Sunday, August 19, 2012

Stop.Start.Continue. #MSSunFun

Today is my last day of summer.  We are back tomorrow for a day of PD.  Tuesday is a work day but I will have a few meetings that will eat up most of my morning.  I'm heading in today to hopefully finish organizing my room.  I moved over a room so I had to relocate a few things.  We still don't have all of the results from our state testing. I find it frustrating to plan for this year, when I don't have data from last year.  So much for data driven decisions...

I'm not much for writing elaborate goals, but here are a few of the ideas that come to mind.  After reading everyones' some others will come surely come to mind.

  • Talking so much.
  • Worrying about everything.
  • Eating everything left in the teachers' lounge.
  • Holding on to hurt feelings for something that happened > a year ago (feeling less angry now - just hurt).  I'm hoping to heal more this year.  

  • Making videos for my YouTube Channel - for parents and students (more on this later)
  • Better defining the role of the intervention specialist in the classroom
  • Being better organized - (love my new teacher binder this year - thanks for all the great ideas)
  • Being more consistent with homework consequences.
  • Moving my grading back to SBG (got away from it last year)
  • Being a better listener.  
  • Using students' technology (Socrative)

  • Working with my instructional coach.
  • Being flexible in my plans and adjusting to student needs.
  • Thinking differently about the structure of my class.
  • Think, Pair, Share - get students talking.
  • Finding time for small group instruction (just need to find more times for it)
  • Trying to be less helpful.
  • Blogging.

I am really excited to meet my new students on Wednesday!

Friday, August 17, 2012

#MyFavFriday - My Instructional Coach

I love working with my friend and colleague Jonily.  When I started teaching in my current school she was teaching at one of the other middle schools.  My school district gave us many opportunities to work with teachers in the other buildings.  6+ years ago my district added instructional coaching positions at the elementary and middle school level.  Jonily and I moved into the MS math positions so I had the opportunity to work even closer with her.  She has really influenced how I think about teaching and learning. Kids always come first.  She has an amazing ability to see how students build their understandings and connect mathematics. The coolest thing is that she is able to present things so that average people like me can also begin to see teaching and learning as she sees it.

Check out her website.  You can sign up for a weekly newsletter where she shares some of her awesomeness.  The latest newsletter is below.

Hello from "The Math Girl"!
To continue our theme of  "Teaching with Questions," this week I will introduce the Candy Probem.  I will refer to the Candy Problem all year and extend the amount of content that can be drawn from this single situation. The problem can be given to ALL ages from 1st grade through Algebra!  Keep in mind that the questions we ask are the most important instructional pieces of any task or problem.  These questions will guide the instructional process and will open the door for exploration of grade level content throughout the Common Core State Standards.  The purpose of the questions we ask is to generate mathematical thinking.  The more questions generated for each problem or task, the longer the problem can be extended (even while introducing additional situations, tasks and problems). Brace yourself!  This email is a long one this week!!Begin by introducing the situation:
The Candy ProblemTwo boys share 80 candies in the ratio 2:3Next, ask students...
What math questions can you create for this situation?Give students some time to generate creative math questions.  Collect questions as a class and either answer some now or save for later!Now ask students...
How many candies will each boy get?  How do you know?    To eliminate the discussion and instruction of "ratio" for students below grade 4, phrase the situation, Two boys share 80 candies with boy 1 getting 2 pieces and boy 2 getting 3 pieces.  Emphasize that "sharing" is not always equal.  Students can act out, use manipulatives and/or draw a picture of the situation.  The pupose of this task for younger students is to begin building the ideas of ratio, proportional reasoning and algebraic thinking by doing and exploring mathematics.
    Do not give this alternative form of the situation to students in grades 4 and higher.  One of the purposes of having students answer the question "How many candies does each boy get?" is to use student responses as an assessment.  Maybe even have students put their initial "guesses" on a post it or index card with their name to turn in.
    Also for students in grades 4 and higher, do not initially define ratio as a class.  Again, use this problem as an assessment of their knowledge of ratio.
    **Look for students who initially say that each boy gets 40 pieces of candy.  These students have limited knowledge of ratio.  Document these students names and move on.
At this point, a variety of next steps could happen based on the mathematical understanding of the students in your class, or the grade level you are teaching.
1.  Teach a mini-lesson on ratio using the example "What is the ratio of boys to girls in this classroom?"  (Emphasis on MINI - - - the lesson should be no more than 10-15 minutes)  Discuss equivalent forms of that ratio.  Could extend the discussion, now or at a later time, to ask "If the ratio of boys to girls in our school was the same as the ratio in our classroom, how many total students are there if there are _______ boys?  For most students, especially struggling students, encourage the use of a variety of strategies to figure this out - NOT setting up and solving a proportion!
2.  Discuss the possibility of each boy getting 40 pieces.  If the boys end up with the same amount of candy, then they will always have the same amount of candy.  What ratios are equivalent to 40:40?  At one point both boys had 20 pieces - the ratio 20:20.  Get students to continue to move toward how many pieces each boy would have gotten to begin with (1:1).  Point out that the ratio 1:1 is not the same as the ratio 2:3.  Show with drawings, manipulative or even actual candy what the "Passing out of candy" looks like for the ratio 1:1 and then for the ratio 2:3.
3.  Give students time to explore the problem by acting it out, using manipulatives or drawing a picture.  Have many discussions about what is happening and what is the mathematics involved.
4.  Eventually, have students create a TABLE of the information and look for patterns.
5.  Relate the amount of candies each boy has at each "passing outing" to the multiples of that number.
Additional Questions:
1.  What fraction of the candies does boy 1 get?
2.  What fraction of the candies does boy 2 get?
3.  What percent of the total candies does each boy end up with?
4.  What is the difference between a "part-to-part" and a "part-to-whole" ratio?
5.  How is a ratio the same as a rate?  How are they different?
6.  What algebraic equation can you write to solve this situation?
7.  At what rate does each boy get candy?
8.  How many candies does boy 1 have after the 7th passing outing?
9.  How many candies will boy 2 have after the 50th passing outing?
10.  If the two boys still share candies in the ratio 2:3, what total candies can there be so that no candies are left over after all passing outings?
11.  If the two boys still share a total of 80 candies, what ratios are possible so that no candies are left over after all passing outings?  Is the ratio 1:4 possible?  Is the ratio 1:2 possible?
12.  (Another variation)  If 2 boys share 90 candies in the ratio 2:3, how many candies does each boy get?  **Look for students who say 45 and 45.  Again, these students have a limited understanding at this point.  Document these students names and flag for intervention.
Do not worry about the levels of understanding of students!!  Make sure to document levels of understanding and note which students need extention and which students need intervention, BUT just HAVE FUN engaging students in mathematics!!  This will build the classroom culture and climate of THINKING and LEARNING!!  Let students DO MATH themselves, not watch you do all of the math!As teachers, let's reflect on these questions:
What other math questions can be asked related to this situation?What other variations of the situaion are possible?What is all of the additional math content that can be drawn out from this situation?
-Jonily Zupancic
"The Math Girl"

Monday, August 13, 2012

#Made4Math Address Labels

I like for students and parents to have websites and emails in a you-really-can't-lose-it place.  I started printing the information on address labels and having the students stick them inside their planners.  Once they lose their planner we will stick one on the inside of their math binder.  Parents can pick one up at Open House to put in their planner.  Next year I plan on making them much cuter.  You'll have to check out @4mulafun's.  Her's are super cute. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

#MSSunFun - Notebooks

I guess for this to make sense I need to describe a bit of my classroom structure.  My class is made up of average to below average math students.  I also have a large population of special education or other at risk students.  We teach everything all the time.  There are not traditional units and ideas are constantly coming back during instruction and learning.  All quizzes and tests are cumulative.

My students use a 3 ring binder with dividers for their math notebooks.

Section 1 - Do Now

This is the largest section of their notebook.  Each day students come into the room and begin the Do Now (warm-up).  It is usually a combination of old and new concepts.  Sometimes it will take 5 minutes and other days it is the lesson.  The idea is to have students engaged and working problems to develop understandings.

Section 2 - Keep Forever Notes

I don't expect my students to take notes everyday but they are expected to do mathematics.  Once we have discussed and tossed around a concept enough I will provide a graphic organizer or formal notes page for my students.  Each page is usually a different color so it is easier to reference and find.

Section 3 - Quizzes/Tests

All are cumulative.  Last year I had 1 cumulative test and 3 quizzes each 9-weeks.

Section 4 - Oldies But Goodies

This is the homework section.  Homework is also cumulative.  Oldies but Goodies (OBGs) are given to students on Monday and due back on Friday.  This is not a formal part of a students grade.  Usually the quizzes mirror the feel of an Oldies but Goodies.

Section 5 - Other

Anything that doesn't fit anywhere else (practice worksheet, group activity, etc.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Favorite Friday - Conversation Cards

I attended a workshop many, many years ago and they used photos to spark discussion at each group of teachers.  It was fun and easy to open up.

Have you ever seen the Blue Day Book by Bradley Trevor Greive?  I can't help but love the photographs.  I picked up a few of his other books and began cutting the pages apart.

This is what I ended up with

I will ask students to choose the photo that best represents how they feel about ___________ (test, math, next year, etc.).  Sometimes they will share out with the group or I will have them write about it.  This has worked well with groups who have been more hesitant to share or open up.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

#MSMath First Day Activities

I love starting with math the very first day of school.

As 6th graders students do the Locker Problem.  Well, an extended version of it.  We try as much as we can to find problems where we can integrate multiple skills and connections.  

I have 8th graders so we will be revisiting the Locker Problem.  It will be interesting to see how much the students remember and how they will react when we connect new ideas to it.  

The outline of how I will do it is here.  I quickly presented it at TMC12.  The document is still in draft form and not complete. 

We'll get to the get-to-know-you stuff later and organize the binders next week.  Let's jump in and do some math!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

#TMC12 and My Irrational Fear

My first steps into the Twitterblogosphere started with finding a few wonderful blogs.  I read and read and read some more.  Then I noticed the bloggers were also on twitter.  I lurked for an obnoxious amount of time and jumped in a few times but not enough for anyone to really get to know me.  At TMC I wasn't at all surprised that people didn't really know me that well.  I just hadn't really put myself out there.

I started my blog a few years ago to help me sort out some of the ideas I had for the class I had to pick up.  For 6 years I was an Instructional Coach for my Middle School.  That position was eventually cut and I found myself back in the classroom.  The problem with the blog is that I have a completely irrational fear of writing.  The thought of a 1 page reflection paper sends me over the edge.  College was a nightmare.  Tears, tears and more tears.  I'm still not sure how I made it through.  Fast forward to Math Bratt.  It died.  I know I have stuff to share.  Stuff I really want to share but the words always escape me.  Those of you who meet me in person know I have stuff to share and you are allowed to tell me to shut up once in a while.

Everyone has already written so much of how I feel about TMC12.  I never could have put all of my emotions in words as well as everyone else.  Thank you for writing what I could not.  But most of all, thank you for believing in me and encouraging me to write.  Even if it is difficult.  I have the strength to do it because of all of you.  How could anyone not be inspired by each and every one of you?

Please forgive me when my posts are less than eloquently written.  I hope you read them anyway.