Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Now, Round (Chapter) 3!

We have spent the last few school days finishing up our assessments on chapter 2. Now, we are moving into the next chapter. For our 8th graders, that means an introduction to Functions and Graphing Linear Equations. We will still be reviewing two key parts of chapter 2: solving multi-step equations and  types of solutions to equations. After reviewing the assessments, these are two areas we still need some work on.

This equation work will be helpful when we get into chapter 5 and Systems of Linear Equations.

The 7th grade is moving into solving inequalities. We will be asked to not only solve them, but graph them as well. This chapter will be reinforcing the equation work we did in chapter 2, so I will be spending time reviewing solving equations with distributive property. This skill will reappear in chapter 3, but in the form of inequalities.

6th grade is starting preliminary work on fractions by working on least common multiples and greatest common factors. These skills will be very important when finding common denominators and simplifying fractions. I was introduced to a great Fraction of the Day worksheet that I will start with the 7th grade a few times a week. I will share this in a separate post. I need to get a lot of my students over there fear of fractions. This worksheet does a great job of raising their comfort level in this area.

What great strategy do you use for fractions with your students?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Continuing to Reflect

Reflection, according to the internet, is defined as: "fixing of the thoughts on something; careful consideration, a thought occurring in consideration or mediation."
I have tried, the last few weeks, to use this space daily as a way to carefully consider what we have accomplished each day in our class. I have intentionally spent a little bit of time each day to think back on what took place in class period. More importantly, I am trying to use the data I collect from my Formative Assessments to determine where my instruction needs to change for the following day. I honestly thought this would be more challenging than it has turned out to be.

Finding the time the first few days was difficult. I did not think I was going to find things to write about each day. But, as a presenter at the ECET2 conference reminded me: "If you can not find something to get excited about each day, you are in the wrong profession." That simple statement woke me up and got me writing again. I now look forward to these few moments of reflection at the end of each day.

Do not get me wrong, I sometimes need to do this reflection at home before bed. I do not always get the time at school to finish my writing, but I do not go to bed before spending just a few moments thinking about my day. I learned a lot from that conference in late September, but the most surprising thing was that I actually do enjoy writing and that I might have something worth writing about. I was always worried about not having "a voice", but through some hard work and persistence, I believe I am starting to find it. Who would have thought I could have learned so much from such a simple sentence.

What got you reflecting on your practice? Please share!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Continuing to Learn

The 8th grade classes received their assessments from Friday. I am happy to report that the class average went up from a 36% to over an 88%. The numbers are supporting my belief that the students are learning how to solve multi-step equations. I did notice one common theme with the ones we missed: students are still forgetting to distribute the second term in the parentheses. This will need to be reviewed before Friday. The summative assessment at the end of the week will hopefully support my claim of constant class improvement further.

The 6th and 7th grade classes were disrupted due to class pictures. I was able to get the students that were present in class into groups to work through sample problems from our class folders. I was able to use this time to visit with students that were having difficulty with particular problems. I was able to provide them feedback to help them work through the problems. Finding times for face to face discussion is important with may students. I had to improvise, but I believe it helped many of them.

I do think the inclusion of this group work in almost every class has been an important change this year in my instructional planning. This planned group work allows the students to practice what I demonstrated to the whole group. It allows them to collaborate with each other and ask questions. I make sure they have discussed the "issue" with each other before asking for help from me. I want them to discuss things with each other prior to coming to me for assistance. This gives them a chance to defend their answers/methods/procedures before coming to me to verify.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Like terms, Expressions and Equations! Oh My!

Needless to say, it was another busy day in our math classes. The 8th graders completed an assessment for me on the first three sections of our chapter. The data from other assignments showed that the students were at a point where an assessment was fair. I only graded one of the classes so far, but the numbers supported me belief: the students were ready. After completing the "quiz", students were given problems to solve in preparation for our work next week on more advanced linear equations. I was happy that I was able to provide some more advanced work to several students in both classes. I like doing this for two reasons: One, it provides the students who are ready for a deeper challenge. Secondly, it shows that how they will use the math we are using today will help them for problems later in the year.

Best part? Being able to work with a student on multiplying binomial radical expressions. Pretty advanced work for an 8th grader, but he was willing to be pushed. I had no problem complying....

The 7th graders were introduced to solving two step linear equations today. We will be working more on them next week along with solving equations with Distributive Property in them. I love the algebra work!

The 6th grade is winding down their chapter on expressions and equations by working on converting word problems into equations and solving them. This is a skill we will need to work on for a couple more days before looking at an assessment on this material. Only time (and the data on FAs) will tell.

Here's looking forward to next week...
What do you do to provide challenges for the students that ready? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bits and Pieces...

Today was a struggle to get a rhythm going. I could not find my stride. I do not like to make excuses, but I think I do have one: today was our school-wide Lip Dub.

What is that, you ask? It is where the entire school lip-syncs different songs that will be edited together to show one continuous video. We post the final product on our website in the hopes that students view it when considering attending our school (I work in a school-choice school in NJ). Is it effective? Do potential students really use this in their decision making? We do not know because no one has collected any data to see if this is an effective tool.

Needless to say, between getting called down to film our portion and the students being off the wall because they were getting filmed, it made teaching anything even more challenging. I was able to get through some more practice problems with one of the 8th grade classes. I am hopeful they spend time tonight practicing for their quiz tomorrow. I guess only time will tell.

Also, the 7th grade is struggling with linear equations. I have tried several practice problems, but several still seem to be struggling. I will see if I can find an effective video for them to view. Maybe that will do the trick.

Here's to hoping tomorrow has a better flow to it...

What do you do when your daily routine for instruction is altered?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I will not apologize...

I have a confession to make. I am always trying to get my students to be better. I am the teacher that constantly pushes them. I am challenging them to get better. I want to see how far I can push the envelope...

Now, I understand with that comes frustration. Some students just want me "to leave them alone." They want to just blend in with the rest of the class. Fly under the radar. I will not let that happen. My job is to try and get you to be better than you were when we started working together. If you are not better after we are done working together, then what have I actually accomplished?

I promise that I will meet you where you are, but that will not be for long. I will quickly try and see how far I can push your learning. I want you to get better. I want to see improvement. The same old same old is just not good enough...

That is why I work so hard to create a positive learning environment. I want students to feel secure to make mistakes, learn from them and improve. They need to understand that we all do not learn the same way on the same day. My classroom culture needs to support that growth mindset.

As a coach, I am constantly making the practices harder than I think the games will be. I do not want it the other way around. I want my players so prepare through hard practices that game time is second nature...makes sense, right?

This sums up my motto with the 8th graders during our voyage through linear equations. Many of us are getting frustrated, but I like the grit we are showing to persevere through the multi-step problems. I will use the data I collect from Friday's quiz to see how we need to adjust or review.

Do you agree with my belief on the role of a teacher/coach? I would love your feedback/comments!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Plugging along...

 Today we introduced solving linear equations with variables on both sides of the equal sign. In addition, we reviewed simplifying algebraic expressions and solving multi-step equations. I am planning an assessment Friday that will cover three different areas: solving two step equations, combining like terms and simplifying expressions. Students will receive three separate grades on this. Again, I will use the numbers to help determine which direction the instruction should go.

In 6th and 7th grade, we are doing work with linear equations. On the 6th grade level, it is a basic introduction that deals with simple steps to solve them. The 7th grade, however, includes more integer work. It is very important that we remember of rules from chapter one when completing these.

I am still working on getting some students to realize that the group work sessions of the class is not circle time to discuss various non-math things with the rest of the group. I do encourage discussion, but I would like it to be on the actual math work. Looks like we may need to revisit our group rules to help remind some of them the reason for working with someone else is to collaborate on the problems, not to blab about whatever they would like. There is usually a direct positive correlation between the people that do not use group work effectively and the students that claim they do not understand what is going on! Will keep plugging away tomorrow...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Chipping Away...

After analyzing the FAs from Friday, I have found a couple of errors that we are making: One, we are still making mistakes with our integers. I may need to revisit some websites for games the students can play to refresh this concept. Second, we are still uncomfortable with fractions in the equations. This may also require additional review, but I would prefer to find some games they could play as oppose to worksheets. I will see what I find.

On a separate note, I am frustrated with a few students' effort already in this unit. They are very quick to "give up" when they stumble on an equation or expression. I have met with these students during group work, but I do not know if it is making any difference. I will continue to chip away at the wall they are putting up. Hopefully, I get them to break through it before it gets too high.

The 6th and 7th grades both were introduced to solving linear equations today. We also reviewed simplifying expressions with like terms. We seem to be getting these concepts. The FAs tomorrow in class will give me a better indication of how much we are understanding.

I need to remember that not all of my students share my enthusiasm for algebra. I am hopeful, however, that it will be contagious soon.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Drowning in My Own Progress

I have not written in a couple of days. I did not plan it this way, but I have been overwhelmed with paperwork and outside schedules to dedicate time to write. I am back, however, and excited to report on the progress of our classes.

The 8th grade has been plowing through our unit on Linear Equations. They were given a formative assessment today (FA) in both classes. I would like to report I am please with the morning class' average (85%), but concerned with the afternoon (60%). I am obviously going to have to analyze the FAs to see where the errors were. Then, I can pinpoint where the instruction needs to adjust. I am happy, overall, with the work ethic of both groups starting off this unit. I am also pleased that I have been able to provide extension activities to a few students who want to push themselves further into Algebra.

The 7th grade is working hard on simplifying algebraic expressions. We introduced Distributive Property over the last couple of days. We are still getting stuck on our integer rules from chapter 1. We would do better if we continued to review these concepts on our free time.
Also, we took a look at factoring expressions as well. We will be solving linear equation next week.

The 6th grade is writing algebraic expressions and simplifying them when give values for the variables. We did a group activity today where the students were asked to create two order of operations problems using only numbers 0-9 once to create the largest number and smallest numbers possible. This went so well that we decided to extend this over the weekend. I am interested to see what answers we get.

I am considering changing my corrections policy. Currently, I allow students to correct homework assignments for a higher grade. In addition, I allow them to retake tests and quizzes. I am considering asking them to conference with me to show how their learning has improved in the areas they feel they are not doing well in. This is still in the planning stages, but I really like the possibilities of meeting with them. Does this sound like feasible idea?

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Algebra...Algebra and more Algebra!

We dove into solving two-step linear equations with the 8th grade today. Period 2 took a pre-test on this material today. I am going to use these results to determine where I need to focus my instruction through the remainder of the unit. These pre-tests were marked, but will not end up in the grade-book. We further our discussion by looking at simplifying algebraic expressions tomorrow.

The 6th grade will be taking their final assessment on Order of Operations tomorrow. Today, we reviewed these steps again. In addition, we did a lesson on exponents. I am interested to see how the students do on this, because we seemed to know what we were doing during class.

The 7th grade looked at turning word phrases into algebraic expressions. We looked at words that we might read that would lead us to use any of the four main operations. We also introduced substituting values in for variables in algebraic expressions. We will do more work in this area tomorrow and introduce simplifying algebraic expressions as well.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Chapter 2 Introductions

I returned tests from our Unit One Assessment from Friday. I spent a good portion of both classes explaining the process for a retest: Students must show their work on all corrections and hand-in to me. I will then go over their answers and provide feedback. If it appears the student is able to explain their errors, they can then retake the Unit One Assessment. The grade would be for a replacement grade.

I follow this process because I have found students rush to retake the assessment without really learning from their errors. Completing the corrections allows the students to ask for help prior to retaking the test.

We are starting Unit Two which involved solving various linear equations. We started to reviewing one-step linear equations from last year. I am hoping to build on this success tomorrow with a little more advance equations.

The Sixth Grade dove a little deeper into Order of Operations when we introduced exponents. We will cover this new topic over the next couple of days along with our basic introduction to variables and expressions. They will be able to retake their assessment as well as long as they follow the process described above.

Lastly, the Seventh Grade began our introduction into our Algebra Unit by talking about some basic vocabulary terms: variables, coefficients and expressions. We will continue tomorrow with simplifying some of these expressions through the Substitution Property. We will be solving linear equations soon. I really enjoy this work with algebra. Love having the students learn to do something they first thought was impossible.

Friday, October 3, 2014

TGIF (10/3)

Students do not mind taking risks if they know that the  environment both encourages the risk taking and provides ample opportunities to improve our learning. After reviewing the assessments taken today, we still have a lot of work to do in several areas:
1. In 8th grade, finding the length of a leg when we know the other leg and the hypotenuse.
2. In 6th grade, lining the decimals up when we add or subtract.
3. In 7th grade, we need more work on dividing with decimals.

Even though I am planning to move into Chapter 2 next week, we will still be spiraling back to make sure we secure up these areas. I consider each of these to important to just breeze through. I will be able to provide better numbers next week after analyzing the results a little better Monday. I still have several students in a couple of classes that did not finish.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review Day 10/2

The students worked through review problems today for all three grades. We spent time going over answers and reviewing any problems they had incorrect. We also spent time in groups to give the students a chance to collaborate further on topics they knew they had difficulty with before the test tomorrow. I am working hard at giving the students chances to control their own learning.

I also gave several 8th graders some Enrichment work on adding and subtracting radicals. This is 9th grade Algebra work, but I had several that showed an interest in trying the next level. I enjoy providing my students with this opportunity to see how what we are learning now will make next year's work easier. I am anxious to see how they did.

I was happy with the way the 7th grade bounced back to show they understood the concepts that will be on tomorrow's test. During their group work, I was able to circulate enough to hear each student discussing the problems. Through those informal observations, I was able to determine that a large majority of the classes understood the material to have the exam tomorrow.

On a side note, we were introduced to Google Classroom Tuesday during our teacher common time. I am really excited about the possibilities this technology will bring to my classroom. I can not believe Google offers this for free. If you have not checked this out, you need to do so. You create classes that have "codes" the students enter to join the class. You then have the option of sending videos, documents or attachments to each student individually. I think I may be even closer to flipping my classroom in the near future.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities (10/1)

The 8th Grade did another great job working their way through the Unit Review for Pythagorean Theorem and Number Sense with Radicals. I am happy with their progress through using the Pythagorean Theorem to find the distance between two points on a coordinate plane. I enjoyed walking around the room hearing the groups talk math. I have learned that my group after lunch needs that discussion to further their learning. So, I am making that a point to include that group discussion time in every class. The tough part is going to be getting me to stop talking early enough. I am excited to see how they do on their end of unit assessment on Friday.

We are wrapping up our discussion on Decimal Computation in 6th Grade. We did a little more work on dividing decimals and completed our review for chapter 1. We will do a quick formative assessment tomorrow in class to determine if we are ready for our end of unit exam Friday. I am happy with the progress we have shown, but may still look into timed multiplication drills for some of our students. I think we would be better if we were a little more solid with our math facts.

We stalled a little today in 7th grade. We are having a tough time remembering the steps when working with fractions. We are still getting confused on when we need to find a common denominator (addition and subtraction) and when we do not (multiplication and division). Unless they do a great job convincing me tomorrow, that end of unit test planned for Friday will be rescheduled. I can not proceed with an exam that I know only 1/3 of the class is handling the material. Not a good situation for anyone. I will need to brainstorm some ideas to get them some extra practice.

Again, I was happy with the group work for all of the classes. For the most part, the conversations are  centered around what we are working on. If not, they are quickly redirected. Also, I like that time to be able to meet up with the ones I know are struggling to reinforce some skill. However, I make sure I meet up with the students that show evidence of mastery already and provide them with a little more advanced work. Working hard to meet everyone at their level...