If I only knew then what I know now (MBI week 2)

This year starts my tenth year of teaching! I can not believe it. Time has gone by so fast. Each class since I step into a classroom I could call my own has changed me and made me into the teacher I am today. Since then I have become more organized, stricter in my rules and routines, I’ve changed my style of teaching, and I’ve become more reflective. All these things at some point during my undergrad studies have been a focus in one or more or my classes, but there is one issue that I find myself dealing with that undergrad did not prepare me for. It is what my coworkers like to call the reluctant learner. You know, the student that just will not take that first step to just try no matter what you do. Most of the time it is for fear of being wrong, which I can deal with, but there are times where a student will just choose not to participate no matter what you do as a teacher. In the beginning of my teaching career I did not know how to deal with this, at all. At some point it made me want to throw my hands up and say, I don’t know what to do, and let him or her sit there.I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do, so that’s where the use of interactive notebooks began. Who knew letting students use art supplies in math class would make such a big difference. I knew I was excited about it, but I didn’t think my students would buy into it so quickly. I still have my issues with my reluctant learners at times, but it is not as bad as it used to be. The use of interactive notebooks is just one thing that helped me. There are many other strategies out there that would be just as helpful if not better. There should be a class or a chance for new teachers to learn how to handle reluctant learners before they enter the classroom.

MBI Week 1: 2014-2015 Teaching Goals

Here are my top 3 goals for this year:

1) Implement Standards Based Grading
2) Start and finish the year using Interactive Student Notebooks
3) Revise my use of Do Nows/Warm-ups and stick to it.

1) Standard Based Grading
In a way I was loosely doing this, but did not know it had a name or was such a great thing to do. I would allow my students to retake anything up to 3 times because our online grade book allowed it and I am a true believer in if at first you don’t succeed try again…and again…and again. I also enter grades in according to the common core state standards and the skill the activity was aligned to instead of just Quiz #3. This just made more since to my students and I because they could check their grades and see exactly what they needed to work on.
What needs to change or what I don’t have in place is a solid list of skills my 7th graders will need to master this year, a rubric that should be used, a document my student can use to keep track of their progress, or a student friendly way to explain this to my students and parents. Any help or advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

2) Interactive Student Notebooks (ISN)
During the summer of 2013 I came across three great blogs by Sarah R, Katie, and Sarah H and thought “Oh, yeah! I’m doin’ this!” I was so excited I presented the idea to my middle school team. They appreciated my enthusiasm, but thought it was too much. I couldn’t disagree with them. ISNs require A LOT of planning, extra resources, time, and discipline, but it was SO worth it. My students were actually using it as resource, not just something they write, draw or paste something in and put away. I could see my students using their table of contents to find the help they needed instead of immediately asking me for help. Unfortunately, the idea only lasted until winter break. After my students came back from the break I was on maternity leave. By the time I came back after Easter, most of my students had know idea where their ISN was located and I honestly did not have the energy or motivation to start all over again. This year my plan is to be way more organized. My hope is to have my notebook planned out and completed for the whole first quarter before the year starts on Sept. 2. I also need to decide if I’m going to use tape, glue sticks, or liquid glue this time. Last year I used tape and glue sticks. I felt I was always running out. I also grew very annoyed with my students using the tape to give themselves mustaches and beards (ugh, 😒). What do you think?

3) Revise my use of Do Nows/Warm-ups and stick to it
Okay, so usually I have students complete 3-6 problems at the beginning of class for the first 5-8 minutes of class. The problems are usually a review of what they were supposed to learn the previous day or check for prior knowledge for the lesson of the day. This is okay, but now I want to give it more purpose. So, I stumble onto Elissa @misscalcul8, which led me to Lisa @lisabej_manitou, which led me to Jessica @algebrainiac1. I like how each day they have their students working on something different, but I have questions. Are the warm-ups in any way related to the day’s lesson? Does it have to be? How did you decide on what to do each day? How do you introduce the different topics for each day? Do you collect the sheet every day? Do you go over the students responses every day? How are they graded, if they are graded. How much time do you use for the warm ups?

After asking all of these questions this is what I think I will use (in no particular order, yet).
1) estimation
3) visual patterns
4) math talks
5) talking points
6) error analysis/reflection

I think these activities will overall help my students become better mathematical thinkers. I think it will help foster accountable talk and create great discourse amongst. I also think it’s more beneficial than just doing 3-6 math problems every day.

Well, there you have it…my goals for this year. Now that it’s out there there’s no turning back.

Math Blogging Initiation (MBI)

After visiting the math twitter blogosphere website here and committing to use blogging as mode to reflect and grow as a teacher, I’ve decided to put myself through the math blogging initiation. I figured it was the best way to start on the right foot and it would be a good way to get my writing juices flowing.
Each week, for four weeks, I will respond to one of the prompts available on Sam J. Shah’s site here.
I’m excited and nervous all at the same time. Writing about my thoughts, especially those relating to how and why I do what I do when I teach, has been difficult for me, but that is about to change…right?

Here goes nothin’!