Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Student Folders

I want to share an idea that has made my life so much easier this school year. Every school year I get a little flustered when new students unexpectedly show up in my classroom (sometimes in the middle of a lesson.

I want to be able to get them all the information they will need about our class with as little disruption to the class as possible. This summer, I had the brilliant idea to make up New Student folders containing all the information I hand out on the first day, a little note explaining what to do, and a piece of candy.

My note says something like this:

"Welcome to our class. Whether you are new to Paradise High School or you are just had a schedule change, change can be stressful. This packet will explain everything you need to know about this class. Please complete the following steps:

1. Fill out the student information sheet (yellow)
2. Please take home the Parent information sheet and have your parent (or guardian) fill out and return tomorrow
And so on . . .

Before school started, I made up 20 of these and boy, have I been using them! Just yesterday, I had three new students and I expect more to trickle in all this week.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Classroom Arrangement

This summer I was privileged to hear one of my readers, Jen from Lil Mop Top speak at CAMT (Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching). She had so many great ideas, but one of the things I learned from her was how to arrange your desks so that students are in rows and facing forward, but are able to pair up or get into groups of four very quickly and then back to rows just as easily

I arranged my desks like she said. Here is a pic of my classroom (before I'd done any decorating)with my desks arranged in what I call pods. The students sit close to a partner, but are able to turn their desks quickly to group up with the pair of students directly behind them to form a group of four. I call this group of four a pod. There is a good bit of space between the pods.

We have been doing activities this week that are designed to help them get to know their partners and their pod mates. I have been having them get together with their partner and with their pod at various times during the lessons. I have them go back to rows when I lecture so they can focus on me and the lesson.

I love this new seating arrangement. It is really the best of both worlds. Rows for direct instructions, partners and groups for activities.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

You've Got To Get This!

Have you guys seen these? I saw them at Target this weekend and had to have them. I cleaned out the shelf (6 packs) and I still want more! I already used them in Algebra I today for a warm-up activity.

What fun activities would you do if you had these???

Our first unit in Algebra I this year is functions. The very first lesson deals with multiple representations of functions and determining whether a relation is a function. The lesson seemed so drab and boring so I used to activities to teach the concepts. I think they worked quite well.

In the first activity I gave the students this paper. The paper has four verbal phrases like the "y-values of the set are four times the corresponding x-value"

Then I gave them a baggie of cut up cards. Each card has a either a graph, a set of ordered pairs, a mapping and a table. Also each card has a random number in the top right corner.

I had the students match each verbal phrase with the corresponding representation. After they found the four cards that matched their verbal description, they wrote the number of the card in the answer boxes below each verbal description.

The only thing I will do different next year is add an equation card so they will have to match 5 cards to each verbal description.

Next, we talked about the definition of a function and I gave them a few examples then I gave them this baggie of cards and had the students (who were seated as partners) designate one desk for functions and one desk for non-functions. I then had them sort the cards into either function or not function. There was a lot of really good discussion that went one. At the end we debriefed and I went over the answers and let them redo their piles. Today, we will talk about the vertical line test, but it should be a breeze for them after yesterday's lesson.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

First Day Plans

I think I've got my first day figured out. I'm posting it here so I'll have it for next year. I've decided to mostly focus on get-to-know you activities and classroom procedures.

Here's my plan:

First Ten Minutes

Students fill in their information sheet and fill out a colored index card with their name and birthday. I'll then organize the cards in a file by month and have them ready to display on my Birthday bulletin board at the beginning of every month.

Songs that will be playing in the background: We're Going To Be Friends (The White Stripes), Every Morning (Sugar Ray)

M&M Activity (15 min)
Next we will practice working with a partner and forming groups by doing the M&M activity. I have a questionnaire for students to answer individually that correspond to an M&M color. After students answer their questionnaire, we will form groups of 4 and students will take turns drawing out an M&M and then share the answer that corresponds to the color of M&M they drew. Students eat the M&M's at the end!

Songs that will be playing in the background: Realness of Space (Bob Schnieder), I'm Yours (Jason Mraz)

Syllabus (10 min): I will discuss the rules and procedures portion of my syllabus

Notecard Activity (15 min)1. Each student will be given a blank index card. They will write down their favorite number smaller than 20 and then put a negative symbol in front of their number.

2. Students will circulate around the room with music playing in the background.
As they circulate they will try to shake hands and introduce themselves to as many people as possible. Every time they shake hands with someone, they trade index cards.

3. Every once in awhile I will stop the music and students should freeze and pair up with whoever they are standing next to. While they are standing there, I will give them some kind of directions. Like, "add your two numbers", or "subtract your two numbers", or "find the average of your two numbers."

Music Playing in the background: We are Family (Sister Sledge), What I Like About You (The Romantics), and I'll Be There For You (Theme song from Friends)

Thanks to Jenn from Lil Moptop and Amber Caldwell for the ideas!

Making Connections Through Music

One of my goals this year is to use motivational music to connect with my students. My biggest problem in using music is knowing what is relevant to kids these days and what they would like. I found a great website that has given me all kinds of ideas and exposed me to artist that I would not normally be aware of.

I have been saving the songs I really like into my Edmodo Library for use throughout the year. I may have something like "Tuesday Tunes". I'm not really sure how I will use the music. The slower pace tempo songs, I am dowloading onto my Itunes for a playlist of music to listen to during group activities and classwork time.

But here is a question for you techies out there. I have found this very inspirational song by Eminem that I would like to play but it contains two MF's towards the end of the song. Is there anyway to play this You Tube Video and Bleep the MF's? If not, I guess I'm gonna have to scrap the song.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ask Three Before Me

Are you ever exhausted by the end of the day by the endless questions asked of you? I'm not talking about questions having to do with content. I'm talking about things like, "Do we have homework today?", "Do we have a quiz today?", "What's the date today (even though it is written on the board)?, "What's for lunch today?", "Why do we have to learn this today?" And on and on and on.

I was joking around with some of my colleagues about the exhaustion you feel at the end of the day and how you just don't even feel like talking for the first hour or so when you get home. For me, I usually just sink into a chair with a nice cold beverage and veg out by reading blogs and catching up on Facebook. Unfortunately, if you have children to take care of, this just isn't possible.

Anyway, one of my fellow teachers spoke up and said, "I don't have this problem." I said what do you mean? Your kids don't ask you millions of silly questions everyday? She said "No, I have a rule." She said her rule is "Ask 3 before me." She requires her students to ask three other students before asking her any question.

I'm going to try this rule this year. I plan on making a big poster to remind students to "Ask three before me." It will probably take me a while to break the habit of answering every single question that is asked of me, but I'm going to give it my best shot!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

First Week of School Part One

Planning for a successful first week of school can be challenging even for experienced teachers. You can plan every last detail, activity, and lesson only to find your plan goes to hell in a handbag the minute it encounters 150 teenagers and a schizophrenic administration that decides to change bell schedules, call impromptu class meetings, or otherwise generally disrupt the learning process. The paperwork and record keeping that goes along with the first week can be overwhelming when you are busy trying to learn names, and organize your own classes. The best we can do is decide what our goals are for the first week of school, plan more activities than you'll really need, and then hope/pray for the best.

One of the most effective things that I did last year was send a document home on the first day called "Algebra I First Assignment". This document outlined my expectations for the class to parents and students. The front had a portion for the parents to fill out and the back has a portion for the students to fill out. The wording is rather strong as I lay out my expectations for the students, but at them same time I try to convey what I will do to help students to be successful in my class.

At the end of the year, many of my students come up to me and say that they were so scared of me the first day of school and thought I was going to be a really "mean" teacher (mean to them means strict). They said that they were surprised to find out how much they enjoyed my class and they wished they could have me again for Geometry.

I really think that setting up very high expectations for behaviour and work during the first week and then being consistent and brave enough to follow through with your policies, leads to an environment where learning can take place everyday. I am not saying my classes are perfect every single day, but they know I will deal with disruptions swiftly and fairly.

If your school allows it, having a policy for late work and sticking to it can really cut down on your stress levels at the end of the grading period. In the old days, I never accepted late work in math class. Nowadays, most schools would never allow this. Our district policy says we must take late work up to two days late, but most teachers will accept any work from that grading period up to the last day of the term. I strictly stand by the no more than two days late policy. It is hard for some students who are used to putting off all their work until the 11th hour, but after they fail that first term, they usually see that I mean business. While my colleagues are struggling under mountains of grading during the last week of the term, I am able to eat lunch, relax, and leave as soon as the school day ends without taking home extra work. I do not spend hours gathering up "missing" work for students who are failing. I simply tell them that it is too late for me to take their late work and the only thing they can do to bring up their grade is to retake any quiz or test they failed.

If you'd like a copy of the assignment I send home of the first day of school, I will upload it here. Please feel free to use it or change it to meet your needs.

Algebra I First Assignment

Follow Me!