Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Need An Action Plan!

I've bumped into this image twice today, here and here, both by teachers recapping their experiences at TMC14. I don't know, but it made something click in my head.
I have always considered myself a great starter - but sadly not a good finisher. Look at the half knit scarves, half filled scrapbooks, half read books, unused gym memberships,... I love new ideas and beginning new things, but along the way I tend to stop. I wouldn't say give up, but I get distracted by the next cool thing I want to start.

I feel like this completely sums up my growth (or lack thereof) in my teaching. I spend so much time learning, reading blogs, articles, attending conferences, etc and I get caught up in so many amazing ideas. I start making plans for amazingthing1, and then get distracted by amazingthing2, and on and on until I hit amazingthing100 and look back to see the trail of half finished, not quite completed plans I have. And thus I get discouraged, because if nothing ever gets finished, then nothing ever really changes!

I laughed with the other BTSA SP's this year about how we kept getting emails to turn in our "Action Plans" because it is something I just don't do. When I saw this graphic, and saw line #2 I had to take a deep breath. There I am. Sitting on line #2, all full of vision and skills and incentives and resources and FALSE STARTS. I need to build an Action Plan!

But I can't make a plan for the 100 things I want to change. Not gonna happen. Narrow it down "they" say. So I sat and thought for a while this morning, as the temperature in my back yard crept towards 100 degrees. What two or three things do I really want to change this year. Here are my ideas so far:

1. Student graphing skills are awful, and every time I say graph they act like I've said "I'm going to do dental work on you!" With 1 to 1 iPads this year, I want to do something with Daily Desmos and/or Graphing Stories once a week. 

2. Exit tickets or other formative assessment that I actually LOOK at. Start now to build quizzes with Socrative that I can have students do consistently and that really tell me what they're thinking.

3. Find one meaningful modeling problem for each unit I do. A Three Act or something of the sort, to introduce the lesson and build into the students the need for what we're learning. The SSTI conference I just went to was amazing, and I don't want to lose the inspiration and challenge I got from it. (Or the jealousy I won from my co-teachers for this little selfie...)

Okay, they're down in writing. Now what exactly does an Action Plan look like???

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Simplify the Exit Ticket?

Exit Tickets are an idea i have always *wanted* to do. I talk about them, I use them as examples of formative assessment for the newer teachers I mentor, in theory I think they're great! I think I've actually done it once. Maybe twice. Because the sticking point is always taking/finding the time to go through them all and analyze the data I get. There is always the voice in my head that says "You know you won't really LOOK at them, so why bother?"

It occurred to me this morning (I'm kind of slow sometimes) that since we are going 1 to 1 with the iPads this year, I could streamline the data collection piece by having students complete their exit tickets on the iPad using something like Socrative, which will do a lot of the data collection and summary for me.

So now my thinking cap is on and running. If I'm going to do this, I need to start planning so I'm ahead of the curve. Might be best to try it out with Algebra 2, since this is my fourth year through, and I have a good handle on which concepts the kids tend to smack up against.

I really want to do exit tickets, and stop just talking them up!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Homework. Ugh.

I don't even want to think how few days are left before school starts. I could count them, but I won't!

One of the big things I want to change this year is homework. Since the school requires that at most 10% of a student's grade come from formative work, homework has been a losing battle I have waged over the past three years. More than once I have had students flat out tell me that they're just going to do enough of the homework to "keep their A." Certainly, some kids don't need to do the homework. They can work along in class and study and show proficiency easily. I'm not really talking about those students. Although part of me dies a little when we have the above conversation and smile and nod at each other. And there are those lovely students who understand that homework is how they learn best. It is the other 70% who realize that it doesn't truly impact their grade enough to bother that I agonize over. They don't see the value. And honestly I am tired of the daily homework check that has exactly the same scores every day. So I'm rethinking the whole thing.

I don't want homework to be a punishment of too many repetitions of the same skill. I want it to be a few well chosen problems that reinforce what we've learned, and that students will work independent of me. I want them to work these problems on their own, and then check their solutions to verify for themselves that they understand or don't. But I get it that not all kids really need that.

My daughter took Pre-Calculus last year. Told me she never did the homework. Got an A. (Proud me!) But then I had those kids in Calculus who finally realized in January or February that they should have been doing the work all along. One lovely girl said proudly to me one day: "I've done my homework two days in a row, Mrs. L. I haven't done math homework since 8th grade!" Wow. I don't count anything formative into the AP Calculus grade - it is all summative. They know it, so they don't do it. They find out too late that I really meant it when I told them that they needed to be working outside class if they wanted to really get it.

So my plan for this year is different. I want to assign just a few problems. 6 to 8 maybe. Maybe less. All with answers they can check, so (hopefully) they come in to the next class with questions. That isn't any different than what I've done this year. But I will not check to make sure it is complete, which I did at the start of class each day. Instead, once a week, I will give them a homework quiz. Three or four problems, maybe one from each lesson, that are exactly the same as problems they did on the homework. If they pass (2/3 or 3/4) great! I'll record the score and for Algebra 2, this will make up part of their 10% formative grade. AP Calc and AP Stats will show the grade, but it won't be calculated. If they don't pass, they will be give a homework contract, in which they will be required to show me all the complete homework assignments for the unit before they take the unit summative assessment. If they show up with no work on test day, I will send them into the lab to complete the work.

My thinking is this: we use formative assessment to gauge student learning, and determine when they are ready for summative assessment. If a student has shown insufficient formative understanding, then it is not in their best interests for me to have them take a summative assessment when they are unprepared.

The students who "get it" and don't usually do their work will at least be expected to show some progress. More than likely, they won't need the homework contract. I had at least one student last year in Algebra 2 who would have earned an A if he'd just done his homework consistently. The students who think they're getting it (aka my Calculus students) will gently be reminded that this is a new creature and they might actually have to do a little work outside class. My kids who hate homework for the sake of homework will come to realize (hopefully!) that if they spend a little time each day it will pay off in the long run.

And I won't have to take that dreaded walk around the room each day to verify that each student has done exactly what they did yesterday!

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!