer and now I need to get back to reflecting and start planning for next year.

I really wanted to attend some kind of summer math conference this year, but with the way my summer is looking I just don't think it is going to happen.  I have two graduating seniors this year and everything that that entails is driving my crazy life right now.  Graduation is Thursday at 2:00, immediately after the ceremony we hit the road for Arkansas to attend twin 1's new student conference and registration at John Brown University.  We will spend two days there, Friday and Saturday, head home Sunday only to turn around Monday night and head to twin 2's new student conference at Texas A&M on Tuesday and Wednesday.  We will head home Wednesday night and I return to curriculum writing for my district that I started Monday and will continue for two weeks.  As soon as that is over I will head to Indianapolis for twin 1's National volleyball tournament for a week.  Finally in July things will slow down a bit, aside from all the college prep I will be doing with the girls.  I can already tell the summer will fly by and it will be time to head back to school for the fall. Okay, deep breath.  I have to keep telling myself I can do this.

Here are my two girls on their last day as seniors.



Back to teaching and school related things...

Homework

Always a struggle for me.  I know the value of practice but getting the kids who really need the practice to turn in homework has always been a struggle.  As I looked over my gradebook at the end of this year and the accumulation of zeros for some of my students I really felt discouraged.  I don't want to be that teacher that fails a student simply because they can't seem to get their homework turned in.  This year I did homework stamp sheets where students received a stamp for completing their homework, then did a reflection on the learning for that unit before turning in the stamp sheet on test day for a grade.  This was great for the conscientious student who always does their homework when it's assigned, but it was a failure for the students who are procrastinators or simply cannot finish what they start.  My rule was that if they did not get some items stamped before test day they could simply staple all of the missing assignments onto the stamp sheet for credit.  On each test day I would get quite a few packets of work from my procrastinators and as I looked through their work it was pathetic.  It got to the point that I think they just scribbled something down to get their "completed" stamp which was such a waste of time for them and for me and this in now way prepared them for the assessments over the material.

I want my practice work to be meaningful, not just something that students check off that they have done without regard to quality.  Also, because I post solutions so that students can check their own work, I am sure a few of those beautiful homework assignments were just copied straight from my worked out answers, and it was obvious who was doing this when test results came in.

I want my grading practices to be a true reflection of what my students have learned, not how well they can comply and follow directions.  I don't want to find myself in a situation at the end of the year with a student who has demonstrated mastery of content but is simply failing because he hasn't turned in his homework stamp sheets.

I want to raise the bar of learning in my classes and make sure all students are accountable for learning the content.  I want to develop a system to meet the needs of those kids who do not learn the content the first time around.

So as I begin this summer I have a lot to consider and think through as I plan for next year.  I would love your input as I wrestle with what I want and how to make it happen effectively in my classroom.




Saturday, January 30, 2016

#MTBoS - Questioning about Polynomial Functions



The MTBoS blogging initiative this week is about questioning strategies in class.  This is an area that I know I need to improve upon.  This year I have really been focusing on trying to be more of a facilitator and not such a lecturer in class.  I know I have a tendency to talk too much and to spoon feed my students too much.  I really want to talk less and make them think and discuss more.  I want to ask the right kinds of questions to make them really think and probe each other.  Baby steps, I keep telling myself.  I know I can't totally revamp every lesson, especially with incorporating a new curriculum in our district this year, so I am making small changes here and there, with the hopes of adding new ideas each year.

Enter our polynomial functions unit.  In the past, I have simply given notes to my students on all the ins and outs of polynomial functions.  I didn't want to do that this year.  I really wanted them to look at the equations and the graphs and figure out the patterns they saw on their own.  I stumbled upon Dylan Kanes post about Polynomial Tasks and really liked his Characteristics in a Table idea, so took that and revamped it to my needs.

After deciding what I wanted them to find in a table, I then asked questions that would hopefully drive them to discover what they needed to know.  I tried to use questions that started with "What do you notice?"  and "What pattern do you see...?"  The day was amazing.  I spoke very little.  I listened a lot and they talked a lot.

I'll discuss more of the lesson itself later, but what made this day so amazing is that the questioning strategies I chose to use really worked.  Instead of telling them to notice something, asked them what they noticed and you know what?  They ended up noticing and figuring out all of the information I would have given them in a set of lecture notes.  I have to say, it was probably my favorite lesson of  the year.

I really want to get better at asking the right questions, and do it more often than I currently do.  


#MTBoS - Favorite Review Game

As part of the MTBoS Blogging initiative, I'm going to share one of my favorite games to play with my students when reviewing.  I'm a little late on this post, but wanted to share anyway.



The game is called relay race and it works almost like the relay races you used to play in gym class as a kid.  I arrange the kids in rows and each row represents a team.  I let the teams pick out a name to represent themselves and we put the team names on the board to keep track of points.  Each student has a small whiteboard and a marker.  I have a set of cards with the questions or problems on them, with the same questions/card for each row.  For example if I have 6 rows in my classroom, I would have 6 cards of each question.

The game starts by me putting the first question card on the first desk of each row, face down.  The first person in each row is not allowed to turn the card over until I say go.   When I say go, the first person in the row looks at the question and writes down all important information they need to solve on their white board, then passes the card to the person behind them.  Students are told to not start working on the problem until they have passed the card to the next person in their row, so that time is not wasted.  The second person in the row then proceeds to write down the information for the problem on their white board, and then pass to the third person in the row.  By the time the last person in the row receives the card, everyone else in their row has seen the problem and is working on the problem.  As students finish the problem, I tell them to keep their board covered so others cannot see their answer, as sharing answers results in a team penalty.

The round is over when the one of the students who is last in their row is finished and stands up.  Everyone now has to put their markers down and the round is over. I then have all the students hold up their white boards and I give a point for each correct answer in their row.  I keep a key for the questions on a clipboard for quick checking after each round.  Points are tallied on the front board.

For the next round, the students that were last in their row now come to the front and are first in their row,  everyone else moves back one seat.  This assures that it is a different person who is last in the row each time, eliminating any complaints about how the slowest person is last,etc.  I also do random bonus rounds which award 2X the points or 3X the points to keep things lively and to give hope to those teams that have gotten themselves really behind.  There is also a punishment for sharing answers, the team loses all the current points that they have. This keeps them pretty honest.

My kids absolutely love this game and it works for a variety of topics from solving systems, to solving equations, to graphing parabolas, etc.  I usually prepare about 12-16 questions,  depending on the topic and that always lasts for the 50 minute class period.

Hope you enjoy!




Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Day in the Life of Me

As part of the #MTBoS blogging initiative, I get to share with you a little glimpse into my life.  Don't get too excited.



5:15 a.m.  Awakened by husband getting up to go to the gym.  I always try to go back to sleep, but my mind starts turning about the day ahead and it usually doesn't happen.

5:45 a.m. Decide not to wait for my alarm and just go ahead and get the day started.

5:50 a.m. Shower, dress, make-up and hair.

6:20 a.m. Move to the kitchen and grab some coffee while contemplating breakfast.  Would like my usual smoothie, but we have only one banana and I know hubs will want a protein smoothie after the gym, so I leave that for him and grab yogurt and granola bar.

6:40 a.m. Pack up a lunch of leftovers from the night before, more coffee to go and grab my bags and head out the door.

7:00 a.m. Arrive in the parking lot of school to find only one other car besides the night custodian's car.  Coach B is always the first to arrive at school.  No matter how early I get there, I have never beat him.

7:05 a.m. Arrive in my classroom and turn on all my lamps, my Scentsy and my light up letter D.  Fire up the computer and get logged in.  Put my lunch in the little fridge I keep behind my desk, lock my purse in my tall filing cabinet.

7:10 a.m.  Settle in to my chair open up my email, pinnacle, google drive and TweetDeck.  Browse TweetDeck briefly, then move on to emails.

7:20 a.m. Snapchat my daily "Good Morning Fam" to all of my kids and hubs.  My girls are big on keeping the streak going.  I open up my daily agenda powerpoint that I project on the screen in my room.  I add a new warm-up to my On level's agenda and add a reminder that we are having a quiz next week.  On my Honor's agenda, a note to pick up the test review on the way into class, a final reminder about tomorrow's test, a reminder that homework stamp sheets are also due tomorrow.  After finishing, I project 1st period's agenda and freeze the screen.

7:40 a.m.  I look over today's lesson on factoring with my OL class, we are focusing on reviewing factoring that they should have learned in Alg 1 before moving onto some more challenging factoring.  I print out tests that I made a couple days ago and get those ready to take to the copy room later in the day.

8:00 a.m. I head to the library to find our CTA to scan a make up semester exam for a student who went out of the country for the month of December.  From there I headed to the counselor's office to discuss a new student from Spain who may have been misplaced in her math class.  We decide to let her take the first semester Alg 2 exam to see if she would even be prepared to enter my class this spring before we contact the higher ups about her placement.

8:15 a.m. A quick trip to the ladies room and then back to my room to prepare for tutorials.

8:20 a.m.  I have three student come in for some help on homework.  Two had been absent for a couple days and the other girl just needed some clarification on last night's homework.  We discussed a few problems and worked out some examples on the board together.

8:50 a.m.  Students fill the hallways now, heading to first period.  I take up my spot at the corner outside of the library with two other teachers and make constant reminders to kids to remove their earbuds and take their hats off.  "Walk and talk" we tell them to keep them from stopping and congesting the halls.  10 minutes is entirely too long to walk the halls before school.  We have some students who lap the entire building three times before finally heading to their first period class.

9:00 a.m. First period starts, Honors Algebra 2, and we are simply working on review problems in preparation for the test tomorrow.  Students work together on the review, comparing their work and methods as they go.  This is a very productive class that works very diligently at whatever I ask of them.

9:50 a.m First period ends and I'm back in the hall for duty.  I discuss with the teacher next door how the review is going as her 2nd period is also Honors Alg 2.  We talk about problems they are struggling on as we move the kids along to their next class.

9:55 a.m. Second period starts with the Pledge of Allegiance to the US Flag, the Texas Flag and then a moment of silence.  A few minutes of announcements and then class begins.  Students work on the warm up with their groups, then I ask volunteers to work the problems on the board.  We continue discussing factoring and practice together on several types of problems.  With 15 minutes left in class I hand out a Comp Check on adding, subtracting and multiplying polynomials.  They are thrilled when I tell them no homework tonight.

10:47 a.m. Second period ends, back in the hall for passing periods and a little pow wow with my neighbor teachers.

10:52 a.m. Third period and back to test reviewing with my Honors kiddos.  This class seems to be struggling more with special factoring patterns, so I give them lots of problems on the white board as additional practice, allowing them to explain to each other their thought process as they work they problem.  We go back and forth with work on the board and work on their paper.  By the end of the period my boards are filled with their work.

11:42 a.m. Third period ends and its back in the hall.

11:47 a.m. The start of 4th period and my first conference period.  I work on grading the comp checks from 2nd period and updating my gradebook.  I then continue to work on a Mandatory Tutorial form that I am creating for our school.  We are going to try to have a uniform form that all teachers in the building use.  I attend to some emails that came in that morning.

12: 15 p.m. Highlight of my day was a text message from a young gal who did her observation in my class last fall.  She found out she was going to be student teaching in my district this spring and wanted the scoop on her assigned teacher.  I didn't know the other teacher well enough to provide any help, but we chit chatted a bit and promised to get together soon after she started so she could fill me in on how it was going.  I love her excitement!

12:35 p.m.  Lunchtime!  I walk to the math office where I meet 3 other teachers for lunch.  We talk shop and our lives over lunch.  This is precious time to me, meeting with other adults during the day.  It really help to be encouraged by each other because sometimes this job is hard.

1:00 p.m. Lunch ends and we move on to TAD tutorial time.  This has been a new program this year and a miserable failure.  Because of that we are going to be implementing a new system in just two weeks, Block Lunch.  Another member of the Professional Learning Team and myself spend the next 30 minutes going to two different classes to do a presentation on the soon to be coming Block Lunch.  We go over what it is, what the student expectations are, what kind of offerings will be available to students during that time, etc.  We have been visiting TAD classes for the last week as part of a team that is training the rest of the campus to prepare for Block Lunch.  Everyone is very excited about the new plan.  Students will get a full hour for lunch and to attend tutorials or club meetings or to play ball in the gym, etc.  We are giving student's choice in how they spend that time.  Everyone is super excited about the change.  Three other schools in our district have started this schedule successfully, so we are hoping the transition on our campus goes smoothly.

1:30 p.m. Another passing period and hall monitoring.

1: 35 p.m. 5th Period begins.  Another Honors Alg 2 class reviewing for a test.  I have a couple students who missed class earlier in the week, so I try to spend some time catching them up.  Fewer questions from this class, and more groups working together on the review problems.

2:25 p.m. 5th period ends and I move to the hallway to monitor the transition between classes again.  Thankfully no excitement today.

2:30 p.m. 6th period and all of the math department is off together.  Today the Algebra 1 team meets and I see in on the meeting to offer feedback and monitor how things are going in those classes.  Our district math support arrives and sits in on the meeting too.  We discuss plans for the next few days and ways that we can meet those kids that are more advanced in our classes when we have 40-50% Sped kids and CMIT kids in these classes.  It's a constant struggle to reach the low low ones without cheating the higher ones of a challenging education.  We discussed possible ways to differentiate, and threw out a few ideas on things to try.

3:20 p.m. End of meeting and end of 6th period.  I stay behind in the math office to meet with our district support gal, Karen.  We discuss the new math teachers in our building this year, there are five of them, and how they are progressing.  We discuss ways to encourage them and offer support.

4:00 p.m. Karen leaves the building to beat the after school rush and I return to my classroom to work on plans for our next unit.  I realize then that I didn't get my copies made, but there isn't enough time now before tutorials.

4:15 p.m. School ends and a large group of students begin to drift into my room.  It's the day before a test, so I have more than the usual tutorial attendees.  Some just want a quiet place to work where I am available if they have a question.  Other's are there for specific questions on the review.  Other's are there to listen to everyone else and see if I slip up and share something specific about the test tomorrow.  The other Honors Alg 2 teacher has hall duty this afternoon, so I have a mixture of her students and my students.

5:30 p.m. I still have quite a few kids in the room working.  I begin to rearrange the desks in my room to rows to be ready for the test tomorrow morning.  I stop occasionally to answer a question or two, but most of those that are left are the high achieving kids who don't know when to stop.  I enjoy bantering back and forth with them and then throwing up some really challenging questions to try and stump them, but they are not quitters.  The keep at it until they get it, sometimes collectively.  They will all make almost perfect scores on the test tomorrow, I am sure of it.

6:00 p.m. I tell the last little group that it's time to close up shop as I have some things to do before I head home.  I remember that I still have a date with the copier after I everyone leaves.

6:10 p.m I finally make it to the copy room and start coping my four versions of the test for all the Honors classes.  I catch up on social media while the copier hums.

6:30 p.m I am finally done copying and quickly head back to my room to lock up the copies and gather my things to go home.

6:40 p.m I'm out of the building and in the car.  It's dark as usual.

7:00 p.m I arrive home to taco night.  My two girls that are still living at home are gone for the evening.  One is at youth group, the other at volleyball practice.  My son and hubs are sitting at the kitchen table eating.  I fix myself a plate and join them.  We catch each other up on our days while we eat.

7:30 p.m. Dinner is over, time to clean up the kitchen.  There are dishes from lunch and dinner.  We are two blocks from the Senior High School with off campus lunch, so my kids and their friends often come to our place for lunch.  With thier limited time, there's never time for clean up and so it becomes a nightly routine to clean up after a group of teenagers that drop in for lunch.

8:00 p.m. Kitchen is as clean as I'm willing to leave it and I head into the office to do a little work.  I continue to plan for the upcoming unit on graphing polynomials while my hubs works at his desk beside me.  At least we are spending time together, kind of.  I get distracted easily with twitter.  So much to learn from the #MTBoS, it's hard to stay away.

8:30 p.m. Daughter arrives home from volleyball and catches me up on her day.  She's in the recruiting process, trying to find a place to play college ball.  She talked to a couple college coaches on the phone today and was excited about some upcoming visits to these campuses.  We've been through this once with our oldest who is playing in college now, but the excitement still gets us going.  We then discuss the weekend trip we will be making to San Antonio for a tournament.  I'm going to miss this next year.

9:00 p.m. Daughter moves off to the kitchen for food and I go back to twitter and very little work.

9:10  p.m. Other daughter arrives home from youth group and we discuss her day.  She needs me to order books from Amazon for a class, so we hop on and get that done.  I also notice that she has a browser window open on my PC with prom dresses, so we discuss that a bit.

9:30 p.m. I'm done for the day and head off to get ready for bed.  Play with the puppies for a few minutes before the bedtime routine.

10:00 p.m. In bed with my puppies snuggled up next to me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Polynomial Division - Box Method

After finishing up polynomial long division and synthetic division I wanted to give this polynomial box division method a try.  I was intrigued by this method after I saw Sarah Hagan's post about it on her blog.  It wasn't a method I was familiar with, so I had to first spend some time figuring it out.  Love it!  I really thought this method would be so much easier than long division because it eliminates all the potential sign errors when subtracting in long division.

I was hoping to teach the method and practice one day, then do Sarah's box division activity on the second day.  Unfortunately we just didn't have that extra day for the activity, so we were just going to chug through it in one day.  The day before I spent quite a bit of time working through some problems myself as I didn't want to fumble over my words during the lesson and confuse the kids.  Some of them were already confused enough with all the factoring and division we had been doing.  Then sometime during the middle of the night I woke up thinking about the lesson and decided to change it up.  I decided I wasn't going to teach them this method at all, I was going to see if they could figure it out on their own.

So this is how it went...

When they walked into class I had two polynomial multiplication problems for their warm up and I asked them to do it with the box method.


When they were finished with these two problems I asked them to take the problem given and their answer and turn it into a division problem.  Then I asked them to look at an empty box and tell me where would did the divisor come from, the dividend, and the quotient for the division problem.  We diagrammed the empty box together on the white board.


After this I short discussion, I put up the following seven problems on the board and told them to use the box and see if they could figure out how to do the division problem with a box method.  That was it, all the direction I gave them.

I told them when they think they had the quotient figured out, they then needed it factor it and look for the solution in the scrambled answers in yellow.

After a few initial complaints about me not helping them, they all got busy thinking and discussing.  Talk turned to patterns and how to find each term and it was awesome!

By problem 7 they were all pros at using this method and when I polled them at the end of class on their preferred method for solving, almost all of my students thought this one was easier to figure out.  I guess we shall see on the test tomorrow.