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.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Soft Re-entry back into Algebra 2

That first day back is hard.  We are all used  to two weeks of staying up late and sleeping in late.  First period was especially tough with lots of sleepy kids and very little energy for thinking.  Well aware of what today would be like for the kids, I planned a fun day where we could rely on some previous learning to slowly get back in the groove.  A soft reentry back into our normal routine, as I told my students.

Before the break we started working with polynomials, even though our polynomials unit isn't until the Spring.  We had to cover a few topics before the break because the spring calendar is packed and with testing coming up later in the spring, some of it had to be moved to the fall.  The two topics covered were adding and subtracting polynomials, and multiplying polynomials, so I was on the lookout for some ideas to do a real quick review of those topics, without just giving them a boring worksheet for practice.  While browsing this past weekend, I stumbled upon Lisa Henry's site and one of her posts about some polynomial review stations she did with her classes.

I decided on three activities, two from Lisa and the other I created myself based upon an activity that Sarah Hagan did with her students using the box method for multiplication.

Activity 1 - Exponent Puzzle

I've actually used some version of the puzzle in the past with factoring trinomials and solving equations, so when I saw Lisa using one for exponent review, I decided to create my own similar puzzle.  Students have to match up the problem and solution eventually forming a 3x4 rectangular puzzle.  You can get mine here.

Activity 2 - Polynomial Cubes

This idea also came from Lisa, but I created my own list of polynomials to work with.  Students roll the two polynomial cubs and the operation cube.  The operation cube tells them to add or subtract the two polynomials.  You establish that the polynomial from the blue cube comes first, so that their work matches the self checking key.  I asked my students to do 12 rolls and they used white boards to work out their problems and check.  You can get my version here.

Activity 3 - Polynomial Multiplication Puzzles

I created 6 puzzles fashioned after a polynomial dividing activity Sarah shared on her blog.  The puzzles are pretty easy at the start, but get progressively more challenging.  I loved the way the students had to think about patterns they saw happening in the boxes.  I'm hoping to do the dividing activity with them too, so this practice will help with the learning curve on the dividing one.  Students were given "the box" as the puzzle board and all the pieces to the polynomial multiplication problem.  They had to arrange the problem parts to find the resulting solution polynomial.  The puzzles can be found here.  I copied each puzzle on a separate colored cardstock to keep them organized.

My largest class is 30, so I had about 8 copies of each activity and I had them work in pairs.  The decided which activity they wanted to start with and when they were finished they returned it to the table and grabbed a new activity.  In all of my classes, after a quick introduction about each activity, I only had 3 groups finish early, about 5 minutes before the end of class bell.  

Here are a few shots of the fun.

Hope your first day back was as fun as ours!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

#MTBoS Blogging Initiative

I, Bonnie Davis, resolve to blog in 2016 in order to open my classroom up and share my thoughts with other teachers. I hope to accomplish this goal by participating in the January Blogging Initiation hosted by Explore MTBoS.

You, too, could join in on this exciting adventure. All you have to do is dust off your blog and get ready for the first prompt to arrive January 10th!

Let's make it a great start to the new year!

Easy BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

So easy that we have this often.

6 frozen chicken breasts
1 18 oz. bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper to taste

In the morning before work place the chicken breasts still frozen in the crock pot.  Pour the bottle of BBQ sauce over the top.  Sprinkle in the garlic, onion, salt and pepper.  Cook on low all day.

When you arrive home, shred chicken with two forks and serve on bread of choice(we typically use hamburger buns.)

Thanks Kathryn Freed (@kathrynfreed) for the recipe challenge!

#MTBoS12days - Classroom Wishlist

I really love my classroom.  I've been at my school for 2 years now and am very happy with the room I inherited from the previous teacher.  There are a couple things that would make it even better though.

  • iPads for everyone!  Ok, I'd be happy with one for every two students.  There are so many cool things I've seen posted that I want to try, but not having laptops or iPad has been limiting.  We do tons with our personal devices, but I do have a few students that I need to accommodate because they don't have a phone or don't have room for another app.  

  • Tables and chairs, instead of fixed desks with seats.  I want to be able to have those days that we push the tables to the side and just use the chairs or even the floor.  The desks with connected chairs are so cumbersome.  Narrow tables like these would be awesome.

  • Windows!  I'm in the middle of the builidng with no natural light.  I would love to have some natural light pouring into my room.  Might just get me out of there earlier too as I'd have a sense of how late it really was.

  • Interactive whiteboard.  I've never had one, but they look really cool.  Definitely not a need, but would be nice.

#MTBoS12days - What I Want to Improve On this Coming Semester

Oh where do I begin?  I always feel like there's a ton I can improve on, to the point that I get overwhelmed when I begin to think about all of the areas that could use some improvement.  So let me try not to send myself into a state of inadequacy the day before I return to work.  I'll try to focus on a few areas.

Homework - 

I'm going to start using a Stamp system for homework checks.  I'm using a version that came from a friend in the district, Leah Cramer, but I'm revamping it a bit.  I love how Pam Wilson (@pamjwilson) uses a color coding method for student feedback, so want to incorporate that idea.  I also plan to have a reflection area on the back of the stamp sheet so that students can jot down important things from the lesson that they will need to remember for tests and quizzes.  Here's what I've come up with so far.

I only give 5-8 problems at a time, and the grade area is for students to keep track of their own progress.  I don't actually take the grade in the grade column, its for their own record of how they are did on that lesson.  I plan to collect these stamp sheets on test days and use these when discussing with a student the opportunity to retest or do corrections if they do poorly on the test.

Planning -

Another area that I would like to improve upon is timely planning.  I typically start out the semester way ahead, but within a few weeks I always feel like I'm scrambling to put things together for lessons.  I want to stay on top of this more this semester.  I'd like to get my assessments done before we even start the unit, which is always a goal, but by mid semester it falls by the wayside.

Relationships -

I think I have pretty good relationships with my students in my classroom, but I want to make an effort to be involved with them outside of my classroom.  I want to get better at attending some of their extracurricular things like band concerts, sporting events, theater, etc.  I always have good intentions of attending these types of activities, but when the event finally comes around, I can find some excuse to go home and not stay around to attend.  I know how much it means to the kids for their teachers to be there, so I want to really make an effort to do this.

I'm sure there are a lot more areas I could improve upon, but I'm going to focus on these three for now.