Friday, April 25, 2014

Creative Inspiration

I am soooooo looking forward to Monday. We have district wide in-service. I can't wait!

And I'm not even being sarcastic.

We get to spend the entire day with our PLCs. My math-teaching buddies and I have decided to use the whole day to create activities for our classrooms.

No yawn-inducing sessions that don't apply to us. We are going to create stuff that we can use!

I've been compiling supplies, links, and ideas for inspiration.

Beach balls, because summer is soooo close.

I made the pink ice breaker one a while back. It is covered in silly questions. You toss the ball to someone, they answer the question underneath their right thumb and toss it to someone else. Something like that with math facts might be perfect for our intervention teacher?

Plastic eggs I got on clearance after Easter.

I am thinking an egg hunt? Maybe a problem inside the egg leads to an answer written on the outside of another egg which opens up to reveal another problem? There could be a different color for each group.

Or, that same thing in an egg carton. I like these white plastic eggs because they aren't seasonal. It might only be a worksheet in disguise, but its way more fun.

Foam pieces. I've found that writing on pieces of craft foam with a sharpie makes for durable sorting cards & such. No laminating necessary. The strips could work for putting the pieces of a proof in order? I am sure we can find some other uses as well.

I have a bunch of wooden blocks in my cabinet. Perfect for custom-made dice.

Links to my favorite activity structures: Add 'em up, speed dating, solve-crumple-toss, war (all via Kate's blog). Also bucket of lies, math dominoes . . . what else?

Here are some samples of those for everyone to look at.

And some cooperative learning books with tons of great ideas.

Oh, and I am hoping to convince someone to try Barbie bungee.

Hoping for a productive day!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Today's PD Brought To You By . . . Students

My colleague James had the idea to invite students to our PLC for a panel discussion. It was a very interesting/insightful conversation. The students were pretty honest with us.

First we put together a list of questions. We did this rather quickly, so there is nothing special about them. We just wanted to give students some prompts to get them talking.

Next we selected a group of students. We chose all older students, thinking that they would have had most of the teachers in our little department at one time or another. It turns out they mostly commented on their current classes, so next time we will choose students from every class. We also chose a variety of students in terms of ability level and performance. Finally, we looked for kids who wouldn't shy away from speaking up and giving us some constructive criticism. We ended up with six students, and that was just the right amount.

Finally, we gave each student a personal invitation to come to our meeting and share their thoughts about math class. All of them gladly accepted.

Here are the questions we asked and a summary of the responses. We have about 25 minutes for our PLC meetings, and we finished these six questions with just the right amount of time.

1. Name one thing from one of your math classes that you would NOT change. Why?

  • Having answer banks on homework
  • Activities where we can move like scavenger hunt or quiz/quiz/trade
  • Being forced to organize (a binder or composition notebook)
  • Spiral review helps us remember stuff from earlier in the year
  • Projects/creating things
  • Having assignments on paper (versus out of a textbook)

2. Name one thing that you would change. Why?

  • The answer banks on homework make us too reliant 
  • The paper is too small in the composition notebooks
  • Units should not be longer than two weeks

3. When you miss class, how do you usually get help to make up the work?

  • Edmodo
  • Talk to the teacher
  • Get help from friends/other students in class

4. Do you like us using Edmodo? Is there another way you would like us to post work?

  • Those who use it do like it
  • Only about half of them use it because they don't remember how to log in (!)
  • Edmodo needs to be easier for us to access

5. How do you perceive the advanced classes versus the regular classes?

  • At first when I found out I was not going to be in the advanced class I felt stupid, but now I like that the class is at a good pace for me and I understand what we are doing.
  • I (student in regular) used to cheat a lot last year (love the honesty!). I haven't cheated at all this year because I understand what I'm doing.

6. What would you like to see more of?

  • extra credit
  • games
  • hands-on activities

The hardest part of the whole discussion was NOT responding when students said something negative. When they mentioned a practice they didn't like, my gut instinct was to explain why we do it that way. But that's not what this is about. Listening is key. 

This discussion triggered a few adjustments and more discussions for us. At our next PLC meeting, everyone shared their favorite hands-on type activity or game. Teachers shared specific activities that were mentioned by the students. We also resolved to use Edmodo during class occasionally, just so that everyone knows how to log in and is aware of what resources are available there.

Next time we will get a different set of students and probably write some new questions, but we will definitely do this again.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fool's Day, Volume II

Teaching relatives is weird, but also pretty fun. I've be able to see my nephew almost every day of his high school career. Two years ago, he pulled a cute little April Fool's joke.

He's a senior this year and his little brother is a freshman. This year they decided to step up the level of their April Foolin'.

It is a good thing I like them . . . because they recruited assistance and spent an hour and a half of their evening on March 31st prepping this April 1st surprise for me:

I couldn't even walk through the door!

And I was a little proud.

I would send them to the office for a detention, but the Principal OK'd the whole thing in advance. 

And the Assistant Principal unlocked my classroom door for them.

How's that for a conspiracy?