Archive for February, 2016

Let’s review the tape . . .

Posted: February 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

Take a look at this video from Comedy Central.

This evening I was listening to the radio and the Oklahoma State University Cowboys were preparing to play the University of Kansas Jayhawks in basketball. I’m from Kansas and I know that the Jayhawks have a long history of being good at basketball, so knowing that OSU defeated KU a month ago, makes tonight’s game kinda big.

However, as you can you tell, this post is not about that game. How do you know? Well, I enjoy watching sports . . . when I’m in person. Watching on television or knowing about every move by every player and coach . . . yea, I don’t care that much.

What got me thinking tonight was when on the radio I heard Coach Ford say, “Looking at the tape . . .” Now I don’t know if he was talking about the tape from the game mentioned above or the game they defeated KSU earlier this week, (Why do I know both of these facts?) but talking about the tape got me thinking.

What if teachers were that way?

Today a good friend of mine, Adam McPhail mentioned to me about recording me teaching my class and then sharing the video with his teachers. I have talked about recording myself teaching, and I’ve done that, but then going back and reviewing it. . . . yea, I don’t have the time.

Coaches are hired to coach and review practice video and games. They go back and watch to see where small mistakes happened or where plays they had planned worked. What if teachers had the time to do that? Would you watch yourself?

If I had someone record just one lesson a week and then I had time each week where I sat and watched myself. . . .I can’t imagine what I would notice and then be able to change. Just think about it.

The crazy thing is that these coaches also make thousands or millions of dollars a year to coach players (15-30 players) and then review the videos  . . . . ok, so I better not go into that because I don’t know enough to open this can of worms. . . . .

But just imagine, if I had the chance to review video to make my class even better. . . just think of what I could do. Think of what YOU could do!



Doing vs Understanding

Posted: February 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

This past week I had my Pre-AP students working in groups to create a lesson that they are going to teach their classmates. We did this last month, but the concept this time is a little more difficult. Each group was assigned a 3-dimensional solid. In their group, they needed to learn about their solid, figure out how to teach the surface area and volume, and also have a small assignment (practice) for their classmates.

What is the purpose of having them do this instead of just telling them the formulas of each? Well, everyone gets tired of hearing the teacher talk all the time, but I feel that if I just say, “plug the numbers into the formula and solve” then the students are just doing math. I don’t want them to “do” math like it’s a job, I want them to discover and understand what they are doing.

While groups have been working this week, I was not sitting at my desk (I don’t have one) ignoring the students while they worked. I sat down with each group and looked at their solid. We discussed the shapes that make up the faces and how to find the area of each. We also discussed how to find the volume and practiced a little.

The prisms and cylinders groups have their shapes down. They understand how to find Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 9.26.40 AMthe surface area and volume of each. The cylinders even found out how to type π on a Chromebook. They even used Google Draw to create their own images and not just using images that they find on the web for their presentations. They are creating 3-dimensional objects on a computer!

Now, we all know that pyramids and cones have a little more difficulty in their formulas. However, when I sat down with their groups and we looked at the solids, they see the different faces and they know how to find the area of each shape. So when they go to find the surface area, they just think about the shapes that make up the solid.

When I was talking with cones and pyramids about the volume, they knew to multiply by 1/3. I asked them why, and there was silence. So I told them to go on a field trip with me, and as we left the room, I grabbed the prism (for pyramids group) or a cylinder (for cones group) and walked down the hall to the water fountain. I shared with the students that they the two solids in my hands had the same base size and the same height. I asked a student to fill up the pyramid/cone with water, then pour it into the prism/cylinder. As the student was filling the pyramid/cone a second time, I always had someone in the group have it click!

We were discovering as a group why you multiply by 1/3. (It’s because 3 pyramids/cones volumes fit inside the prism/cylinder.) I also encouraged them to use rice and to use this demonstration when they teach their peers.

You see, when I can empower students to teach their peers and their ideas and not just mine, their peers listen more. It also helps the students have a strong understanding of one solid to be able to help their classmates when they are having difficulty.

Also, as a math teacher, I know that if you understand how to find the surface area of a prism, the cylinder makes sense (and vice versa). If you understand how to find the volume and the relationship between the prism and pyramid, then the relationship between a cylinder and cone is better understood.

So you see, as students are learning their solid, it will help them understand another solid that is being taught by a different group. If I just stood and gave the formulas of each, then students would get confused and I don’t feel would fully understand the concepts.

What do you think? Is this a great way to teach or should I just stand at the front of the room telling them the formulas and how to plug the numbers into them?

For some more explanation, you can check out the video below. We do not work with spheres, but you can see how it ties in as well.

Let Them In

Posted: February 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

I feel privileged. I live in a town that has a Division I University in it. Here in Stillwater we have Oklahoma State University. Before moving here, I lived in Emporia, Kansas, which is the home of Emporia State University. I know most teachers do not have the opportunities that I have because of where I live and teach.

You see, I was in college once. Yea, believe it kids! I use to be young.

There are thousands of college students in our nation who are studying to be teachers. They sit in classes and learn from professors how to be a teacher. You know, sitting in a desk listening to someone talk at you . . .

Colleges today are trying to get pre-service teachers (those studying to be a teacher) in the classroom quicker and more often than we as current teachers were when we were in school. They come in with fresh minds to teaching, but with memories of what school was like for them.

I welcome these students into my classroom for anything. Do you want to observe? Come on in. Do you want to teach a sample lesson? Go right ahead, I’ll make sure the students don’t bite.

Am I afraid that they might teach something wrong or lose control of the class? Uuummm, I have done both of those things and that was AFTER all of my schooling.

You see, we can’t be afraid about “the test” and keep these future teachers out of our classrooms. We need them in our classrooms so that when they graduate college and find a job, they are the best of the best. We want quality teachers coming out of college and leading our future students.

So next time someone asks if a pre-service teacher can come into your class, I hope that you say “yes” so you can help guide them to be an excellent teacher.

Middle School? Bless You.

Posted: February 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

On any given day, the conversations inside my head can be pretty comical and random. (As if actual conversations with others aren’t random.) Today at school the conversation in my head started when some local college students came in to observe my class. I was visiting with them and I told them to ask me anything they needed in order to understand what students were working on. Then in my head I thought, “just don’t ask why I teach middle school.”

Which then got me thinking the rest of the day, what if someone asked me that. All the time when I say that I teach middle school people react with variants of “It takes someone special to teach that age group.”

You know what? You’re right! I love it!

I teach middle school students because they are old enough to take care of themselves. They are old enough to start to love learning in different ways. However, they are not too old that they think they’re too good for your class. They aren’t too old that they don’t have respect for you.

Middle school isn’t an easy age. Do you remember your years in that time? It’s awkward. Everyone is growing at different rates so one day you’re the tallest and the next day the shortest. Your clothes don’t fit like they use to because you’re growing and you don’t understand how your feet got so big!

However, when it comes to work in the classroom, students in middle school are starting to find what they love to learn. They enjoy sharing that learning (especially if it’s not school related) with you and tell you all about it. It’s place where students can find a new joy in learning.

So why do I love teaching middle school students? Every day is different and every day is a new adventure.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Posted: February 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

Today I want to ask some questions to my educator friends who blog. Of course, if I ask the questions, I need to be willing to answer them myself. Right?

What has been your ONE biggest struggle during this school year?

  1. This school year I’ve struggled with learning new standards. Two years ago I was teaching 8th grade CCSS in Kansas. Last year I taught 6th grade PASS standards here in Oklahoma and now this year I’m teaching 7th grade. I understand all of the concepts, but making sure that I cover everything that is going to be the state assessment (yes, it’s a worry to have my students prepared) is difficult. I know everything will be fine.

Share TWO accomplishments that you are proud of from this school year.

  1. I am proud of the fact that I have choice seating for my students. It is something that I have wanted for a few years, but this year I was able to make that happen.
  2. The other accomplishment that I am proud of is the communication that I am having with the parents of my students. This semester I have been sharing with them what is going on in the classroom and I feel that they are more comfortable with reaching out to me for questions.

What are THREE things that you wish to accomplish before the end of the school year?

  1. I would like to give students a few choices on projects to complete to show off their learning from this school year.
  2. I want to really explore and come up with a plan to possibly move toward standards based grading next school year.
  3. I want to work with my PLC and begin looking at common assessments for next year, however, we the passing of the new math standards needs to happen quickly to help us out.

Give FOUR reasons why you remain in education in today’s rough culture.

  1. Working with students.
  2. Helping students grow to become lifelong learners.
  3. The connections that I have made over the year via Twitter and Edcamps.
  4. Knowing that I make a difference in student’s lives everyday.

Which FIVE people do you hope will take the challenge of answering these questions?

  1. Eric Johnson – Someone who I feel is an awesome educator in Northern Indiana.
  2. Deborah Gist – I want to help her begin her blogging career.
  3. Scott Haselwood – Life is different as a student again and I want to hear about it.
  4. Matt Coaty – He’s a good friend and I love to read about his classroom.
  5. Tina Lunday – I miss seeing her at school and I know she is doing amazing things.