Sunday, August 26, 2012

Reflections on the First Week

The first four days are under my belt and now it's down to the business of school. What worked this week and what didn't? Let's see...

Love the tables... mostly. It is so cool to see the kids turn to each other and actually start talking math. I almost wanted to cry that second day of Algebra 2 when I heard one student say "But don't you think the slope would be steeper if they were eating faster?" to his table-mate while they were doing these graphing stories. They were, by the way, a great way to warm the kids up and they really like the new big whiteboards (16" x 24"). Of course, the tables make it easier to communicate all the time, and there are kids with their backs to me, but I think the benefits outweigh the negatives.

The Watermelon in the Desert problem was pretty good for Geometry as a starter. The conversations were good, but how do you keep one student from monopolizing the solution? Actually heard one student say to his team "No, this is the answer, we don't need to talk about it anymore - You just need to agree with me." Of course I had to interrupt, but there always does seem to be those one or two who do the work, while the others are happy to sit and doodle watermelons on the paper.

Now seriously, what is with having at least 4 students tell me that they are going to be gone the whole first week of September? Didn't they just finish summer vacation? And when my lovely junior student said - on the way out on Friday "Mrs. L, I'm going to be gone all next week, are we doing anything important?" I actually held my tongue for half a second before I answered. "Yes, we are doing important things. That's why we're here. You are going to miss some important things." I made her feel a little bad, and I think that was a good thing.
I do not feel prepared for this year. At all. I know I can do it, but I don't want to feel like I am constantly trying to figure out what I'm doing tomorrow. Not the math part, I get that, I can math. But these tables beg for interaction and whiteboarding and rich, thoughtful activities. That's what I want to have, and it doesn't come without planning. I guess that is my goal. Plan.

I'm going to go plan something.

High School Sunday Math Blog

The #HSSunFun is a collection of posts from some amazing math teachers. Everyone is welcome to join in - we'd all love to hear about the incredible things that are happening in your classrooms! Your post doesn't need to be new, and feel free to submit for one of our previous prompts.

Here's a list of what we've shared so far, and what next week's topic is. 

For Next Week - Review Activities and Games

Read the Middle School Math #MSSunFun posts HERE

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Getting (and staying) Organized

Yes, I was being completely self-serving when I posted this weeks blog topic of organization. If I am not queen of the disorganized, I am one of the reigning princesses! Just this week, I had a handout that I gave to my 4th period Algebra 2 class for homework. I was supposed to give the same page to 5th period Algebra 2 - and I couldn't find it!

School only started on Tuesday, and I've quickly remembered the must haves. Labeled baskets by the door for kids to put signed syllabi, exit slips, late work etc. If a student hands me a loose page the chances are pretty high it will get eaten by the PILE. You know what I mean, I'm sure!

My team-mate found this great cart at Michaels:

With 5 periods, its perfect for an In and Out for each class. I am totally getting one of these.

This year I decided to try an online google form for my students to fill out with their contact information and student survey. Wow! I am so thrilled at the results! Now instead of a huge binder full of papers that I would have to alphabetize and sort, and then invariably leave at school/home when I needed it at home/school all my information is in my Google drive folder where I can get at it anywhere. I don't even remember who I first heard about this from, but they are my hero!

I also have several stacks of these around my desk:

One for each period, one for tests waiting to be taken, one for tests needing grades, things needing to be handed back... etc. It still means I have piles - but at least everything in the pile needs the same thing done to it.

I have a HUGE 4 drawer filing cabinet. Right now it holds workbooks, tea, construction paper, and lots of empty hanging file folders. There are a few folders bursting with every worksheet I used last year, but they are really useless since they are only sorted by class. In my dream world, everything is labeled, organized and color coded. I'm sure someday it will happen. Really.....

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Homework Dilemmas!

Every year figuring out what to do about homework is a challenge, and every year I've done something different.

A few years ago I tried the "Group Folder" plan where my students checked their homework against answers on the smartboard and then filed them in a folder. I'd check each groups folder, record the score (based on if it was complete and scored) on a score sheet in the folder, and return the folder the next day. Repeat daily. Eight groups of four in six classes every day just about killed me. I was spending over an hour every day just flipping through folders and trying to find missing score cards. And then I'd have to input all the data at the end of the unit. It gave me a very clear view of how each student was doing (or not doing) their homework, but it was exhausting! Homework was 30% of their grades (school policy) so a student could get a good grade just by being compliant to getting work in the folder on time. Ugh

Came to my current school which is Mastery Based Grading all the way. School wide policy says anything that is not an SBG assessment can count for no more than 10% of a student's grade. Last year during warm ups I would circle the room checking each student's homework and recording the score on a clipboard. Students had answers in the book so my expectation was for them to check and correct before they came to class. Ha. Lets just say I hadn't taught pre-algebra in a long time! For my Pre-Calc class my grade was 100% assessment. Most of my PC kids get it, you do the HW, ask questions and you learn! On one test I showed my students that all of the students who had completed all of their assignments had an accuracy of 90% or higher, while EVERY STUDENT who had missing work had lower than 60% accuracy. I still feel though that this doesn't give me enough formative information so this year...

I'm adding homework quizzes into the mix. Picking 3-4 essential problems assigned during the week for students to copy and turn in to me. If a student did it, all they need to do is copy from their notebook. If they didn't complete the assignment on time, they will pull out the book and do them right then. I'll have to do this near the end of class, so students who need time to work can have it, and the rest of the group can work on that day's assignment or on whiteboarding problems. This, hopefully, will give me another snapshot of how students are processing current skills, and will make sure the less timely students are at least working a couple of problems to show me if they get it. There are always those kids who can understand the material without needing to do the work, and this way they can demonstrate that to me.

Still not completely happy with it, but school starts Tuesday so I am just going to go with it!

High School Math Blog - Homework Policies

Homework - what a struggle! Do you grade it, or not? Do you collect it? How does it fit into SBG? Get 10 teachers in a room and they'll have 10 different policies for it. Check out these entries below and see what others are doing to deal with this difficult issue.

Next Week's Topic - Organization! We all need more. Share what has worked for you!

Blog Posts:

Nora Oswald, @noraoswald   My View on Homework

Remi Smith, @reminoodle   Homework Quizzes

Terrance Banks @tbanks06   The Homework/Classwork Issue

Stephanie, @msmac622   Homework Policies

Erin, @ewade4   Homework

Josiah @mcdanieljosiah What to Do About Homework

Carol Leonard @carol_leonard Homework Dilemmas

Kathryn Laster @msKLaster Homework Contemplations

Lauren @laurendereche  Homework Policy

Haydee @mathymissc Ah, Homework!

Alicia Stien @aliciastien It's Due TOMORROW

Sandra Miller @sandramiller_tx My Homework Philosophy and Policy

Elissa Miller @misscalcul8 Renaming Homework

Want to add your Homework post to this list? We'd love to hear more voices on this!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

HS Sun Fun - Homework!

This week's theme:

Everybody struggles with it. How much to assign, when (or if) to collect it, how to grade it. Is late work okay? How do you deal with students who don't turn it in?

Share you homework policies. What has and hasn't worked for you. What is your biggest challenge?

To submit a blog, fill out the form below, or click this link. Collected submissions will be posted on Sunday, but feel free to submit your post anytime!

Remember - this doesn't need to be a new post - if you've all ready blogged about this topic, just submit the link. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How Do You Begin the School Year?

I put a call out to high school math teachers to share what their first day of school activities are. Flat out copied the idea from @jreulbach and the amazing group of middle school math tweeps. So here's the list - check them out! Feel free to steal ideas, it's all about getting your students engaged and learning and EXCITED about it from day one!

And don't miss all the great ideas HERE on the #mssunfun page!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

First Week Plans

For the past three years, the beginning of every year has meant a new school, new students, new classes. Last year I had FOUR preps, one of which I didn't know about until a week before school started. So my first days of school have always been pretty mundane. Here's the syllabus, here's your book, here's the rules... blah blah blah. But this year I am at the same school, in the same room and feel like I can breathe under my three preps (two of which are new, but oh well!).

After reading the #mssunfun and hearing(reading) so many posts about not starting the year like a robot I'm inspired to not even mention my syllabus until our third (and first full 90 minute block) class. Now, school is still a week and a half away from starting, so my plans are not set yet, but here are some of the ideas that have most struck me.

  • Google doc survey. There's your homework for the first day. And it's all saved there in my gdocs so I can get a hold of a student or parent even when I'm on vacation in Tahiti. (lol)
  • By the numbers quiz. Love the idea of making the kids think I'm giving them a quiz the first day, and then having it actually be about me! Also giving them the opportunity to share about themselves. Nice posts on this here and here.
  • Who Am I Chart - I know it's Dan Meyer's but I can't seem to find his actual post about it. Here's the chart the kids fill in.
  • Algebra 2 Graphing Stories - which I will use for Algebra 2 and Calculus

And then in no particular order, here are some of the ideas I stole off the Middle School list, 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Foldable Templates

Just ran across this great bunch of foldable templates.

My Favorite Friday - Oreo Truffles!

School is starting soon - for some of us it has started all ready, so I thought I'd include a recipe for some super easy SUPER yummy treats to lesson the back-to-school shock! I have to admit, I don't make these, my wonderful daughter does, but the recipe is so easy that even I could handle it. 

Oreo Truffles

All you need is:

1 package of Double Stuft Oreos
1 8oz package of cream cheese
White chocolate melters or chips

1. Crush the oreos. We use a food processor to get the crumbs really fine. Set aside about 1/4 c of crumbs.

2. Mix in the cream cheese. Use your hands! You can vary the amount of cream cheese you put in depending on how creamy you want them. We don't usually use the whole package.

3. Roll into one inch balls and place in freezer for about 15 minutes.

4. Melt white chocolate in double boiler or microwave and roll chilled truffles in to coat. Place on waxed paper. Sprinkle with reserved oreo crumbs. Don't wait until the oreos are all coated, once the chocolate cools the crumbs won't stick.

Eat them!

We've made all kinds of variations. Used mint and peanut butter oreos (seriously yummy) but these needed a little more cream cheese to make up for not being double stuft. We've also melted chocolate chips and drizzled the tops as in the picture. If you have a Win-co near you, they sell the white melters in their bulk bins. (I love Win-co's bulk bins!)

Enjoy, and happy back to school!

High School teachers - please join in and share your first week or day of school ideas! I'll compile them and post the results on Sunday.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Master Schedule... Finally!

This afternoon I finally got a look at the "final" master schedule. My lovely sections this year are 1st & 6th period Geometry, 4th and 5th period Algebra 2, and 2nd period AP Calculus AP. The Alg 2 and Calc I was sure about, but I was really hoping to have some miracle happen and get Pre-Calc instead of Geometry.

Not that I mind Geometry. I taught it the year before last and it was pretty fun. But I did have 4 preps last year. This year I have three, but two of them are new at this school. Oh well, shrug it off. I have Calc. That makes me happy.

I have so many ideas that I want to do this year that it is a bit overwhelming. I really want to try the interactive notebooks, but it feels like too much with two new preps, one being AP.

My students last year said "More projects!" so I am determined to have group work/activities at least once a week in each class. They moved out my all-in-one desks and replaced them with tables (Hooray!) so that should be a good start.

I am going to stick to my guns on the retake policy. Yes, you have to do all the work and reteaching before you can assess again. No, you can't "pop in" today and take a test, you needed to sign up ahead of time. And ABSOLUTELY none of this: I'm not ready to take this test today, I'll take it next week. (Who is in charge here!)

And I have got to keep my management under control. I act like I'm afraid to let a kid get in trouble. One warning, then they're out and I call home. If I've got 33 other kids working, I can't let that one distract them all.

Easy peasy, huh?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Shout Out to High School Math Teachers!

This is a shameless rip-off from Julie Reulbach's post here: She compiled an amazing list of first day/first week of school activities for middle school math teachers. Got some really cool ideas from these posts (I read every single one) and thought it would be great to construct a list for high school math teachers! So, here goes...

What does your first day/week of school look like?

Once you finish your blog post tweet me at @Carol_Leonard with the hashtag #hssunfun and I will publish a compilation of the blog posts on Sunday so we can all read them!

You don't need to wait until Sunday to post, and I will try to keep this updated so feel free to jump in anytime. It doesn't need to be a new post either, so feel free to submit a past post.

If you're not on twitter, just leave the link to your post in the comments section below, and I will add you in too!

Even easier, follow this link to submit your post.

Don't have a blog? No problem! Follow this link and scroll down for easy instructions to add your post. We want to hear as many voices as possible!

Let's see what amazing stuff you all are doing!