Thursday, August 22, 2013

New Rules

In the past I've written about a set of very detailed classroom expectations I've used.  As I wrote about in that post, I needed them then.  I don't need them anymore.  No I'm not a better teacher or anything like that, it's just that my classroom culture has changed.  I had bigger classes then with many big personalities.  Most of the classes I have now are small and for the most part very well behaved because (last year at least) we just had a really great mutual respect going on.  There were certainly issues with students but I just handled them on an individual basis and it worked fine.

So for this year I'm going simple with the rules.  They were inspired by something I saw on pinterest.

I think they'll be enough. I'm especially fond of #5 because now when they tell me they give up I can reply with a smile and tell them that unfortunately that's against the rules and point to the wall. I find that they start to have fun with stuff like that, like eventually one kid will say they give up and other kids will be the ones to tell them that's against the rules. Kinda like how they started to police each other with the curse jar.

Along with that I have two more new pet peeves that arose from last year.  These two will be hung up too.

This one became an issue last year. A kid would be asking me for help and another kid would pipe up with, "Come on, you're not done yet? This is so easy." Now the first kid is frustrated that they don't get it, angry with the other kid and has totally lost focus.  The kid doesn't want to bother trying anymore because they feel stupid and I'm frustrated that the other kid couldn't just keep their mouth shut.  It just ends up making kids feel bad and I want to stress that it's a really big deal. Instead of putting each other down they should be offering to help each other out.

It should also go without saying, but this goes doubly for teachers. We should never be telling kids that something is easy. If we say something is easy and then a kid doesn't get it at first, they're going to be extremely discouraged and start to think that the problem must be them.

This one is mainly because I'm tired of "I don't know" as a cop out.  Often it was always the first thing a kid would say. Then I'd press them further, urging them to take a guess..even something totally wrong..and I'd say 9 times out of 10 they would say something correct, even if it was just an idea of where to start.  I need them to go straight to the guesses on what to do. For times when they honestly don't know, we'll discuss better ways to say that. When I feel that they truly are unsure on something then conversation turns to where they can find how to do it. But I'm never going to let them off the hook with an "I don't know" so they should learn quickly to not even bother wasting the breath.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What does your room say about you?

So I had an idea this evening and this post is an attempt to think it through...

I went to school today to start setting stuff up in my room and work on a couple things.  Kids don't come until 3 weeks from today but if I start now I can work on things at a leisurely pace...a couple hours here, a couple hours there.  I have to lead some PD on the second teacher day too so I'd rather not have to worry about working on my room then.

So back to my idea...

One of the sessions I'm really bummed about missing at #TMC13 was Dan Goldner's on Problem Based Learning.  From talking to people though I got that they talked about the idea that all of the decisions we make reflect our values.  I like this idea a lot.  Then a couple days ago someone (I'm sorry-completely forget who) tweeted a picture of their classroom and asked what it said about them.

So I'm very curious to know what my classroom says about me to someone that doesn't know me.  My room doesn't really look like a typical high school classroom...or at least not like most classrooms in any of the schools that I've been in.

So my idea is to have students do a quick little activity immediately upon entering my room on the first day of school-before I say anything to them at all.  I will prompt them to just take a look around at things, take it all in and I want to ask the following:
  • What are some things you notice in the classroom/about this class?
  • What are some things you wonder about this class?
  • Tell me what you think this class is going to be like.
I think this could be an easy way to introduce noticing and wondering in a way that has an extremely low entry point.

I also think it will be funny because towards the middle of the year my kids always tell me that their first impressions of my class were completely wrong.  They frequently tell me that they they thought the room was too elementary and that it would be a really easy class.  They've said that they thought it was going to be a really annoying class because of all the procedures I have for doing things and stuff like that.  Within a couple months though they feel like my room is home. So I think that having them jot down some first impressions could be funny to look back at later.

Does anyone have any ideas about this? Ways to make it better perhaps? Or do you do anything similar? I'd love to hear.

On another note, I got an e-mail this week from a student that will be a junior that said in regards to school starting, "I'm excited, I'm sure you're excited about school." I laughed, but it made me think and I'm actually really glad that he thinks that about me.  I'm happy that I come across as someone that enjoys my job and isn't just counting down until the last day of school.  That's all.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Me at a Glance

In the past when I've done learning style and multiple intelligence surveys I end up making an ISN page for them and then find that they don't really get mentioned again.  

Last year I didn't even do them because I knew they never got referred to. It just so happened that I discussed learning styles with kids last year more than ever before.  When working 1 on 1 with kids I am fairly good at assessing learning styles myself just by seeing how they work.  So last year I had a couple kids that didn't realize they were extremely auditory and when I explained this to them it actually made a huge difference in getting them to process better and be aware of the way that their minds work. So this year I want to spend the time to get back to doing this type of stuff, but I'd like to try to do a better job of it.

So I created a sheet to put on the inside covers of their notebook to kind of sum up the way they work.

This is designed to accompany three surveys in particular that I will be using.  

I do want to have more information than just the survey results, so each section has a line that says "for more info, see ISN page ____".  When we put the pages in, they'll fill that out so they know where to refer to.  

At the moment, having this on the inside cover is for my own benefit.  When I'm working with a kid individually, I can glance quickly and then explain things in a way that best suits them. I think it's extremely important to make this transparent to the kids too though, so they know how they can then best help themselves when I'm not around.

I'm also very interested to see how the personality colors thing works out mainly because I took the quiz myself and it is amazingly spot on.  I am gold to a tee.  I found the section on how to tell when a particular color is stressed and how to talk to colors to be very interesting.

Download Folder (there's a bunch of stuff in there)

Fonts you will need are Miserably Lose, KG The Fighter, DK Wayang, KG Seven Sisters, and Ventura Edding.  They're all free and should be easy enough to find if you search for them. I download fonts from most frequently so look there.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

New Course Guide

So I have a syllabus that I've used pretty much every year for the past seven years.  The information has of course changed on it as I've moved schools and taught different classes but overall my life was easy because I just modified it as needed.

Since things were nice and easy naturally I got the bright idea to start from scratch and make something brand new.  That's normal right?  I was inspired by Jessie Hester's post on her parent handout.  It's no secret that I like graphic design which is why I really like this.  I think it's a lot easier to read and just easier to look at.  I like the way the information is chunked and I also took out a ton of information that I suspect no one really ever looked at twice.



What it'll look like in in the notebook, no shrinking required:



Want one for yourself? I uploaded an editable version below with all of my information taken out for anyone that would like one.  It won't look the same without the fonts though, so you may need to download the fonts that I used.  Also, the "Classroom Rules" section I took from another file that I had created so it is an image and therefore not editable.  The entire rest is able to be edited though.

The fonts I used are: Covered By Your Grace and Universal College.

Download Here

Friday, August 16, 2013

Kid Friendly Mathematical Practices Posters- Part 2

Since this post seemed to be fairly popular, I thought I'd upload a couple more versions of the "kid friendly" mathematical practices posters that I made.  One set is brighter and one is a less bright.

I also added an editable version below.  It's in powerpoint 

Download Here (both the color and black and white versions are here- in pdf, jpg, and powerpoint)
The fonts are KG Seven Sixteen (the top one) and Ventura Edding (inside the bubbles)

Note: Just to reiterate what I wrote on the original post about these- I don't take credit for writing the text on the posters. I found the summaries here and really liked them.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

It's like a mystery...

I spent this morning as I spend almost every morning, watching Boy Meets World, and I came across this gem:

If you have 5 minutes to spare, watch it.  I promise you won't be disappointed.

My favorite line: "It's not like it's just an assignment anymore, it's like a mystery."

Good job Mr. Feeny.  This is what I want.

Fun fact: I recently mentioned Mr. Feeny in school amongst a group of kids and a younger teacher. No one knew got my reference. I really getting that old?

And here's the conclusion, just so I don't leave you hanging.

They don't end up giving the answer, but I like the sentiment.

[sidenote: to put these videos in I discovered You can enter the url from any youtube video and trim it down to just the part you want and then share the link or embed it somewhere.  I can see this being very useful]


This is only the beginning of an idea.  Really just me thinking aloud.

In my algebra 1 morning session at TMC [sidenote: I have a TMC reflection post in the works, but I'm still processing it all] we talked about linear functions, and the idea of functions and relationships in general.  My group discussed that most of us were using Graphing Stories which I had a lot of fun with this year.  In addition to this, @pwobyrne said that he uses graphs from Indexed which I'd never heard of before.  I looked it up that night and was hooked.  I stayed up way too late reading that night. Go check it out now if you haven't.

She just posts a little index card graph each day.  These are just a few I like:






So how could we use this??

I have a couple ideas floating around my head:
  • An open-ended writing task.  Just give the kids a graph and have them write about it.  Write about what the graph means, why that might be, what it means, anything else that may come to mind.  Get them interpreting the graph and get them writing.  Really open ended though so that they can put down whatever they notice and wonder.  Having them do this on index cards and hanging them up could be cute.  Maybe have it like once a week? Indexed Mondays? That's not a catchy name at all...
  • After they are comfortable with the idea, maybe give them one without the line drawn and have them decide and draw what the graph might look like.  They could compare with each other and talk about why they are similar/different and what it means.  If I did this I might not want to show them the one from the website because I think their opinions would all be valid (as long as they put some thought into it) and I wouldn't want them to think they got it "wrong."
  • Maybe have them browse the website themselves and pick one/some out to talk about.  Or maybe look for one they disagree with and have them explain why.

Any other ideas?  I'd love to hear them.  Let's discuss...

Friday, August 2, 2013

You must be 21 or over to continue reading...

You know how kids ask all the time when they're ever going to need this?

I found myself doing some very important math today that was very much similar to a couple projects I've assigned.  So next time they ask me that question I plan to share this with them...just kidding, that would be way inappropriate.  But I'll share it here since we're all adults.  Maybe I could change it a bit to share with them.

I came across a recipe on pinterest for strawberry peach sangria but it was only the amounts for one serving.

Recipe is from Joe's Crab Shack
in case you were curious

So my question was if I bought this bottle of wine, how much of the other ingredients do I need if I plan to use all of the wine?

Totally a math problem.

And the follow up question...if I make it so that I use the entire bottle, will it all fit into my pitcher? Or maybe, if I only want to make enough to fill the pitcher how much of everything should I use?

It's kinda like a totally school inappropriate 3 Act right?

So this would be my act 2 info:

Act 2
Information from the bottle

Pitcher information from here

Act 3
I've got nothing fun to share for act 3 since I didn't actually make it yet. I could take a picture later though to complete the task.

I do have my work though. Yes I did pull out a notebook and calculator fyi.  I'm cool like that.

So it will not all fit in my pitcher at once.  Especially since that 114 oz. doesn't include the Sprite and fruit.

One interesting thing that did come to mind though was the idea of unit conversions.  I needed to go from liters to ounces.  If this were a project I'd teach kids all sorts of ways to do this using ratios and proportions and make them show their work.

But I didn't do any of this.  I totally cheated.

I opened up Wolfram Alpha and typed "1.5 L to oz" and had my answer in a fraction of a second.  I'm not saying we should teach kids to "cheat" but considering the fact that so many of them walk around with pretty powerful technology in their pockets, maybe it would be more useful to teach them how to use it. Because in all honesty, if I have my phone/iPad/computer with me I'm going to take the shortcut every single time.

Just something I'm thinking about.  Thoughts? Ideas perhaps on how to make this school appropriate?

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