Archive for January, 2015

Global Play Day

Posted: January 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 is being called Global School Play Day. What is this about? Well, first, check out this Ted Talk by Peter Grey.

From the video you can hear how kids don’t get out and free play like they used to.

You can find out a little more about Global School Play Day on the website.

Our 6th graders will be participating in the day. Since we have 160 students and it seems as if it could get out of hand, we are putting a few restrictions on the day. We also feel it will help keep students from going crazy and getting in trouble.

Students will still travel their normal class schedule. When they have elective classes (they are mixed grades) they will have their normal classes so that they do not miss out on instruction. However, their core classes will each have a different activity. We will have puzzles in one room, board games and cards in another. A couple of teachers will be outside or in the old gym for students to participate in more physical activities.

Some students will have a little bit of freedom to travel between rooms based off of their reading points on Accelerated Reader. This allows students who read to find an activity they enjoy and stay there as long as they choose.

I feel that the most difficult part of the day will be watching for devices. We allow students to use devices in class for educational purposes, but on this day they will not be allowed. Students need to know how to find fun in socializing with their friends. In fact, that’s what they need most.

Many of our students have difficulty in talking out problems and solving issues without fighting. A big reason that we want to have this day is to help students with their social skills and problem solving.

All the teachers are excited about the day and we can’t wait to see the student’s reactions when we tell them about the activities of the day.

Are you participating in the Global School Play Day? If so, what are you going to do to help promote students having fun?

EdcampTulsa Part 2

Posted: January 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

The other day I shared about my recent experience at EdcampTulsa this past Saturday. I focused a lot of that post on our new State Superintendent here in Oklahoma. There are some other great things that happened on Saturday as well.

The first session of the day that I went to was Twitter101. Now, many of you know that I don’t need Twitter101, but instead, I always enjoy helping getting new people on Twitter. Twitter is very powerful for teachers and a great way to get your Personal Learning to help in your life. It’s not just professional development, because there are many things shared that can help you outside of work as well.

I know some of my fellow Edcampers don’t always enjoy getting in there to help, but I really enjoy having the chance to sit down and help people out for they needs that they have for Twitter. It’s a little like how I help students in my own classroom. Each person has their own questions and I have a change to sit down and help them out for where they are in the Twitterverse.

This time I had Wes Fryer and Amy Presley leading the session and I ran around assisting people. Am I addicted to Twitter? Some would say yes, however, some of the things that I learn and share on there is incomparable to my learning elsewhere.

The session that I helped lead in the afternoon was about technology in the math classroom and state assessments. We shared some great apps and websites that help with learning in the classroom. One of the websites that I use is Study Island. It’s a great way to assess if students are fully understanding a concept before you move on to the next topic.

When we discussed state assessments, we started sharing the horror stories of how some students will never pass the assessment. I teach 6th grade and I have students who work below grade level. Each day they come in and work really hard, but they are just not ready for a 6th grade assessment. That is what we have to get the legislation to realize. We need to be looking at the great progress that students make each year and not focus on what they “should know” for a test.

Who thought of this crazy way of assessing anyway? There should be a continuum of standards that we go by (yes, the same we currently have) but instead of giving every 12 year-old the same assessment, they need to be able to show how much they learned in the year. Many grow more than 1 grade level, but cannot show that because they are already behind and therefore set up for failure before they even test. (I need to write a separate post on testing.)

The last session that I attended was Twitter102. I stepped in and assisted Amy Presley as we answered more questions about Twitter. Many from the morning session returned because they had questions and issues arise during the day and just wanted more information. We also talked a lot about lists on Twitter, so I went home and finally created lists on my account and have also been using them this week!

There are always things to learn in the world of education. I know that I may be an Edcamp addict, but there are so many people who have not experienced an Edcamp yet. Most are on Saturdays and I know that teachers may be busy or may look at it as “my time” and don’t want to go. However, you will learn and be able to share so much.

Edcamps are not conferences where you are talked to, but rather have a chance to let your voice be heard and to have discussion about what YOU want to talk about in education.

Please consider attending EdcampOKC at South Moore High School (OK) on Saturday, February 28.

Also for your math teachers, there is OKMathEdcamp on Saturday, March 28 at Jenks Middle School near Tulsa.

Maybe summer is an easier time for you to attend an Edcamp. We have EdcampKS on Friday, June 19 this year at Andover High School.

If you don’t live around the central United States, take a look at the Edcamp website and find one near you to attend. They really are a great way to connect with teachers and to have great discussions.

Please share this page and others with your friends to help encourage educators everywhere to make a bigger difference for our students!

Changing Education in Oklahoma

Posted: January 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

Yesterday I attended EdcampTulsa. Once again, it was a great experience. First, I want to share a little bit about the education system in Oklahoma for those who do not live here. We have a new State Superintendent, Joy Hofmeister, who really believes in the teachers here. She has taken the reigns after we had some bad things happen in our education system. I’m not going to talk about everything that was hurting education in Oklahoma, instead I want to talk about the great things happening now.

Why do I feel things are going to change for children and teachers in Oklahoma? This was the second Edcamp that I saw Superintendent Hofmeister attend in Oklahoma. She also has EdcampOKC on her schedule so she can attend next month. It’s exciting to have someone in our state capitol who really wants to listen to her teachers.

One of the difficulties that I have though is that many teachers have not caught on to the fact that Superintendent Hofmeister wants to listen and not talk. I was a little late to her session that she was leading titled “Listening to Teacher’s Needs”, so I came in quietly. I sat down as Hofmeister was standing with the microphone talking. Then someone asked another question and she continued to talk.

Well, I remember at EdcampBrokenArrow how, then, Superintendent Candidate Hofmeister said that she did not want to lead a session because she was there to listen, not to talk. I also was reflecting on the title of the session and wondered why we were listening and not talking. So I raised my hand for the next question. “I was looking at the title of the session and you want to hear from us. So instead of us asking questions, what questions do you have for us?”

From there, the session changed directions. Teachers who moved from out of state shared stories about how difficult it is to get a teaching certificate transferred from another state. Teachers shared about how we need more PD to be working together, which opened the door for Josh Flores, Director of Secondary ELA in Oklahoma, was able to share about PD on your Plan that has been started. Superintendent Hofmeister also talked about the summer education conference (formerly Vision2020) and asked what we would like to see at the event. Teachers want to see a tech playground and allow students to come and play also. Teachers want to see an Edcamp style day for teachers in subjects to talk and share. Notes were taken and things will happen! At the end of the session, we were reminded about the #oklaed chat on Sunday evenings.

Education is changing in Oklahoma. Teachers and parents have a voice. What are you doing to help let your voice be heard? Please join us on February 28 at Moore High School to help continue the change in education in Oklahoma. If you are unable to attend that Edcamp, please take the time to talk with your fellow teachers and start to make a plan to help our students learn and be more successful!

More Changes in the Classroom

Posted: January 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

I had many ask recently how my Mission: January 2015 was going. I’ve really had to adjust the calendar and the deadline. Many of my students struggle with retention of information, so it’s been a struggle with the review. However, as students are becoming more familiar with the topics again, they are beginning to do really well.

Students really enjoy getting their badges and working for something. It’s a little tied to grades, but they don’t care.

Yes, my students now work to learn and not for the grade.

The past two weeks I have started to have my classes split into two groups. One group works on their own on some kind of review. (Well, that’s my 6th grade math classes. My Pre-Algebra classes do research on new topics and discuss notes.) The other group is then working with me. We have been doing hands on activities to understand circles. They have been discovering pi and really enjoying looking for answers and not just be given the answers.

In the past two weeks I have not heard, “Is this for a grade?” I love it! Kids are wanting to come to class and learn. They are not coming for a grade. (I do need to get some sort of grade into the grade book though, since it’s a requirement.) It has been exciting to see them struggle making circles, helping each other make circles and then understand their findings.

If you don’t think that working in small groups works nor work for no grade, then you need to come see my classroom. It has been wonderful! I hope to be able to record and share some videos of our classroom working so you can see the amazing things that are happening.

Feel free to check out our class Twitter page to see pictures of what is going on in our room.

GO PLAY!

Posted: January 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

When I was a kid, I remember all the times I was told to go out and play.

I remember enjoying the outdoors and pretending and playing and just having fun.

Do kids do that anymore?

I feel that many kids don’t go out and play anymore. Play and free time means sitting in front of the tv playing video games or holding a device and playing a game. Is this good for them? I believe in moderation that it is. However, too many kids are doing it all the time.

Recently the Orange County school district in Florida took recess away in the elementary schools. They blame Common Core and that students need to be in the classroom learning. Apparently they didn’t see the story about a former American teacher now teaching in Finland has noticed the difference in kids being allowed to play for 15 minutes every hour.

Within the past year, scientists have noticed how children playing helps them grow and learn.

Also, take a look at this great Ted Talk about the decline of play.

So why am I writing this? Because kids need time to be kids.

Many times this year I have talked about board games or card games and kids look at me wondering what I’m talking about. Many have never seen or heard of the game before. They are common games that most kids would know about.

I’ve even played math card games in my classroom and encouraged my students to go home and play the games with their parents. Their response was not the best. They asked if they could take cards home because they don’t have any playing cards.

This tells me that students either go home and play video games or that they may not have a chance to play at all.

It’s difficult for many teachers with children to see that their children are privileged. I was privileged when it came to games and playing. I had parents who sat down and played games with me or would encourage me to play the games with friends.

What did it teach me? It taught me that if you have a disagreement, how to talk through the problem

It taught me to read the rules so that I could understand the game. (I was reading technical text and I wasn’t scared of it.)

It taught me that I don’t always have to win. I also don’t get a participation award. (Don’t get me started on that.)

It taught me how to entertain myself and not rely on an adult telling me what to do.

This year there is a push for a Global School Play Day. A chance to remind students about how to have fun without devices.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with play or do you feel students need more time in the seat at school?

Time Served

Posted: January 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

*I originally posted this on the wrong blog, here is the post on the correct blog.

I’m sitting here at school this morning. Yes, it is a Saturday and yes, I am getting paid. However, the others who I am with are not getting paid to be here. Instead, they’re serving time.

Sitting here is made me think about myself and my behavior when I was in school. I remember the one time I had a detention and had to stay after school. I was in first grade and we had created a book that we were to take home to our parents. Well, another student had dared me to take my book apart and he did the same. Mrs. McIntyre was not happy about our behavior. My name along with 3 checks instantly went up on the board.

I begged and pleaded to not have to stay after school. It was a Wednesday and I had church that evening!! (My little first grade mind didn’t understand that there was about 4 hours between end of school and church.) I didn’t want to have to serve my time, even though I had done the crime. I stayed though and put the book back together.

Was I punished when I got home? I don’t remember. But, I think that one day scared me not to get into trouble again.

So why do we have so many students who are always in after school detention, suspended in and out of school, and have to attend an extra day of school. Is it a failure of the education system? Is it a failure of reaching the student? Is it a troubled home life?

I don’t think there is any one factor that makes this happen.

I can say that sometimes it’s just a lack in decision making one time that a student needs the one-time punishment and they will never been seen in trouble again. (Myself for example)

Those are the students I’m talking about though.

We all know who I’m talking about. They’re the students that teachers make comments about the student ending up in jail in the future. The student who is in detention every day after school.

What can we do for these students? Are they learning anything about why they are being punished or is it an expectation of them?

Yes, I said it. Do these students feel like they are expected to misbehave? If that’s the case, then we need to reach those students in a different way. We need to point out that we don’t expect them to be this way and that we have higher expectations for them.

Maybe we put them in detention because that’s the easy solution. “I don’t have to deal with them now”. Is that a thought? Does that happen?

What do you think? What can we do to help these students who are constantly “serving time” a school so that they do not make that their future?

What Are You Wearing?

Posted: January 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

Since it’s the season of awards on television and the fact that this post has been stewing in my head for awhile, I’m gonna share it.

Jeans. They make me so mad!

I’m a teacher. I’m a professional. I dress as a professional. I may not wear a tie everyday, but I always try to look professional. I have seen situations throughout my many years where teachers ask me why certain students are well behaved for me, but they have troubles. I don’t say anything, but I see what I’m wearing compared to them. Is that the reason? I think it could be.

Yes, we have seen great CEOs of companies who wear jeans and it works. It’s their thing. However, it’s not for everyone.

Do I wear jeans each Friday and find reasons around spirit days so that I can wear jeans. They’re comfortable, yes, that’s why we enjoy them. So I’m not against wearing jeans at school.

What I don’t understand is why so many think that jeans = cruddy t-shirt wearing. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Today I saw a teacher wearing jeans and I told her how great she looked. She dressed up the jeans with a great top. In fact, she did it so well that at first I didn’t even realize that she was wearing jeans.

I would like to wear a shirt and tie with jeans (which I have before) on a regular basis, but I feel that many would look down on me or think I’m bending the rules by wearing jeans on a non-Friday.

Again, I’m just frustrated and I don’t understand why so many feel that wearing jeans means you become unprofessional. You can dress them up, so please do.

The main thing to remember is that we are in front of children who need role models, not just by actions but also by how we dress. Many students do not see adults dress very well, so let’s show them how you can dress appropriately.

What are you thoughts on jeans?

Changes in the Classroom

Posted: January 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

Things are going well with Mission: January 2015. I did change a few things for some classes because I know that they need those changes to help them relax and be more successful. Lower level students don’t need to be rushed, they need to be encouraged. Because of that, I made a few other changes in the classroom.

This week I started splitting my students into two groups. One group is continuing to work on the Mission, while the other group works with me on new content. This allows me to talk with all students and see their understanding. I also enjoy being able to work with a smaller group of students. The thing that is difficult is that students will only learn new content every other day since we have 50 minute classes.

What I need to start figuring out now is for next week. I won’t have the computers next week, but I want to continue to have the two separate groups. I need to sit down and figure out what type of activities I can have students (10-15 in the group) to work on while being successful with little assistance with me as I work with new content with the other group.

I know this is possible, but it is all new to me. I can do this!

Jumping All In

Posted: January 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

Many asked me to keep you up to date on the progress of Mission: January 2015.

Well, things are going well . . . . . sort of.

I’ve learned a lot about my individual classes. First, I want to share a little about my classes.

I started the year out with about 160 students in 6 classes. That gave me about 25-30 students in each class. Two of my classes are Pre-Algebra (yes, they are still 6th graders), one co-taught that has lower level students, and then 3 other classes of 6th grade math (2 of which has paraprofessionals assisting). This semester though we had a new teacher start. (It can’t be easy starting mid year, but this guy is doing awesome! I’m excited to have him join our team.) With that, two of my regular classes are now going to be split starting next week and he will have half of them. Now that you know that, I can share with you what I’ve learned about my students.

IMG_2441My 2 Pre-Algebra classes are flying! I’m sure you can guess which two classes those are by the number of badges handed out. They are competing with each other on who can get more badges quicker. They are all reaching the goal of 20 questions with a 70% or higher and they want to reach their goals. In fact, I had to stop walking around the room handing out badge to just sitting at my computer and they come to me. I couldn’t walk around the room quick enough to help them all!

I also learned that the students in my co-taught class have a rough time remembering things. I now understand why they have difficulty with testing. So I’ve started to review a topic at the beginning of the class and they having the students work on the topic. They need these reminders. I started doing that today and I have seen a quicker feedback from them.

They are really working to earn their badges and get excited when they achieve one.

A change that I made for classes is that if they receive a 100% on the first 10 questions, then they pass the topic. That is helping them focus a little more instead of talking to their neighbors. Then if they don’t get the 100%, they work for the 70% with 20 questions. For lower students, I have told them to work for an 80% on the first 10 questions, but then for the 70% on 20 questions. It has helped students to focus more on what they know and to try harder.

The biggest challenge that I have seen though is trying to get students to write down the problems they are working on and to work out the math. Many see the computer and try to just do the work mentally. Over the next few days I am going to work on getting the students to write their problems down and work them out. I think that one of the reasons the Pre-Algebra classes are doing so well is that they do show their work. They are students who enjoy doing math and just naturally work it out on paper. It’s my lower students who are not writing things down.

Overall, I feel that this is going well. Tomorrow is the end of week one and they goal that I had was for each student to have at least 4 topics completed. There are many who have 5, 6, or 7 completed, yet there are some who only have 1 or 2. It’s a work in progress, but I know we will work out the bugs.

The exciting part is that the bulletin board is just about full of badges and they will start to go out into the hallway! I know that there are not the number of badges below that match the number of badges handed out, but that’s because many students are taking their badges home to show to parents and color and then bring them back to hang up. Yes, they are proud of them and want to work as much as possible while at school. Oh yea, there are also a few students who are just about done because they are doing one or two topics at home each night.IMG_2440

Leading a Group

Posted: January 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

Back in November I had the opportunity to attend the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Regional Conference in Houston. While I was there I bought the NCTM’s latest book Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. I enjoyed reading it, but I felt as if I wasn’t getting as much out of the book as I possibly could. So, I decided to start up a book study.

I’m excited to be leading this group of about a dozen mathematically minded people, but it’s crazy. I’m so excited to talk about the subject that I really enjoy and teach. But it’s crazy. I’ve never led something online before.

I have so many butterflies . . . . is that ok? I’m nervous. I know it’s going to be great though. Everyone who has responded seem really excited to share our love of mathematics and teaching as well.

So, in a few weeks, I know it’ll go well. I’m excited to reread (Yes, kids, you can reread books!) the book and dive a little bit deeper and to ask questions and answer questions.