Thursday, October 29, 2015

Positive phone calls made my day!!

This afternoon I was feeling frustrated. I am drowning under a stack of papers to grade (I should be grading now instead of writing this!). Also, I have been trying to figure out a strategy to improve the investment that my students are making into one of my classes and I have not reached a solution. Every time I try to have a conversation with them it seems to turn negative. UGH!

So, I was sitting there looking at my stack of papers to grade and then I saw a reminder to make my positive phone call. Thanks to the leadership of our new principal, Ryan Barkley, I have been asked to try to make one positive phone call per week. I am behind on this project so I decided to call 2 parents this afternoon. It was the BEST thing I have done all week. The excitement and pride in the voices of the parent and grandparent that I spoke with was so rewarding. It truly brightened my day and reminded me of all the GOOD things that are going on in my classroom. I have some incredible students.

Are you feeling frustrated? Think about the students who are making progress and call their parents to let them know about it. It will be the highlight of your week.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hey...I still love math:)

I know this is a strange comment for a math teacher to make. For years I have just taught math. I chose to become a math teacher because I love math but to be honest all the years of teaching math to people who do not really want to learn it had just "sucked the life" right out of my math enjoyment! I was covering the standards but rarely ever used any activities that peaked the curiosity of my students.

Thanks to our "Meaningful Math adventure" (see this blog post for an explanation) I am having fun teaching math again. I see my students having more fun learning math. Last week I had a student to tell me that she had fun in class that day. I also had some students tell me that we do the most work of any of their classes but my class is also the most fun. I read Teach Like a Pirate this Summer and I have come to realize that it is okay to have a goal of having fun with your a matter of fact we need to throw in some activities that the students will consider a "fun break" from "regular math."

Today I also found myself sitting at my desk working on the High-Low Differences activity in Overland Trail's supplemental activities. I was "noticing and wondering" myself! I was thinking that I really need to find some extra time to investigate why this works like it does. Then I was so ambitious that I answered one of the questions (in a survey I had to take) to indicate that I considered myself to be a mathematician! (HAHA!) I have found value in addressing problems from a student's perspective. Our new textbooks from It's About Time give me many opportunities to have fun working on math and then turn it around to my students as an opportunity to problem solve and enjoy themselves while they do it. I asked them a few times last week if they wanted me to "introduce" them to the activities or let them just try to figure it out on their own. I was amazed at the number of students who wanted to try it without any assistance.

Now, don't get me wrong. I still have students who sit there like "knots on logs" and wait for the problems to be presented to the class so that they can write down the answers - they just hope that when I roll the dice to call on someone that their number is not called. And when I do call on them they tell me they didn't do that problem...and then I talk them through it until I pull the answers out of some cases it would be easier to pull their teeth without anesthesia. I also still have students who gripe and whine and ask for help before I even get the page number out of my mouth. However, it is so cool to catch that student who says he hates our textbooks truly engaged and enjoying himself during an activity (because he figured it out by himself!). This certain student that I have in mind was "called on the carpet" when I told him that I noticed he had fun working on the activity for the day - which just so happened to be "Getting the Gold" that I blogged about here.

I would like to end this blog with a funny picture of what some of my students did last year after I had gotten onto them for sitting there like "knots on logs" instead of doing their work.

IMP Overland Trail - Getting the Gold

I skipped Getting the Gold when I taught Overland Trail last year. I am so sad that I did! This is such a cool activity because it has such real-world applications. In this activity the students are asked to compare the profits of 2 different ways to gather gold. While discussing this activity it is fun to bring up discussions about making business decisions.

The discussion points that are a part of this activity include:

  1. Business start up costs
  2. Profit
  3. Breaking even
  4. BONUS...This is the first activity where the starting point is negative so it is fun to watch the students say..."the starting point is negative this time!" 
**I still catch myself wanting to give the student too many hints. I am sometimes excited about how the activities bring in different aspects and I just want to point them out! HAHA!

This activity and Water Conservation are fun "wrap-up" activities that have the students once more create graphs and answer questions. I love to ask questions like:

How do you know how much profit they had on Day 7 according to the graph?
Now, how can you answer that same question using the rule we created?
Could you use a table to answer that same question?