Saturday, July 20, 2013

A couple resources to help understand the CCSS

I have to admit that upon first look into the CCSS I did not understand them.  I read through them and just couldn't quite figure out what exactly I was supposed to be teaching.  Each one was a couple of vague sentences that was not at all specific and I wasn't sure what they would actually look like in a classroom.

I saw these flipbooks all over twitter and blogs and pinterest and it only took me a glance through to understand why.  For me, these babies have been the most helpful things ever.  

Just in case there's anyone that hasn't already seen them, for every standard they give:
  • a more complete explanation of what the standard means, this has been really helpful
  • example problem(s) for every single standard
  • instructional strategies with tips on good ways to go about teaching the standard, often including what students have learned before that you can expand upon
  • common misconceptions surrounding the topic that may arise
There is also a really useful page on the mathematical practices and some easy to use question starters to help you start incorporating the practices.

I got excited about these within the last two weeks or so of school and wanted to share them so I sent a link to my principal and supervisor.  Well after looking through them they agreed and my supervisor said to just let her know what I want and she would have them made up for all the math teachers in the district...on colored cardstock of my choosing.  When I went in last week to start working they were all there done- printed, tabs cut out, and bound.  How awesome is that??  In September all the other teachers should be getting theirs.

What we ended up doing was making three different ones for algebra 1, geometry, and algebra 2.  The cover sheets I just typed up myself.  Each one only contains the standards that are covered in that course.  Each strand (number and quantity algebra, geometry, functions, statistics and probability) is printed on a different colored paper.

Another resource that I'm LOVING is shmoop and I am just disappointed that I didn't stumble upon this sooner.  Has anyone else seen this??

If anyone that is like me and is having difficulty wrapping their head around exactly what we're supposed to be teaching with each standard then you need to go check this out like right now.

At the top of the page is a super easy to use drop down menu to get you to exactly which standard you need.  And then they offer explanations of each one that is so easy to understand.  And if that wasn't enough, for every single standard they also offer either a worksheet or quiz with practice problems.

For me, the problems have been so valuable.  Formal language is great and all, but ultimately I just want to know what the kids need to be able to do.  It helps me understand what's really going on.

You can also tell that whoever is writing for them is having fun with it, while still providing great content.  Their explanations are often funny.  I found one that relates functions to Justin Beiber and Megan Fox.  At the bottom of every worksheet they write:
Shmoop will make you a better lover (of literature, math, life...)
So should go check that out right now.

Friday, July 19, 2013


This month I'm at school working with a couple other teachers on writing our new Common Core curriculum.  Something that slightly interesting to mention is that I teach at a vocational school so our district is made up of only high schools.  Because of this the kids are all coming from different middle schools and different backgrounds.  It also means that the curriculum I'm working on will not only be for the the teachers in my building, but for other buildings as well.

My district has decided to use the model curriculum that New Jersey created.  Each course is broken down into five units, spanning seven weeks each.

From the NJDOE website:
Unit 1 begins with setting the stage for work with expressions and equations through understanding quantities and the relationships between them. The work in unit 2 will build on the grade 8 concepts for linear and exponential relationships. Success in unit 2 will lay the groundwork for later units where the students will extend this knowledge to quadratic and exponential functions. 
The standards included in unit 3 blend the conceptual understandings of expressions and equations with procedural fluency and problem solving. The students will not encounter solutions of quadratic equations that are complex.
The standards presented in unit 4 involve functions and extending the concepts of integer exponents to concepts of rational exponents. The understandings will be applied to other types of equations in future courses. Unit 5 will build on previous work with descriptive statistics. Linear models will be used to assess how a model fits data.
Every unit is split into 6-10 Student Learning Objectives (SLOs).  Also provided is a sample assessment for each unit.  We have been working on breaking down the SLOs, looking at the corresponding standards and basically just trying to figure out what the heck it all means and what we're supposed to be teaching.

Our current curriculum is pretty traditional.  We use this book:

...start in chapter 1 and go from there.  There are a couple sections that are skipped here and there, but overall it's pretty straightforward.

Instead of taking our current curriculum and trying to fit in the standards it feels more like we are starting from scratch.  The NJ Model curriculum is totally different than what I'm used to.  We are taking the model curriculum, interpreting each objective and then trying to figure out how to teach it.  Often the objectives match up with a textbook section, but they're certainly not in order.  A number of objectives aren't in the textbook at all so we're also looking for outside resources to include.

I'm still not entirely sure what my feelings are on the whole thing.  It isn't optional so complaining is pointless, but I think that it's going to be a significant change.  It seems that many of the sections I have taught aren't quite there anymore.  It's also no longer really possible to just plan by flipping the page to the next's going to take significantly more effort to plan lessons.  And being the person that is going to introduce this change to the teachers in my school will also be quite interesting.

So who else out there is writing curriculum? What are you thoughts?

If anyone else is using the NJ Model Curriculum I would LOVE to hear from you.

Coming up is a couple different resources I've found to be really valuable in helping to unpack and make sense of the standards.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kid Friendly Mathematical Practices Posters

It seems that a big part of the CCSS will be incorporating the 8 mathematical practices.

Towards the end of the year I was giving a presentation on the practices and came across this website that I thought did a very nice job of explaining them in a nice easy way and giving some suggestions on implementing them.

I really liked the way they rewrote each practice in perfect kid friendly terms so I turned them into these posters that I plan to put up in my room and use somehow.  I figure that the first step to using them with kids will be to make sure that the kids can understand what they mean so that's as far as I've gotten.

Download Here (both the color and black and white versions are here- in pdf, jpg, and powerpoint)


[Update 8/16: I added a few more versions of these posters here.  Two sets of different colors and one that is editable.]

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I'm still alive here...

Well I am.  I figured that getting e-mails asking if everything is alright means that it is time to post something here again.  For starters, yes everything is ok.  I had some things happening for the last month of school or so and thought perhaps I'd write about them, but I'm not going to.

This summer has actually been fairly interesting so far.  In past years, I think about school quite a bit.  I spend a bunch of money on school supplies, I try to start planning stuff, I make posters and decorations, and tons of other stuff.  This year when I'm at home I don't even want to think about school.  That has been a main reason things have been quiet over here.  I try to start thinking about school and think about writing posts, but instead I go do something more fun like go sit on the beach, paint rooms in my new apartment or obsessively read the Game of Thrones books...and I don't feel the least bit guilty about it!

So I had a bunch of stuff to say about what was going on at the end of the year, but right now I just don't really feel like thinking about it.  What I will say about it though, is that for the first time in awhile I was actually a little bummed when school was ending.  This year was hands down my favorite year of teaching thus far.  The kids that I had (for the most part) were just so awesome and fun to be around.  The new school that I'm in has been SUCH a breath of fresh air.  I genuinely just had so much fun this year.  I even had a handful of kids that were sad school was ending.  They sat around with me the last week of school talking about how much they like school and how they don't want to stay away for two months.  One thing that was new for me though (since I have taught 8th grade for awhile) is that I get to see my kids again next year.  I may not have them in class again, but they have already made it very clear that they will still be coming around.  On the last day of school I had to assure a couple of them that I will be in my room on the first day of school.  They asked me over and over, just to be sure.  They made it clear that they'll be coming to visit first thing when they get to school in September so I better be there.

So I think that is all for now.  Coming up though, is what I have been working on.  Although I haven't been thinking about school stuff at home, I have been working for the past couple weeks to write our new Common Core curriculum and it's actually been pretty interesting.  I've found a couple things that have been helpful and interesting so I will share them soon.
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