Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Day One: ALL the Names (and High Fives!)

Learning the names of students has never been a strength of mine. I've been known to take a week (or two) to get them all right. This year I decided to make it a priority, so I challenged myself to learn all the names on day one.

Day one, 35 minute class periods:

1. Students get a high five and a copy of "Mrs. Gruen's Life in Numbers" as they walk in the room. I borrowed this idea from Heather Kohn, as recommended at Global Math Department.

2. A seating chart is projected via the document camera and students find their seats. The seating chart is key. I could not have done this without it.

3. I introduce myself, then call out names from the roster while students are working at matching numbers from the answer bank to ten facts about me. I make note of preferred nicknames and pronunciations and such.

4. I show a brief slide show to reveal the answers to the quiz. I share an adorable pic of me with my family last Halloween . . .

And one of my dog Sophie, in big trouble after snitching a few almost-ripe tomatoes from my daughter's tomato plant.

5. I ask them to write 3-5 number facts about themselves. Share with your group members. Ask each other questions like "Which four countries have you lived in?" or "What's it like to have six toes on one foot?". I collect the papers when they're done.

6. Noah's ark problem from Fawn. Also recommended by Heather via Global Math.

7. As I watch students work and listen to their conversations, I have a good ten minutes to silently study the seating chart while looking at their faces. I practice covering the chart and saying their names in my head. We didn't finish the Noah's ark problem today, but that's okay.

8. As students leave the room, I say goodbye to each one individually. Bye Tate, bye Robert, bye Kyanna, bye . . . I overhear someone say "Holy cow, she knows our names already!"

Day two, before students arrive:

9. I go through the stack of number facts. I try to picture each face as I read what they've shared.

And then the final test:

10. As students enter the room on day 2, they get a high five and a "Hello Tate, Hi Robert, Good morning Kyanna . . . ". I only got two names wrong on day 2, and I think that is pretty good.

I also realized that learning names quickly has added another dimension to my daily high-fives. Every student gets to hear me say their name, along with their high five, every day. I definitely feel more connected to my students than I normally would be this early in the year. And the look on their faces when I welcomed them by name on day two? Priceless.

This is going to be a great year!

Sunday, August 16, 2015


My long overdue TMC15 reflection. . .

First of all, I am determined to not re-invent my teaching/curriculum/procedures this year. I went to TMC looking for smaller nuggets of inspiration that would improve my classroom, sans any dramatically huge changes.

Here are a few things that spoke to me:

Desmos activities. I consider myself to be a pretty proficient Desmos user, but I learned that there is so much I do not know yet. Among the features I learned about is the Desmos activity builder. I have already written a bunch of worksheets with Desmos instructions for students to follow. On these days, I spend the class period running around looking at screens when students reach particular checkpoints. No more. Now I can put the same exact set of instructions into the activity builder, have students enter the activity via a code, and watch all the action from my computer screen. Nice. I feel inspired to convert my current activities, and to build more.

Taming the firehose of resources. I enjoyed Bree's session on planning units using the MTBoS. I realized that my problem is not so much the planning stage . . . it is saving the resources I've found so that I can access them later at the time that I actually would use them. When I read something interesting, I generally bookmark it in feedly. And then I never see or hear from it again. I decided that it is okay for me to be more discerning in what I choose to save. When something is worthy of saving, I need to put a little more effort into saving it so it can be found later. "It is okay to appreciate something you've read and not save it", Bree said. I've been thinking about this a lot, as I am guessing 3/4 (or more) of my bookmarks are blog posts that I simply enjoyed reading but don't directly apply to my classroom. I am going to focus on those things that I intend to implement later on, and do a better job saving them with searchable tags and such (Evernote, perhaps?).

High fives at the door. Glenn's "my favorite" has been popular for good reason. It is simple, but we have already discovered it is powerful. My colleagues and I decided to make it a department thing, and also roped in the two non-math teachers in our hallway. So the 200 hallway is officially the "high-five hallway" at our school. I am surprised by how something so small has already helped me feel more connected to my students, and how the classroom atmosphere gets an immediate boost. You just can't be too grumpy after a high-five.

Music transitions. Playing music snippets to speed up transitions is something I've wanted to do for a while, but I was not sure how to execute. Or maybe I just didn't take the time. I don't know. Anyway, I am pumped to scan Vaudrey's resources and implement some tunes for all those routines that suck more class time than they should.

Do what you love. My colleagues and I just want to have fun teaching math. We are thinking of finding activities that share a common theme to implement on the same day/week. Barbie day, for example, could involve Barbie bungee in one classroom, Barbie zip line in another, and Barbie _____ elsewhere . . . We don't have the details worked out, but we do know there will be costumes.

Regrets. I was lucky enough to travel to TMC with my entire math department (all four of us) for the second year in a row. I love what this experience does for us. We have fun together, and we get excited about the same things. We come home and we implement our plans as a group. I get how blessed I am to have a work environment like that. But I really missed out on connecting with the other attendees. There are so many people who I follow and admire and learn from on a regular basis . . . I feel sad that I didn't sit down and have a chat with many of them.