Tuesday, August 1, 2017

#SundayFunday: Goals for the Year

So...one of the impediments to me blogging more is that even when I have the time to sit down and flesh out my ideas in writing, I don't always have the time to make it pretty.  So, I apologize at the outset that this may be just a rambling set of ideas.  But I have decided to overcome that barrier and #pushsend.

I also know that it is wise to limit myself to one or two goals, but that isn't how I tend to roll.  But I do think that this is a largely doable list so I am going to give it a go.  I like a challenge. ;)


My 2016-2017 school year was actually the best year of my career.  I had a wonderful group of students, an incredibly supportive administration, a ton of instructional autonomy, and a routine that I feel like has me in the structure/play balance that I find most comfortable.  So, I am not looking to make a ton of changes this year.  There are some subtle differences I am going to make to my opening routine and the structure of my Interactive Notebooks, but mostly I am just planning to incorporate a few new projects/practices into my curricular map.
  • Mullet Ratio - This is an easy one...and my most obvious #1TMCthing from Twitter Math Camp this year.  I am always looking for engaging ways to have my students use the math that we are learning.  This activity from Matt Vaudrey totally fits with the type of tasks I like to use in my classroom.  He and John Stevens write about the lesson in their book, Classroom Chef, but you can also find a ton of information on Matt's Website.  Students work to calculate the ratio of a mullet ("Business in the front, party in the back") to determine the hairstyle which is the most mullety (party:business).  I love the way Matt brings the lesson to life by dressing the part.  He has even developed an appropriate musical playlist to accompany the lesson.  I can't quite imagine wearing the mullet wig because that feels like a limitation on me as a female since that was largely a male style (erroneous perception?), but I am happy to have some select students help me out there.  I still need to determine whether I want to flesh it out to a five day lesson as Matt does on his website or limit it a bit.  I don't cover ratios until close to November so I will have plenty of time to think through my implementation. 
  • Gingerbread House Project - This lesson idea came from Cathy Craddock, a West Virginia educator with whom I worked on an Instructional Materials Review project.  I am almost certain she said that it originated with NCTM but I can't seem to find the link that I looked at when we talked.  There seems to be something similar here.  Thankfully, Cathy shared with me all of the materials she uses including the strategies she takes to differentiate the tasks for various students within the classroom.  Students are each given the opportunity to build a gingerbread house after first determining the total surface area using the net.  I love the way this lesson focuses so much on working from the nets of the houses, which is a different approach than I used last year with Elissa's Tin Foil Robots (an activity the kids loved).  I have a few obstacles for implementation on Gingerbread Activity that I haven't quite figured out yet. 
    • Wilton Pre-Baked Gingerbread Mini Village Kit 31 oz
    • Obstacle #1 (Cost) - The Gingerbread Village Kit can be purchased through Walmart for around $9 and includes four miniature houses.  To accommodate my students, I would need to purchase around 30 kits.  $270 is a bit outside of my budget and I'm not sure exactly how to work around that.  I had considered asking kids for a $3 donation to help offset the costs or setting up a Go Fund Me page and directing any parents who wish to contribute to it, but I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with either of those options.  My grade level team said we could do a fundraiser, but we are already going to be doing fundraising if we take our kids to DC again this year so I'm not thrilled with that option either.  So, I am still deciding what might be the best approach.  
    • Obstacles #2 (Timing) - I don't cover my Geometry standards until around April.  Obviously I could rearrange a bit, but I think my sequence is working well for me.  Cathy said she basically pauses her curriculum map during the Thanksgiving/Christmas window and inserts this activity.  She still teaches Geometry toward the end of the year and said that frontloading them with this activity helps that later unit to go more smoothly.  I like this idea, but I'm not sure that I can accommodate a several week pause in my mapping without cutting something else out somewhere.  The other option would be to forego the holiday connection altogether and go with a Hansel and Gretel theme in April.  Still debating.  Thoughts?  
  • New Unit 2: Rational Numbers - As I've said, I was pretty happy with most of the year as a whole.  My second unit of the year, however, was a definite weakness.  This was exasperated by the fact that my SMART Board went down and I was operating without any technology in my room at that point, but my dissatisfaction was bigger than that.  I had originally designed this unit to be about decimal computation.  My standards include developing fluency with calculation.  After a conversation with a colleague at our partner middle school, I have decided to start addressing that standard exclusively through my opening routine, utilizing My Favorite Mistake (which I already use) or various other approaches.  This frees up my Unit 2 period of time to address a noted weakness in my students basic number sense - Rational Numbers.  Their understanding of fractions and decimals, as well as the relationship between fractions and decimals is incredibly weak (as I assume is routinely the case with this age group), so I am going to spend a unit trying to develop some strong number sense for Rationals.  I am going to try to this through deliberately building off of our work in the Integers Unit (my first unit of the year) and by incorporating frequent visits to the Clothesline, which leads me to my next goal...

  • Up My Clothesline Game - This is my other #1TMCthing and I am super excited about the opportunity to build my skill set here.  If you are not familiar with Clothesline Math, please do yourself a favor and get acquainted.  I love the work that Chris Shore does and soak up every opportunity I get to learn from him.  I have utilized a clothesline for interactive number line work in my Integers unit, but seeing Chris model activities at #TMC17 gave me a whole new set of ideas for how to approach it.  I also plan to take that Integer work further and thread more opportunities to use Clothesline throughout my Unit 2 (rational numbers) and my Units 5-6 (Algebra).  My mind is toying now with how to sequence progress activities both on a macro level (order of lessons) and a micro level (questions within a specific days activities), so that I might optimize the activities in relation with whatever other tasks we explore throughout October.  Hopefully, I can flesh out my thinking in a follow-up post.
  • Fraction Splats! - Our SPL (Support for Personalized Learning) may be one of my favorite periods of the day simply because I usually have the most instructional autonomy here.  We made the move last year to "untrack" our students at the sixth grade level and I couldn't have been more thrilled about it.  We still have to keep our special education students somewhat clustered due to scheduling services, but the groups are largely heterogenous with regard to ability now.  [This is incredibly important for me not only because it allows for richer classroom conversations and activities, but because it is also an issue of equity and access.  I am tired of seeing our students from low socio-economic classes tracked into situations where the instruction is watered down and critical thinking shortchanged in exchange for drill and kill.]  There is one period of the day where this is not the case.  Students are ability grouped based on assessment results with our team having the flexibility to redistribute students periodically.  We use this extra class period as a chance to provide remediation and enrichment.  Our team plans to repeat last year's routine where we spend 9 weeks working with the low math students (while high reading students receive ELA enrichment) and then 9 weeks working with low ELA students (while high math students receive enrichment).  I can work outside of my curriculum map during this period giving me a ton of freedom and flexibility.  I have often used this period to work on a variety of rich activities including Visual Patterns, MARS Tasks, and Mathalicious lessons.  This past year, I discovered a new resource around which I plan to structure much of my first remediation group instruction.  Steve Wyborney has developed a progressive set of interactive fraction images that allow students to use a SmudgedMath type of approach to building fraction sense.  I took some time in the spring and downloaded everything he has to offer.  I am hoping to supplement this work with some Desmos Activities and Fraction Talks but I am very excited to try these images out in the classroom and let the kids loose.    

  • EdCampBrooke - I have long wondered how to bring the passion and creativity that I find at Twitter Math Camp to my local community.  In 2013, I started attending EdCampPGH and have found it to be full of people passionate about education.  While it lacks the math focus that creates the tight community around which the #MTBoS thrives, it still gave me a model for a participant-driven gathering of teachers and education stakeholders eager to learn and work outside of the box to improve education.  I've daydreamed about bringing it to my local community ever since. My Superintendent has been incredibly supportive of that vision and gave a team of local educators the go ahead to start planning.  I am a bit nervous because I really want this inaugural event to go well and perhaps become the foundation for future events but there are a ton of variables I can't control so it is a gamble. But you have to bet big to win big so we are going for it.  Our event is scheduled for October 7th at Brooke High School.  To find out more, you can follow our Twitter.  If you are in the WV/Ohio/PA tri-state area, we would love to have you join us! 
  • Engineering Design Club - This past June, I was lucky enough to
    be selected by Honeywell to attend the Honeywell Educators Space Academy in at the U.S. Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.  I have no idea why I didn't blog about this incredible experience. I met so many fantastic educators from around the world and gained a ton of ideas for creating more STEM based activities in my school. One of the activities we did involved an X-Prize Challenge where we had to construct a Lunar Lander and a Rover with a limited selection of supplies that we had to purchase within an alloted budget.  There were several constraints involved and it utilized both the Engineering Design Process and precision with measurement.  On our last day, we had the opportunity to gather some resources from their Education Resource Center, most (all?) of which are available online for free on NASA's Website.  I grabbed a text from their BEST (Beginning Engineering, Science, and Technology Guides) series which I am hoping to use as the foundation for my ninth period club this year by adapting them into the X-Prize structure.  It will mean gathering a ton of recycled materials to create an Innovation Station in my classroom so that students have resources to use for the monthly challenges that I adapt from the text.  I have started gathering some stuff and hope to publicize a request on our PTA Facebook page as well as visit the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse to gather more.  
  • 3-D Printing Shark Tank - Last year, some colleagues and I started an after-school STEM Club at our school.  We participated in the WVU Pumpkin Drop Competition, did some computer coding on Hour of Code and Tynker, built and launched rockets, and a few other hodge podge activities throughout the year.  It is year two so it is time to up our game.  Our school has recently acquired a 3-D Printer and our STEM Team spent some time with at a training through Marshall University where learned a bit about the role of Simulated Work Environments in a STEM School. A colleague had some great ideas about how we could incorporate some work place skills into a year-long project with the 3-D Printer, so I will be working on implementing her plan:
    • Phase One: Spend time learning Tynkercad and having the kids work in teams to develop a product they intend to print and sell as a fundraiser.  Create a prototype.
    • Phase Two: Bring in local business people for mini-lessons on marketing, budgeting, and sales pitches to help students develop presentations for their product.  
    • Phase Three:  Have local business people return for Shark Tank style presentations from each group.
    • Phase Four: "Hire" all club members into various positions in the winning team's company and execute the plan to print and sell the selected product.
          The plan is a bit ambitious for teachers who have never used 3-d printers before but we are
          hoping to journey through the experience with the kids and make it work.


My final goal is to try to engage in #MTBoS community more.  I have a tendency to stay away during the school year because the sheer volume of ideas can be overwhelming while I'm trying to focus on my classroom.  I'm not going to talk about any of these further because they speak for themselves a bit and I am tired of writing.
  • Monitor #MTBoS for people new to the community. 
  • Present again at state conference about the resources that the community has to offer (Desmos Activities for Newcomers, Powerful Opening Activities).
  • Blog more often.
  • Participate more in #wvedchat, #msmathchat, or #elemmathchat.
  • Prepare a presentation for #tmc18.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a promising new year. As a kid my mom always used a paper template for our gingerbread houses (no need for the walmart kit). Students could design their own templates. I am not familiar with your curriculum but could you do a joint project with another subject? Structural design in science? Art?