What did they do wrong? Most problem sets in a math textbook have at least one problem where they look at a student’s work and they have to figure out what the student did wrong and how to fix it so that the problem is solved correctly.
I love problems like this because it really challenges the students to look for mistakes, a great practice to learn for checking answers! Considering how great these types of questions are, we don’t ask them enough.
Training our students to evaluate work and find mistakes can be one of the most useful things we teach them in math (and other subjects!). This is why when I noticed my co-taught Algebra students making common mistakes consistently while learning to solve one step equations, I wanted to give them some training on catching their own mistakes without simply telling them to check their work. The best way to do that, I’ve found, is by turning it into a game! Here's how to do it:
Find the mistake:
I love playing this game and hearing the students explain their answers as well as “someone else’s” mistake out loud. It is great to see those a-ha moments and class just flies by!
Try it out and let me know how it works in your class!
A back channel is a program/tool that a teacher can use in the background of a lesson. Typically they are chat windows that are used to allow students and the teacher to communicate together while they are working on notes, projects, or any class activity. Many teachers use these to allow students to ask questions without having to speak in a whole class setting. It benefits the students that are quiet and do not like to talk out in class. It also gives students that know the content well to answer student questions and allows them to become leaders.
1. GoSoapBox - GoSoapBox creates events for students to join. There are multiple functions within each event. Students can participate in discussions, polls, and quizzes. For the teacher there is a profanity filter, confusion barometer, and name requirements. You can also download quiz results. Students do not have to sign up for an account. Teachers give students an accent code to enter when it is time use it.
Uses - I have used this when I given my students reading assignments. I love that students can ask questions, let me know if they are confused, and have different modes of interaction. I can give them a quiz to check for understanding and then have students engage in a discussion and poll them on their thoughts about the content.
2. TodaysMeet - This is the basic chat room. Students can use their phone or computer and have no account to sign up for. You can close out rooms whenever you want. This is great for in the background chatroom. Students can ask questions and respond to student questions while the class activity is happening. You can download a transcript of the discussion before you close it. There really isn’t much control for the teacher unless you pay for an upgrade on the free account.
Uses - I have used this as an exit ticket activity or progress check. I like that this is quick. Student can do a quick response about whatever question I ask. I’m not a big fan of the lack of controls in the free version.
3. CoverItLive - They call it a live blog. It is a chat window, but the teacher can act as a moderator in the conversation. A teacher can deny posts that are inappropriate. Another great function is that it can be embedded in a website or LMS page. The chat can also be replayed at any time. It is marketed to corporations, but I emailed them about a teacher account and was given one for free.
Uses - This is my favorite chat window. I love that you can embed it in a website. I love that it has moderator functions to limit students that choose to make irresponsible decisions. I have used this one as a background chat during lecture and days when I am meeting with small groups and cannot immediately answer every question. It allows students to answer each other's questions without disrupting the rest of the class. I have also seen this used at pd conferences so attendees can discuss what is going on as it is happening!
I read an article this morning from Edutopia Visualizing 21st-Century Classroom Design and it really made me think about my desire for change in my classroom. In my desire to change my class to a more self-paced environment, I feel myself working towards the principals talked about in this article.
In the article the author, Mary Wade, describes five elements of a 21st-century classroom and gives some really great ideas of how to implement them in a teacher’s room. I loved her ideas, but it got me thinking about change and how hard it can be when we know where want to get to, but don’t know how to get there or how fast to move in that direction.
In my teaching career, I have gone from teaching with an overhead projector to teaching in a 1:1 district. That was a massive change for me even with my masters degree in Educational Technology. I love the technology that I get to work with and I don’t want to go back to not having it, but over the past 5 years I have been trying to figure out the best environment for students to work and learn with technology and create meaningful learning opportunities for students.
I have been moving towards a self-paced classroom for a while now in small trials and units and have only now 5 years into my 1:1 classroom experience have made the full jump to trying it for an entire semester. I was scared of failing and letting students down, of having a high F rate, and not feel like a teacher anymore if I wasn’t in the center pushing students along. I finally found the courage to change, because I was so unhappy with they way things were going that I couldn’t argue against it anymore and someone I respect and trust was trying as well.
Change is hard, but making small, slow changes is better than making no changes at all. I encourage all teachers out there to read the article on visualizing 21st-century classroom and find a partner that would be willing to experiment with you. I have found that finding someone that you trust and work well with that can go through the experience with you or at least support you in change can go a long way in making those positive changes happen in your classroom. Maybe you will find some inspiration from this practical article and we can all move toward a more positive and productive atmosphere for all students.
Even if you pick one thing to change, you will be making a positive change and moving towards creating a learning experience meant for ALL students. Isn't that what all teachers want?
WE CAN DO THIS!
If you are looking for a way to incorporate current events into your class or just share resources with students or faculty, scoop.it is a great tool to use! Scoop.it is somewhat like a professional Pinterest page.
With scoop.it, you create a profile with topics. In each topic, you collect articles or videos that relate to the topic and you can curate them by adding your own thoughts about the content. Then you publish to your page/topic. Your account is usually connected to a social media account which will post your material as well, but there is an option to create an account not connected to social media.
The website is geared towards businesses with a marketing angle, but if you search users you will find a lot of college professors and teachers that are using the website to collect resources for their classes.
There is a free account option which is great but the downside is you are only allowed to curate one topic on that account and you don’t really have any personalization options. There is also a pro account and a business account. That give you more topics and personalization options.
Once you are signed up, you can set up your topic and begin curating content (basically publishing articles and videos to your topic). It also allows you to add a bookmarklet so when you are browsing the Internet and you find an article or video you want, you can click on the bookmarklet to “scoop it” and curate content on the spot (just like Pinterest). Your topic can be embedded in a website and/or LMS and can be shared as a link.
Uses in the Classroom/School as an Educator:
Uses in the Classroom as a Student:
We're nearing the end of the year! I've loved having technology and really embracing the self paced classroom this semester but I'm most excited about seeing the final projects. It's also the thing I've had the most questions about from students.
They are used to getting a lot of structure and most of the time, I try to provide that and be fairly predictable with class. We know that a lot of kids don't have that at home and providing it helps them in more ways than one. In my class, they know what format the quizzes are in and how to access resources. They know the expectations for classroom behavior as well as what goal they should aim to be on each week in order to be "on track". What they don't know is how to get full points on a final project...and I am loving it!
This has been up on the board since the first week of this semester and when students ask me about the project, I tell them it needs to be high school level math...and that's it. When they start to get that confused look on their face, I tell them they can pick something they like in math and I will help come up with a topic or they can pick a topic they like and I will help them come up with the math, but that it is completely up to them as long as it is a high school level math project. They do not have to present in front of the class and they can work on it when they want to in class (as long as they are "on track" with the quizzes).
As most students are nearing the end of their quizzes, they are trying to come up with project ideas and it is so great to hear the different ideas. I love that they have buy in to the project and I love that I will be able to differentiate the expectations based on the student and what they've done all year.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- I have a student who carries a transformer figurine as a fidget. He loves that thing so much. He informed me that when it is in the form of a jet, it is a replica of a real jet. He is going to find the dimensions of the real jet and compare it to his figure. After that he will change it into the transformer and calculate the "real" dimensions of the transformer using the scale factor he found.
- I have a student who loves their phone (who doesn't?) but is always concerned about her battery. She is collecting data using a Google Form about the top 4 apps people use in a 24 hour period and how much of their battery percentage each has used. She'll be calculating averages and finding the most popular apps as well as researching if particular apps are used more commonly on specific days of the week.
- I have a student who would like to compare clothing costs at different stores. She is going to find the same article of clothing at two stores and compare the price. She'll do this with multiple stores and connect at least five stores so that she can compare the markup at different retailers despite being the same brand of clothes purchased.
- I have a student who is going to research the history of pi and create a children's book about it.
- I have a student who is going to calculate the number of seconds spent in school in a single school year, throughout high school, and K-12. They are then going to use different units to share their findings. ex: I could listen to my favorite song, _______ x amount of times
- I have a student who is comparing the cost of buying a house against building the exact house from scratch...so much work....and they know it...and they still really want to do it!!!
Are these projects super relevant? Maybe not. Are my students more engaged in this than they have been all year? YUP!
I have heard a lot of really good ideas and I am excited to see them come to fruition and share them with you. I just wanted to share how AWESOME it has been to step out of the rubric life for just one project and really let them do something crazy and interesting!
Only a month or so left! Let's finish this out strong! :)
Projects are awesome! I am one of those teachers that loves to do as many projects as possible. The unfortunate thing is that I struggle fitting in all of my project ideas within my short semester timelines. I feel like for every unit I have over the years come up with 4 or 5 projects that I have tried at different times. The struggle is that every student likes different types of projects and as teachers we are trying to reach as many different types of learners and interests as possible.
The solution to this that most of us have figured out is to give our students a list of project options to choose from. Students like this because they have the ability to make a choice in their learning and what they focus on within your parameters. Teachers like it because typically students take the project more seriously and care more about the project overall since they had the ability to choose what they work on.
Project choice options are another tool that teachers can use in the student-directed classroom or as a tool to differentiate assessments in your classroom. There are a lot of pieces in creating quality projects and structuring those options for your students. Here are 5 tips and things to think about when creating your project options:
A phrase that I have heard many times since moving to teach high school is that elementary teachers love kids and high school teachers love the content.
I have always had a problem with that comparison. As a teacher it boggles my mind that you wouldn’t like kids, that you would care more about passing on the content you are teaching and not reaching the student with the content. Unfortunately, that is something I have witnessed before as a student and as a teacher. There is sometimes this stigma that high school teachers do not know how to connect with their students or just don’t want to.
I will admit that I don’t have any experience teaching below 6th grade, but what I have noticed is that high school deals with an entirely different type of learner. It is harder than ever to reach students and it can be harder and harder for teachers to connect with students. Another part of the problem is that we are I feel sometimes limited in our range of what it means to build relationships in our classrooms. Many high school teachers that I have worked with have said that they feel the traditional ice breakers and community building games are too touchy-feely for them and seem less than sincere.
I will admit that at times, I fall into that sentiment as well. I don’t always like the typical team building materials, but I 100% believe that building relationships with your students is important. That goes for all of your students as much as you can. What I think we should work on is finding ways to build those relationships in way that is authentic to our personality and teaching style.
Don’t get me wrong there is a place for cheezy and over the top and I think it is a good thing for all age levels to participate in those activities as well. As much as some may complain, they can definitely build a bond and build community in a group. What I want to talk about though are some ways that teachers that struggle with that type of community building can still build meaningful relationships with all of their students.
Here are some ways that I take time to build community in a way that I feel is authentic to me and my students.
The key to building relationships in the classroom is to find a method that you are comfortable with. Do you like humor, games, competitions, projects, or conversation? What are some ways that you can authentically show students that you care about their story? I do not think that there is only one way to build relationships with students, but we do them a disservice if we don’t try to connect with them on at least some basic level. We also cannot be afraid to try something outside our comfort zone if we are not reaching our students in the ways that we have in the past.
We would love to hear how you build relationships with your students!
With winter break approaching its end, we have to start thinking about returning to school for the new semester. The question is what do we do on the first day back?
For some of us especially in the high school world, it could mean an entirely new bunch of students and it is the first day of school all over again. For others it is a continuation of the previous semester with a 2 week break in the middle.
I hope what we can all agree on is that jumping right into content would not be the best way to start a new semester. Even if we have the same students all year, the students are coming off of two weeks of no school. The students are going to need something to get them back into the swing of school. Here are some activities and ideas that we have found that could work for the first day/week back from winter break.
TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIESWhether you are starting over this semester or bringing students back together, team building would be valuable at this time. For the classes starting over, it is a good way to get to know your classes and have the students get to know each other. For the classes coming back together after break, it is a good way to reconnect and get students back to thinking about other people and catch up.
Here are some suggestions for activities:
Here are some suggestions for activities:
Some of the potential activities we suggest above could be changed to review classroom procedures.
SEMESTER BREAK IS ALMOST HERE!I know we are all excited for this semester to be ending and to have at least 10 days off. If you are anything like me, you are excited but also thinking about everything that you need to do to prepare for next semester.
One thing that I am trying to work on is balance between my teaching responsibilities and my family responsibilities. To this end I am really trying to work on ways to recharge over the break so I am ready to go when it is time to come back to school!
Here are the ways I am going to work on recharging and we would love to hear from all you on how you recharge over the semester break.
MAKE TIME FOR FAMILY/FRIENDS ONLYBasically I have a ban on work once the semester ends through the 26th of December. Those days are for family and friends. I spend my time baking, hanging out with my family, wrapping presents, and all of that stuff. My family always appreciates this, because they have my full attention and turn off my teacher brain for a little while which I think is really important. It helps clear my mind and allows me to come back to my work with a fresh start.
SPEND SOME TIME/ENERGY ON MYSELFThis is just as important as spending time with family and friends. I need some time for myself, so I don't feel like I am going to go crazy and snap at people. This can be as simple as reading a book for an hour at night or my favorite is a day at the spa. To me, if we don't do this we are really hurting ourselves, family, and students. We can't take of others if we don't take care of ourselves. We just need to find a little bit of time for ourselves, so we can give the best version of ourselves for everyone else.
TAKE SOME TIME FOR GROWTHI have lately really become aware or rediscovered how important it is for teachers to keep learning. When we do this, it keeps us growing which is important considering that is what we want from our students. I have also found that it just gets my creative process going and helps me think of new ways to do things and new ways to solve problems I have been having.
So during my break I am going to finish reading a book on differentiated instruction which is a huge focus for me right now. I have already started it and the ideas are already flowing!
TIME CHUNK YOUR WORKThis is strategy that we use with kids all of the time, but I found that it works for me as well. When I am on break, I find that I like to schedule time for work or a specific task and then I make myself take a break and do something completely not related. I will take time and play a game with my kids, watch a movie with my husband, or have lunch with a friend. This allows my mind to take a break and process anything that I was working on and then I can come back to it or start a new task. This also helps me keep some perspective and not get overwhelmed by all of the things that I want/have to get done.
Also this process helps me keep my work goals realistic for the break. It is a break after all and if schedule chunks of work then I am forced to prioritize my work and really see what needs to be done before I go back to school in January.
FOR THE OVER-ACHIEVERS OUT THERE...Get some work done BEFORE your break. For those intense planners who won't be able to really check out of work, try to get the first 2 weeks of the 2nd semester planned and materials ready BEFORE you leave work for break. If you know that the first two weeks are all set to go, you may be able to unplug better and really enjoy your break!
YOUR TURN! HOW DO YOU RECHARGE OVER BREAK?
This image popped up on our twitter account and it was one of those that made me stop and think.
I read it and then reread it. Would I be up for doing something like this?
I personally enjoy having teachers come into my classroom. I attribute this mainly to the amazing learning coaches that I had my first two years of teaching. They would pop into the classroom and observe me, take a few notes, and give me constructive feedback in between classes. As a new high school teacher, I loved getting the feedback during my morning classes because I could improve that lesson that very day for my afternoon classes! I could feel myself becoming a better teacher in the course of one day and it was so empowering!
Fast forward to a year later when I was taking classes to earn my Masters in Administration. For one of the courses I had to observe and fill out an evaluation form for two different teachers. My stomach dropped upon hearing about the assignment.
I felt a little bit better when everyone else in my class also shared the instant stress over having to ask a fellow teacher if we could observe and evaluate a lesson. Part of my personal issue was that I was new to teaching. Who was I to assess another teacher? It made me incredibly nervous and it got even worse when I actually had a teacher tell me they would rather I not watch their class after requesting to observe them.
Why can it feel so awkward to be watched? And is it worth pushing past the awkwardness to help each other grow to be better educators?
To that first question - It is easy to feel like your techniques are being judged. What if someone decides to come watch that class?? You know, the one with ALL of the kids who have to be told a million times what to do. That class is a rough part of your day already and now you’re inviting an audience?!?
And that, in my opinion, is the real issue here. If someone is just coming in and purely watching, that does absolutely nothing to help you and it is DEFINITELY awkward! It is completely one sided. The observer may have learned something or been given an idea to use in their class, but you are left feeling like they came, they saw, they judged, the end.
It is all about the conversation afterwards.
If you are the observer, ask yourself questions like:
If you are the observed teacher:
If we commit to that 2-5 minute conversation after class breaking down what happened and how it could be better, we all benefit from it! We can bounce ideas off of each other or even relate to having a challenging class together! We could learn a new behavior management technique from the person we are observing OR as a suggestion from the observer! There is so much to be gained from this conversation compared to so little to lose!
So to the second question, yes. If you and the observer can both commit to having a conversation about what went well and what could improve, it is 100% worth the initial awkwardness! After 3 or 4 of these types of observations, it may even start to feel pretty normal!
Give it a shot and let us know how it goes! Is it awkward? Is it worth it?