Thursday, September 14, 2017

Week 4: The Coordinate Plane

This is a bit delayed because I had the opportunity to head to Annapolis this weekend for one of the STEM Teacher Training events hosted by the US Naval Academy.  If you are involved in STEM teaching, I highly recommend this experience (and probably should blog about it, but...yknow, life).

So, a quick recap of this past week as we began exploring the Coordinate Plane...


Day 1: Creating a Need for Precise Vocabulary

If you haven't used the Polygraph activities by Desmos, you definitely need to incorporate them.  Students play a "Guess Who" type game with a random classmate requiring them to utilize precise vocabulary to determine which of a series of images has been selected via yes/no questions.

I usually start our Coordinate Plane week with Polygraph: Points.  While a few of my students come to me with the vocabulary needed for this topic, many do not.  This game develops the need for precise vocabulary as students discover that words like section, line, and corner result in miscommunication.  I pause periodically throughout the activity so that students can look at the questions their classmates are developing and we can throw in a new term to help us better communicate with our mystery partner.  By the time we log off, we have talked about terms like horizontal, vertical, x-axis, y-axis, quadrant, and even point (rather than dot).  All of this serves to help the notes the next day "stick" a bit better.


Day 2: Measuring Two Things at Once 
and Developing our Vocabulary

Before we start on our notes for the day, I want to start to expose the class to the idea that a coordinate plane is used to measure two variables simultaneously. In their Thinking Space, I give them two minutes to write what they notice from this Emoji Graph from Jo Boaler's Week of Inspiration which I had also posted on our class Instagram the previous night:
Students take turns sharing out their noticings which serve as launching points for some discussions.  The conversation that ensues when they share out varies a bit from class to class.  Several noticed that there were more emojis in the upper right quadrant than any other, so we made note of that.  There is a lot of prompting to recognize that we can read the graph horizontally if we want to look at frequency of use (i.e. "Which emoji do you think gets used the most often?  The least?") and vertically if we want to look at cuteness (i.e. "Which emoji does the creator of the graph think is the cutest? The least").
As a follow-up to our conversations, I posted this image on our Instagram that evening and asked them to comment about their noticings:

I also challenged them to decide on what measures they might use if they were creating such a graph. I am really sorry that it was a short week, because it would've been fun to have them work in groups to try to create graphs of different themes.  If I was teaching Sixth Grade next year, I would definitely incorporate that as a follow-up.
Notes time...
I write the notes under a document reader and do so anew for each class period.  This allows me to pause throughout the notes to check for understanding and often throw a formative assessment question or two at them to complete in their thinking space.  This week's notes were pretty standard.




Day 3: Find the Treasure
Practice Plotting Points

I let students know that fluency with plotting points is going to become incredibly important in their mathematical careers.  We spend our third day playing a variation of Battleship that I call Pirate Treasure Hunt. In previous years, I have launched the class with pirate themed music but the
selections this year sounded more to me like a beer pub so I wasn't feeling it.  Basically, I "hide" a treasure somewhere on my coordinate plane.  As teams, they take turns telling us where to "dig" and I let them know whether or not they have found treasure.
In previous years, I had each of them record the hits/misses on individual dry erase coordinate planes. This year, I gave each team one board and they had to pass it between members for each new dig.  I found that they seemed more engaged as they were checking on each other and I was able to more quickly determine whether they were plotting correctly.
We end class with a brief exit slip so that I can assess their understanding.


Day 4: Revisiting the Two Variable Idea and
Fluency with Point Plotting

We started our day by revisiting the idea that a coordinate plane allows us to measure two different things at the same time (I neglected to use the term variable with them just yet, and I'm second guessing that decision a bit).  We did this by doing an abbreviated exercise using Mathalicious' lesson, Origin Stories.  We rated breakfast foods on the healthiness and deliciousness scales being very careful to always rate healthiness first because that was our x-axis. The objective was to reinforce both the idea that a coordinate plane is using two number lines at once to measure two different things, and the idea that we plot on the x-axis first.  The kids enjoyed the activity and were incredibly animated. As with the Emoji graphs, I would definitely spend a bit more time with this lesson next year if time would allow.
Today was all about  providing them more practice in gaining fluency with point plotting.  In two of my classes, I have the support of a collaborative teacher.  We often use the results of our weekly exit slips to do some differentiation toward the end of the week. Today, one of them was absent so that hindered us a bit. However, in one class, my partner took those whose exit slip performance indicated some confusion and worked more directly with them on practice.  The rest of the students self-differentiated by selecting a graphing points picture by difficulty level and working independently. A little Damien Escobar music and a nice chill day practicing points. I didn't really require them to complete the assignment, just work for the duration of our class period. Several completed the Easy selection and then began working on the Medium difficulty.  Still others asked if it was okay to take it home and keep working on it. Ummmm, yes.

Next Week....Distance on the Coordinate Plane. :)

Friday, September 1, 2017

Week 3: Distance on a Number Line

I realized that it is definitely not sustainable for me to run a 180 blog and juggle the single mom with kids who play sports gig. Something had to give, and I learned long ago how to give myself grace when I need it. I've decided to try to run a #36weeks blog instead. I actually like this idea better anyway because I conceive of my classes in week sections anyway, so it takes the full week of lessons to explore the given topic.

This week was a bit disruptive because there was a family emergency that had me out unexpectedly mid-week which jumbled up the schedule a bit. I had the students work on Moby Max the day I was out and rearranged the rest of the week a bit.  So, I am going to focus on the four days we actually got to interact.

We were working on Distance on a Number Line this week.  In previous years, I have spent a chunk of time working with the students on very basic addition and subtraction of integers. We focused on creating models (number lines and integer counters) to represent it. My reading of the standards, however, seems to suggest that it is meant to be covered in seventh grade. I have decided to stick a bit more exclusively to my standards (or previous years') so that I set a stronger, firmer foundation for what the seventh grade teacher often ends up having to reteach anyway.

As a result, our goal this week was to work on absolute value and how that can be used to help represent distances on a number line.  There were a few misconceptions or weaknesses that tended to arise in our activities:

  • Counting intervals rather than spaces on the number line - This tends to manifest during distance on the coordinate plane so I was glad to have the chance to address it early.
  • Distance values as negative - This was much trickier to cover last year when I was trying to work on subtraction and distance simultaneously. Sticking to distance more exclusively allowed us to reinforce the idea that distance is always positive, while difference (which they will work on next year) can be negative, while not requiring them to make the distinction in practice yet.
  • Naked numbers - We start early with the idea that attending to precision means that we label our values and this was an easy place to start setting that expectation. "The values aren't 7 apart, they are 7 units apart." (or in the case of a few of our tasks...7 degrees or 7 feet)
Day 1: Playing on the Number Line

I found these interactive number lines in a cabinet in my classroom last year:

They have a little skateboard on them, so we modified the Illustrative Mathematics Jumping Flea task to be about Charlie the Skateboarder. I put each of the task questions on a separate slide and we moved through the prompts allowing me time to formatively assess students understanding of movement and spacing on the line.  This activity also introduced the idea of absolute value, which is new to these students.  

The entire activity took around ten minutes or so, warming them up for an application with bigger numbers in the Yummy Math lesson, Extreme Weather. I've used this lesson for several years but have had to modify it greatly for my students, many of whom would be resistant to the amount of reading on the worksheet in its present format. This year, we started by talking about what they had been seeing in the news about Hurricane Harvey. I shared with them some of the latest information I'd been hearing on my way to work. I explained that today we were going to be talking about a different sort of extreme weather and then I started the video that I normally use for a hook here:

From this point, we draw the conversation to weather extremes in the United States.  I ask them to think about which state they think has the highest temperature on record. [Group discussion, share out, record...] Coldest temperature on record. [Group discussion, share out, record...] I then show them the data from Yummy Math and briefly explain how to read the chart. [Pass out laminated chart to groups.]

We talk then about states that have a big range of temperatures and use West Virginia to explore the way we can use a number line to model that range. Because who doesn't like a good 90s hip hop reference. Number lines are gonna make ya...Jump, Jump as we touch again on the idea of absolute value. The most difficult part of the lesson is having them work together to develop a sentence explaining what our distance means in context. The looming bell for the end of class adds a bit of unwelcome pressure to that concluding conversation.

Day 2: Interactive Notebook

It is always surprising to me how much some students love taking notes. I am pretty sure the Flair pen company should be sending me some sort of residual check from the students who weren't content to work with colored pencils and just had to have pens like Ms. Packer's. As I've mentioned before, my INBs are not particularly interactive. Traditional notes on the right which allows us to give formal structure to what we experienced the previous day, and Thinking Space on the left where I can formatively check that they are understanding as we move through the "lecture."  

We wanted to add a students friendly definition of absolute value to our notes, explore some examples of finding distance on a number line, and write equations to represent what we were doing. 

I model the notes on the document projector, pausing to assess their understanding as we go. We sometimes throw a few practice questions over in our Thinking Space.  When we do, I can monitor their responses and solicit members of each team to check on their teammates as well.  In some classes, we finished up with about 3-5 minutes remaining so I used the opportunity to remind them of the resources posted on our class website, which led us to include class with a few moments of Absolute Value Numberballs. I really thought they would be thrown by terms that had a negative sign outside the absolute value bars, but I was quite pleasantly surprised.  <3 div="">

Day 3: State Posters

Instead of a traditional exit slip this week (what I call quizzes in my class), we assess their understanding with the Extreme Weather lesson introduced on Monday.  After our notes, we revisit the task. Teams are given the temperature data. Each student has to choose a state (differing from their other team members) and create a poster that represents the distance between the high and low temperatures in their state.  Their work must include a number line model, some form of an equation to explain their thinking and an explanatory sentence. I haven't graded them yet, but I grabbed a few quick photos of some samples to share:




I always struggle grading things that have a neatness/artistic component to them because I'm not sure whether to ignore it completely or not. I really want to focus exclusively on the mathematics since I am using it as this week's formative assessment, so I will probably not penalize someone for not putting forth effort on the quality. I feel very conflicted about that though.

Day 4: The Scuba Problem

I'm not sure where the Scuba Problem originated, but I've used it in my class for the past few years. I think it might have been a sample question from the Smarter Balance test at one point.  I knew I was going to want students working on the large dry erase boards for it. Typically, that means I would group them in color groups (the colored pencil pouches attached to their desks), but when I encountered this desk of distance cards, I decided to use this as a grouping strategy.

Students were each given a card which led to groups of 3-4 when they found others whose cards represented the same distance on the number line. I then introduced the Scuba Problem (without the associated questions):

In most of my classes [more on that later], we had some time here to Notice and Wonder a bit (very informally...it's a structure I haven't really set up with them) and then work independently in our INB Thinking Space to draw a model of what is happening. They then worked in their groups on the large whiteboards to model the situation and answer the associated questions. In most of the classes, I was pleased with the quality of their work and managed to snag a few photos of them in action:

We ended those classes with a silent Gallery Walk where I encouraged them to look for ideas on how they could've improved their own boards. I posited this question, "If I were to hand you a poster board on your way out of class and ask you to redo this task independently for homework, how many of your found ideas on other boards that you would incorporate into your work?" and the response was almost unanimous. We then took a few moments to offer some specific praise of things we saw, but the time ran out...and we had to clean up and head quickly to the door for High Five Friday.

Double SPL Period

This was my last week to have a double period (two partial periods actually) with my Support for Personalized Learning class before we start Clubs next week. My primary goal with them is to strengthen their confidence with fractions, but I am debating also using this time to explore some Mathalicious lessons relevant to what we are doing in regular class (perhaps Origin Stories next week). This week, however, we continued the routines from last week.  We opened with a quick game of Fraction Math Match and worked through some Fraction Splats.  When the band students left us at the start of the second period, we did some Estimation 180 work and started having more conversation about the spacing choices in their number line models. 

Thorns and Roses

As I mentioned before, we close our week in a Developmental Guidance period where my students share their Thorns and Roses from the week. It is sometimes incredibly personal, often funny, and I thoroughly enjoy my time with them each week. It is, however, private and we stress the importance of us as a family that respects the privacy of what is being shared. So, I don't intend to blog about that each week. I do, however, want to honor the spirit of that experience by ending my blog post with my own Thorn/Roses reflection on the week in my classroom.  

Thorn - I am really struggling in a few of my classes. Especially at the end of the week. They are talkative and off-task in a way that hasn't responded yet to the structures and routines that I've put into place. We are losing a lot of time to redirection and it isn't always effective. The fact that things are going so beautifully in other classes makes the struggle all the more pronounced and I am doing a lot of thinking about how I can turn things around in there and not create an adversarial punishing climate or an overly reward-based system (which is terribly ineffective in eliciting the intrinsic motivation I'm hoping to tap into). I think I need to take some time this week to note some very concrete and specific strategies that I am going to have to be very cognizant of as those class periods begin.

Rose - I am already seeing the kids start to pull the conversations we have as a whole class into their work as groups. I overheard talk about units today, saw a few groups writing equations using absolute value bars, and saw increasing precision on the number line models from conversations that I'd had with some of the kids in SPL. I was also thrilled with how they recognized the idea of the opposite of an absolute value by applying it from what we'd learned last week about ways to interpret a negative symbol. 

Next week....the Coordinate Plane.  Polygraph, anyone???

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Day 7: Interactive Notebooks

Today was a relatively routine sort of day.  This was our first day working in our Interactive Notebooks.  I use the term "interactive" a bit loosely because I really don't spend much time on foldables or other similar features.  I do stick with the format of input on right side and Thinking Space on the left, and we use a table of contents and structure it pretty formally.  Other than that, it is a pretty typical recording of notes.  I model the notes on the document projector with a lot of color coding and I am usually pleased to see students start to naturally adapt a similar style.  Here is a sample of student work from today:

I do want to talk a bit about how I structure the opening routine to our class time.  The routine I am describing is what we use Monday-Thursday, because we open Friday by checking the weekly homework instead.  This routine will last about 2-3 more weeks.  At that point, I will introduce My Favorite No as the Wednesday-Thursday opener and this will remain as our Monday-Tuesday opener for the remainder of the year.

The genesis of this idea came from a conversation that I had with Elizabeth Statmore at TMC16 about class routines and students lacking fluency with basic facts.  I know that I need to help students build that fluency but I am pretty adverse to anything that feels like a timed test.  This compromise has just the right balance of speed encouragement and pattern reinforcement to meet the needs of my classroom. Students arrive and immediately collect blank multiplication charts for their team.  The moment the bell rings, I start the musical accompaniment.  I found a perfect website from which I chose our song, Little Hero. I assumed I'd need to change up the song every nine weeks or so to keep from going insane, but I actually managed to find a song that I can listen to five times a day and not want to gouge my ears out.

When the music starts, the students spend three minutes completing as much of the chart as they can in the allotted time.  This not only has them practicing the patterns in repeated addition, but it gives me time to complete the housekeeping tasks that often delay the start of a class.  By the time the music stops, students are settled and we are all ready to go.

At this point, I do have them look over their charts and record one fact that they either missed or hadn't gotten to.  A corrected multiplication chart is on the board for this which helps us move smoothly into the next part of the opener routine, which involves the day's date:

The questioning typically runs as follows:

  • Can someone read to me what this date says? [Student responds.] - This is an opportunity to explore new conventions of writing operations (multiplication without a symbol and division as a fraction) as well as reviewing concepts that we've covered (exponents, absolute value, etc.).
  • What is the value of this expression? [Choral response.]
  • [Move to the Smartboard multiplication chart.] Okay, so today is _____? Can someone tell me where I might find that product on a multiplication chart? [Student responds.]
  • Using the commutative property, where else might I find it? [Choral response.]
  • This process repeats until the students agree that we have exhausted all facts. I usually reitterate that there are other ways to get a product of _____, but that it would mean using negative values or fractions and we are limiting ourselves to whole numbers on this chart.
  • So, how many factors does _____ have? [Choral response.]
  • And they are? [Choral response.]
  • Which makes this number....? [Pause time and then a choral response of "prime" or "composite."] We will add on the idea of a perfect square when we get there and I usually make a little fuss when it is a perfect square day.
The entire process goes pretty quickly once I've taught it but it allows me to review several concepts in a very abbreviated time.  Here is a picture of what the result looks like:


Other than that, the day was pretty simple.  We didn't have SPL today due to our PLC period and we used our 9th period to distribute test scores and data before students left.  

Tomorrow will be our first graded assessment so hoping for good results.  :)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Day 6: Clothesline Math

We had a lot of fun in class today.  I am definitely not accomplishing the same tasks in each group, but I'm not putting too much pressure on that.  I'd rather the conversations we have be deep and rich than rush through things just to tick things off of my lesson plans.  I am worried about some of the implications of that decision, but for now...it feels like the right call.

Opening Bellringer

I haven't really talked about our opening routine much, but basically we complete a blank multiplication chart to a musical accompaniment.  Then, we discuss the "expression" date and explore that value as a product.  I will go into a bit more detail tomorrow about what that all looks like.

Clothesline Math

I have done clothesline type activities in the past, but I might a lot of revisions to my approach based on watching Chris Shore model it at TMC17.  I knew that I wanted to focus on exploring negative values, but wasn't sure if we should work through one number line or a series.  Ultimately, I decided to use two Illustrative Tasks as inspiration (here and here) and we worked through three separate number line tasks.  Today served as another chance to reinforce how we share our opinions (standing up, waiting until the audience is listening, justify our arguments) and we referenced back to our Math Habits frequently throughout the lesson.
  • Clothesline One: I gave the benchmarks of 0 and 1, students placed 3, 4, and -1.  This led to conversation about negative values as being less than zero. Some classes were very precise with their spacing which caused us to detour a bit into appropriate tools and whether linear units could be anything.
  • Clothesline Two: I gave the benchmarks of 0 and 3, students placed 5, -5, and -3. This led to some conversations about negative values meaning the opposite. We talked about the symmetry of this number line, with a student in my 7th period offering that she supported the spacing a group had suggested because it looked like a mirror.
  • Clothesline Three:  I gave the benchmarks of 0 and 1, students placed -2, -4 and -(-2).  This was the mind blowing moment. It was really exciting to watch the groups that had a revelation about -(-2). With a few of the classes, I did have to reference back to what we'd talked about so far with the meaning of negative values, but ultimately the students arrived at the right conclusion with a little bit of discussion and debate amongst them. A few classes are already learning that Ms. Packer loves a good math argument.  
While groups worked at the board to present, other groups were working at their desks on the whiteboards to create their own models.  I encouraged them to check with one another at their groups to find points of agreement and disagreement to discuss.

We didn't record our final conclusions this time because we haven't created our first page of notes in our INB, but I may add that on to our next clothesline activity.  We did follow up our consensus on each number line by having students offer out comparison statements of values on the number line (i.e. "-3 is less than 3") which I recorded on the board with conventional symbols.  Any group that wasn't at the board was accountable for a comparison statement.

Is it Positive or Negative?

Only two of the five classes engaged in this activity and one of them did so very briefly.  I had found a worksheet that lists a series of situations with the request to ascertain if the situation being represented is positive or negative. In the past, students have responded to these prompts using color cards to indicate positive or negative. I have found that several of these scenarios have a bit of ambiguity to them so I really encouraged students today to be prepared to justify their choice.  We talked about how these scenarios could be either positive or negative depending on the point of view.  For example,
Susan picked thirty-eight apples from the orchard.
Most students indicated this scenario as being positive (i.e. "Susan gained apples."), but a few argued that it would be negative from the perspective of the orchard (i.e. "The orchard's inventory decreased apples.").  The activity gave us further practice on constructing viable arguments and also seeing how negative values could be useful in a real world context.

Support for Personalized Learning Begins

Today was my first day with my SPL group. I will be working with this group for nine weeks in an effort to remediate some weaknesses in their math understanding. Based on students data, we know that fraction sense has been a pervasive weakness in our student population so it is going to be my focus of instruction.  Today, we launched the period by playing Fraction Math Match just to get ourselves thinking about fractional representations.  The two classes of the room played against one another and were very engaged particularly for the end of the day.

We moved from that activity into a Fraction Splat.  I discovered Steve Wyborney's Fractions Splats last spring and have been eager to try them out ever since. I was not disappointed.  The students were highly engaged and had some great conversation about strategies as we worked through lesson 11.1. I will definitely be using it frequently throughout this SPL Period.  

The students in band had to leave at the start of 9th period, so the remaining students and I finished out the day by looking at Day 2 of Estimation 180.  They had worked on Day 1 in our regular class periods so the dynamic was changed up a bit to have them work with new groups and still focus on creating a visual model and use precision with our units.  We ended the day with a good conversation about whether 5.5 feet means 5 feet 5 inches or 5 feet 6 inches. 

My Prideful Moment of Nostalgia

I spent a bit of my planning period today observing in the 7th grade classroom.  These were my students from last year and I absolutely adore them! They were introducing ratios and I was pleased to see how much overlap there was between her presentation of the material and what they had learned last year.  When I ended my day at bus duty, several former students came running up enthusiastically to tell me what they were working on. They recounted the definition of a ratio and the ways to write ratios. A few of them also told me that they had been using their INBs from last year to review and refresh.  I couldn't be prouder of that crew!

I really do love my job! <3 nbsp="" o:p="">


Day 5: Solar Eclipse Day!

Today, we played a little catch up in some classes.  We finished up the Math Habits foldables and one group got their chance at an Estimation 180 task.  The class that is the most behind happened to occur during the eclipse so I still have a little work to do to get them caught up.  For my classes that weren't behind, today was all about the eclipse.

Eclipse Research

Students were placed in groups and each given a laptop.  I gave them twenty minutes to research and create a presentation on their large dry erase boards.  They had to include a picture and a minimum of three facts.  I was really just trying to get them excited for the afternoon, but I was somewhat pleased at their effort since I really hadn't laid much groundwork for this sort of task and they were working under a very short time constraint.  Here are a few of their boards:






The students viewed each others' boards through a gallery walk, which was a good chance for me to introduce that structure since we use them often. After that, we watched a simulation of what the eclipse was expected to look like in our area.  We then looked at a map to see how close the next eclipse (2024) is likely to come to us.  So close!

Eclipse Viewing

This was the photo I snapped through my filters.  Ehhh.
I was lucky enough to secure 120 pairs of eclipse glasses through an initiative of West Virginia University and the West Virginia Space Grant Consortium.  We had originally intended to take the entire sixth grade class outside to watch, but colleagues had a lot of concerns about supervision for an extended period of time. There was concern that some students would take off their glasses and stare at the sun just to be oppositional.  

To compromise, we took the students into the auditorium to watch the livestream and then took groups by homeroom out to witness it live. It was an excellent plan because it allowed students to share in the experience and celebrations that were going on in the path of totality and still see it live.  I wish I could've had video of the awe moment when they would see the sun through the glasses.  It was so much fun!  I took several photos of my homeroom but we are still determining who has authorized permission for published photos so I have to hold off on sharing them just yet.  I can share this photo of my amazing team:

I am so lucky to work with this group of ladies!

Closing the Day

We ended the day with our 7th period class (the one that is behind).  However, several students had to leave for band and I didn't want to proceed with the lesson under those conditions.  We decided to spend the last 20 minutes playing SET instead.  I pulled up the NY Times version and explain the game briefly.  We worked our way through two Basic Sets before playing one of the Advanced Levels. They really seemed to enjoy it.  I have the card game but I've always had to teach them in small groups.  Very grateful to discover that it is interactive online.  

It was a good day..but I am exhausted and it's only Monday.  This teaching thing is definitely a marathon.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Day 4: The Mathematical Habits of Mind

We had to play a bit of catch up today. The fire drills yesterday and the slower pace of my afternoon classes means that not all of the groups were at the same point in the plans. My definite take away at the end of this 4-day Unit 0 attempt is that I must have more days to cover all of the foundations I want to get through before heading into the objectives.  I'm thinking I should've approached this as a nine day unit, perhaps with interactive activities to emphasize a different SMP each day. Definite note to self for next year.

Interactive Notebook Foldable

For several of the classes, we used the day to complete our 8 Math Habits foldable.  A few classes still have several to go and I am likely going to forego the Eclipse activity on Monday with them to do so.  The other possibility that I considered is just having them complete one more Habit each time we take notes over the next few weeks.  Still debating.  I also used today to review the week's homework and to introduce them to our class website so that they would know where to find class notes, videos, games, and homework when they need it.  



We have the 8 Mathematical Habits hanging at the front of the classroom as well and I try to refer to them frequently throughout the year.  My goal this year is to hear them refer to them a bit more often in conversation to one another.

Estimation 180

Two of the classes finished in enough time to look at an Estimation 180 prompt.  Unfortunately, we had to rush through it.  I tend to use Estimation 180 a good bit with my Support for Personalized Learning groups so I will have the opportunity to slow it down more when we revisit. They did gain exposure to the structure of reaching consensus on a too high and too low value and then reaching consensus as a group on a reasonable estimate. Also, it served as a chance to walk through how we use our large dry erase boards with color groups (a change from their home table groupings) and a brief conversation about precision (units) and the value of visual models. The reveal never ceases to elicit excitement.  

Thorns and Roses

While I have had time with my homeroom every day this week, we have spent the time in team building and getting to know you tasks. Fridays serve a different purpose.  Even after our Support for Personalized Learning and Club periods get underway in the next few weeks, students always return to homeroom on Friday afternoon for a period known as "Developmental Guidance." This was the first such period and I wanted to get started right away with the routine that I've found works best for me.  The purpose for this period is a bit of character building as well as some more traditional educational guidance type interactions. My team tried valiantly to use the materials on our state website last year, but they weren't working.  Eventually, I settled on the same routine that I use with my own children at home...Thorns and Roses.  We rearrange all of the desks in the room into a large circle.  Last year's group went straight to work rearranging the moment they entered the room so very little time was lost.  We have a wooden rose that we pass around the room in a Listening Circle sort of format where anyone who wants to share offers out their thorn from the week (something negative they had to deal with) as well as their rose (something worth celebrating).

I assumed that the group would be a bit timid since this was our first time, but I always participate as well so the modeling generally prompts a few more outgoing souls to take the leap.  What I didn't anticipate was how raw the conversation would be for our very first time.  I'm honored that they were willing to share so much, but I'm not as accustomed as teachers in other content areas are in dealing with the heavy stuff.  I know our English teacher see such content in student writing all of the time but it doesn't come up quite as often in mathematics.  I found it incredibly difficult to maintain the norm of not talking while others were sharing, wanting very much to interject and console.  Tissues were passed.  Compassionate looks exchanged, but we all remained listeners.  We had discussed before we began that we would become a family this year and that we wouldn't discuss the conversations that are shared outside of that space.  At the end of the conversation, I thanked those who had shared for trusting us with their stories and reminded every one else of the adage to "Be kind to everyone. You never now what kind of battle someone else is fighting." I agreed that life brings with it a lot of struggles and difficulties sometimes, but it is full of beauty too...and that sometimes we have to be that beauty in someone else's world. We ended with one of my sweet boys offering hugs to anyone who needed one. Did I mention that I think I am going to like this crew?

Broken Circles

I was very grateful that we had one more mini-period to go before the day ended because it would've been a bit of a heavy way to end the day.  Instead, they moved back into their groups and I issued them a challenge in the form of Sarah Carter's Broken Circles. [Have you noticed how much I've stolen from her amazing blog post, "21 Ideas for the First Week of School"? It is a must read.]


I messed up the directions the first time through and had to interrupt them and reboot, but then it went very well.  Four of the groups successfully accomplished the task with the last two saved by the bell. They clearly enjoyed the challenge. The only change I would make if I was to run this in future years is to avoid having any groups of 3. Sarah has versions for groups of 3, 4, 5, and 6.  My homeroom has 5 groups of 4 and 1 group of 3 so that's what I used. The group of 3 finished far too quickly.  I think I will adjust my groups to 4s and 5s when I use this activity next year.  

High Five Friday

It was Friday, so that means...High Five Friday.  Thank you, Glenn Waddell.  Well, not exactly...I forgot with the first two classes and had to chase them down at their next class.  And I forgot completely with two other periods.  Only one class got the real deal.  I definitely need to get back in the swing of things.

It was a long week. :) 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Day 3: Communicating Our Mathematical Ideas

I came home so exhausted last night that blogging wasn't happening.  I didn't even participate in #elemmathchat and almost went to bed fully dressed, so ya...  A 4-day opening week with learners kicks my butt.

Yesterday was an interesting day. Not only am I continuing to deal with the time constraint issue in my afternoon class, but two fire alarms before the end of first period meant that three of my classes are a bit behind.  I'm going to be doing a bit of triage today to remain at the pace I want.  If we start with this schedule next year, I am not going to try to fit my norm setting unit into 4 days.  I'll just go ahead and spread it out to 9 because I'm rushing. I fear there will be an effect later, so I am going to have to make a conscious effort to revisit these expectations frequently throughout the first month or so.

I did introduce them to our class mascot Nemo and his Instagram page.  I had quite a few follow requests waiting for me when I got home that evening.  Here is my 5th Period waving hello to Nemo...



The conversations with my classes today were excellent. I really wanted to work on some basic routines like standing to share your thinking, and the expectations for the listeners while sharing.  I also wanted to make it very clear that math is a creative endeavor and that we are not always seeing the same things in our mental constructs so sharing how we are seeing things has great value.  To that end, our activities today centered primarily around a Dot Card Talk and Which One Doesn't Belong.

Dot Card Talk

I used a pattern similar to the one Jo Boaler uses in her video clip rather than the one linked in the Week of Inspiration Materials. Here you can see some of the descriptions that my fifth block was giving.  
We talked a lot about the benefit of clustering and patterns over counting.

I noticed based on the responses in this class relative to my morning groups that I must've moved a bit more quickly past the dot screen.  I had far more frequent offerings that represented inaccurate "counts."  I used it as an opportunity to focus not on the accuracy of the numbers but on the strategies of the clustering, acknowledging that the time was likely too quick for accurate responses but that it was the patterns that we are exploring that mattered most in this task.  I talked about how important it was for students to share their way of seeing math and not to assume that the others in their group are seeing it the same way.  

I recognize that my sentences here are using "I" as the subject often and it isn't lost on me that I need to start shifting more of that. Rushing through this norm week is causing me to take shortcuts that I'm not thrilled about.  The learners did take turns sharing out their description of what they had seen.  Other learners were encouraged to keep their hands down and focus their attention entirely on the speaker during these share out moments.  This was a norm that I tried to emphasize heavily in the lesson.

Which One Doesn't Belong?

After our Dot Talk, we moved directly into a WODB task focusing on shapes.  We had talked about how we all see things slightly differently so this was a great segway.  For the first picture (shapes), students moved to different corners of the room to represent which one they thought didn't belong.  It was great to see one of my students plant himself smack dab in the middle of the room.  He struggled to articulate what he was arguing but he had already noticed that an argument could be made for each of them.  Did I mention that this was one of my students identified with learning difficulties?  So, yeah.  

For the second image, they had already recognized that an argument could be made for each of the responses so we focused on forming viable arguments and I pushed back a bit on the imprecision of some of the language.  I was trying to front load them for the notes on the Math Habits of Mind that was to follow.  

You can see that one student here (whose name I neglected to record) focused on the actual shapes of the symbols rather than the value of the numbers.  That, and the few students who recognized the sum of the digits was 7 for four of the figures had the learners ooo'ing and ahh'ing a bit.  Good times!

I made a few phone calls home to praise some students for their contributions. Thankful Thursday!

Interactive Notebook Foldable

From these activities (for at least two of the classes), we moved into our Interactive Notebook. We focused on the next three habits of mind, adding each of them into our foldable.  Unfortunately, two of my classes were behind and we will have to try to catchup today.  We recorded the Math Habit (what our state calls the SMPs) and a small little picture or graphic to remind us of what they mean.  I need to work on my images a bit, but the students are already picking up my sense of humor and sarcasm about my "amazing" art skills so that was a bit fun.  I'm going to like this group.

Homeroom Revisited

Our Support for Personalized Learning Classes don't start until next week so we are still ending our day with our homerooms.  I have been focusing on a lot of team building and culture setting activities with them.  They completed the third column of Kristen Fouss' version of Name Tags and then we worked on the Survival in the Desert task I found from Sarah Carter's blog.



I really liked this activity and the types of conversations I was hearing at the groups.  I would make some changes to the format of the ranking sheet because it was a bit confusing for them.  We stopped the class with about five minutes to go for a brief whole class debate on what was the most important item to take.  We were unable to reach consensus before the bell rang, but it was a great opportunity to revisit the norms for sharing ideas that we had established in their individual classes throughout the day.

On Day Four, I was hoping to get them working on the large whiteboards and use an Estimation180 task to talk about precision (units) and modeling (number lines) but I may try to knock out that foldable first.  Friday is always such a catch-up day.  

I am ready for a weekend for sure!  I hope everyone else is having a great start to the year.






Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Day 2: Perseverance and a Growth Mindset

Third Period Class Watching a Clip from Facing the Giants
Some of the target areas from yesterday were much improved today.  I did notice that I am going to have to make a very deliberate plan for how to tackle the time issue in my afternoon classes.  When I feel rushed through things, I do not explore the activities as deeply and I also find myself a bit less patient.  My co-teacher and I are going to work on a targeted plan to improve some student habits in there which means doing some triage with the class activities that I use in the morning.

Here is how the morning classes went...

I believe very strongly that classroom management stems from a positive relationship with students and from teaching the procedures to allow your classroom to run smoothly.  So, we continued to work on class procedures a bit.  We reviewed what we covered yesterday about opening routines, hands signals, class materials, preparedness, and homework.  Today, we added on work submission, makeup work, writing utensil supplies, and locker routines.

Growth Mindset:  Then we moved into today's discussions and activities.  The students began by taking a Growth Mindset quiz.  I collected the data to review it a bit, but the overall impression was that the vast majority of my students showed evidence of strong growth mindsets...which was really refreshing to see.  I did make a mental note of a couple of students in one class who expressed a lot of fixed mindset attitudes and I am hoping to make some progress there.

After the quiz, we talked a bit about neural pathways and how we can strengthen our minds just like we strengthen our muscles.  We moved into the value of mistakes where I asked the class to recite the phrase on our classroom wall...  "In this classroom, mistakes are expected, respected, and inspected." ...and we talked a bit about how valuable mistakes could be.

The Value of Failure:  We also talked about how fear of failure can keep us from taking the risks necessary to grow.  I shared with them the quote:
"There is no comfort in the growth zone, and there is no growth in the comfort zone."
And we shared a bit about what that means.  Then we watched this Michael Jordan commercial clip:


We talked about the word PERSEVERE.  While a few of them were familiar with the word, it was new vocabulary for many of them.  I made a note to include that word in our cross-curricular vocabulary for the month.

Good Mathematicians Persevere:  We opened up the foldable in our interactive notebook and recorded the first habit of all good mathematicians:
"Good mathematicians make sense of problems and persevere in solving them."
I explained to them that there are mathematicians that will work on the same problem for years and even decades of their lives.  They may take breaks to regroup, they may attack the problem a different way, they may spend time exploring the mistakes and mis-tries...but they persevere.

Class was drawing to a close but I made sure to make time to conclude with this powerful clip from Facing the Giants:


It was a good set of conversations but I carried much of the weight of instruction in a traditional "teacher is telling us this stuff" type of way.  I am looking to tomorrow and finding out a bit more about what THEY think about some mathematics.  Dot Talks and Which One Doesn't Belong just ahead...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Day 1: Working Together to Find Patterns


[Disclaimer:  I make no promises that I will be able to keep up a #180blog this year.  The time commitments with my children make that quite unreasonable.  I will, however, make the effort to post a #180teach on my class Instagram account if you are following there.]

Even after 18 years of teaching, I still get nervous about the first day of school.  All of the new faces and personalities...worrying that I may not be up to the challenge of harnessing all of their energy and channeling it into productive conversations and growth. There is always a sigh of relief at the end of the day that I've survived.  By next week, we will be into a routine and those nerves will take a back seat.

My groups today were a bit rowdier than might be typical for a first day, but in the end...it was a good day.

Sixth Grade Math

There are inevitably some procedural things to review on the first day, but I try to break those up over the course of a week.  Today, we discussed our weekly homework, how we get supplies, what materials we need, etc.  We also set up the SMP foldable that serves as the first page of our Interactive Notebook.  We did not take any notes in it yet; we will be completing those throughout the week.

We then worked on Sara VanDerWerf's 1-100 Activity.  The kids loved it and were incredibly engaged.  We used it as a great opportunity to drive home the idea that "Math is not about numbers...it is about patterns and relationships."  Unfortunately, my afternoon classes were not able to work on this task because the delays in returning from lunch and fine arts cut those classes short.  One of the first big challenges I am going to face this year is finding a way to make sure that time is used effectively so that these students do not miss out on opportunities that the morning classes have.

Students hard at work on the 1-100 Activity.

Afternoon Homeroom Time

In the next week, my team and I will begin to work with our Support for Personalized Learning classes were we can provide targeted instruction.  For this first week, however, we are using this time as extra time with our homerooms.  I wanted to use this time to get to know my students a bit better.  We started with Kristen Fouss' version of Name Tents and I have enjoyed reading and responding to their prompt regarding what they believe makes a quality teacher.  We also used Sarah Carter's Getting to Know You Quiz.  I spent the evening at the soccer field taking the quizzes that they wrote for me.  They were excited to learn that they will get to "grade me" for a change.  :)

It was a fun day.  I have seen a few red flags of areas where I am going to have to trouble shoot, but I am pressing forward because there is a lot of exciting things coming up in the weeks ahead.

Off to Global Math Department!

#TheFinalWave


Sunday, August 6, 2017

My 17 Favorites from TMC17



I wasn't going to blog about this year's Twitter Math Camp.  Others have covered the territory pretty thoroughly and I jumped right into planning when I got home, leaving little time for reflection.  Last night, however, I decided to jot down my 17 Favorite Things about TMC 17 so that I can reflect nostalgically in years to come.  So here you go...

  1. Play With Your Math - I loved this presentation by Joey Kelly (@joeykelly89) about the problems they posted at their school to engage students with mathematical play. The problems are engaging and the posters his team created are appealing. I am looking forward to sharing this resource with my school team to see how we might utilize it.
  2. Waffle House With My TMC Bestie - A greasy spoon right in the hotel parking lot?  Catching up with Cortni Muir (@CortniJ)? Yes, please! It wasn't the same not having her with us in Minneapolis so it was wonderful to have her return. I never quite made it over for the waffle ice cream sandwich inspired by Sean Sweeney (@SweenWSweens), but...it is important to have goals for the future.
  3. Chris Shore and Clothesline Math - I cherish any opportunity I have to learn from Chris Shore (@MathProjects), but his session on Clothesline this year was particularly powerful. I'd been endeavoring to use clothesline style activities in my classroom for the past few years. And while I had found them to be a very worthwhile endeavor, I suspected I was only scratching the surface. Watching Chris model the activity brought it to life. What a powerful visual model for everything from rational numbers to algebra and more...!  I can't wait to play some more this year!
  4. Mullet Ratio and Barbie Zipline - The decision of a morning session is always grueling.  Every session at TMC is so rich, but the time commitment involved in morning sessions make it even more high stakes. This year, I chose to attend Classroom Chef with John Stevens (@Jstevens009) and Matt Vaudrey (@MrVaudrey).  They used the opportunity to model many of the activities discussed in their book and on their website.  Many of the "appetizers" they covered were things I was already using pretty regularly in class, but their teacher moves gave me a good deal of insight into ways I could tweak my implementation. But the two "Main Courses" were worth the price of admission (even if admission hadn't been free).  I was messaging my 8th grade colleague all through Barbie Zipline about how awesome it was and how excited I was for us to use it when I move to 8th grade in a year.  I missed the first half of Mullet Ratio, but the second half was cool enough to have me googling mullet wigs before I left. I am looking forward to trying it out in the class this year...making it my #1TMCthing.  
  5. My Wonderful Roommate - Every year since TMC12, I have had a different roommate. I love the opportunity to get to know one of my fellow #MTBoS folks a little bit better than rushed lunches and chaotic trivia nights allow. Carol (@chieffoullis) was a delightful roommate who I really enjoyed getting to know a bit more. She shared my need to pull back for some downtime amidst all of the socializing. She shared her Interactive Notebooks with me, which gave me some ideas for tweaking mine this year. And she was kind enough to not complain when my son crashed our hotel room with all of his teenage mess and angst.  
  6. Dipping Into Calculus - This was a venture I had not quite anticipated.  I had removed both Jonathan (@rawrdimus) and Chase's (@mathgeek76) sessions from my options before I'd ever set foot in Atlanta. I've never taken a Calculus course and my work in middle school and special education has allowed me to successfully avoid it. After hearing them talk about what they planned to cover with such passion and enthusiasm, I had to change courses and check out both their sessions (Chase's session materials are here). They did not disappoint. While I clearly have a lot to learn, I feel like I have a good understanding now about what Calculus is and why it is worth learning. I very much appreciated the insight they gave me and I am confident that my Calculus learning is just beginning.
  7. Crocheting - Even though I have admired her work for many years, I have rarely had the opportunity to spend much quality time with Tina Cardone (@crstn85). At TMC16 in Minneapolis, we were part of a group that hiked to the Minnehaha Falls together where I got to talk with her a bit more. I enjoyed it immensely, so when she put the call out for #TMC17 to get together and learn to crochet I was on board. I have never crocheted and I am always up for learning something new. She was quite occupied with teaching everyone in the lobby about her passion, so Jedidiah (@MathButler) filled in as my tutor and was fantastic! He was incredibly patient and kept me calm, even though my own struggles with Fixed Mindset often make me want to quit when I don't pick something up right away. The entire endeavor was a perfectly relaxing way to spend time with some of my #MTBoS family without all of the social pressure to be witty. :)
  8. Heather's Pre-Conference Tour of Atlanta - Every year at Twitter Math Camp, I try to find the balance between the desire to spend time with each and every person there and the need for time to myself or in small groups of company. The pre-conference touring days that Heather (@heather_kohn) and Megan (@mgolding) organized for this year were a perfect way to ease into the waters. Plus, driving into Atlanta was the perfect chance to catch up with Lydia (@lydiakirkman) and Anya (@anyaostapczuk) who were my Jucy Lucy buddies in Minneapolis. The group evolved a bit throughout the day, but there were around 12 of us. We visited the Center for Civil Rights, the Coca Cola Museum, and the Georgia Aquarium. Combined with my stop to the CNN building the day before with my son, it was a wonderful few days of playing tourist. We have all started lobbying Heather already to organize a trip to Cedar Point for TMC18. 
  9. The Center for Civil Rights - The highlight of the Tuesday touring was definitely the visit to the Center for Civil Rights. If you have not been there, it is worth a visit to Atlanta all on its own. I have been searching teacher workshops/seminars ever since with an overwhelming since of Social Studies Teacher Envy. I wish that I could describe the Lunch Counter Exhibit to you but I do not have any illusions about ability to do it justice. It is simply something you have to experience.  I left there with a renewed since of awe for the work done by those at the height of the Civil Rights era as well as being inspired to honor that legacy in a world where there remains so much work to be done. 
  10. Brazilian Barbecue - On Friday night before Trivia, a group of us decided to splurge and indulge ourselves in the meats. We headed to Fogo de Chao where the staff immediately pounced upon our table delivering an array of yummy deliciousness. The food was excellent, the company was even better. I am a happy woman anytime I get to bask in the glow of some Glenn Waddell (@gwaddellnvhs), who I am convinced must be wearing his modesty as a ruse. He can't possibly not know how amazing he is. It was a chance to catch up with some old friends and get to know a new one. After talking with Bob Batty (@batty314), I may never use the expression "reduce" again with fractions. So, thank you for that little insight that I can't believe I've overlooked. 
  11. Student Presentations as a Review Strategy - So, two totally different presentations that both struck a cord with me were Jennifer Fairbank's (@hhsmath) Google Slides and Matt Baker/Kat Glass' Session (@stoodle and @glasymptote) on Student Expos. While very different in their approaches, they shared the outcome of shifting responsibility for assessment review to students. In Jennifer's My Favorite, she talked about how she set up a shared Google Slide with students where there was one problem per page. Each student is assigned a problem that they have to record themselves solving and explaining. The resulting videos are placed on the Google Slide which becomes a collaborative working review document complete with a Table of Contents. In contrast, Matt and Kat's session talked about the initiative within their department (and the Latin Department as well) for groups of students to do presentations of problem solutions to their class. It is a structured, formalized process where students must cover the problem thoroughly (including typical misconceptions). Students are assessed on their presentation skills as well as their mathematics using a fairly thorough rubric. I am not at the place of implementing either of these strategies...YET. But I've mentally bookmarked both of them as a possible addition to my class when I move to 8th grade in a year.
  12. Registration Table - It is silly that manning the registration table would be one of my favorite things but it unequivocally is. No matter how crazy the week gets, I know that I had at least a few moments to interact with every attendee at camp. That is priceless. Add in the enthusiasm of sharing Sam's (@samjshah) First Timers Pin with an extra dose of welcoming to those new to TMC...and it was simply fun. Plus, a bit of time with Sam is a bonus. He remains to me one of the friendliest and most welcoming members of the entire MTBoS. Grateful to know him.
  13. Superhero Design Thinking - I have written entirely too much and this is taking forever so...Candace Bell (@CBellATL) walked us through a wonderful Design Thinking Project that she did with her kids where they made capes for members of their school community (Everyday Heroes) involving note only technical skills (measurement, sewing, etc.) but also interpersonal skills (emailing, interviews).  I loved it!
  14. Weekly Marble Slide Challenges - Sean Sweeney let us loose on a Marble Challenge and then showed us how he has turned them into a weekly exercise for kids, posting the results on a scoreboard where bonus points are given for creative submissions. My 13 year old was begrudingly sitting with me through this closing session and was thoroughly entranced, using his pre-Algebra skills to solve the challenge Sean had given us with only linear functions. Sean has a series of challenges on his blog and is working on creating more.
    My son was pretty determined. <3 td="">
  15. Fairy Bread - On Saturday, we were treated to some fairy bread by the much beloved David Butler (@DavidKButlerUoA). David insisted that this combination of bread, butter and candy sprinkles was a common treat at children's parties in Australia. I was skeptical but had to admit...the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. I won't be craving it any time soon, but I will probably make some for my own kids at some point. 
  16. Desmos for Assessments - For the past two years, Desmos has offered a one-day preconference where we get to discover new tools and learn more classroom applications and strategies for using Desmos (my notes from the day are here). I attended a breakout session on using Desmos in assessments where Julie Reulbach kicked things off by talking about how she uses Desmos Activity Builder as either a companion to assessments or as a calculator replacement.  Bob Lochel built on her ideas by showing us how he uses it formatively, including a getting to know you pretest for incoming Freshmen. Annie Scholl shared how she uses one class code for the entire year on a single sheet exit slip. The approaches varied but all gave me plenty of food for thought for how I might utilize Desmos in ways I hadn't considered before.
  17. The TMC Song - Every year (with the exception of 2014) a team of creative attendees give up some of their time to create a parody song performance that encapsulates the spirit of that year's Twitter Math Camp.  It is always a highlight of the camp and this year's was no exception.  No list of my favorite memories of TMC would be complete without their performance:   
                                          

And as always...thank you to this amazing crew for letting me be a part of the work that you do. Much love to all of you! <3 p="">