Thursday, September 27, 2012

Write Your Own Word Problem. Also: Why Am I Doing This?

My Algebra 2 students are working on some word problems that set up as systems. They are finding out how many of each type of ticket was sold for the homecoming dance or how many quarters and dimes make $3.45 -- that type of thing.

I thought that students would better understand the process if they wrote their own problem, so I wrote up the sheet below. In the interest of spending less time at the front of the room blah-blah-ing away, I wrote it so that students can read the instructions and work through the process on their own. They start with a problem we've already solved, and replace its parts one at a time. They will illustrate and solve the problem when they are done.

Write Your Own WP

Here's my reflection:

Students seemed to really enjoy this activity. They all dug in and did it. I just walked around and answered a few questions here and there. I also asked each student to check in with me at a couple of different points to make sure they were on track. When they finished, they were just tickled that their problem worked out as planned. In the end, they were more confident about these problems.

I like this activity, I really do. But . . .

I am really wondering if it makes sense to keep doing these types of problems this way, or at all.  The whole process is quite hand hold-y. Students are really just learning to follow a procedure here. I am sure there is a better way to teach systems. Keep the old-school word problems, or ditch them? Replace them with what?

Conclusion: Today I accomplished exactly what I tried to accomplish. However, I am not sure if what I am accomplishing is what I really want to/should accomplish.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Friday Favorite: My Planner

I was so very excited when I received my planner, a la Sam Shah, in the mail.

I am simply not able to hold very many things in my brain at one time. If I try, I get stressed out and overwhelmed. I manage my life by putting everything on paper. I have never found a planner that meets all of my needs, so I had started trying to create my own. I was having trouble with the execution until I read Sam's post, and now here it is!

Here is a blank page.

In addition to all the usual stuff, there is a little letter representing each item that I have to check off on a daily basis:

T -- look over the lesson plans for TODAY and make sure all supplies are ready.
G -- Grades recorded for that day.
3 -- look 3 days ahead and prepare pages for my aide to copy.
S -- Summarize that lesson (specifically, what went well & what didn't)
N -- email a copy of the day's Notes
V -- upload the Video from the day's lesson
A -- Absent students' makeup work

Here's what it looks like at the beginning of the week. I have written the topic of each lesson, additional items that I need to do each day, and appointments and such.

And here's what it looks like at the end of the week.  I have written a little summary of each lesson in a different color. These are the notes I will (hopefully) use when I am planning next year. And everything is crossed off. If it doesn't get done, I cross it off anyway and re-write it on the next week's calendar. You know, because I can't turn to the next page if something isn't crossed off.

OCD, maybe, but it helps me live my life a with a lot less stress.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Happy Moment

I am so tired of myself writing about supplies, but . . .

 . . . Today I put skinny (9 oz.) plastic cups inside my supply caddies. They are much more organized now. It made me so happy I had to take a picture . . . and share it with someone.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


In addition to blogging, I reflect by making brief notes to myself in my agenda at the end of each lesson. Should I repeat that particular lesson, I will know what adjustments to make. It is very helpful. (Helpful when I actually LOOK at the notes I've written, that is).

Last year, I wrote a note to myself to be more organized about presenting all of the things students need to know at the beginning of the year. This includes the basics like grading, late work policy, supplies needed, some procedural stuff, and more.

"Make a foldable that students can keep in their binders all year long", I said to my future self.

And this is what it became . . . A booklet that slides nicely into a construction paper cover which students can decorate themselves:

A quick rundown of what's inside:

1. A little note to students, stolen straight from Miss Calcul8.
2. How to start/end class
3. Supplies needed
4. Grade breakdown
5. Absent and late work policy
6. Need help? (how to get to the notes & videos I put online)
7. How to practice
8. How to grade your practice
9. Sample practice (An extra page will be pasted here. I hope to post about this later.)
10. How to coach. I blogged about this here.
11. Binder Setup
12. A note to parents/guardians, highlighting page 6 and requesting a signature.

I am thinking of adding more to next year's booklet, like maybe these pages on learning styles or multiple intelligences from Everybody is a Genius.

I am sure your policies will be different from mine, but here is the file in case you're interested.
Syllabus Booklet

To get the layout right, I stacked a few index cards on top of each other and folded the stack in half. Then I flipped through the stack like a book and wrote the topic and page number I wanted on each page. Finally, I separated the cards so that I would know that, say, page 2 needed to be printed next to page 11 in order for the final booklet to assemble correctly.