There’s a new librarian in town

The journey began about a year ago.  My principal sent out an email asking if anyone was interested in applying for the librarian job.  I first deleted the email.  I was a  math teacher and liked what I did, for the most part.  There were a few things that I would change or maybe I had been a math teacher for so long that I was ready for a change.  So I found the email and responded that I was interested.  I really thought it was a long shot being that I was a math teacher and it is hard to find new math teachers.  And the job would start in January 2016 and finding a math teacher in the middle of the year is even harder.  But I think that my background helped me get the job and one very special teacher.  I had worked in a public library throughout high school and college and my mom is a librarian.  I also have a background in computers and technology plays a huge part in this new job.  And I also believe that one special teacher told my principal that I was perfect for the job.  I really have no idea what the real reason is that I got the job but I am so blessed that I was given this chance.  I am excited about all the changes I am  going to but into place.

I did start in January but I really count August 2016 as my starting date.  I bumbled around during Spring 2016 and found my footing once the new school year started.  This Fall semester I have done a lot of work already.  I have moved bookshelves around and reorganized where fiction, nonfiction, and reference is located.  I have even finished inventory on nonfiction.  All of this work would not have been completed without the help of my wonderful Library Pages.

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Homecoming Week

One of my favorite times of year, Homecoming.  This is when memories are made, the things that students will remember for years to come.  Our week started on Monday.  Our theme this year was Superheroes, each class picked a different group to use as their class theme.  The Seniors were the Justice League, the Juniors were The Avengers, the Sophomores were the Fantastic Four, and the Freshmen were the Ninja Turtles.  We decorated the main hallway in our school, we painted windows, and we decorated floats.  We ended the week with a deluge of rain.  The rain caused the pep rally to be cancelled and the game to be moved to Saturday afternoon.  Here a few pictures.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

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Summer Research – less direct teaching!

The new school year is just around the corner and I have begun to put together new ideas.  I have been lurking into many wonderful blog posts and now want to take the leap into following math teachers on Twitter.  I just feel like I am not worthy enough to share ideas, they have so many great ones.  Here goes…

Our school district has been very proactive in moving toward CCSS.  We have been implementing it in the elementary grades for the last 2 years.  We are implementing it in 6-12 this year but the state department will not count test scores until the following year.  They are giving us one year to get our feet wet and the kids will take the old high stake test (which won’t count) this year.   Last year I volunteered to pilot a CCSS textbook for Algebra 2.  There were 6 of us that piloted the book but we were all at different schools.   

A few years back our district jumped into the Kagan method of teaching.  That was right up my alley.  I haven’t never liked teaching in straight rows where you can hear a pin drop during the entire class.  I want to the kids moving around and talking about math.  

So last year our district found this book that promoted discovery before teaching.  I jumped in with both feet.  I was not completely successful with it the first semester and I got a little better the second semester.  The book series is called College Prep Mathematics (CPM) and it covers 6-12 grades.  The book series is big on discovery, discussion, communication (including presentations) and the lessons spiral throughout the entire series.  Most of the problems involve real-world connections, even in an abstract subject like Algebra 2.  They even have cooperative learning suggestions for all the lessons.  There is so much already planned that is was impossible for me to do all of it the first time through.  

Our high schools are on block schedule so I got to start over second semester, whew!  And it was nice to have 95 minutes to work on a lesson.  Here is what a typical day looked like last spring.  My students have homework every night.  I gave them a calendar at the beginning of the unit that listed all their homework.  They turned homework in before they could enter the classroom.  The students who would be pressured to allow someone to copy their homework loved this!  They would then enter the room, pick up their calculator, and start their bellwork (hopefully).  Once the bell rang I would take attendance and quickly check homework.  They would receive 2 points for full completion, 1 point for partial, or a zero for not doing it.  I usually had a student who was finished with their bellwork pass them back out.  I would then go over bellwork and any homework questions.

NOTE:  I am changing the way I start class this coming year.  I have been reading blogs today and really like how Mathy McMatherson does his bellwork.  I am still sitting on the fence about homework.  I have tried both extremes in the last 16 years but have not found the perfect solution yet.

I then introduced the lesson.  Because the students I had last year were blind-sided with a completely new method of learning we took baby steps.  If I thought it was a topic they would struggle with I made sure that the bellwork was made up with refresher problems.  This textbook does not look like a math book.  It looks more like an English book.  There is a lot of reading.  So we would all read the intro problem together.  I gave them guidance of where I wanted them to go and then had them work the problem with their group.  The majority of the class was spent having them work with their group.  I spent the time circulating, listening, asking and answering questions.  I did more prodding then directly answering questions, this was a mental shift for me.

The last 10 to 20 minutes were spent on closure.  This didn’t always mean that I was standing at the front of the room talking.  The book is designed so that they create presentations and talk to their peers.  These were informal to formal presentations.  

NOTE:  This summer I am going to take my old portable web cam and make my own “elmo” so the kids can use them to show their presentations.

The last thing I did was have them fill out an exit ticket.  They were not allowed out the door without handing this piece of paper to me.  I keep quarter sheets of paper (recycled old worksheets, etc) on every table.  I called them Thinkpads (Kagan) and this was what they put their exit ticket on.  During class change I stood in the hallway and separated them into right and wrong piles.  Those that were correct were stapled onto the bulletin board (one of their fav things) and I wrote feedback on the others and handed them back the next day.  I stressed that these where not for a grade.  And that if they copied then they were telling me that they understood the lesson and I didn’t need to help them.  My goal was to see who got it and who else needed more help.  They were allowed to ask for help but not to just copy.

Now all of this sounds great when I type it all up but it didn’t feel so great when I was living it.  There is many things that need improving.  And this year all the Algebra 2 teachers at all of our schools will be teaching with this book so that is lots of heads being put together.  Oh and our district is actually implementing the entire book series, 6-12, this year. It should be exciting.

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Standards Based Grading

I have been doing alot of blog reading since Thanksgiving.  I am teaching a new prep this semester and wanted something new to try.  I had read about SBG last summer but really started looking into it recently.  Well, I just gave my first assessment and it went great!

My first assessment (ASM) consisted of one thought provoking question from each lesson I have taught so far.  I told my class they will have an ASM every Thursday.  So Thursday night I didn’t grade their ASMs but I circled mistakes that they made.  On Friday I gave them a blank copy of Thursday’s ASM (shrunk onto one piece of paper).  We worked the entire thing together as a class.  I then gave them back their ASM’s that I had circled mistakes on.  (I also told them to put their pencils away so no one was tempted to change answers).  On notebook paper, using a pen, they had to explain to me why they got the problem wrong.  Then using a rubric I gave them, they had to tell me how many points they earned for each question.  This weekend I am going over their explanations and putting grades in my gradebook.  One grade for each question. We use PowerTeacher at my school and it automatically gives me a class average for each question.  I will use that info to reteach this coming week and put re-assessment questions on their next ASM.

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Saturday School

At our school Saturday School means you have gotten in trouble but not today! Two of our Algebra teachers and myself arrived at school this morning for a study session to prep for the State Test. And we had a great turn out! It was purely voluntary but many kids came to have questions answered before our big test on Tuesday. Very proud of our Mississippi students. They work very hard! Good luck to them on Tuesday.

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State Testing

Two of the most dreaded words.  State Test.  I’m not sure who dreads them more, the students or their teachers.  I understand the need to measure growth of our students but are we accomplishing what is needed to help these kids be successful outside of high school?

I have been reading many posts lately and am excited to find that other teachers out there are preparing students just like I am.  I am lucky enough to have a co-worker who thinks very much like me.  We believe that all students do not learn at the same pace!  What a thought!!  For the last five years we have been requiring students to remediate and retest if they do not earn a 70 or higher on their unit tests.  Most of what we do is very similar to SBG (standards based grading).  The big difference is we don’t break our gradebooks into standards.  But I love, LOVE, this idea!  For the last five years we have required that they remediate/retest the entire unit, even if they understood parts.  I like the idea of breaking it into parts.  Why didn’t we think of this before??

Next semester I am not teaching Algebra One.  A first in eight years.  Not sure how I feel about that yet.  I also have a student teacher for next semester.  I am going to take this opportunity to create SBG for my two preps; Algebra Two and Geometry.  I plan on reading many blogs in hopes of creating a great beginning for my SBG!

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Warmup Idea #1

Yesterday I taught my class how to solve quadratic equations.  When they entered my classroom today I tried a new approach to my warmups.  The following was written on my board:

Solve the following problem using any of the resources found in this room.  The only resources you may not use are me or my computer (computer was a verbal add-on because of a teenager found loop-hole, LOL).

2x2 – 5x = 3
where x = 3 and x = -1/2

1.  How does this problem look different from yesterday’s problems?
     How can you change it to look like yesterday’s?
2.  Don’t forget to use the “Over-Under Method”.
3.  Solve this problem using the Box Method.
     Solve this problem using the T-Chart Method.
4.  Is {-1/2, 3} a correct solution?

Before school I re-arranged my student tables so there were three in a group.  I told students they could sit wherever they wanted but to make wise choices.  It was interesting to see were they sat.  When they first started working on this warmup they either worked alone or with their table mates.  Some of them got out the individual dry erase boards to work on.  But eventually when they realized that I wasn’t going to help them (but I was circulating through the room) they started to branch out to others.  Some would go to one table, ask for help, and then go back to their table and explain to their table mates.  Once I felt that most of them had the correct answer I pulled them together as a class.  I told them that one of their resources would be to use the classroom dry erase board and ask someone to explain the work to them.  At this point several kids wanted to go up front and work the problem.

In my second block class I was moved to tears (well, almost!) when one of my students, who never does well, went up to the board with several others and explained how he did the problem.  A teacher’s dream come true!!!

Once I was sure that everyone understood the warmup problem I had them all log into the Navigator.  I posted three different problems (similar to the warmup) on my digital white board.  Each person in the group had to solve a different problem.  They worked their individual problems on dry erase boards at their table.  When they had an answer they had to type the equation and their answers on the home screen of their calculator.  I then used the Navigator to do a Get Screen and was able to print out the entire class’s individual answers on one piece of paper.  Below is an example of an individual student’s answer (it is the warmup).

I have them turn answers in electronically all the time.  It is the same thing as writting it on paper but they seem to think that there is more “magic” involved and they all do it and do it better!  Go Figure!

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