I'm teaching a new class this semester - one that I've never taught before. The school I teach at places all freshmen together in their core courses and tracks them. If they are below a certain map score when entering high school, they can also be placed in a "Reading and Writing Strategies" course or a "Math Strategies" course. While a long term sub taught the first semester of Math Strategies, I am taking over this semester and I am pretty excited.
I get a whole class period every single day to help freshmen work on strategies for math! I can finally do all of the activities that I don't have time to do in my Algebra or Geometry courses. And I can go sloooooow.
I have loved this week so much and I want to share a couple of the activities that we did in class that could be adapted for time or grade level pretty easily!
THE 8 MATHEMATICAL PRACTICESMy goal for this class is for students to know and understand the 8 mathematical practices. I asked students on the first day, "what makes someone good or bad at math?". Many of them said focus or not giving up. After we had shared out what they thought, I introduced the 8 Mathematical Practices. I downloaded this freebie from TPT and hung them up in my room. Most importantly, after each activity we do, I ask them to each write down and share out which mathematical practice(s) we used and how.
COUCH GAMEThis one takes a round or two for students to really catch on to the goal. Just ask them to bear with you and make sure you understand and can prompt students through the first couple of times. It also helps if you can divide your class evenly by something visual. I usually do boys v girls but I have 13 boys and 2 girls in my first Math Strat class so that wasn't going to work. I numbered them teams 1 and 2 counting off around the circle and gave a bright sticky note to all of my team 2 players so they could be easily identified.
1. Get in a circle with each person in between two people from the other team.
2. Declare the location of THE COUCH! 4 spaces in the circle become the sacred couch. The goal is to get your team on the couch in all 4 spots. At the beginning of the game, it should always two people from each team.
3. Create an open seat or spot in the circle not on the couch.
4. If you have an open spot to your left, then you can call someone's name and they must move to that location. The one person who's name is called is the only one to move.
5. After the person moves, there will be a new open spot in the circle. Repeat step 4. You cannot move the same person twice in a row.
6. The game ends when one team has all four spots on the couch.
PSYCHIATRISTAn oldie but a goodie!
1. Choose one person to leave the room so they cannot hear discussion.
2. The remaining people get into a circle and decide on a rule. The rule could be that every person is now the person to their left or it could be that everyone is Suzie. Whatever the rule is, everyone in the circle should answer all questions following the rule.
3. The person who was outside comes back into the room and stands in the middle of the circle. They have 3 chances to guess the rule but can ask an unlimited number of questions.
4. The person in the middle asks questions like, "What color is your shirt?", "Are you a boy or a girl?", "What color shoes are you wearing?", etc. The students in the circle answer the questions according to the rule. If they do not know the answer without somehow giving it away or if they answer a question incorrectly, someone can call out "Psychiatrist" and everyone in the circle gets up and moves to a different spot in the circle. The game continues until the person in the middle either guesses the rule or uses all 3 tries.
LOGIC PUZZLES & SUDOKUIf I teach my students how to complete logic puzzles and sudoku squares then I am giving them another option for an activity to use when they need a brain break. Beyond the perseverance and critical thinking needed to solve these puzzles, I want students to be able to work independently or in small groups on something that doesn't require a lot of noise or movement. Much like English teachers can start class with some independent reading time, teaching students to solve these puzzles could add a great spot for some math practices to be done quietly at the beginning or end of a class period. I used Puzzle Baron's Logic Puzzles to teach them how to complete them. The only issue with this site is that some of the problems include alcoholic drinks. Just keep an eye out for that!
THE SEMESTER IN PIXELS - FREE TPT DOWNLOADI saw someone post on Facebook about doing something like this in a journal personally and I loved the idea! I created a Google Sheet and added it to my Google Classroom for my math strategies students to use. Many students (and adults) struggle with interpreting graphs and may think only of the coordinate plane when hearing the word graph.
I started by having students tell me something they knew based off of the example chart on the right. Students were able to summarize that the example represented a generally happy person who had a couple of rough days. I responded that it was my personal pixel chart and that I was generally happy but I had a pipe burst (in 3 spots!) and got my basement ripped up on January 5th. They filled out the days they could remember leading up to this week and will now fill it in each day when they come to class.
I am excited because I can pull a lot of things from this.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD SEMESTER IN PIXELS ON YOUR GOOGLE DRIVE FOR FREE!THE COLOR CODEWith another focus on interpreting graphs, I had my freshmen students take the color code test. When they got the results, they looked at the pie chart (which shows only the most dominant color) and tried to guess about how much of the pie the other colors took up.
This was great for self reflection, for learning about how they are motivated, and for learning that others are motivated differently. It was also great data for me to see so that I can use it in future lesson plans.
I bought the jumbo pack of popsicle sticks so that I could create multiple Kaboom! games but I decided to use them in Math Strat as well.
I put students into teams of 2 and gave them 20 popsicle sticks, 4 feet of yarn, and 1 foot of ductape. They had 30 minutes to make the most money.
The money aspect definitely took it up a notch from just challenging them to build the tallest tower.
WEEK ONE DONE!We did all of this in a 4 day week back from Christmas break and I absolutely loved watching my students who feel like they are not great at math be so confident and enjoy themselves with each of these activities. I'm looking forward to week 2 and more
Spring break is either happening or coming up soon for most of us. What are you doing with your time off? Hopefully you are doing at least one of these things.
1. A fun craft or recipe
Do something that is totally you! Make one of those pinterest recipes or crafts you saved back in August and haven't had time to do. You have time for this week and then probably not any more until May. Use this time to accomplish something just for you- and it doesn't need to be something for your classroom, feel free to save those for June!
2. Binge watch that show you've heard so much about.
I love hearing from others about shows they've found on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. that are binge-worthy. Now is the time to try one out! Find a comfy spot and relax!
3. Read a book.
There are plenty of great educational books you can read if you're looking for some ideas to try when you head back to school but you could also spend some time reading something completely unrelated to your job. It's Spring BREAK! I plan on reading a few books and only ONE of them is school related. I know, such a #Rebel.
4. Spend time with friends or family.
Teaching takes a lot out of you and sometimes our friends and family don't get the attention we'd like to give them. We have a few days off this week to not think about school. Take that time and give at least some of it to your friends and family. Invite a friend over for that binge-watch session or take them/your spouse lunch if they don't have spring break. Do a craft with your kids or plan a date night. You have time this week, use it on the people you love!
Some of use won't be able to resist the urge to use Spring Break to go work on our classroom and break goes by way too fast. If you have the opportunity, get out of the area! Out of sight, out of mind! I have a couple of friends who started planning a Florida trip back in November and I am so glad they did! We will only be gone for a couple of days out of Spring Break but I know that those days are already dedicated to friends and relaxation. It forces the much needed break on those of us who may not use it otherwise.
6. Stay up late!
Teaching is EXHAUSTING. My husband if always making fun of how early I go to bed but almost all of the teachers I know are heading to bed around the same time. We're tired from the day and we know we have to be up and on for the kids tomorrow...not the case on Spring Break! This is the week to stay up with your friends, kids, or spouse and live it up! You can sleep in tomorrow!
7. Sleep in!
Get some extra rest this week. Sleep in or take a nap - we don't get to do this normally. This is the week to stock up on sleep before we hit that crazy 4th quarter!
8. Get some alone time.
We are around people a lot. Whether you teach Kindergarten or Seniors, it can sometimes feel like we are at the beck and call of 30-180 students. Even if you are a mom with little ones to play with over break, take some time for just you. Spring Break marks the 3/4 mark in the school year for most of us and sometimes that last quarter is the craziest. Take some time for yourself before you head back into the chaos.
9. Do something you can't do during the school year.
Yes, we have the summer but that is still 2-3 months away! And that is a long freaking time when you are trying to teach 20-180 students who are itching for summer break themselves. Find something you're looking forward to for summer and have a little taste of it this week.
10. Get outside and get active!
Hopefully the weather is nice for break...regardless, find something active to do for at least one day of the break. Enjoy some sun if possible and get moving no matter what! Even a 5 minute dance party would work! Just move. Don't let your break fly by without DOING something or you'll go back to school more tired than you were before!
For teachers, conferences are both something to look forward to and something that we dread. They are necessary so that we can talk to parents about their students progress in class. They are difficult because those conversations can be hard, awkward, and sometimes confrontational. At the secondary level it is also a struggle to get parents to come to parent-teacher conferences at all. It can start to feel like a waste of time when there can be so much preparation involved.
Both of us (Danielle and Becca) have conferences this week and we assume that they are fast approaching for others as well. Maybe you are a first time teacher or maybe you just continue to be on the struggle bus with conferences. Either way, here are our thoughts and ideas about have successful parent teacher conferences.
To start, many schools are different in their opinion of how to structure conferences. Some schools want students to be there and have student-led conferences and some would say it should be just parents and teachers present for conferences. Is it open house style or do you need to schedule times with specific parents? What materials do you need to have ready for parents who do attend?
The best conferences I (Danielle) have ever participated in were the conferences my building did when I taught middle school. I taught at a true middle school where we had two 6th grade teams. Every teacher had a homeroom/advisory class. When it came to conferences we would schedule conferences with the parents of our homeroom class. The school scheduled one day after school for conferences and then on the next day the students did not have school and we were there until 4 but we were open all day for conferencing appointments. We scheduled an appointment with those 20-25 parents of students in our homeroom. Then my 6th grade team would meet and discuss which conferences we wanted to have as a team. If there was a student that really struggled or had specific behavior issues, we would all block out that time slot to have a team conference with that parent and student which was student-led.
In the weeks leading up to conferences, we would take time in homeroom to organize a portfolio of work from each class and the students would write reflections on their work that they would go over with their parents during the conference. I would discuss any issues that had been brought to my attention by the other teachers and answer any questions I could. If the parent wanted to talk to a specific teacher, then they could also schedule time for that during conferences as well but the main responsibility was for the homeroom teachers and meeting a different teacher was more of a special case. When we did it this way, I felt really supported since I had my team and a lot of preparation ahead of time. The responsibility was really on the students because they were leading the conference and they knew what issues they were going to have to talk about with their parents.
I (Becca) have not had experience with scheduling conferences, though that sounds like it may make it more worth the time! I try to have some candy available as well as a folder for each student containing student work and some student reflection. As parents arrive, I offer candy, ask them to sign in, and show them student work along with their grade. Most of the time the student is not with them. I explain how the grade is calculated, how their student behaves and performs in class, and how they could get better. I express any concerns I may have and check for questions. With any time left (many times the parent is trying to get around the building to see 6 other teachers and may be in a hurry), I make sure they understand our LMS so that they can have as much information about their student’s grades and attendance as possible!
The few times that the student is with them, I always include the student in the conversation. I have found that students are much more likely to say what they may need to be successful while sitting one on one with a parent present. While many would not pull you aside in class and tell you then need help being reminded what to do or would like more examples, they might in a conference setting! I have seen many students take some responsibility when I can tell both them and their parents what I think their strengths are. If their grades are not correlating well with their ability, they more often than not will take responsibility for their part. I would much rather have that conversation than just talk to a parent about what their student communicates to them versus what they communicate to me. Again, those are rare occasions for me, to have students present.
When it comes to conferences and if your district is considering any changes to your conference procedure, I would suggest the following:
If you don’t have control over your structure of conferences, try to find ways to work within your system.