Archive for December, 2014

Personal Learning

Posted: December 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

principles2I just finished the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics book Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. It was very insightful and full of great information. However, I’m having difficulty processing everything that I read.

I read it in about a month and I know that I want to change something things in my classroom. However, after finishing it, I know that I’m going to miss some great things that I read. I also know that if I try to read through it again alone, I won’t be able to focus as well.

So I’m curious if there is anyone else who has read this book or who wants to read this book and collaborate together. I feel that a book study is one of the best ways to really understand a book and implement the information into your classroom.

If you, or anyone you know, would like to participate in a book study, please fill out the form below or share the following form.


Dropping the Ball

Posted: December 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

So I was hoping to get through 25 days of blogging, but as you can see, I didn’t quite make it.

I’m not sure if it’s because my mind is blank when I get home or what it is.

There are many things that I think about as I drive each day that I could blog about, but then I forget what they are by the time I have time to sit and write. I need to figure out how to keep track of my thoughts.

I’ve also been busy putting things together for next semester. Since I wrote the post about needing to change up how I teach, I’ve really been working on what I can do to become a better leader instead of a lecturer.

Going into this last week before Christmas Break has me excited for many reasons. One reason is that I will have two weeks to be able to sit, explore and create for next semester.

I hope everyone has a great last week (I don’t know of anyone having school on the 22nd or 23rd). Students will be crazy, but this is such a fun time for learning!

It’s amazing how in the middle of the United States we can have the different cultures that we do. My school has a mix of several different cultures.

Tonight was Cultural Night. It was a chance for our students to share about their cultures through dance and food. It was a great chance to see them perform.

It was also fun to listen to the three languages (English, Spanish and Marshallese) as they talked about their different cultures.

Too many teachers don’t go to their student’s activities because they work all day and are too tired. However, it was great to see so many of the staff enjoying the time and visiting with families and students.

We as teachers need to take the lead and learn from students about who they are. I have worked with Hispanic students for many years, but now that I have a chance to learn from our Pacific Islanders, it is amazing to see their ancestry.

What cultures do you have a chance to learn about when talking with your students?

Alright, so I think I’m ready for the project. This is the first time that I’m doing a project with this group of kids. (Yes, I know it’s late in the year for this. I need to get better at projects.)

This project is going to be guided because I’m not sure what they can do. I know that they can do a lot, but I feel that maybe I need to do a little guidance.

Well, my 6th grade math classes will be divided into groups of 2 or 3 (most are 3) and given one of the following problems.

With the problem, they will solve the problem and then build a presentation in order to teach the class how to solve their problem. This time around we will be looking for the following in the presentation.

  1. What do we know
  2. Identifying the variable
  3. Writing an equation
  4. Solving the equation
  5. Stating the answer as a sentence

I know that there is not much to this project, but I feel it is a good start to get these students to be working together and teaching their class the information.

In Pre-Algebra, they will be in groups and given one of the following problems.

These groups will need to make a presentation in order to share how they solved their problem. They will not have any expectations for what needs to be in the presentation because I want to see what they can create.

I’m excited about these presentations next week and I feel it will be a great start to the projects and sharing that we will be doing more of next semester.

We hear a lot about how there is too much testing.

We test students too much.

They never have time to discover and learn because they need tested.

How can they show what they know when they never have time to learn?

Well, I feel that some testing is good.

This past week my students took the STAR Math Assessment (What does STAR stand for?) Students took the assessment back in September, so after taking it this week we could see growth in students. I have always enjoyed assessments like this because I have the opportunity to sit and visit with students about their scores. When you see students get excited about their growth, they start to understand learning. They want to strive and do better.

These scores also allow me to have good conversations with students who aren’t improving on how we can help them improve. Sometimes the conversation leads to how they participate, or not, in class. We discuss ways to help them be more successful so that the next time we take this assessment we can see improvement.

Taking these assessments also allows me to see which students may not be the best test takers. I’m not a good test taker. I have to take steps to make sure I stay calm and focus and go back over my answers. With these assessments I can see which students are similar to me so I can start to help them understand how to focus and relax during a test. These tests are not so high stakes as the state assessments, so I need to use these to help them know how to approach the state assessments be more successful.

How do you feel about assessments? How do you use them?

Today I was talking with a coworker about grades.

What is an A?

What is a B?

What is a C?

What is a D?

Why do we put grades with almost anything education? Heck, here in Oklahoma we even give grades to schools based on hwo they do on the state assessment and other things. (Don’t get me started on that)

I understand why high schools need grades, because colleges look at the grades. Until we change that, we can’t change it all.

However, I don’t feel the A-F grade scale is needed in middle school. It should just be letting students know if they are working at grade level (or above/below) and if they are working at their own ability (or above/below). I can’t take credit for these thoughts as I have worked at a school that had this in place.

Students need to be challenged, but when we give them an A, they stop working. If they are struggling and get a D or F, then they stop working. What are we trying to prove?

I was never a good test taker, so I always received Cs and Ds on chapter tests and quizzes in math. Yes, the subject I now teach, I never scored very high. I could do well on daily assignments and if I had time to be successful. When stuck to a time constraint, I would panic.

So this has got to change. We need to get away from grades!

But how?

I know many use Standards Based Grading, but when it comes to report cards, they still have to relate it to the A-F grade scale.

How do we change all of this?

So yesterday I was having some issues with my eye and I completely forgot to write a blog post.

Tonight, my mind is blank. I’m not sure what to write about.

I hope everyone’s December is starting out well. Here in the northern hemisphere getting ready for the end of a semester. Those in the southern hemisphere in the end of the school year.

Happy Wednesday!! (or Thursday for many around the world)

I have to confess. The past few days/weeks I’ve been reflecting on my own classroom.

I talk a lot about how a mathematics classroom should look, but I don’t always practice.

In fact, I’m sort of lost on implementing.

I want to have a classroom of exploring at all times. I have had short units at times, but not very often. There is a lot of work that goes into the unit building, so I don’t seem to get many done. When I do have these units I LOVE the atmosphere of the classroom and the learning that is going on. I LOVE how I come to school energized and leave exhausted from students exploring and asking questions.

I also want to have a classroom that is self-directed and working at their own pace. I have done units like this in the past, but got a bad taste in my mouth from a few. I gave up and didn’t work through it.

I know what needs to be done, I need to stop putting it off!

These last three weeks before the end of the semester I am going to have students exploring for the unit of solving one-step equations. The 6th graders only need to know how to solve one-step equations. Now we all know many will just get upset if I make them show their work when they can find the answer just by looking at the problem. So instead of giving them several problems a day and making them “show their work”, I’m going to have them do an investigation.

I’m going to start with students looking some problems with a partner. They will give their answers out loud and we will discuss why they got those answers. As a class we are going to discuss which answers are not correct and why. We will then move into looking at a word problem. How to set it up and solve.

Then next week I will put students in groups of 2 or 3 by ability. I will give each group a word problem to solve and then make a presentation on how to solve it. During the last week students will present to their classmates how to solve their problem and what they did.

I hope it works well. This is what students need. I still have some fine tuning to do, but I know it will go great.

If you have any suggestions on any of the above, please leave a comment.