Thursday, August 23, 2012

Teaching Students to (Math) Coach

One of my goals this year is to help students learn how to support, teach, and coach each other.

I have seated students in groups of four to encourage interaction. I am not sure why it took me so long, but I know this is what it will take to get students talking about math. I envision students asking and answering each other's questions and genuinely caring about whether or not the person across the table is understanding.

I realize that getting there will be a process.

I used this video today, to introduce what good coaching looks like:

Then we made a list of evidence from the video that demonstrates good coaching:

1. Make a choice to help. You could laugh at someone's struggle, or you could choose to offer your help.

2. Don't let someone quit, even if they want to quit. Lift the microphone and insist that they keep trying.

3. Be supportive without taking over. Let the other person do the work.

4. Anyone can offer help. Don't wait until you think you understand it perfectly yourself.

5. Stay until the end. Cheer.

My students really empathized with the girl in the video, and I think this analogy hit home with them. I am hopeful it is the beginning of a coaching culture in my classroom.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Made 4 Math: Two PIzza Boxes and a Hot Glue Gun

I decided to arrange my desks into groups of four this year. It is a little out of my comfort zone, but so far I am LOVING it! Except for one thing. . . What to do on test days?

I don't want to re-arrange the desks. It takes too much time to do it myself, and I am way too OCD to trust anyone else with the lining up of straight rows. . . I decided to try out a solution I am going to call "two pizza boxes and a hot glue gun".

For each group of four, you will need:  Two pizza boxes, and a hot glue gun.

I picked up twelve large pizza boxes from my local Pizza Hut. They let me have them for free. Thank you, Pizza Hut.

See those tabs at the hinge? Those are going to be a problem. Cut them off.

Then use hot glue to attach the "spines" of two boxes.

Open the boxes, and you have four compartments for private test-taking. When not in use, you can fold 'em up and store them. (Cameo appearance by Sophie).

Here they are in action.

I used them for the first time today. The kids thought it was fun. I wish they were a bit wider, as they don't cover the entire space between students. Still, I think they provide enough privacy. Time will tell . . .

Oh, and the most fun part of this whole project? Seeing the looks on the faces of students as they watched the crazy teacher with twelve pizza boxes struggle into the building this morning. I got multiple offers to help carry and open doors. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Favorite Friday: My Go-To Reviews

Here are a couple of my favorite go-to reviews (not games, really). I use them each maybe 4 times a year. While not particularly original, they definitely should be in everyone's bag o' tricks because they work great every time.

Stations review was one of my very first posts. It takes some time to prep, but the actual implementation couldn't be easier. This is also a great activity to leave for a sub, since you really just have to set the timer and holler "rotate" every five minutes.

Stations Review and Practice

I also love scavenger hunts. The setup is similar to stations, but students get to search the room to find the answer. This has worked great with some of my most active classes. It is also easy to differentiate by pairing students with a helpful partner. Students typically work pretty hard with this activity.

Scavenger Hunt

Happy reviewing!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Made 4 Math: T-Shirt Wall Display

My Calculus and Physics classes often become very close. They are small classes who bond over shared experiences, shared struggles, and inside jokes. Some will decide to commemorate the year with a T-shirt.

What is a teacher to do with a closet full of outdated T-shirts that can neither be worn nor thrown away? Make a lovely wall display, of course.

A bunch of the designs came out off-centered. It really bothered me for a while, but I am so happy with the end result that I decided the off-centeredness is part of the charm. And I am sticking to that. No OCD here. None at all.

A bunch of my favorite teaching memories, right there for me to look at every day. As an extra bonus, I am hoping that my Algebra 2 students will look at these shirts, see how much fun we have, and sign up for Calculus and/or Physics. In the future, I add more shirts!

Here are the specifics, if you are interested . . .

You will need:
1.  Old T-shirts, cut off the sleeves and cut down the sides.
2.  A 4 x 8 sheet of 1/4 inch OSB. ($7 at Lowe's). They cut it down partially for me in the store. At home, the Hubs finished cutting into 24 12" x 16" rectangles for me.
3.  Quilt batting (to add dimension). Cut into 12" x 16" rectangles as well.
4.  A staple gun.
5.  Some type of wall mounting. I used industrial strength velcro.

For each rectangle, I layered one side of the t-shirt with a couple rectangles of batting and stapled it all to the back of the particle board. It is helpful to have two sets of hands for this part. (Thanks again, Hubs).

Trim the excess fabric.

Like I said, off-centered is beautiful.

Then add velcro strips and stick to the wall.

Sounds simple, but it honestly took a ridiculous amount of time. Totally worth it, though.

P.S. If you know an English teacher (and I know that you do), encourage them to check out Teacher, Teacher, I Declare! I am so excited that my former English teacher (now a colleague and friend) has started a teaching blog. Mrs. E has years of experience, but she has never stopped learning. She is always introducing the rest of us to fresh ideas and innovative ways to use technology. You know that teacher in your school who is the glue? That's her. We all love her. I know the English edublogosphere (is there one?) will, too.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hopefully My Last Post About Supplies

My battle with supplies continues. I wrote about my success, followed by semi-failure. I have decided there is no perfect solution for supply-less students. It is a matter of preference and what works for your students in your classroom. I've tried most everything, and this is how it worked for me:

1.  Exchanging supplies for a valuable item. Works great, but I hated the disruption and felt like valuable instruction time was lost.
2.  Selling supplies. Also works great, as long as the child who doesn't have a pencil also doesn't have a quarter, which is likely. Then you have to decide if you are going to give the student a pencil or not and try to collect the quarter later. Too much hassle for me.
3.  Expecting students to borrow from another student. This also works pretty well, but I started to feel bad for the same poor students getting hit up each day.
4.  Providing supplies freely. Nice and non-disruptive, but supplies can go un-returned.

Providing supplies remains my method of choice. I try to set it up so the disappearance is minimized, and I live with replacing items occasionally in exchange for avoiding less-preferred hassles. This year, I am tweaking the location of my supplies.

Back story:  I decided to test out this classroom arrangement I read about from Mathy McMatherson. It is pretty genius, really. All students can simultaneously see the front of the room AND interact with a group of four without re-arranging desks. I hate moving desks. I wonder how many opportunities I have missed to allow students to work cooperatively because I didn't want to move the stinking desks. I am hoping I will be able to move toward a more cooperative, student-centered classroom, just by removing that barrier. I'll keep you posted . . .

Bonus! This new arrangement allows for a supply caddy right in the middle of each table:

I found the shower caddies at Walmart for $.97. Each contains:

1. Two basic operation calculators.
2.  A set of colored pencils and a pencil sharpener.
3.  Two spoon pencils. 
4.  Two knife erasers.
5.  A note card holder.

I am most excited about the note card holder. I plan to use it for any accessories that are specific to a lesson. It can hold math dominoes, puzzle cards, sorting cards, log war cards, and more. When I get to that part of the lesson, students can take them out without wasting any time on distribution.

Additional items I might include permanently or as needed:

6.  Green fork pens.
7.  Dry erase markers and erasers.
8.  Scissors and glue sticks
9.  Graphing calculators.
10. Clickers.

My hope is that I can trade a bunch of distractions and transitions for more instruction time.

Finally, I have been thinking about the inevitable. There will be broken, consumed, and lost or stolen items. How to minimize that? I have a few ideas:

1.  Don't have the caddies out on the first day of school. Wait until there is time to give students clear instructions and expectations.
2.  Have an inventory list on the side of the caddy. Part of the closing routine each day includes students double-checking to make sure everything is there.
3.  Ask students to donate consumable items. Will they?

P.S. It turns out that Sarah posted something really similar earlier today. I decided to go ahead and publish this, but I encourage you to check out her version. She uses supply baskets in conjunction with interactive notebooks. I don't do ISN's, but I don't think I would want to try without reading up on all of her good ideas. And she says she'll post pics of her supply basket, so stay tuned!