First Week (after two weeks)

Whoa. It’s hard to blog when struggling to survive. I am totally kicking myself for not getting anything done for planning during the summer. I can make a bunch of excuses, but it wouldn’t have been that hard to start planning more than a few days before the year started. Oh well..

After two weeks of school, I have mixed feelings about how things are going. I have started at a new school this year. I’m teaching two sections of Algebra II, and one section of College Algebra, Calculus, and remedial Algebra I. I am on an A-B block schedule, so I see each class every other day for 81 minutes at a time, except my Alg I class I see every day. I also have a 30 minute SRT (Student Resource Time) with a group of 12 freshmen every day. I am one of two math teachers in a school of 185 kids. I have a class sizes of 14, 24, 11, 9, and 18. In my remedial Algebra I class, I have some special education students , so I have a special education co-teacher. Every one of these things is new and exciting and scary.

We actually only had a four day week for the first week, so I saw each class twice. I planned the same things for all of my classes in the first week, and then in the second week we started content. I’m just gonna talk about the first week here, though.

When I started planning, I wanted to do Youcubed’s Week of Inspirational Math as well as show a video or two from Jo Boaler’s How to Learn Math for Students. I also had a bunch of other activities that I bookmarked/Evernote tagged and wanted to try. I got through about a third of all the stuff I planned. I even had pacing minutes that I wrote for myself, but I was nowhere close to correct in knowing how long it would take my students to do some of these activities. My pacing was off on every single one. And also, as I suspected, these activities took about twice as long in my Algebra I class and half as long in my calculus class. I also saw my Algebra I class twice as much this week

First, I gotta say that I started Day 1 super nervous because I wanted to try to do Glen Waddell’s High Fives. Some kids were confused when they saw me there the first day. But it was amazing! I loved the kids that didn’t notice at first, and then I gave an audible sigh or made a sad face to the next person and those kids came back to give me a high five. It really does create smiles for many more students than I believe I would have had. And it changes my attitude – I can’t help but smile! Even now, two weeks later, I have students that make sure to shift books into their other hand so they can give me a solid high five. Or I have kids that will have their hands full and go in first but then come out so they don’t miss a high five. I have a girl who always comes from the room right across the hall and usually makes it inside before I am able to get outside after my last class, so I usually give her a high five in my class before going to the door – she said on the first day that this happened “Man I was scared I was gonna miss my high five!” I love love love high fives. I will admit that I have one student that I haven’t gotten a high five from yet. He always comes to my door and puts his hand into his sleeve and says that he lost his hand. I usually say something like, “Well I hope you find it soon!” but I’m not sure exactly why he won’t high five. Maybe he’s just trying to be funny, maybe he’s against it for some reason, but I’m ready for the day he gives me that first high five. It will be epic.

I started each class with a name tent competition that I stole from Andrew Stadel. In my small school, anyone that is not a freshman already knows every name and most teachers know every students’ name besides freshmen. I only have one class with freshmen (Alg I – and only 2/3 are freshmen), but I started each class saying that I knew I was the newbie and had to try to learn everyone’s names. I had directions on the board for when the students walked in that said to pick up a piece of blank paper and sit anywhere, as long as it is next to someone. Most students in each class did not do this, so I gave them another minute after the bell to make sure they were following every single direction on the board. In most of my classes, I had to give another minute to get all the students ready. I was trying to establish the procedure that they should always read the board as they come in to know what to be ready for. I then had them start to make a name tent but after about ten seconds I said, “ugh…this is so booooooooring…can we make this more exciting? I want to have a contest. How about I give a prize to the person that makes the best name tent in the class!” I mostly received blank stares or faces like I was a crazy person. But after about 15 minutes, we had rules for the contest, had measured in groups, and had come up with a winner. I discovered that in each of my classes, except calculus, I had multiple students that did not know how to properly read a ruler, which was interesting…

I then went to Four Fours. I used the procedure from Youcubed’s Week of Inspirational Math. I had the class work in pairs and started to have them write solutions as they got them after everyone had found at least three solutions. I then made sure that the class knew that I was not checking to see that these groups were putting up correct solutions and that the class had to be monitoring the work that went on the board. The pictures are from all of my classes. My calculus class was the only one that finished within 30 minutes. In the other classes, I had a lull after about 45 minutes and decided to switch gears. I then was able to have a discussion about what makes good group work and what we are going to be experiencing in class. I wanted to convey the message that we will be working in groups every day and that the class is a group of its own. We are all in this learning process together. I also wanted to make sure the students knew that mistakes were ok and my classes were all pretty good about respectfully correcting each other.

In my calculus class, I was also able to do the Noah’s Ark task from Julie and Fawn. I had them in pairs and it was really interesting to see the problem solving strategies. They eventually all got it after about 15 minutes. I was able to have multiple students explain their reasoning (some used a system of equations and some used balancing methods, and there were other strategies).

In every class, I showed the first two videos from Jo Boaler’s How to Learn Math for Students at the end of class. I then had an exit slip that asked them about their previous experiences in math – good and bad. I received some pretty interesting feedback on how my students felt about math.

In all of my classes, I received a lot of push back from students as soon as I started Four Fours. I was not ready for that. They were not ready to do math on their first day. It was kind of disheartening. My freshmen actually were ok about it, probably because they have never experienced high school before, but my sophomores through seniors were very vocal about not being happy to do Four Fours. I also had mixed feelings about How to Learn Math because, while my younger students took it well, my older students just did not take it seriously.

So Day 1 – mixed emotions. Some great things, some not so great things.

On Day 2, each class still did the same thing. I started with a Webquest. I got the idea from Julie again. I expected it to take about 20 minutes, but in all classes but calculus it took about 45.  My school just went 1-1 Chromebooks and all have a Google account from the school. It has students bookmark and explore my website, send me an email so that it creates a contact, take a pre-class survey, and send an email to their parent that contained a survey similar to what I saw Sarah do for her parents. Some students were not able to email their parents and that was ok. After they were done, I had them play some math games that I had linked on my website, including to oh-so-addicting Game About Squares, until every student was done. My favorite responses in my survey were from the questions, “What is one thing that your previous teachers would tell me about you?” and “What is one thing that your friends would tell me about you?”

I then started going through the Week of Inspirational Math’s Visualizing Numbers tasks. Doing a dot number talk was awesome. Students were really great about listening to everyone’s thoughts and were more willing to do math on this day. I wish I would have started with this activity on Day 1 because it feels less like math and more like a conversation.

Here are pictures from my Calculus and then one of my Algebra II classes.

In my calculus class, I was able to do Dan’s Personality Coordinates. It was tough but it was fun! I wish I was able to do it with my other classes.


In Day 2, the students were more receptive to the next video from How to Learn Math.

I did have some extra time in my Algebra I class since I saw them more, so I was able to do a few more activities. One was Spaced Out from Kathryn at Restructuring Algebra – did not go great. Students were very content with just being close to the same length apart. It was difficult to get them to try to get them exactly right. Only one group made it to Level 3 in 45 minutes, and it was really just one student with the partner not too interested. Also, after seeing how the students measured and said measurements in the Name Tent Competition, I showed the Italian Job scene that Dan Meyer posted and had a good discussion. We also did Tile Pile from Desmos, and I loved it. I had never used Desmos before in class and I loved being able to show the class what everyone did on the first question of making the tiles fit, and also being able to share random student responses. Another activity was 31-derful from Sarah at Everybody is a Genius and only one group finished in the 45 minutes I gave them, but they all were still trying. I praised the class for persevering and they wanted more time, but the bell rang.

J’espère que mes activités prépareront mes étudiants pour une bonne année!

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Mindset Moment List

Jessica from algebrainiac.wordpress.com asked about my Mindset Moment videos that I used in my Daily Warm Up Routine last year and I figured I would share my list with everyone.

As a recap, once or twice a month I would offer a “Mindset Moment” video to my students on a Friday as their warm up. After watching the video, all I would ask every time is, “What did you think is the message in this Mindset Moment video? What is your one big takeaway?” I was always very impressed with the reflection that my students gave. Sometimes they saw what I had intended, and sometimes they saw a different, but equally important, message. I don’t remember the order that I showed them in, and in the last week of school I ended up showing a bunch because…well…it was the end of school and grades were already posted and we were just there because of snow days.

Disclaimer: Some of these are admittedly more meaningful than others (and some aren’t really “mindset” per se but just inspirational). Some of them are actually commercials and I would stop or start the videos at certain points, or tell them that I do not in any way endorse this product. Some (one) of them has a swear in the title so I had to work some magic to get the title not to show.

  1. Famous Failures
  2. Kid President Pep Talk
  3. Michael Jordan Failure
  4. Where is Matt?
  5. Spider Man Funny
  6. The Power of Words
  7. Lead India Tree
  8. Trust Your Power
  9. Minion Teamwork
  10. Steve Jobs Speech
  11. Time You Have in Jelly Beans
  12. This I Believe Crayons
  13. How to Start a Movement
  14. Ashton Kutcher Speech (started a minute in)
  15. Power of Yet Janelle Monae Sesame Street
  16. Mr. Holland’s Opus Clarinet Scene
  17. Derek Redmond Olympic Sprint
  18. People Stuck on an Escalator vs. Beagle Going for the Chicken Nugget a la Sara’s Persistence work in week 1

Do you have any others you also show? After listing these again I’ve realized that a good chunk really aren’t mindset videos but they have a message nonetheless.

Merci pour l’inspiration de ce sujet!

Time Off

So I’ve been pretty silent the last couple weeks. I’ve been doing many things:

  • Band camp tech for boyfriend’s drumline – 2 week band camp 8am-5pm (plus getting there early and staying way way late to do band director duties with him)
  • Moving into new place – it finally looks like real people live here!

Ok that’s not that much, but basically the last two weeks I’ve woken up at 6 and gotten home around 10, done an hour or so of work on the house we’re renting, and gone to bed. Monday was the first day off from band camp (gotta love weekend performances) and I had my first workshop at my new school. I met 14 teachers – about half the teaching staff. It was a workshop on setting up Google Classroom and how to Google effectively in the classroom, run by the school’s tech team of a few teachers. I actually really liked it – I already knew a lot about using Google, although I’ve never used Google Classroom, but I got to talk with the other teachers and ask questions and answer questions. When they hear I’m coming from the Chicago suburbs, they all say “Wow why are you coming here?!” and then “Oh that makes sense…you’re going to love the students here. They are so great to have.” And when I say they all say that, I mean every single person made a comment about the students. Every single one. I hope they’re right!

I also started working on my classroom and getting things set up. The first day of school for all students is Tuesday. I found out a few things:

  • I have no service in the school. My phone just says “No Service” – not even an E or anything. I guess AT&T hasn’t reached this small town yet. So I immediately thought about how my dreams of using Plickers were shattered. But after talking to the tech guy and the principal, we are either going to put my phone or my iPad on the school’s wifi. Yay! I’m so glad I have people at the school that are willing to work with me on this.
  • I will have a student in my Algebra I class that cannot look at screens. I guess she can have seizures. The school is going to be 1-1 Chromebooks and every projector was uninstalled this summer and replaced by a big LCD monitor. I plan to use the Chromebooks a lot (Desmos, Forms, NCTM Illuminations applets, etc), will be using ALEKS a couple days a week, and still planned on doing a variation of my Daily Warm Up routine from before, so this worries me. The girl’s case manager, who will also be coteaching with me for that class, says that we will have to print out everything we do on the Chromebooks. The teacher said it will just have to be the girl’s responsibility to not look at the screen, but I should still use it like I was going to. The teacher said that for my warm ups, she can run to the printer at the start of class and just have the page printed. Is it bad that I’m already worried about this girl in class? I’m scared for her in my class if I do all the things I wanted to do, and I’m scared to use the Chromebooks or the screen.
  • I met one of my Algebra I students. She moved into this district from a very big school nearby and was taking a tour of the school. She has a baby. It brought me to realize that my students here will have much different responsibilities outside of school. They won’t all have kids, but many are on farms and will have responsibilities on the farms. I’ve heard that most of my upperclassmen will work after or before school. I will need to keep this in mind when assigning work. However, I’ve also heard that the students are very focused on school and will want to do well in school.

I’m very excited to start and also very nervous. I still have a lot of planning to do and work in my room.

Je vais etre prête pour mardi. Je vais etre prête pour mardi. Je vais etre prête pour mardi.