Soft Skills: Encouraging Perseverance #MTBoSBlogsplosion

I kinda got really busy over winter break and didn’t read or write anything, even though I had every intention to. I missed Week 1 from https://exploremtbos.wordpress.com/, but I’ll start up again with Week 2:

So after reading through the list of soft skills prompts, I’ve confirmed to myself that I still have to work on soft skills. I fully believe that once I have my own children I will get better at this, but I still wish I was better right now. But there is one thing I am doing much better at this year: encouraging perseverance. And it’s all because of Alex and Sara.

So I’ve always talked about in the beginning of the year how everyone has the ability to do math and all the growth mindset stuff and then I would just never talk about it again. I’d have kids give up and then say something like “Don’t give up! Keep trying!” and they’d roll their eyes and pretend to keep working for a few minutes. And I still have my Mindset Moment List, but that’s just one day every so often. But this year has been different.

The first thing that was different was that I started using Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces and Horizontal Non-Permanent Surfaces. Alex did a great TMC16 presentation about Flow and using VNPS, so I built my own white boards to use with the few in my classroom and my students have been using them. I wrote about it here. Dry erase is such a great tool for encouraging making mistakes and perseverance. I used to think pencils and erasers were the best, but now I think dry erase is the best. My students typically pick up some markers (or bring their own) at the beginning of class so they can write everything they practice on their desks.

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The other things that’ve helped for perseverance are two videos. Sara posted about a Week of Persistence where she showed a video about people stuck on an escalator and a beagle going after a chicken nugget. I showed these right at the start of second quarter before we were going to start factoring. I tweeted about the effects:

Just like Sara, I have these posters up in my room at each end of my Promethean Board and reference them often. I love hearing other students encourage their peers to “get off the escalator!”

File: Scale Of Persistence.pptx    Scale Of Persistence.pdf

I just started my new semester and get some new students and keep some of the same. I’m hoping I’ll have the same results as last semester.

J’espère m’améliorer mon enseignement des qualités personnelles.

Visible Random Grouping – #VRG

Visible Random Grouping was another thing I’d been intrigued about since a little before I went to a PCMI-TLP Weekend session last year. I really like the idea of visible random grouping – you show the students that you’re giving them random seating, they see that nobody has a label in the classroom and everyone can work with everyone.

My first week of school I tried this. It did not go well. Not because of the random grouping part – that’s actually great. It was more the method. I was using the Super Teacher Tools Group Maker and it was just so hard for students to know which seat is actually theirs. But then my biggest issue is the kids that need to be up close because they can’t see or different requirements from 504 plans. So then I tried the notecards with the names and tried to keep the ones on the bottom that had to be in certain spots. But then it just took too long if I did it in front of them, and if I did it before they walked in they would just change the cards to sit wherever they want. I also just couldn’t really get the special seating stuff to work right.

Then I had a conversation with Joel about a Random Seating Chart with Excel and it changed my world.

I basically do the same as him, except I made a few students have the formula =rand()+randbetween(1,4) so that it kinda keeps them from being too far away (it’s not perfect, but it’s helpful). I showed the students at the beginning how it worked and told them that I take the first one that comes up as long as people who need to be in certain desks are in them. The kids were satisfied with that. 

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-6-39-07-pm(I hide the columns that have the random numbers before I print them out)

seating-arrangementThis was my very rough draft of where the numbers had to go to make the numbers work for all my class numbers and my classroom, and ended up being used all semester by the other teacher that is in my room to get the desks in the right spot after his class. Joel and @HowardKiyuna also helped me with my desk arrangement so that the desks are pinwheeled. Update: I got rid of the numbers and now just do Group A, B, C, etc. Makes it much easier for the kids to get to their seats and they still feel like they have some choice in the matter. Only had to fix things a few times with corner people not working with the group they butted up against or something. So it now looks like this:

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Note: The random number does not tell me what group the student is in – it’s the sort that puts them in the group. I sort it A-Z by the Random column.

I just have to print out the seat numbers every Monday morning and the kids find their seat for the week. It’s pretty nice. Students (mostly) all knew each other’s names by the end of the quarter because they’d sat with almost everyone. Kids actually worked together. There really weren’t ever moments where the students felt like they were part of the “smart group” or “slow group”- the whole breaking down barriers actually happened! Some kids did indicate on their end-of-semester survey that they thought it was annoying to have to move every week and to maybe make it less often, but this seemed to be more of a laziness issue. It was nice that when some students griped about their seat on Monday, I (or another student) could say, “Well it’s only for five days.” Overall, Visible Random Grouping is a big plus for my class.

But of course I just can’t be fully satisfied. Here are things I still need to figure out:

  • Is there a better way to get kids that need to be in certain seats to be in those seats? I’d love to not feel like I was cheating when I have to redo it. I was also thinking that I’d also like to show them the process on Fridays, maybe. I might have to do some Google Sheet extension searching. I feel like there has to be a better way. I tried to have all the kids be =randbetween(1,28) and then just the special ones as =randbetween(1,6) or something like that, but it doesn’t always work, either.
  • How do I get it so that kids don’t just move to where they want in the middle of the week? I think this is an issue with me more than anything – I need to be more diligent about noting where students are supposed to sit for the week. I never really wrote it down, and I never really fully memorized where everyone should have been. I really don’t want to have to come up with consequences for not sitting in their seats, especially because it was only a few frequent flyers that did this. The worst were the kids that removed the stickers from the desks that had the numbers while I was giving high fives in the hallway.
  • How do I get students to not mess with the stickers (aka post-its with tape over them)??? I actually only replaced the stickers twice over the semester but I had to do a few more touch ups to numbers.
  • Is weekly the way to go? I don’t have a real reason for weekly other than the fact that 5 days seems pretty manageable if you’re in a seat that is not ideal for you.
  • How do I get it so that students actually know who they’re sitting with before Wednesday or even Thursday? With the amount of absences I have, there are usually one or two kids that even are coming in Wednesday for the first time and finding their seat. And that could sometime kind of kill the whole group vibe. It also pretty much makes it so that I have to do my absent student sheets, and next semester I’m going to try to actually get the students to do them again. Update: yeah that didn’t happen.

I feel like my posts are seeming more and more needy and ask-for-help-y, but your comments have been gold, so I’m not gonna stop. Sorry not sorry.

Le groupement aléatoire vraiment améliore ma classe.

Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces #VNPS

So my #1TMCThing after this summer was to use Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (#VNPS) more in class. I had gone to Alex ‘s @AlexOverwijk session and was really looking forward to using the white boards I had made, which I don’t think I ever blogged about.

This summer I was trying to make white boards since my room at my old school only had one wall with white board on it. No hardware store around me had any idea what shower board was. So I spent a little more money and bought some plywood and dry erase paint, had Home Depot cut the wood for us, and we got to work. My boyfriend and I were in the middle of doing this when my landlord started mowing the lawn, so there are some spots where grass clippings got on it. There were also a lot of bug carcasses. If you ever do this yourself, maybe in a garage or somewhere you can keep things off of it for a while would be better. Also, paint the boards plain white first, then put the dry erase paint on it.

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At the beginning of the year, when I was not into the content yet and still doing beginning of the year activities, I used these a lot.

First I used them at the groups as a big dry erase surface that was just a tad better than their desks because it’s hard to hold all the cards for 31-derful on the desks that are slightly slanted and only kinda fit together. I did have students that wrote on the boards but I guess I only got the one pic on the top left.

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Then for a while I was having groups up at the boards, usually just for routine practice. (Man this was back when my desks were still in rows on 8/11. Those were dark days.)2016-08-11 12.11.48.jpg

Then I kind of fell off the VNPS train…until last week! In my Math Lit class (a prerequisite class to the first math class at the community college), the students were wrapping up learning about solving equations and had a lesson that was all about modeling a situation with equations. The students are used to a word problem or two in each lesson, but this was all word problems from start to finish. As you might expect, the students were pretty uneasy about this. But I had them go with their groups to the white boards and they worked up to the bell on trying to solve all the problems. Group one took my directions a little to seriously about not erasing.

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This also happened to be a day where I was being observed. My assistant principal echoed my thoughts:

  • It was great to see that every student contributed to the group’s effort at least once throughout the period
  • It was so easy to see what the groups were doing the entire time
  • It was great that you could see the group that was struggling and send over a helper from a group that was excelling without really losing any flow in the class
  • Groups wanted to keep going – nobody was sitting back and letting the others do the work, and no group gave up
  • It was great to hear groups say things like “This is making my head hurt,” or “Why didn’t you tell us that?!” but they kept going.

I love this class because they are a perfect example of 19 students who will persevere 100% of the time. They also confirm why VNPS is a great practice for the classroom. I can’t wait to use it more. I just need to find the right problems.

Quand les étudiants utilisent les tableaux blancs, le cours est meilleur.

Pens I Love #MTBoS30

I’m not one of those people that goes crazy in an office supply store, but I do have some pens that I love having.

I used to love the multi-pen, but when all my ink ran out on all of them I saw someone tweet about these erasable pens and I couldn’t handle my excitement! Like my students actually were commenting about how I talked too much about my pens. I make so many mistakes writing but I know color is nice and pencil doesn’t show up well under a document camera, so this was perfect. They also write almost as nice as the Pilot Gel pens (which I got from @numerzgal in the #MTBoS School Supply Swap and also absolutely loved!). I do miss having all my colors in one pen, but the erasing makes up for that loss. I just have to invent the multi-pen with an eraser and I’m all set.

I also started using the Sharpie Highlighters that I got from Reddit Teacher Gifts after my other highlighters ran out and I also love those! However, I do wish they were a little wider.

Yeah, I know I’m the crazy one who posts about pens now.

Je ne suis pas si folle, je le jure!

Student Unit Reflections #MTBoS30

In my school, there is a “Portfolio” that students need to graduate. I don’t really know much about what it was before, but this year was the first year that students had 5% of their class grade based on a “Portfolio Reflection”. Students were to reflect on their progress in class and pick at least one item each semester that demonstrates their growth in that class.

First semester, pretty much every teacher had students do this at the end of the semester on top of all their studying for finals and it was a bit of a mess. I had already been doing a unit reflection and got comments from students like, “We do a lot of reflections in this class!” and “Which reflection do I have to do?” So I asked my principal and he agreed that my unit reflections satisfied the Portfolio Reflection piece as long as I make some modifications.

So, for second semester I changed up a few questions to make them more aligned with the portfolio requirement and also made them each worth 5% of the points in the unit (next year: grade setup with categories instead of total points). Occasionally, I would ask additional questions specific to the unit. One time I asked Kate Nowak’s “What is 1 radian?” and “What is 1 degree?” and that was real fun watching them squirm 🙂 I asked another time “What would you tell a new student to help them remember the quadratic formula?” I didn’t grade these very hard – students pretty much got full credit if they answered all the questions in complete sentences.

Here’s an example of one of my reflections: Algebra II Trig Unit Reflection

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I do like having a reflection piece and have especially liked having students write about math in complete sentences. Because it’s hard for them. But it’s good for them. I plan to continue this next year.

C’est important de réfléchir dans chaque classe, à mon avis.

Remind #MTBoS30

I’m still curious on the best way to use Remind for class. I was only able to get one class to fully sign up – my Calculus class that had only 8 students. The problem is that anyone that has AT&T (myself included) doesn’t get any service in the school, so I couldn’t get students to all sign up at school. Not that all of them would, anyway. But some did choose to get email notifications or get the app on their phone for notifications.

I used Remind primarily to tell students to not forget to study for tomorrow’s quiz/test or that a big project was due tomorrow. Sometimes I’d send out something about a homework problem. I also used it for National Honor Society to remind them to do something or ask them to check something.

At the beginning of the year I had the chat feature turned off because I thought it was a little creepy and thought the kids would abuse it. Later I turned it on because our school started doing Academic Detentions. So another teacher said she did this and it helped me – If I had a big assignment and Johnny hadn’t turned it in and it was already a few days late, I would sent a chat message to Johnny saying something like “If I don’t get assignment X from you by Friday, you will be receiving an Academic Detention”. I only had to give two Academic Detentions all year! It was also great to be able to communicate with my National Honor Society officers quickly when I needed to know something. Now I think about the chat feature like this – I am totally fine with students sending me emails and I’ll respond to them at all hours of the day, so what’s different about this chat feature on Remind? Students check their phone much more than their email, and no students ever complained.

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What do you use Remind for?

Je ne sais pas la meilleure raison pour utiliser Remind.

Calculator Check Out #MTBoS30

At the start of the year, I was given 5 TI-82s and 4 TI-83s to use as a class set. The other math teacher at my school had about the same for her classroom. When my principal came in to see my first observation, he noticed that that was a problem. My students were never asked to have their own calculators since middle school, so very few had more than a TI-30X. I guess students used to be able to check out calculators from the library but that wasn’t happening anymore. So my principal used a grant to get us some TI-84s right before second semester started! He got us 33 TI-84s and we still had 34 TI-83s and 20 TI-82s that worked that we could split. The Physics teacher also asked if he could have some. I put my class set into one of these shoe organizer things to keep track of my class set and none got lost! The other math teacher only lost 3 from her maternity leave between the two subs, so I’d call that a minor success!

We split up the calculators but there were some TI-83s and TI-82 left over after we had a class set for each of us. With the extra ones, I made a calculator check out form for students that wanted to take them home. I used the Add-On “CheckItOut” and it is incredible! I put the link to the form on my website and had kids fill it out when they were checking them out so it was easy to see who had what calculator. And they all came back by the end of the year! Woo! The librarian was impressed.

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Maintenant nous devrons simplement trouver les trois calculatrices manquantes!