It Sounds Crazy When I Say It Aloud…

Standard

…but it works for me. I always feel like at any given moment I have a billion thoughts flowing through my head at one time!!  I am so distracted by my own thoughts I often have several unfinished projects or tasks or books or hairstyles or folded clothes or whatever. 

So to help me focus I use prayer and lists. 

Lists like these:


have kept me sane throughout the summer. 

Functioning without a dinner menu wasn’t possible for me this summer either:


So I’ve already developed 4 different menus for the school year: 


And it’s not just my personal life in which I need mental organization. 

I need different calendars for the different aspects of my professional life:


And I like to have, if not all, majority of my resources in one easy to get to place. That’s why I developed this over the summer.  It’s a flexbook textbook created using ck12.org. It’s my own personal one-stop shop of concept development tasks, practice activities and center activities. My hope is, as the school year rolls through, I can just pull tasks and activities from here to implement in my classroom. I did this so I won’t have to scramble for ideas during the heat of the moment. I thought carefully and purposefully about everything I placed into the flexbook, ensuring I chose items that were meaningful, engaging and met the level of the standards. 

When I tell people about it, it sounds crazy and overwhelming. The truth is, as thoughts came to me, I was able to insert it into my flexbook and ease my mind and eliminate unnecessary thoughts. This actually made it better for me because while I was spending time with my family, I didn’t have to think about school stuff. I was able to be present in each moment. Even better, it’s less work I’ll have to do as the year begins because the hard work is done. 

As the School Year Approaches 

Standard

This summer was a first in a long while for me. It was the first summer I had not worked majority of the summer. I actually spent time with my family, with my God and with myself. I worked out hard until our vacation, and then I completely let myself go 😕.  Not only that, I allowed myself to begin thinking heavily about what I want from this new school year. 

A Different Kind of Year

This school year, I’ll have the pleasure of teaching one class of Introduction to Algbrea (8th) in the mornings and performing coaching duties for the rest of the day.  I’m elated by this setup because there are so many things I would love to improve upon as a middle school teacher. I want this school year to be better than two years ago when I was teaching 7th grade, which I would classify as a “pretty good” year.  

So here’s what I’ve been thinking:

  1. Standards-based grading: At our school, we have developed a school-wide grading policy. I’m wondering how my philosophy about SBG will fit into the school’s vision. This year, I would like to continue using portfolios and having students submit the work they feel best displays their understanding of the concepts. But I would like to incorporate concept quizzes which would go into the grade book for reporting purposes. My thoughts are, in addition to the mini daily formative assessments and the common formative assessments (required to administer every Friday) I would provide written feedback to students on the work submitted from the portfolio, it would be a checkpoint each week so students By the time they take the common assessments (summative/formative) we would have  a holistic view of their progress. This post from Dane Ehlert inspired me to keep moving in a fair grading direction.  This year, I will develop literature to share with parents so they will have a better understanding of SBG. 
  2. Context for Learning: When I was coaching at an elementary school, we had learning kits developed by Catherine Twoney Fosnot called Context for Learning.  I loved these kits as they introduced mathematical concepts through an interesting context using books and visual images. I’m using this instructional strategy for the 8th grade concepts this school year. To begin each unit, I have a context which will engage students in investigating the mathematical ideas vs me teaching and telling everything upfront followed by some sort of problem solving activity. Using Fosnot’s work as a guide, the lesson structure will include an investigation, my support during the investigation, and a student-led discussion to summarize the investigation.  Many contexts will be introduced by a video or image. Here’s an example of a lesson I wrote using Fosnot’s lesson structure. Uncle Drew- Solving Equations 
  3. Literature Centers: I’ve pulled book titles from this list and activities from this site to put in a center. Students would read the texts to reinforce ideas and understandings of the mathematical concepts covered using various reading strategies. 
  4. Games for Practice: When I was in the classroom in 2014, I don’t think I incorporated practice enough to balance instruction. This year, as I’m organizing my tasks and activities, I have been very intentional about including practice activities. I don’t want to be a Kuta Software printing teacher. I want my activities to be engaging and meaningful to students. So I plan on making a lot of the games using Popsicle sticks, Versatiles templates, fun kid games like musical chairs and more. 

Pythagoras Square

Standard

During the summer I had the opportunity to work alongside my math friends implementing foundations of algebra professional learning sessions. Although I was the one conducting some sessions, I also put myself in the position of a learner. One of my takeaways was using the Pythagoras Square to help build conceptual understanding of square and cube numbers as well as square roots and cube roots. 

So Wednesday morning when I was asked to cover an 8th grade class (the teacher was out and there wasn’t a sub to cover) I gladly abliged. They are working on simplifying radical expressions and the primary means of introducing this idea was through the use of prime factorization. I wanted students (and teachers) to understand the why behind the simplified solution. 

When students came into class from connections they were asked to view this model and record what they noticed and what they wondered. 

  
Students’ notices included: the different colors, it looks like an arrow, the figures getting larger and the similarities of a multiplication table. A few students wondered if the model could be extended. So I asked a few to jump in to help extend the model. 

   
    
   
We didn’t complete the entire square due to time. However, we did take the time to focus in on the perfect squares and their lengths. We were able to make the connection between the area of the squares and the radicands and the lengths of the squares and the square roots. 

From there we jumped into simplifying radical expressions.  We discussed identifying factors of the radicands and determining which factor pair contained a perfect square. 

   
 We concluded the lesson by students completing 10 problems on a worksheet left by the teacher for the substitute. I looked over the papers afterwards and realized some students didn’t quite understand how to write the answer once they determined the square root. For example, they would record the square root of 64 as square root of 8, not just 8. Other students needed help making the connection of identifying the perfect square strategy to the prime factorization strategy. 

Anyone who has followed for a while could guess my next step, pulling small groups. Within the groups students built squares using color tiles as we discussed square numbers and square roots. For students who recorded answers inaccurately we looked at a square made of 9 color tiles. By determining the length students were able to see why that answer is recorded as 3, not square root of 3.  For students who needed to make a connection between identifying the perfect square and the prime factorization strategies, we looked at how the prime numbers can show the lengths of the perfect square. 

I’ll have to check with the teacher to see how students faired on the common formative assessment given on Friday.