Saturday, August 5, 2017

Year Six: Basically Year One for the Sixth Time

This post is my first attempt to be part of something bigger. It's my first purposeful step toward increasing my involvement in the math education world outside of my small bubble in Boise. I have been so lucky (thanks Boise School District!) to have had the opportunity to attend some national conferences the past few years like WIDA, La Cosecha, AVID Summer Institute, etc. This exposure gave me a real taste for the COMMUNITY that can be found with math educators all over the nation. 

How can I recreate that feeling of involvement, camaraderie, and belonging while being some what isolated in Boise? THE INTERNET! 

There are so many teacher blogs that I relentlessly follow (stalk) and a few of these incredible teachers have joined up to do a weekly #sundayfunday blogging challenging. I am ready to join in, instead of just being a silent observer like I have been. Here we go!


This weeks topic is: GOALS

I have two major goals for this upcoming school year. I am leaving the junior high after 5 years of teaching Pre-Algebra there and moving to the high school to teach Integrated 2 (aka Geometry). New school. New content. New challenges. New reasons to have a daily panic attack... NO! Just kidding. My goal is to be flexible and not let the obstacles that I will surely face overwhelm me. Is it going to be hard? For sure. Will I feel like it's my first year teaching all over again? Probably. But I have survived that before!

My second goal has already been set in motion with this blog post! I want to...

Be Inspired.
Be Challenged. 

and...make friends. 

I want to do all of these things both in person with the teachers in my building and district, and well as through social media and online outlets like Twitter and blogging. There is a whole world of FREE personal development and growth opportunities that I am not fully taking advantage of. Well folks, I think it's about time to...

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Making the Most of Math Warm Ups

"Make sure you have a great opener every day!"

"Don't forget you are expected to do a Bell Ringer every day!"

"You need to have students working on some kind of bell work as soon as the bell rings!"

We hear it over and over again. And for years I followed directions and made sure that students always had something to work on. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much these "bell work" problems were disjointed from my units, unconnected from the days lesson, and seemingly worthless in the eyes of students. Usually, the problem was chosen by me 5 minutes before class started and was short and quick so that I could check the "bell work" box and move on to the good stuff. 

Oh how times have changed. 

The first major change to my bell work system was adding in some STRUCTURE to our day to day bell work. Each day serves a different purpose now, and helps me better choose what problems I am selecting so that I cover a wide variety of learning styles, outcomes, and solving strategies. 

Here is what our week looks like now:

Monday is for open minded thinking and a quick but effective discussion on multiple representations and most efficient representations. To do this, the problem selected needs to allow students to model their thinking in many different ways. After giving students time to model, I choose certain representations, in a certain order, with a certain purpose to be presented to the class. I was really inspired by the book "5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions" by Margaret Smith and Mary Kay Stein. 

Image result for 5 best practices for mathematical discussions

The book focuses on ANTICIPATING, MONITORING, SELECTING, SEQUENCING, and CONNECTING. If you haven't read this book yet, you need to!

Here is an example of a problem we would do on Mondays:
No matter whether you like the new SBAC Common Core Test or not, the fact of the matter is that our kids have to take it. They have to. And I need to find a way to prepare them for the test with out getting overwhelmed. In the past, we have spent some time after Spring Break "practicing" for this test, and it's boring, monotonous, and absolutely dreadful to teach. Students hate it. And I can't say it's super effective. The problem is that the format of this test is a little different. The content isn't necessarily outrageously difficult, but the WAY that students have to answer problems and how students respond to the questions is kind of funky. And for that reason, I feel we NEED to have exposure to some of these types of problems. 

On Tuesdays, I pull grade level appropriate questions from the SBAC practice test. We focus on the content to some extent, but mostly focus on HOW to answer the question. Is it multiple choice? Are you being asked to select more than one answer that is correct? Is it open ended with lots of possible answers? Do you need to drag and drop items into an answer frame? How do you graph that line on the computer? 

Here are some examples, taken straight from the online portal of SBAC Sample Items:

I love having students analyze their own work as well as other student's work. On Wednesdays, students look at an example of made up student work and are given the task of finding where the student went wrong. Where did their error occur? I usually create these by hand, specifically targeting a misconception I have been seeing lately or anticipate coming up down the road. Students not only have to identify the error, but explain why it's wrong, and then fix it and solve the problem correctly. 

Here is an example:

Taken from the classic Instagram hashtag, on Thursdays we "throw back" to skills taught in previous grades. Pretty simple. Keep things fresh. Especially if it's an old skill that will be coming up or needed for future content. Purposefully place these "throw backs" to help you review skills you know you will need. 

Check out my previous blog post (here) to learn about what we do on Fridays.
What do you do for Bell Work? Now that students are productively working on something purposefully chosen each day, I find that these 5 minutes are no longer wasted but rather an essential part of the learning of our class!