An Ordinary Day in My Class

My class structure has been much nicer this year compared to my first year teaching. Well, it had a structure. So that’s a plus. There are still things I wish were different looking back, but I was pretty happy overall. Math in my school is blocked so I have 75 minutes with each class every day. If you walked into my classroom on a random day, it is likely you would observe:

  1. Students walk into the room with a message on the board to pick up their exit slip that I have left comments on and take out their Daily Warm Up Sheet. By the time the bell rings, they *should* be in their seats with their Daily Warm Up Sheet out. The “Focus Question” is written on the board as well.
  2. Daily Warm Up for that day. [5 min]
  3. My Favorite No from one of their exit slips. I project a picture of one (or sometimes a compilation of many) exit slip and block out the name. Students discuss good things this student did and what this student could have improved in their work. [5 min]
  4. Homework questions – I circulate the room checking homework for completeness while students check their answers that I project on the board. Afterward I ask the class if there were any problems they still couldn’t get after checking. Students answer each others’ questions with hopefully little scaffolding from me. [5-10 min]
  5. Launch to lesson – My school uses CMP3 so there is always a Launch provided in the teacher’s edition. Sometimes this consists of reviewing what they did in the previous unit. Usually it involves setting the context for the problem (a bike tour or picnic or some other *real world* situation with characters with purposely hard-to-pronounce names). [5 min]
  6. Student work time – This is the bulk of the time in class. It is always in partners or groups that change by investigation or by week or by day or by whenever I felt like changing. I tried to never leave students with that partner or group for more than a week at a time. Students are working to complete a worksheet or a problem in their book. CMP is really discovery-based so the problems usually start pretty simple and then get increasingly more difficult. All students are expected to call me over when they have finished a certain amount of the problem (“Raise your hand when you’ve worked through Part C”) and then the rest of the problem is usually more advanced and can be an extension. [30-35 min]
  7. Summary – Class discussion about certain parts of the problem and the focus question. [10-15 min]
  8. Exit Slip – Directly related to the focus question or reflection on the lesson. [5 min]
  9. Students turn in their exit slips as they leave the room when I dismiss them.

This worked pretty well. I am lucky to have so long with the kids every day because I can really fit in my different procedures but I do also have to make sure that somewhere in there is a little movement/brain break for the kids. Seventy-five minutes is a really long time to be sitting for 11 and 12 year olds. But usually that break is when they are moving to get to their partner/group. I try to make sure every student is getting up, even if it is just to stand and sit back down because their partner is coming to them.

I’ll write more about what I’d like to change next year in another post.

Ma classe a un système compliqué mais c’est bon pour moi et mes étudiants.

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Reflecting on the Week

So this was the last week of all days of instruction.  Next week we have three days, Thurs 6th grade math-ish competition day, Fri 6th grade Field Day, and then the next week Mon Zoo Field Trip and Tues Last Day of School Fun.  So I feel like it was kind of busy, at least in my head.  The kids have thought every week was the last week since PARCC Testing finished.

Highlights:

  • Monday: Participated in my first Twitter chat #msmathchat
  • Tuesday: Dan Meyer tweets my warm up routine and all of a sudden my Twitter and Blog blow up.  I feel like a big of a celeb, a handful of colleagues notice and say I’m cool. 🙂
  • Wednesday: I present that warm up routine to the New to District Math PLC in our last meeting.  Receive great feedback and may have convinced a few new teachers to use some of the awesome activities out there (sent Lisa Bejarno’s Filing Cabinet out to the group, too)
  • Wednesday: Found out my proposal was accepted to talk about these warm up activities at ICTM’s Annual Conference in October!
  • Thursday: Meet with a parent and principal about concerns with her twins’ math placement for next year.  She says that it’s unfortunate that the school and I want her kids to be standardized in order to think that they are good enough for acceleration.  Makes me think about how I can encourage all students to think outside the box but still try to articulate their thoughts.  I tried to explain that it’s not all about the correct answer.  It’s about being able to explain to someone else the process and trying to see the problem through multiple lenses.  I’m not sure if anything got through to this parent but it opened my eyes to a perspective that I need to be aware of from parents.  It’s unfortunate that it is so ingrained into parents’ and students’ minds that the answer is everything in math.  It’s also unfortunate that math acceleration is so sought out but it isn’t always what’s best for the student – students can still be challenged by good teachers wherever they are placed.  I’m not saying I’m great at this (definitely not) but I think it’s possible.
  • Friday: Decided to play Pandora in the second half of all of my classes while they were working on their Data Project.  I just had it shuffle Top Hits, Radio for Kids, Classic Rock, and Pop Rock and made sure not to allow explicit content.  The kids mostly enjoyed it.  I got some comments that a CCR song was just not real music, and others about how new music gives them a headache.  You can’t please everyone.  But it was a nice way to change it up after 3.5 days of straight independent study work.

With all the excitement this week, I’m looking forward to this summer planning to make my 3rd year teaching way better.  I’ll post soon about goals and changes for next year.  I am excited to blog over the summer, too!

L’été, quand je me détends et pense continuellement de mes étudiants à venir!

Independent Study Unit – Data

Our last unit of the year with the new curriculum is about data – collecting, visualizing, and analyzing.  We were caught a little off guard by all the testing days and different things taking out class time, so by the time we got to this last unit we had 12 days to cover what was supposed to take 23.  In discussions with one of my colleagues, we realized we could not spend days on quizzes and unit tests (are those really going to help them this late in the year anyway???) and we remembered loving the project that goes with this unit.  Kids had to find five characteristics of the “typical” sixth grader at our school.  So, we planned an independent study unit based on this project.

We made 20 worksheets and a checklist for every student.  They had to get 18 out of 20 done to get an A on their project.  Answer keys are in there so they check their own work or have a friend check.  As the teacher, I am just walking around the room monitoring.  They keep all of their work in a folder that I keep in class – so no homework and the folder never leaves the room, so *hopefully* no lost papers either.

The first day, we went through what makes a good question and the types of data we could get.  The second day, we were typing questions into a survey format so that the next day the teachers could print out 50 surveys for each kid (sorry trees but we couldn’t figure out how Google Forms would work with making sure 50 people took your survey).  On that third day, all the sixth graders who were in that period of math gathered outside and had to take and collect surveys.  Day four is coming up and this is where it gets real – kids will need to collect data and learn about how to visualize and analyze it so that they could present at the end what the “typical” sixth grader would say to their questions.  We’re not sure they are going to get every worksheet done.  They might not learn every single goal that CMP wanted them to learn, but we also know that they get pretty much a repeat of this in 7th grade so we’re not all that worried about it.

We’ll see if things go how we planned.  The kids are seeming to really enjoy the format.  So far only one student is really behind because she could not work productively during class.  I expected way more to have a hard time with this format.  I think the fact that they are really the owners of all of their work is helping them so far.

  

Quand on possède son travail, on aime son travail.

Students’ Daily Warm Ups

For the last few weeks I’ve given the option for students to submit their own daily warm ups.  I did offer extra credit for it, but I’m thinking now that I probably would have only missed out on a few had I not offered the extra credit.  It’s been great seeing extra student engagement and ownership.  All I required students to do was share the picture/video that they used, answer that box from their sheet, and write a paragraph about why that would be a good warm up for that day.

Wednesday Questions was the first to fill up and I still have a couple Tuesday Patterns and one Thursday Would You Rather left open.  I know some students had started thinking about those but haven’t gotten their work yet.  My favorite was that a student submitted a picture of a belt on top of a towel on the ground for Wednesday Questions.  This inspired the comment from another student, “Jeeze, it’s like you can make a mathematical question for anything!”  Love it!

The end of the year is winding down and I think this has also kept my class from fizzling out on the Daily Warm Ups.  I have been getting the typical questions since we finished testing of “Why are we still learning?” and “Can’t we just go outside?” but students come into class still wanting to see the warm ups submitted by their classmates.  Yay for wanting (at least a little) to still do math!

J’aime quand un étudiante remarque quelque chose que j’ai essayé de montrer toute l’année!

Daily Warm Up Routine

Edit: This was my first post about warm ups. I’ve posted more about them here, here, here…or just go to the tag Warm Up.

I experimented this year with my daily warm up routine.  I have had the following routine for warm ups since the beginning of the year: Monday Estimation, Tuesday Patterns, Wednesday Questions, Thursday Would You Rather, Friday Choice.  I print out a sheet that the students keep for two weeks.  This is the worksheet I use (I used to have a cool font for the days but when my computer died I lost that and now I can’t remember what it was): Daily Warm Up Sheet

Monday Estimation is always taken from Andrew Stadel’s Estimation 180.  Sometimes there are themes that span multiple weeks.  I started the percent error part about a third of the way through the year once we had learned about what a percent is.  I’m disappointed in the fact that I still have to remind my students how to find percent error.  Next year I may start it right away and just spend some time talking about what it means – I’ll be a little behind at first but I’ll make it up in the end.

Tuesday Patterns is all from Fawn Nguyen’s Visual Patterns.  I feel like this is the least accessible day – I still have some students that just give up after drawing the next step.  I think to fix this I could use more random selecting of participants from the beginning so that all students are used to participating.  I need to stress more that the way students see the pattern is just as important as the formula.  I have many students who want to be the first one to give the formula but that makes the rest of the class feel like their thoughts are no longer useful.

Wednesday Questions is always from Dan Meyer’s 101 Questions.  I think this is most students’ favorite day.  They love seeing the images or videos and finding something mathematical to ask about it.

Thursday Would You Rather is usually from John Steven’s Would You Rather? Blog.  I think this is my favorite.  I am always amazed at the reasoning I hear from students for both sides.  I do not limit them to mathematical reasons.  I think that if I did that, I wouldn’t have as many students even try to come up with an answer and reason.  With that said, most students do find a mathematical reason.

Friday Choice is where I give the students a choice on what they have for the warm up.  They vote with Plickers.  Sometimes it’s a warm up from a day that was missed that week (I am so surprised by how many weeks really don’t have 5 full days of instruction), and sometimes I offer Mindset Moment, Talking Points, or Math Talks.  Mindset Moment is where I show a short video that conveys a message about mindset.  Students are asked to reflect on the video afterwards.  I only offer this once or twice a month because this will get picked just about every time.  Talking Points is where I give them a few statements and they need to talk to a partner about whether they both agree or disagree, or are undecided between the two.  Math talks could be anything really – this is the least picked item and I attribute this to the fact that I didn’t really differentiate it from how I do Tuesday Patterns.  I know more for next year.

The best thing about Fridays is also the reflection piece.  I ask what they’ve learned and what they can improve upon, which is sometimes helpful for the students and me.  But the one good thing has made me feel so connected to my students.  I allow three students to share each Friday and this also started about halfway through the year.  I learn so much about my students this way.

Les étudiants pensent des maths chaque jour.