Monthly Archives: August 2016

My Favorite Test Question

Flipping my Calculus classroom has been quite the adventure in the first three weeks. I love that my students are engaging with my videos and we can spend so much more time practicing instead of taking notes. I’ve also been able to prioritize building culture – if that’s weird drawings, bad puns or my greeting of “Hello” – which some students are obsessed with. Flipping my class allows me to be me a little more easily because I feel that I have time and I’m looking at how every person and group is working on mathematics

This culture has bled into our first test – I added my new favorite test question. I read about this somewhere on the #MTBoS in the past year

“7. Draw a picture of an elephant in/on a spaceship”

Below, are my favorites:

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Day in the Life: August 8th

This year, I’m part of an #MTBoS community recording the  days of our lives. Follow us throughout our journey at #DITLife.

Monday, August 8th 2016, our sixth day of school

5 am: Wake up, shower, pack lunch eat breakfast. During breakfast I was reading through blogs on feedly and read about a practice routine I wanted to implement later in the year. I made a mental note to record it in my planning binder on my desk later that day (Triples by E. Miller)

6:07 – Leave and drive to school. I have been leaving unnecessarily early since I’ve moved across town…in part because I forgot when I woke up last year and I’m waking up earlier. Not mad about it

6:30 – I arrived at school and set up for the week by organizing papers and copy all the work for the week for AP Calculus.

6:45-7 I had a meeting with our Director of External Affairs about a grant for our robotics team we are starting this year.

At 7:20 I headed to my room to set up and get ready for the day. Good news – our school was doing NWEA MAP assessments in math classes Monday and Tuesday so I didn’t have lessons to plan for. Bad news – my first period changed to an Algebra 2 class so we could split a larger course and make better use of our man power in the department.

During the morning, most of my day was preparing and proctoring the test with all three of my classes. However, a few highlights stand out. I heard back right away about our grant – earning us $750 to get started. Then, a generous donor doubled our funding – giving our fledgling team $1500 within 6 days of school. I also connected our new assistant principal to Students Today Leaders Forever – the group we organized our spring trips through last year so they could begin a conversation.

After three periods, at 10:56, my lunch period begins (and my first bathroom break). Only four teachers have first lunch and two of us chill together in the work room. We chatted about our weekend and also about our student she had in the morning – R. He wasn’t being too successful in english class and I was wondering if it would transfer to my class.

At 11: 28 our lunch ends and we meet with our advisory – which for me is all 13 of our sophomore boys. We passed out grade reports (that were mostly blank after just the first week of school) and behavior reports (also mostly blank which is a good thing). The boys then balled up their reports and started playing trashketball – and eventually it got out of hand so I had to put an end to that.

12:00 – 4th period begins, which is statistics for me. They began their MAP test and I input grades.

1:01 – Fourth period ends, planning period begins. I chatted with our Principal about moving a few more students into my very small (11 student) Algebra 2 section – the week before we planned on moving 15. Turns out that there were more gridlocks than we thought but we identified some key students to see if we could move them. We did find two students that are both in my advisory and had been in my class before that we could move to improve culture in our class. I then went to my room and prepped for all the AP Calculus videos for my flipped class for the week, waiting for sixth hour to begin.

2:10 – sixth period begins. It began fine…then at about 2:40 the chromebooks went hay-wire and started turning on accessibility features like high contrast and zooming in. I was able to fix it for some but most of our momentum went out the window. I closed down the test session and hoped we could fix it for the next day. I didn’t have students plug in computers – which was a bad call – and I did it instead.

I also had a small incident with the student my colleague and I chatted about during lunch – he isn’t meeting our expectations and is distracting others. I moved his seat right in front of me and I probably wound’t have done that without that brief check in during lunch.

3:10 students are dismissed. I created and uploaded videos for calculus onto our course website. I also added the practice strategy I read about earlier in the day to my planning binder.

4:20 I left school for the post office. Turns out, they close at 4:30 and I was a few minutes late because of after school traffic from the larger high school nearby. I couldn’t get stamps to send in a bill – but I did drop off my early voting ballot for the fall primary.

5:00 Made it back to my apartment and finished the West Wing – watching the end of season 7. I warmed up dinner (I’ve become a Sunday cooker)  and watched Olympic swimming from 6 until 8. During my Olympic adventure, a student who transferred into Calculus emailed about how he didn’t have access for the homework assignment. I gave him an alternate assignment via email for him to complete and told him that assignment we’d make sure he had access to the next day.

8:30 – I went to bed and continued reading my book. By 9 p.m. I was asleep 🙂

Reflection Questions:

  1. Today didn’t have too many instructional decisions because it was all computer based testing. The one decision I was able to quickly and efficiently come to was sorting through and temporarily resolve the computer issues. I had to use lots of management skills, calm students and also try to figure out what was happening. While students didn’t respond perfectly, there wasn’t nearly as much chaos as there would have been earlier in my career.
  2. One big thing I’m looking forward to this year is our robotics team. The mentor last year didn’t get it started but we have super excited students who want to take part. Today we received $1500 between grants and donations – without much effort. I’m excited by the opportunity it holds for us. My biggest challenge is that I have been  taken on a new course that I haven’t taught and we don’t yet have a curriculum for. So…that makes me nervous. You don’t have to be a mathematician to realize that four courses with little resources for the most part, five sections and one planning period is a lot and will be a challenge.
  3. We’ve been working on building a family and fun atmosphere in our sophomore advisory since it is the first year we are all together. Both today and other days we can both joke around, enjoy each others company and know when to turn it down to get through important information. The boys are crazy, but I love them 🙂
  4. My goals for the year:
    1. Survive with four preps, and do a good job for our students.
    2. Close lessons to summarize student thinking
    3. Continue to increase student engagement and cognitive workload
  5. Anything else to share? Not yet – but as things settle I’ll have a better perspective on both this first month and these first few weeks.

Year 5: Week 1

This week was our first week of school – but before it even began I wrote this email to my principal on Sunday afternoon as I was move furniture:

As you know, I’ve worked pretty consistently over the summer to prepare for the school year knowing that I’d have [four preps]. However, this weekend has made me realize that we don’t have enough ready for me teach four preps adequately and I am already overwhelmed. 

This work isn’t easy – but doing it from scratch and meeting my high expectations for what I can do and what my students deserve for four different courses feels impossible. Plus, the responsibility to simply become a better teacher by changing 10% of my practice as recommended by Steven Leinwand (PDF). Unless that 10% is creating everything from scratch but that feels more like changing 70+% of what I’ve got….

As a department of two, with a supportive and former math teacher as Principal, we decided to eliminate one section I had with 8 students and split up our section of Algebra II into two classes of about 15 (it took us a week to figure out the logistics for the schedule and what course to split).
Good news: the other teacher in my department is experienced in Alg. 2 and I’m not. I also taught almost all of the students coming into my class on Monday. I also think that this decision helps the most students possible be successful this year.
Bad news: I still have four preps and might still feel overwhelmed.

While I predicted being overwhelmed and getting crazy confused with an intense schedule, I didn’t struggle this week as much as I thought. It might have been because after two days we knew that my first hour would be dissolved so I wasn’t nearly as concerned about it being perfect as other courses.

Algebra 1 in Summary: I spent two days building culture and routines. Students in my last period of the day were exhausted and I could not get them to talk to each other – until we got to content where I heard some whispers. The room was finally buzzing with conversations when we pulled out Desmos and worked with Function Carnival on Friday. Finally – mathematical conversations were happening! Hopefully these conversatiosn continue in less “exciting” tasks we work on.

My biggest concern in Algebra 1: I noticed by Thursday that almost all or at least a majority of the students who are participating/volunteering in class are the boys (a majority of both sections are boys). Spending the summer working with girls in the CompuGirls program with ASU has made me acutely aware of gender gaps in STEM education. I need to put structures in place to make sure their voices are heard and they feel supported to share. Secondary concern: Continuing to piecemeal a curriculum together from the interwebz – cause it isn’t what is best for students long term – I’ll reflect on that down that road later.

Statistics in Summary: After building culture and reading a syllabus, and introducing accountability structures about graduation, I had students create visual representations from our class survey and work on a simple M&M task. I mostly had these planned as “first week filler” in case schedules changed – which they did. However, I got to use it as a formative assessment of student understanding of statistics and how they chose to represent data. I got questions like “How do you make a percent again?” and I saw graphs with wacky scales. Super useful information on where to begin my work with them – and super useful graphs and experiences to reference later in the year.

My biggest concern in Statistics: Uh…this is a new course so what concerns me is finding a balance to make it work and not be boring. And, implementing technology that I’m barely familiar with is, as always, a concern and we’ll be using it a lot.

AP Calculus in Summary:   I’m fortunate to have taught these 20 kids last spring, but we didn’t spend any time building culture and getting to know each other. So, we spent three days doing that this week. It was enjoyable, fun and nice to ease into the course during the week. I’ve also implemented an accountability system.

Evidence: As we reviewed our syllabus I got these pictures as part of our summary that could only include 5 words and pictures:

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My biggest concern in Calculus: Flipping my class is off to a pretty strong start – but it will be time consuming. I believe this is what is best (saving the fun investigating for class of course) and class thus far has been much more engaging than in the past and focused exclusively on math instead of notes.

Algebra 2: Oh boy….we’ll think about this again next week.

On the bloggy side of life: I’ll be blogging more this year as a push to reflect more and add to our #MTBoS community. I’ve also pushed myself to become a part of the “Day in the Life” book team to help give myself and teachers a voice about what its like to be an educator. I’m hoping that the project forces me to not only be a better teacher, but by making days of my life completely public to make my life a little better and much more balanced – which needs to be a priority this year or I fear it could be my last in the classroom.