Thursday, July 31, 2014

Getting My Classroom Ready (Day 1)

Today was the first day that I have been back to my room all summer...  I took a whole car load of stuff that I have been making and buying all summer and had big plans for what I wanted to do in my classroom today.... I got to my classroom and discovered that they had never cleaned my room... :o(

I decided to unload and get as much done as I could anyways.... When I leave for the summer, I pack everything up and lock everything in cabinets that I have in my classroom.. So when I come back in the fall I start from scratch....

I didn't get as far as I wanted today.  But I did get my desk area unpacked and somewhat organized.... Here is a picture of my teacher wall hanging I made.... It looks so cute in my classroom... I am very happy with my my first "Monday Made It".

And I got the front board area done....  Above the boards is another one of my "Monday Made It" projects, my Mathematical Practices Posters... Another "Monday Made It" project is my new Depth of Knowledge posters on the board. I want the students to know and understand the DOK Levels and so I created posters...

On the other side of the board you can see more of my "Monday Made It" projects, my mini Mathematical Practices I Can posters that coordinate with the big posters above the board.

This is still a work in progress.... But I am happy with my accomplishments for my first day back in my classroom....  I will be going back for the second day next week....

Blog Update and Add-ons.... :o)

Thank you to Megan at A Bird in Hand Designs  for the awesome blog update....  Megan did my blog design which I LOVE, and she just did some really cute add-ons.... I now have a Pinterest "pin-it" Button and a "Return to Top" button.... If you are interested in a rockin blog design I highly recommend A Bird in Hand Designs...  She Rocks!!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mathematical Problem Solving Guide: Thinking, Applying, Explaining, Justifying and Proving

I don't have much summer time left, I start back pretty soon... I am finalizing the last of my ideas for next year.  I have blogged a lot about my goal of emphasizing the Mathematical Practices more this year.  This year I also want to work on getting the students to be more precise when they are justifying and proving in math.

The students did okay with this last year, but it could use improvement.  I didn't really have anything for them to refer to and I think that was part of the problem.  So this year my goal was to create something they could keep in their Interactive Math Notebooks as a reference.

After a lot of Pinteresting, I finally came up with something that goes with my teaching style.  My expectations are clear so this year there shouldn't be any excuses....
(Well that's in my ideal world)....

Here is a copy of what I came up with. This is the first draft. I might need to tweak it still... The first page is focused on Problem Solving.

The second page is focused on Writing Explanations in Math.

If you would like a copy, you can download here: Math Problem Solving/Writing in Math. I would love feedback... :o)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Letter To My Students

I have previously blogged about my goals for this year and how motivating and encouraging my students is important to me. This year I want to focus on teaching my students to persevere when they struggle.  I have a lot of motivational and encouraging posters to put up on my walls.  But this year I wanted something for them to put in their Interactive Math Notebook.  I wanted something for them to have with them all the time. After a lot of Pinteresting and getting ideas, my idea finally came to fruition.  :o)

Here is a copy of the letter I am giving my students... This will be the first page in their Interactive Math Notebook.... It will be the first thing they see every time they open their notes...
If you would like a copy to use, you can click here for the pdf:
  A Letter to my Students

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Pacing Puzzle... How I Fit It All In

I am linking up with Middle School Math Moments and (more!) for Workin' on it Wednesday.

I have not only been Workin' on it today (Wednesday), but I have been Workin' it all Summer... :o) In my reflection over the summer about last year I have come up with a lot of new ideas for next year. One thing I want to focus on next year is implementing the Math Practices.  I even created new posters to make that next step. I posted about my new posters in My First Monday Made it Linky. 

I want to focus on getting my students to "Think" and to persevere even when it gets hard.  I came across a quote on the web that I am going to use as my class motto. "Learning Isn't Easy... Embrace Struggle, and Grow..."  My goal is to encourage, inspire and motivate every day.

Obstacle #1
Our daily schedule does not allow a lot of teaching time. We don't have a block schedule so I only have 50 minute periods to get a lot of content in.  Wednesdays we have late start so we only have 35 minute periods.  In theory the school year seems like a lot of time, but when you calculate in holidays, professional development days, assemblies, minimum days, etc..... it leaves very little teaching time.  :o(

Pacing and Fitting It All In
I have put a lot of thought into the pacing schedule for Math 8.  Here is a color-coded copy of how I planned our pacing for this year. (As you can see not a lot of teaching days)

This is my 3rd year teaching 8th Grade Common Core and I finally feel like I understand the direction of where we need to go in our curriculum.  Last summer I made tweaks to our first year's pacing and that made a huge difference... But after taking the SBAC Practice Test and Field Test I realized we still needed more tweaks.   I really like how it looks so far... :o)

How I Fit Basketball Sized Information into a Baseball Size Amount of Time
I am very OCD about structure and procedures in my room. I start this on Day 1, and continue through the Last Day.... I have found that structure and procedure is crucial when you are on a limited amount of teaching time.

The key to fitting in what I need to teach is my Collaborative Teams.  I blogged previously about my Collaborative Teams in: My Classroom Structure and My Collaborative Team Tasks. Teaching with Collaborative Teams has been the key to the success of my students.  This is the most effective way to get valuable learning in when class periods are so short, because the students discuss everything.   That mathematical discussion is what sticks with them.  Everything in my classroom structure is based on team discussion.

Starting my period with structure and procedure I am implementing a new idea I designed for the beginning of class every day. I blogged about this idea previously.  My Post It, PROVE It Idea.

Another key to fitting in what I need to teach is my Guided Notes. My guided notes are designed to be given in 10 to 15 minutes.  After giving the guided notes, I design problems that use the strategies I created called: "Recorder/Reporter", "Think and Apply" or "Team Challenge".  All of these strategies require the team to discuss and solve the problem together.

To keep with my structure and procedure and to get my students more prepared for Common Core I am implementing another new idea every Wednesday.  I previously blogged about my Worthwhile Wednesday TASK Idea.  I am excited to try this new idea because I have never done this before.

If I am not introducing a new concept then I design a Collaborative Team Task to practice the concept.   This is also key to how I fit everything in. During this time, I am a "Facilitator" and this allows me to walk around and listen to the discussions and help when needed.   The students learn much more discussing and working together than doing guided instruction with me.

These are some of the ways I set up my classroom to create a conducive and engaging learning environment. I have a lot of new ideas I am trying this year, all of which are a work in progress.  I am not afraid to tweak my ideas to make something that works.  I reflect daily and if it's not working, I figure out a way to fix it.

I recently started my Math Blog as a way for me to reflect and journal what I am doing in my classroom and to learn more great ideas to add to my repertoire.  I also started my Math Blog because I really wanted to expand my PLN.  My own continued learning is just as important to me..... Feel free to join me on my journey as a Middle School Math Teacher :o)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Math, Technology, iPads and #showbie

I am linking up with iTeach 1:1 and Learning to the Core for their Tune into Technology: iPads Linky. I am so excited with this link-up because I can share some of the great things I have learned to do with iPads. I know this is a long post, but I hope you read all the way through it because I share some really cool ideas.

Last year I used 1:1 iPads in my Math Support class.  My goal in my Math Support class was to give them a way to practice and learn the math concepts differently than in their regular Math 8 class.  My goal was to also make my Math Support class completely self-paced.  I do not direct teach in this period and having it self-paced allows me to help students or to work with small groups.

It took about half of the school year for my vision to finally come to fruition. One of the tweaks I made with the iPads was to have the browser removed.  I have the browser removed from the iPads because I don't want the students to have access to the Internet. Doing this makes it so much easier because I don't have to watch what the students are doing... I know they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.  I don't use the iPads for games and through a lot of trial and error and research .... I finally found some great apps that fit into my vision perfectly.

My Number One favorite, I can't live without app is showbie.

I am going to show you how I use Showbie  and why I love it.  First of all, in Showbie  you can set up classes and keep track of assignments in an easy and organized fashion.  You can name the classes and assignments.

This is the teacher view of classes.  From here you can see if any assignments were turned in.

In each class you can add assignments.  This is a view of what it would like in one of the classes, looking at the assignments.  Again, you can see the assignments that were turned in.

You can click on an assignment and see each student.  Again in this view you can see who has completed the assignment.

I love the fact that I can see the progress of assignments for each class and each student.  If you haven't fallen in love with Showbie  yet.... Just wait.... It gets better..... :o)

Showbie allows you to do so much more great stuff.  I am going to walk you through one of my weeks in Math Support and this will highlight all of Showbie's great attributes.

My Weekly Assignments in Showbie
In Showbie  I create a list of assignments for the week.  As you can see in the above example: Assignment #1, Assignmnet #2, etc....   Each assignment has a due date.... I also lock assignments, so students stay focused on the current days.  (Two awesome features in Showbie)  :o)

Students start with Assignment #1 and when they complete it, they move on to the next Assignment.  This allows the students to work at their own pace and I can focus on helping the students.  When the students finish an assignment, they leave a "Text Note" letting me know they have finished.  

This is an example of the student's "Text Note".  

*** I am tweaking this for next year. I am going to have different prompts at the end of the assignment. So instead of just letting me know that they finished the assignment, they will be writing a response instead.  

Examples of How I Use Showbie to Create Assignments
Each of my assignments are different and unique.  I write very explicit instructions so the students know what they need for the assignment, what they should be doing and how they should be doing it.

The first example is an assignment where the student will take notes.  The first part of the assignment explains how to properly set up their paper. 

When the students open the pdf file that I uploaded into Showbie, they see an example of how to set up their paper for the notes. (I am very OCD about how papers are set up)

After they set up their paper, they read the next part of the assignment.  This is where they will click a link which will take them to a video I made using Educreations.

In Educreations, they watch the video and copy the color-coded notes onto the graphic organizer they made in Part One of the assignment.  

They actually watch two videos.  The first video walks them through concept and vocabulary.

The second video walks them through a color-coded example problem.

The students love using the videos for notes because they can pause it, and watch the video again.  

The next assignment is would be practice to apply the concept.  

Again the pdf example would give them an example of how I want the paper set up.

The next part of the assignment would direct them to Socrative. Here they will sign in and do a self-paced practice.  I love Socrative because not only do the students get practice, they get immediate feedback if they got the question right or wrong.

I previously posted about Socrative and how I used it for self-paced practice here.

Another assignment for practice. In this assignment the students are directed to go to my other favorite Common Core practice resource: Tenmarks. I love Tenmarks because the questions are rigorous and are Common Core style questions.   In Tenmarks you can create assignments based on one or more Common Core standards.  I have the students use a whiteboard when doing practice in Tenmarks.

As you can see I am very OCD about assignment details.  I do not want to spend time answering questions about how they should set up their paper, what they do next, etc. I want to focus on questions about the concept.   I LOVE Showbie because I can leave detailed assignment explanations, attach pdf examples, and leave links. This is why they don't need the browser app because Showbie rocks so much that I can leave a link and it opens up in Showbie. (Thank you Showbie!!!  You Rock!!!)

I hope you are still reading, because I have saved the best part of Showbie for last....  My absolute favorite thing to use Showbie for is the performance tasks that I create.   

I create a performance task and upload the pdf into Showbie.  (Again with my very explicit directions)  :o) 

And then the fun part... This is what the students see when they open the pdf.  In this task the students will make a poster.

But wait! It gets better....  Not only do the students make a poster as they walk through the task, they annotate on the pdf and write written responses on the pdf...   

The students know if there is a "Text Cloud" in the task, they click on the "Text Cloud" on the tool bar and leave a written response.  Here is an example of how that looks when I see it.

The students also have a stylus, so they can annotate answers right on the pdf.  Here is an example of what that looks like when I see it.  

And now the really, really cool part... I can annotate and leave responses for the students.  Here are some examples of how I would reply back to the students on their task.

Here are some pictures of the students working through the task.

And here is a picture of the final poster from the task.

These are the reasons that I absolutely LOVE Showbie and why it is my Number One can't live without app.... Showbie really helps keep my classroom organized and completely self-paced so that I can focus on the students and their learning.  I hope you were able to learn some cool ideas.... Thanks for stopping by.... :o)


Monday, July 21, 2014

Mathematical Practices and Motivating Students

I am linking up with 4th Grade Frolics for my first #mondaymadeit. I am updating and changing the colors (not my pink area) in my classroom this year and so I wanted to make new posters for my room.

I have been working on these off and on all summer and I am so excited to finally finish them.... I went to all of the craft stores and got rockin scrapbook paper. I printed the math practices on legal size white paper and then framed them in black paper and scrapbook paper.  They are 12 by 18... I wanted the posters big enough to see across the room. I went to our county office of education and laminated them today. Even though I am not that crafty, I think they turned out cool.... :o)

I made the the big posters to go above my board at the front of the room and coordinating little "I can" posters to hang vertically on my whiteboard.

These are the big CCSS Math Practices Posters:

 These are the coordinating "I Can" mini posters:

This is a poster I made to motivate and encourage my students.