Friday, August 21, 2015

Survived Day One of Sixth Grade

I'm not gonna wasn't stellar.  I wasn't awful, but it wasn't exactly what I was aiming for.  They definitely have much, much more energy than I am used to.  But I'll adjust that.  I just have a more low key management style based on relationships and mutual respect, and I think I'm going to have to be a bit more authoritarian than I am typically comfortable with.  But I'm going to make mild adjustments today and go from there.

I didn't spend the day on rules and such.  There was a brief introduction.  They filled out a little questionnaire which included four agree/disagree statements about their attitudes toward math.  Then, they worked in their groups on the Marshmallow Challenge.  Time is more limited than I'm used to which meant that I had to cut time shorter than ideal to allow for the follow-up conversation that I was after.

Aside from my five classes (some of which grew quite a bit between seating chart and the start of class), I teach one Reteach class.  That is my largest group and they were quite rambunctious but it a not altogether bad way.  We opened with an Estimation 180 task and they were fantastic.  The discussions I heard in their groups were fabulous and when we started sharing estimations, some of them automatically justified their reasoning.  We honed up the precision with units a bit and they were golden for a first attempt.

Then they worked in their groups on the Four Fours Puzzle and went at it like champs.  I was worried that their background knowledge of grouping symbols might be too weak to make this work but it was right at the sweet spot.  They didn't go there automatically but with nudging, they were thrilled to remember how parenthesis could help them communicate the sequence they intended.  I was pretty proud of this group's start to the year.

So, there's that.  No flowery pictures or videos because time is at a premium.
Today's objectives:
(1) Strengthen behavioral expectations.
(2) Compile ideas on group norms from last night's homework.
(3) Discuss the importance of failure...complete with video clips and journals.  :)

Have a great day, y'all!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My TMC Take-Aways

I found TMC15 much less overwhelming than previous ones in terms of information overload. I think that was at least partly due to the fact that I came in with a more limited goal and was, therefore, in a better position to filter all of the great ideas that were coming at me. My central goal was to make connections with other middle school teachers to expand my circle of go-to amazing people for ideas and advice. I definitely managed to accomplish that.

Take Away #1 - Zombie Apocalypse

Hedge had warned me that her and John were taking a risk in their approach and that I would either love it or hate it. Well, I definitely loved it! I am not necessarily a fan of the whole Zombie genre so I was lucky to have Laurie on my team. She was ultimately the victor in the week's activities so she knows her stuff. We were put into teams of four. I also had Timon and Lisa on my team. We were then guided through a series of activities based on the premise that a meteor had struck Los Angeles resulting in an outbreak of zombie like behavior that appeared to be spreading. We had to calculate how long we thought the outbreak would take to reach us at Harvey Mudd. We had to choose get away vehicles and justify our choices. We had to calculate how far we would be able to drive after seeing how much gas was in the vehicles we had stolen (randomly assigned). And then we had to use google maps to stake out a location that provided us with some safety as well as access to some resources that we may need.  Here is my group hard at work.

This is the link to the Wiki with all materials that Hedge and John used in our morning sessions. Here also are all of the tweets that we hashtagged out of our sessions (#TMZombie) including this amazing video of Timon as our team tried to determine the speed of an average Zombie.

Another team actually found a web resources indicating they move at 2 mph so our results were pretty close. ;)

I have to admit, I found myself getting really caught up in our mission and had to remind myself that I was supposed to be exploring ways to integrating this into my class. But I think that speaks well of the natural engagement level of these activities. The real take-away came from a lot of side conversations about how this could be implemented...cross-curricular connections as well as additional ideas for lessons based on the theme. I immediately texted my new grade level team who seemed enthusiastic to hear more about it. I've tried to start gathering ideas into a more organized set of information that we can use as brainstorming seeds for a cross-curricular end of the year adventure. Here is the link to that document which may (hopefully will) take a more cohesive organized form at some point.  

Take Away #2 - Contextualizing Nekkid Problems

blblab SMP 2

Take Away #3 - WorkStations

This is the link to the materials that Sadie and Mitzi used in their session. This includes materials for Fraction-Decimal-Percentage Track.  

Take Away #4 - New Ways to Utilize Estimation 180
Estimation 180 tasks in various ways (number lines with gallery walks, etc.)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

My TMC15 Experience - Finding my Place

I know I am supposed to reflect on my TMC experience.  As always, I gained a great deal professionally from the experience and am walking away not only inspired, invigorated, and refreshed, but with four actionable takeaways that I hope to implement in the coming year.  But I did struggle a bit more this year with the social aspect than I have in past years.  I've spent several days trying to reflect and pinpoint exacty why this was a bit of a heightened challenge for me.

At TMC12, we were all kind of new and feeling a bit blown away by the experience of all being together.  The phenomenon of strangers that were friends was an understandable sort of awkwardness, so I permitted myself to have those feelings of panic and discomfort without much judgment on it.  And I had traveled there with Fouss, Sarah Bratt, and Michael Seiler so I'd had plenty of time to acclimate to what lay ahead.

At TMC13, there was a baited breath sort of "Can lightning strike twice?" feeling for me as a walked into an experience that was like a magnified version of the magic that I'd felt the year before.  New people, new excitement, a contagious sort of enthusiasm.  I felt a sense of kindred spirits with even those I was meeting for the first time.  It had its moments of scariness for someone that is socially insecure like myself.  Showing up to the trivia night when everyone else was in full swing brought me a bit of panic so extreme that I escaped outside to call home for a security blanket.  I was so distracted by the internal stress that I almost missed Megan Golding (my TMC12 roomie) as she walked past me into the building.  But I swallowed those emotions and before long we were singing and dancing as the music portion of trivia commenced.  The rest of that trip was a whirlwind of new faces, fascinating conversations, and a feeling that these were my people.

TMC14 was a comfortable year for me because I brought my security blanket with me.  When I felt uncomfortable, I knew Morgan was right there for me to retreat to.  That sense of security allowed me to relax and just enjoy moments for what they were.  As a result, I was able to let go of some of the pressure that I normally feel and ended up having some of my all-time favorite TMC moments...board games full of laughter and silliness, and late night conversations that cut past small talk and felt real in a way that went beyond mere discussions of practice and pedagogy.

But this year, my inner self-talk and social anxiety was on full throttle and I had to spend a great deal of time talking it down and keeping it at bay.  I was moderately successful and managed to meet some fascinating new people who I know will be significant in my educator journey in the year to come.  I roomed with Hedge and, as always, our conversations quickly cut past surface level to our real lives and struggles.  Cortni graciously allowed me to park my rental car for almost the entirety and tag along with her so that was a comfort zone that I relished.  I also found the BBQ profoundly enjoyable and was able to relax a bit there.  And, of course, Piano Piano (once I actually forced myself to go) was an absolute blast and I quickly regretted having not gone sooner.

The conversations I was struggling with in my mind, however, significantly impacted my ability to really get past the awkward small talk (which I despise) and genuinely enjoy reconnecting with people who I should see as friends at this stage of things.  The nature of those inner dialogues reminded me a lot of middle school or high school and wanting to know if I fit within a social community.  I had many difficult moments of feeling uncomfortable walking up to groups and wondering how to break into conversations in ways that are organic.  Retreating to my hotel room for early nights became necessary to remove myself from the emotional strain of that whole process.  But there is more to it than that.  And there is certainly more to it than the introversion/extroversion conversation I found myself resorting to as a red herring on many occasions.

It has to do with finding my niche or place within this community.  I had nearly a dozen people ask me, as a member of the organizing team, what all that entails.  I wasn't really being modest when I said, "It entails having Lisa share credit with me for all the incredible work that she does."  I feel as though my contribution to both the organizing team and the community at large is greatly lacking.  This is my fourth year.  I should be running sessions.  I should be blogging great ideas.  I should know what that thing is that makes me happy and be doing more of it.  I know that.  I just feel paralyzed by my lack of self-awareness of what that is and what I have to give.  Or whether I have anything of uniqueness to offer at all.  Although I can organize the heck out of same name tags.  ;)

That doesn't mean I feel like I don't belong at TMC.  I am an educator who strives daily to be better.  It is my passion and my life.  That is enough of a reason to know that I belong here.  After all, it's about the community, stupid.  But what is my strength.  What do I have specifically to give to the community that has given so much to me?  I've always jokingly said that I am a jack of all trades and a master of none.  I didn't go to school to be an educator.  I don't have a degree in mathematics.  And at every crossroads in my career (and my life) - both large and small - I move toward my area of weakness rather than my area of strength.  If something makes me uncomfortable, that's always what I do next.  Which I think has made me a well-rounded educator and human being, but it means that I don't live in my wheelhouse.  And I don't even know what my wheelhouse is.

Anyway.  Not a traditional TMC reflection.  I have a draft blogpost started of my big pedagogical takeaways.  But I felt like I needed to write about the difficult part for a bit of catharsis.  And maybe to remind myself that there is a new place of discomfort that I need to explore...learning to be more confident in my own contribution to this community.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Welcome to Sixth Grade: Ratios

So, I'm blogging.  Why?  Because Julie told me to.  =)  Which is tough because I haven't really found my blogging voice.

Why Am I Blogging?

I don't feel confident just sharing the brilliant ideas I come up with because, frankly, I steal everyone else's ideas.  I think my contribution is in my execution.  Maybe I underestimate the role I play in it all, but I just don't feel there is much I could write about there.

And as much as I find Justin's vulnerability and transparency fascinating to read, I don't have the self-discipline to commit to the 180 day thing.

So, finding my purpose for even blogging is a bit tough.  I'm going to use it today to flesh out the ideas that I've been toying with all week because I think that will be useful for me.  But I suspect reading it will prove pointless for anyone else so consider that my disclaimer if you are still reading.  There are no fun pictures, video clips, or amazing ideas.  Just me tweaking my sequence and creating a repository for my thoughts.  Feel free to skip down to the Questions I'm Still Playing With if you wish to rescue me from my cognitive struggles.  ;)

My Plan for the Year

So, I mentally planned out my year.  I'm not a textbook teacher.  So, I used Geoff Krall's PBL Curriculum Map (here) as my starting point for my sequencing and modified it slightly to include an intensive revisit of multiplication fluency alongside NS.4 standard prior to working with Ratios. (Our state standards match CCSS pretty closely but here they are in case the numbers vary at all.) This led me to a schedule framework that looked like this:

First Nine Weeks
  • Introductory Unit - (2 weeks) Lots of work on expectations and group norms.  Definitely including the Marshmallow Challenge and some Get It Together activities.
  • Unit One: Integers/Coordinate Plane - (2-3 weeks) Covering NS.5-8
  • Unit Two:  Calculations, Calculations, Calculations - (4-5 weeks) Covering NS 1-3, including Critical Skill 2 (dividing fractions).
Second Nine Weeks
  • Unit Three: Multiplication Bootcamp - (2-3 weeks) Lots of activities to reinforce and build fluency with multiplication facts and cover NS.4 because it fits nicely here.
  • Unit Four:  Ratios - (6-7 weeks) Hmmmmmm.....what to do?  Besides cover all three RP standards and Critical Skill 1 (which I think may be the  most critical sixth grade skill).  Yikes!
Third Nine Weeks
  • Units idk...5-7 or so - (9 weeks)  Covering all of the Algebra standards here and may sequence them exactly as Geoff did but that is yet to be determined.  (That, and I am at a conference and my full calendar map is at home.) Critical Skill 3
Fourth Nine Weeks
  • Unit Eight - Geometry - (tbd)
  • Unit Nine - Statistics - (tbd) Or maybe I had it in the other order.  Clearly, I've spent more time on the first semester.  Critical Skill 4

So....let's talk about that Ratio unit.

My Ratio Unit

I find myself at a week-long Math Academy on Ratios and Proportional Reasoning.  A perfect time to flesh out what that unit could look like!  Plus, I am here with my collaborative Special  Education partner so it was a great opportunity to pick her brain on her perspective since she has taught sixth for a while.  (Her input is what caused me to embed that Multiplication Bootcamp here.)

I was hoping to keep it to six weeks.  And, we have a software program that we are expected to be using once a week so that would've meant 24 days of instruction.  That is definitely not going to happen.  I was super unfamiliar with how to teach ratios but I'd look at a lot of resources and had a general sense of what it entailed.  But I needed to break it down into subskills and get a sense for how to sequence instruction through it.  I also know that I'm planning to use Interactive Notebooks this year but don't always want to direct instruction and notetaking to proceed exploration and productive struggle.  Here is what I've come up with so far, though I am still tweaking the details:

Part One - What is a Ratio?
  1. The Fightin' ____________ - A lesson from our training (I think from Carnegie Learning) that has them explore different ways that comparison statements are made.  I may modify this to take advantage of the fact that we are in the midst of a consolidation and will be looking at new school mascot names soon.
  2. Direct Notes for Interactive Notebook - Still determining what these might look like
  3. Cube Ratio
  4. Comparing Two Quantities - from the Carnegie Training book
Part Two - Scaling Up and Down
  1. Mixing Paint (Carnegie 5.1)
  2. Direct Notes for Interactive Notebook - Use Frayer model type of foldable with four representations: Scale Up/Down, Table, Double Number Line, Graph
  3. Frayer Model Group Practice - I give one representation, they create others.
  4. Muffin Man - from Carnegie Training book
 I also know a few things that I want to include during this section, including having them get into groups by distributing cards with fractions written on them (find all of the equivalent fractions) a lot of equivalent fraction skill practice (Homework?), and some practice with completing tables of equivalent fractions with parts are missing.  
Part Three - Comparing Ratios
  1. Which cup has lighter color? 
  2. Direct Notes for Interactive Notebook - Still determining what these might look like
  3. Hot Chocolate Sales - from Carnegie Training book
  4. Quiz Bowl - from Carnegie Training book
  5. Grocery Store Gas Points
  6. Nana's Hot Chocolate
  7. Nana's Paint MixUp
Part Four - Unit Rates
  1. Ticket Prices
  2. Direct Notes for Interactive Notebook - Will include graphic organizer from Carnegie Training book
  3. Partial Product
  4. Print Job
  5. A Special on Unit Rates in Aisle 9 - from Carnegie Training book
Part Five - Percentages
  1. Activity tbd
  2. Direct Notes for Interactive Notebook - Still determining what these might look like
  3. Amazon Percent Discount - Accessible on Dan's Three Act Spreadsheet
  4. Activity tbd
  5. Activity tbd
  6. Activity tbd
This is clearly where I need to put some more work in.  I figure I will need to embed some skills practice here as well.
Part Six - Unit Conversion

  1. The Height Dilemma
  2. Direct Notes for Interactive Notebook
  3. Sugar Packets
  4. Huckleberry Trail Mix
  5. Super Bear
  6. Bone Collector
I am not set on the sequence of the four post-note activities.  I'm also not set on including all of them.  Most of my time today was spent focusing on HOW I wanted to teach unit conversions.  Thanks to a heck of a lot of bounce back from Casey and some others, I've settled on using dimensional analysis.  It is the method that makes the most sense to me but I am going to need to flesh out how to scaffold it for sixth graders without falling into the Tricks.  And I'll be honest, Glenn's endorsement was pretty much all I needed to finalize my decision here because, let's face it, he is a math teacher god among men. 

Questions I'm Still Playing With

I had really planned to include Dan's Cost of Liquid thing in here somewhere...but I'm not sure where or if it is useful at this point in the curriculum.  If so, do I make them do all of the unit conversions and include it in Part Six?  Do I not trudge them through the calculations and just use it as a teaser to introduce the need for unit rate?  Or the need for unit conversions?  Not sure yet.

Are there other lessons in Carnegie's materials that I would prefer to some of what I've listed?

How can I possibly keep this to 6 or 7 weeks?

How much skills practice will I need to embed?  And where?  I'm planning to give students a homework choice between a Math Forum POW and a skills practice, but only assigning once per week so I don't think that is sufficient skills practice even if they do it.

Am I planning a culminating assessment of any kind?

What about Mathalicious?  They have some cool stuff for sixth grade ratios!  Don't I want to include at least one lesson somewhere in the unit?

And then, there's this MARS task.  I've never met a MARS task that I didn't love so I would think I'd want it...but they usually take me a few days.  

What exactly do I want my notes to look like for INB and which ones might include foldables or other such things?

Do I want to include a culminating INB lesson for key vocabulary as I'm thinking of doing with other lessons?

Do I want to give them some online game practice?  Or just send a Remind note recommending it to parents or for home?

At what point do I introduce the distinctions between part:part, part: whole, rates, etc.?

I'm using Smart Board so I still need to create slides and embed all of these activities into that in preparation, as well as choosing openers and summarizing closing activities to help make sure each of these goes off well.  My kids are (hopefully!) going to be seated in groups but I'd like to change up grouping on occasion so a few different strategies for that which reinforce the concepts (i.e. find the equivalent ratios or find another representation of your ratio) will be nice.

Oh, and that Percent stuff....need to flesh that out.