Friday, August 30, 2019

New Year & New Educational Tools

I have an Amazon Prime Day addiction. Every summer the anticipation of Prime Day gets me giddy just thinking about stocking up on all my favorite school supplies for August! This year, I went a little more nuts than normal since I had a small surplus of money in my teacher account from having a student teacher a few years ago. Let the games begin... 

I bought a ton of things, but hands down my favorite new addition to my classroom are these dry erase pockets. I don't understand how I have gone 8 years of teaching with out these! I have utilized these about 5 times in the last 2 weeks of school. GAME CHANGER.

Check out some of these awesome ways we've been using these dry erase pockets below!

For sorting shapes on Venn Diagram mats:

For discovering patterns: 

For playing Matho Bingo:

And now finally I have solved two of my biggest issues with stations/problem loops/scavenger hunts/etc. First, they can be so hard to see sometimes in a crowded classroom but now they are huge and the colored borders really stand out! Secondly, students would always write on them and give away hints or answers to the next group. I want them to mark them up (hello... problem solving!!), but with pens or even pencil sometimes it would be too hard to erase. Now they can mark it up all they want and just erase it before they leave. 

You can find the exact ones I purchased HERE!!

These are easily my favorite new addition to the school year! Welcome back, teacher community!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Colored Coded Review Game

I am always trying to mix it up for review day so that kids never get bored and stay excited about the content. Reviewing can get super boring, super fast so I am continually hunting the depths of the internet for novel and engaging ways to practice. 

I have a hard time with review games that always reward the "smartest" kid. Yes, having the correct answer should be worth something, but I've noticed that game after game after game solely reward the students who have the correct answers in the fastest amount of time. Being fast at math does not mean that a student is good at math. In addition to finding engaging games and activities, I also try to find ways to not always reward those who are correct, but those who are attempting. Here are two of my favorites this past year! 

Capture The Flag: 
Each group starts with a set number of flags of various colors. For this example, students started with 2 green, 2 yellow, and 2 orange. Each flag color is worth a mystery number of points. The teacher poses a question to the class and students work in groups to solve it. I usually designate one white board per group that is the "official" answer. If a group gets it right, they get to steal another group's flag and add it to their flags. At the end of the period the teacher reveals the point values for each color and the group with the most points wins. 

I LOVE this game because getting the answer right is worth a flag and no one "checks out" because they don't know if they have won until the very end. With high school students the stealing of the flag goes pretty well, but I would definitely go over guidelines and expectations ahead of time so that no one gets upset if their flag gets stolen! There was one particular class period this year where we had to have a rotation set up for who steals the flag first because they would always want to be the last group to steal. For the most part, there weren't any issues! 

Try to make the point values spread out enough to where some flags are worth significantly more points than others so that the final outcome is a big surprise! It's always interesting to see the strange strategies kids come up with to try to win. I also switch the winning color up for each period so that kids in the morning can't tell kids in the afternoon how to win! 

Flower Garden:
This game is similar to Capture The Flag but in this variation groups start with nothing. Once a group gets a question right, they come up and choose a colored flower from a large pile of colored flowers and add it to their group's garden. There is no stealing in this variation so it might go better for younger kids or kids who can't handle the stealing aspect.

Just like in Capture The Flag, the point value for each color is revealed at the very end. Some students try to vary the colors in their garden, and others pick a color and commit the entire game. Either way, it's a fun surprise that keeps students participating until the very end! 

The flower garden idea could easily be adapted for the season. For example, October could be ghosts in the graveyard and December could be presents under the tree. The symbols are easy to vary to keep it fresh!  

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

When Math Gets Artsy

Planning engaging lessons and activities in the month of May has always felt like somewhat of a lost cause. May is a battle. Every day in May I gear up for a fight against apathy, burn out, frustration, and "IDC" syndrome from my students. They don't care about anything, except the countdown to summer. To make matters worse, the month of May is usually filled with a final Chapter test, followed by a mind numbing semester review week where I mostly serve as a glorified babysitter, and then the final exams. This year I decided to mix it up and do a final Chapter project instead of a Chapter test. We had just finished our unit of parent functions and the students should now be able to graph linear, quadratic and absolute value functions as well as circles. Rather than test them on these topics, I challenged them to create "something" that demonstrated they could graph all of the parent functions they knew up to this point in a creative way using the Desmos online graphing calculator. Shout out to Desmos, my teaching BFF.

The requirements were simple. Graph a word, phrase, or picture that included at least one of each type of function we had been working with. That was it. The grading was simple, you either did or you didn't meet the requirements. If you didn't, I didn't grade it and gave you feedback on what was needed to meet the requirements. When you met the requirements you were good to go. I think a lot of the reason why these projects turned out so fantastic is that the grading wasn't really the point. As long as you graphed the functions, you got 100%. With out a complicated grading rubric, the creativity became the focal point. 

I am not artistic. It is actually painful for me to try to be creative, but this project even got me feeling sparks on the right side of my brain and I graphed this cute little bumble bee.

Students loved this project. And everyone who turned one in did a phenomenal job. They had 2 full class periods to work on the laptops and then emailed me the link to their graph. Check out some of my favorites below!

A lot of students also chose to graph their name, which was fun to see all the ways they worked to fit each function in. The letter "s" might be one of the most challenging letters, and students found incredibly creative ways to get the "s" to work. 

We had also worked with graphing quadratic inequalities a little bit, and I was REALLY impressed with students who wanted to shade parts of their graph and how desperate they were to figure out how to incorporate inequalities in their graph to be able to do so. So many connections being made!

This ended up being one of the highlights of the year and students (even with all their apathy and summer laziness) expressed how much fun they had creating their projects. Looking forward to May next year when we will do this again. Looking forward to May... I can't believe I said that! 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Worksheet in Disguise: Card Sort

I love card sort days. I love days where students do math with out writing anything down, except for the things they want or need to write down. I love days when you can be wrong and there is no need to erase, grab more paper, or start over. I love days when my laziest kid ends up doing just as much work as my overachiever... and doesn't even know it! TRICKED YA!

I know I am not the only person who feels like students need practice, and lots of it, to solidify a new skill or concept. There's a whole world of research (some good, some not, some contradictory) that discusses at length how many times, and for how long, and for how frequent students need to revisit skills to really retain that information. But handing out worksheet after worksheet seems like a rather boring and socially isolating option. Here is my first way to disguise the worksheet and create an activity that is not only more engaging but also allows for more connections, more communication, and more organized chaos! 

SWBAT: Students will be able to calculate the measures of interior angles, the measures of exterior angles, or the number of sides of polygons given any one of the other pieces of information.

First I created a table and filled in all the answers. It looked like this: 

Then I took away 3 out of the 4 numbers in each row, leaving just one piece of information given. I made sure to rotate the given information so that it allowed for different starting places each time: 

Then, I copied the completed table on colored paper and the empty table on white paper. The colored table got cut up into little cards and put in envelopes, one for each pair of students in my class. Shout out to my awesome TA's who are always so willing to cut paper for me! 

Students then spent the ENTIRE fifty two minute period sorting the cards onto the table. The beautiful thing is that each blank in the table represents a question that could have easily been on a worksheet. This means that this card sort is like a 30 problem worksheet, but in this method students have a lot of flexibility for how they choose to sort the cards. They can rely on connections between the measurements they feel confident about and be pushed and pressed into developing connections they are still working on. Some of the rows were especially challenging since we have never explicitly talked about how to work "backwards" to find the side length or sum when given an interior angle. 

The best part for me is the talking. Partners are talking. A lot. They are teaching each other, challenging each other, arguing with each other, justifying their thinking to each other, and using each other as a resource for knowledge. Its beautiful. 

When kids are done they put the little cards back in the envelope and leave the empty mat on their desks. No writing required (but let's be real... there's a lot of scratch work & scribbling going on). You will also notice that students had their notebooks out with them with our notes from yesterday. I also allowed some students to fill in a blank table (with writing, not cards) if they wanted to add it to their notebooks after the activity was over, but it wasn't required. The notes looked like this (doesn't Ashley have the best note taking skills EVER!?): 

Thirty problems in fifty two minutes with no whining, complaining or groaning? I'll take it any day!