Monday, December 19, 2011

Linear Function Review Booklet

My algebra I students have just finished the first semester and have completed their study of linear functions. I wanted to put together a review booklet for them to complete on the first day back in January which will summarize our study of linear functions.

This is what I've come up with and I thought I'd share it with all of you.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Slope Book Project

I wanted to share this project with you all earlier, but I was waiting until they were all turned in to evaluate how the project went and if there was anything I would change.

In our scope and sequence, we solve all types of linear equations and inequalities in Unit 2 and then we begin our study of graphing linear equations and inequalities in unit 3. One of my colleagues and I got this idea to introduce a project on slope back in unit 2 before the students had ever heard of slope and make it due the week that we began our study of graphing.

Our hope was that the kids would do some research on their own and have some mental file folders all ready for the knowledge they would receive in class. The project was an overwhelming success. The students were required to make a book all about the four types of slope. They had to research what the four types of slope were, write an introduction in their own words and then find 10 real world pictures that represented the four types of slope. Each picture had to have a caption. They could capture these pictures on their own, search the web, or draw the pictures. We gave them the choice to present the project digitally or the old-fashioned way.

Some of the students made amazing Animoto presentations, some made power point, some just made a little book out of notebook paper or construction paper. I think we accomplished our goal of having the students learn a little on their own before the material was presented in class. This exercise seemed to make the learning more meaningful as we went through our lessons on slope this week.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mission Accomplished: 100% Engagement!

I'm not gonna lie. I'm a little overwhelmed this year. I have a total student load of 182 and it is starting to wear me down. I started the year with great enthusiasm and lots of creativity, but quickly found myself working 12-14 hours a day in order to prepare activities and keep up with the grading involved in such a high student load. I've got a very rambunctious group of ninth graders in algebra I which has led to lots of parent phone calls and some one-on-one counseling sessions in the hall trying to promote better behaviour. I'm slowing getting the classroom management situation under control and the students are starting to learn that as soon as they start talking, I STOP. They are realizing that the more they talk and act silly, the longer the lesson takes and the less time they have to start their homework in class.

For the last couple of weeks I have found myself in survival mode. Lots of direct instruction and guided practice. The kids are learning, but they are bored and so am I. Yesterday, I just had to do something different.

After a brief lesson on using the distibutive property to solve equations containing parentheses, I had the students scoot their desk next to their partners desk and then gave everyone some low odor dry erase markers (this is part of their school supply requirements). I then put up problems like this:

I gave them two minutes to work the problems out on their desks. I told them I wouldn't help anyone and that they would have to rely on their partner if they weren't sure what to do.

After about two minutes I began to uncover the steps using the "shade" feature of my smartboard. You could hear the moans and groans from the students as they realized their mistakes.

My day was made when one of my students in the last period of the day said "Can we do this more often? I really learn good like this." All the other kids chimed in, "yeah, let's do this again." I said we would definitely do it again sometime and I complimented them on everyone being on task and engaged.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Second Time's the Charm!

The first year I taught at Paradise High School (2009-2010), I taught an Algebra I class that drove me crazy. I posted about this story about a group of immature, love struck boys right here. Go back and read it to get a good picture of the class atmosphere.

When I got my rosters this year, I discovered that three of the boys in that class were in one of my Math Models classes this year. I was really torn. At our school we have the right to refuse to teach any student who has previously failed our class. I really wrestled with whether or not to leave the three boys on my roster or give them to someone else. In the end I kept them and I couldn't be happier.

I had the best experience today. My math models classes were doing an "Around the World" activity today to prepare for tomorrow's test and I was walking around helping and generally making sure everyone was staying on task. All three of these students were working and even being successful on "difficult" word problems. I couldn't help but comment on how much they had improved since their freshmen year and how they didn't even seem like the same students. I told them how helpless I had felt at not being able to help them succeed in Algebra I. I really struggled with that class and had great doubts in my teaching ability due to the 75% failure rate of the class.

One of the boys said to me, "Mrs. H, why would you blame yourself? It's never the teacher's fault! We were just lazy! You shouldn't beat yourself up. You are a good teacher or how else would we be able to do the math we are doing right now?"

Needless to say, I was shocked! They were doing the math! All this time I have believed that they didn't learn anything that year. And speaking of that, how did they learn anything? They didn't do any homework. Many of their tests were turned in blank or half-completed. It seemed as if I was teaching to a brick wall. But here they are as juniors, being successful in my class! Maybe their Geometry teacher finally knocked some sense into them or maybe they just grew up. I'm not sure what happened, but I think it is going to be a great year!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Check This Out

Please stop by and see Jen @ lil Mop Top today for her Teaching Thursdays. She shares a great Pair Share acitivity for reviewing linear equations.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CAMT 2011

Just got home from my math conference (CAMT). I am exhausted from a five hour drive, but my heading is swimming with all the great ideas that I got this year and that I hope to implement. I went to several great sessions and several so-so session, but none were downright terrible so I feel the trip was definitely worth the effort I put into getting there.

I had two sessions that I especially enjoyed. The first one was called Algebra I and Algebra II Hodgepodge and it was put on my one of my dear readers! You can see her non-math blog here. She had so many wonderful ideas that I don't even know where to start. I think I might save them and share them as I try them. That way I can get pictures, give detailed instructions, and then reflect on how the activity turned out.

I also enjoyed another session put on by a teacher who has been a faithful attendee of my CAMT sessions over the years. This teacher goes by the name of Gdawg and he has a talent to put math concepts to rap and song form. I was so impressed by Gdawgs passion for teaching low-income, high risk students. It was so evident in his session how much he truly cares for the kids. He took one of the ideas I shared a few years ago at CAMT and put it into video form.

He also has other math DVD's which you can check out at here

If you attended CAMT, would you consider leaving me a comment. You don't even have to give your name, but I'd love your feedback!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Early Morning Blues

I teach Math Models 1st period. I started out with 24 students. I am down to 19. Several have dropped out of school, a couple left to be "home schooled", one ran away from home and landed in Wisconsin with relatives, and one is now homebound because of severe anxiety issues.

Even though 19 are enrolled, on most days there are just 10-11 students present. Where are the other 8 or 9? Who knows. Most tell me, they just can't wake up that early so they show up for school during 2nd or 3rd period. Others don't bother with an excuse.

The state says these juniors, who can't be bothered to show up for their first period class must all take and pass algebra II next year. Yeah right. Make no mistake. Their lack of success in algebra II will have nothing to do with their mathematical ability and everything to do with their lack of perserverance.

On the bright side, I have about 5 shining stars in this class who are absolutely amazing math students and even better human beings. They are a joy to teach and the reason I look forward to this class every day.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Overheard in the hallway on Friday:

Girl #1: So you're half-and-half cuz your mom's white, right?

Girl #2: What? I'm not half and half cuz my mom's not white. . . she's FRENCH!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Don't Laugh!

As most of my readers know, we enjoyed a rare snow day here in South Texas last Friday. As I read the Sunday paper, I was not surprised to learn that the local grocery and convenience stores ran short on many basic supplies.

But when they stated the one item that every single store ran out, I almost spit out my coffee with laughter! What was that one crucial item that apparently no South Texan can live without in the middle of a "blizzard?" Why it's a DISPOSABLE CAMERA!!!

According to the paper, this 1/2 inch of snow was the area's first measurable snowfall since 1985. Wouldn't you want to take a picture too?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

This is the Snow That Shut Down San Antone

What a treat! Friday morning I awakened to a 1/2 inch of snow and learned that school had been cancelled for the day. Before you begin to criticize us South Texans for being weenies in the face of a mere dusting of snow, I must tell you that there was a least another 1/2 inch of ice under that snow that made driving completely impossible.

Most of my students have never seen snow. This was a major event for them. I believe if you gave most of them the choice to go to Disneyland or spend the morning playing in snow, they would choose the snow every time.

Being from West Texas, I am used to a couple of good snows each winter. Not too much to hate it, but enough to experience the joy of waking up to find your world covered under 6 inches of white fluffiness. I've made sleds for my children out of just about everything you can think of. Laundry baskets, cookie sheets, and old tires. Snow days are some of my children's best childhood memories.

Mild winters is one of the many things that drew my husband and I to South Texas but I would be lying if I said I didn't miss waking up to a white wonderland ever now and then.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You Can't Keep A Good Calculator Down

Folks, I have exciting news for you tonight. I have just resurrected 5 TI-83+ calculators from the dead on my kitchen island this evening. After a short surgical procedure, I am happy to report that all five calculators are alive and doing well.

You see, although my school can afford fancy new red turf for our football field, we don't seem to have the funds to replace any of our aging calculators. I've been nursing my classroom set of 30 ever since I inherited them shortly after being hired at "Paradise" high school.

In case you don't know how to restore dead calcualtors, here are three steps to try. Try the steps in order. Sometimes I get lucky and step one will work and I won't need to use the other steps.

1. Remove all four batteries. Press and Hold the [ON] key for 10 seconds. Then put the batteries back into the graphing calculator and turn on. May need to readjust screen’s contrast again.

2. Remove one of the AAA batteries. Press and hold the [CLEAR] key. While holding [CLEAR], reinsert the AAA battery and then turn the calculator on. The calculator should display the message "RAM Cleared". Release the [CLEAR] key and then press it one more time to remove the message.

3. Remove one of the AAA batteries. Press and hold the [DEL] key. While holding [DEL], reinsert the AAA battery and then turn the calculator on. The calculator should display "Waiting...Please install calculator software now". Follow the instructions for the TI-83 family or TI-84 Plus family to reinstall the calculator operating system.

If steps 1-3 don't work, it is time to resort to step #4 and that is what I did tonight.

4. Remove all of the batteries including the round lithium battery for 5 minutes. After the 5 minute period, reinsert all of the batteries and turn the calculator on. Adjust the contrast if necessary.

Now, drum roll please. . .. . Here are my calcualtors after surgery! Tonight I was successful in restoring 5 calculators that I thought I was going to have to scrap!!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Final Exam Time!

As much as I hate giving semester exams after Christmas, I love the fact that Wed-Fri of this week consists of half-days. I've been cleaning my room, working on new posters for my word wall, printing out work for our systems unit coming up, and trying to get to the bottom of all my piles. I've also gone to lunch with my coworkers each day and did not have to gulp down my food!

In other good news, I am enjoying teaching in a school where I don't have to curve the hell out of my Algebra I final just to keep 60% of the class from failing the first semester. In fact, I didn't curve them at all. Our final exams are made at the district level, but overall I was happy with this one. The exam grades came out fairly close to their average in the class.

The only thing that frustrated me was the fact that there are some kids who can look at a multiple choice question like "write the equation of the line that passes through the points (0, 4) and (1, 2)" and get the wrong answer even after they plot the two points on a grid and notice that the line is "falling" and therefore must have a negative slope. Or they could notice that the y-intercept was 4 and mark out two of the bad answers. Two popular answers for this question: y = 2x + 4 and
y = -2x + 6. I guess I shouldn't be too upset, 80% of my students got that question correct, but it still bugs me that 20% still don't have enough reasoning skills to eliminate the bad answer choices!

Here is another one that really bothered me. Only 54% of my students got this one correct. John goes to the barbershop for a haircut. His haircut is $15 and he leaves a 15% tip. How much change should John get if he pays with a $20 bill? Oh and by the way, this question was not multiple choice. It was what we call a "griddable" item. I looked through their booklets and saw some pretty interesting methods being used to solve this problem, but not many were correct. I think in middle school, they get so hung up on formulas and the percent ratio that they just don't learn to think a problem through logically.

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