Saturday, November 16, 2013

Organization that Works for the Disorganized Me

     This week is the Explore MTBoS challenge #6 is about Borrowing and Regrouping. How am I going to organize the information I find so it is useful. So I can find it. (Wish I was at school right now so I could insert a picture of my disorganized desk to punctuate the point of needing organization.) My need for organization is great. I struggle with all things real. Papers multiply on my desk over the course of the day and I don't know how to stop them. I would love to go electronic for everything. Get myself a good tablet that is versatile and eliminate my need for most things paper. (Someday when I have $)  So for a person that struggles with keeping organized and keeping track of things here are a few things that I have tried some that work and others not quite/
1.  I got feedly for an RSS reader. Problem is I don't often use it. I still go around to blogs randomly. I would like to use the feeder better but all the blogs I want to read I have not added. I struggle with the organization etc.. of it. So for me the jury is out on a feeder. I am not sure how to access it other than my computer (honestly I am usually more computer saavy than this.) Its on my to do list to learn more.
2. I started reading blogs a year ago and have been recording ideas in my Dropbox. I love Dropbox I do. I no longer forget my jump drive at home or work with the lesson I am working on/teaching. I keep all in my Dropbox and it is right at my finger tips where ever I am. The problem is that I do not have it organized as I should. I originally put a folder called blog stuff which I keep adding to with no inside organization. I really need to move the blog stuff to the different folders I am making by content strands. I have downloaded activities and cannot find the website from which it came and that frustrates me. I have evolved in my usage. If I find something I want to use and the blogger allows readers to download the material I always save the blog address onto the material I download. This way I can go back to where I found it and share, ask questions, thank the blogger etc... Dropbox is a keeper for me.
3. Pinterest works great too. When I am at home and I see something I like I just pin it so I can come back to it. Pinterest is my version of a virtual file cabinet. Itt is easy to pin and easy to find some great things to use. Yes I get frustrated with all the TpT stuff there. But there is also a lot of great free materials and blogs that are pinned. If more of us pin the great free materials the people that don't know any better won't have to resort to TpT instead they might find the MTBoS like I did. (Did I mention I found the blogs and MTBoS through Pinterest?)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Challenge #3 MTBos Estimation 180

       This week I looked over the challenges on the MTBoS. I went to a lot of the websites just to see what was available. I have to be honest not every one of them speak to me. I don't usually have a question when I go on 101 Questions, but I do enjoy reading the questions that people with inquiring minds have. I figure I am learning by reading their questions. 
        I want to comment on Estimation 180. I started this, this year with my pre-algebra students. They really seem to enjoy it. When students share their estimates I do not comment, I just call on students and after 5-6 students have shared their estimate with their reasoning I will click on the answer. They get so excited when they are spot on. I have to remind them that if they are close then that is great you don't have to be exact to be successful. 
        The classes that I really need to do this with is my Math 7 classes. I have been having trouble getting them to just complete a 3 problem warm-up in a timely manner so adding Estimation 180 just feels like missing more math time. But I do know that these students really need it. My goal is to start it with math 7 classes this week and find a way to build it in my daily schedule. If you haven't tried it your students will love it. If it really catches on Mr. Stadel may have to make a 6th grade, 7th grade and 8th  grade version (or whatever sequential grades are using it in a school) so students are not seeing the same ones year after year. 
Thank you to Mr. Stadel for sharing this with us. My students are learning and improving  their math sense daily.
   Confession time: We have been doing estimation 180 since the second week of school. We may miss a day here or there because of testing etc...  Last week I was asking students for their estimates (I can't for the life of me remember which one it was) But they were really out there. I slipped and said to some crazy estimation students didn't you see yesterday? Are you basing your estimation on what you saw yesterday? It was one of those things like how many papers on a roll and the next day how many in the package and their estimations made no sense at all based on the information they had learned the previous day. I try not to comment until after all students have shared and we have checked the answer. Most days we just move onto the next thing but other days I pause and we talk about the estimation and students share their victories or struggles. Thankfully I have not slipped more than once or twice and my students all still want to share their estimations so I have not ruined it.  But honestly some days I just wonder what were you thinking???

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Not Sure Where I Stand.

   Having a tough time this week/month. I want to teach better, and I know better means less of me and more from the students. I have a crazy pacing guide 12 days to teach fractions, decimals, percents, scientific notation, negative exponents, and square roots AND that includes the testing day. So trying to get students to understand things at this fast rate. Oh I'm behind the pacing guide because students needed extra time for integer operations.  Just suffice to say I'm tired. I have been working at school way too late and I'm not getting anywhere. So late I'd be embarrassed to say. I am buried in paper work. Organization is not my strength so I try to work at it daily...but I'm kinda like Pigpen on Peanuts. He would come outside all clean and just standing there the dirt come to him and in seconds he would be a mess. That's me on the chance I was actually able to get all papers put away, by the end of bell one I am buried in papers again. I have tried everything. I organize and reorganize but nothing works...this year seems worse than past years. Any suggestions would be appreciated. If you are one of those naturally organized you know where everything goes people, please recognize that not every one's brain works that way. It has taken me years to realize this myself. That does not mean I can't learn. So how do I do it all? Keep organized, keep students that are struggling with/near the pacing guide. If I can get all the "stuff" in order I would have more time for real lesson planning and maybe even spend time with my family. Just a thought.

   Made a cute foldable on checkbook math. Then had students go to this fun site to practice .  I will say my pre-algebra students are appreciative of cute foldables.  I was going to attach the foldable but I must have left it in school. Will try to attach it later this week.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

MTBoS and Twitter changing teaching one tweet at a time.

 For the MTBoS Challenge I tweeted for help regarding my classroom warm-ups. I tweeted my problem this week to a few people because I still have students that are not thinking or even trying, they are just putting down anything to look done. Its frustrating because when I look at their answers and read it to them they will be like, yea...oh well no that is not right. And then they erase it and fix it. I didn't tell them it was wrong, I did not explain how to solve it. Talking one on one with the teacher caused them  to think. As soon as they did that they were able to correctly solve the problem. So how do I get them to think? To care about learning. Some suggestions from Twitter was to put a problem that was solved incorrectly and have students correct the problem. I like this idea. Its something I do occasionally as a walk-about activity when reviewing for a test but had not thought to do on a warm-up.  Another idea was to include a problem with the answer and have students explain why it is the answer. I will definitely include these ideas in future warm-ups.I don't want to change the overall problems as I am not picking exceedingly difficult problems, I am just revisiting problems many got wrong on the test or previous quiz. I can make two different warm-ups if needed, but honestly I am already overwhelmed with all the new things I am doing this year to enhance learning in my inclusion classes I am not sure I can handle one more thing. I do have to learn how to share the load with the special ed teacher I work with. I am so used to doing everything myself but we can certainly share grading and creating of assignments. I like the warm-up suggestions but for some of my students getting to access that thing between their ears is like pulling teeth from ....Idk...something w/o teeth.  For pre-algebra warm-ups worked well. Students completed warm-up and I checked homework and attendance. We went over the homework and the warm-up and students would ask questions when they could not find their mistakes.  Yea!   Math 7 students are a different animal entirely. Some like math, many do not often because of past struggles. Because the warm-up itself is not graded I found many of my students put in little effort. When we go over the answers they didn't correct them on their papers. When I quizzed them at the end of the week grades showed no real improvement. Data was showing the warm-ups were not working. Therefore I started out this year without any warm-ups. Problem was students were fooling around when I went around to stamp homework for completeness, and plus I was wasting precious math time. So what to do? I decided to create different warm-ups this year.  I took an idea I read on the Whole Brain Teaching . It talked about having students identify multiple choice answers as smarty, trickster, or doofus and why. If nothing else it would prevent students from just circling an answer(s) on a multiple choice or multiple answer problems.  I give three warm-up questions. I make one multiple choice and the students have to write why it is doofus, trickster or smarty. Oh did I forget to mention how much 7th graders hate to write?  The first week I had them try them and as a group we came up with reasons and students that had no answers were to write these on their warm-ups. We talked about how a problem that is a trickster to one student might be a doofus problem to another student.  What tricks me does not necessary trick you and vice versa.  Of course some doofus answers will  be doofus to everyone when they make absolutely no sense. I knew the first week would be hard. But I figured down the road there will be a pay-off. If I can get the students to think about the math...and not just write anything that pops in their head I am going in the right direction. Week #2 I had to push students that were actually writing to give real math answers not just its doofus because its the wrong answer. Why is it wrong? How do you know? These students were and are rising to the task. I am hoping that as they share why they think an answer is doofus or  trickster with the class then  other students will hear their reasons and learn. I can hope can't I? There are still many students with blank explanations. A few students that process slowly I have asked them to explain only two answers that I choose. Less stressful for them but shows me where they are when I read their explanation.  The problem is that this three problem warm-up is taking too much of the class time. Students were also resistant to doing the work so I had to resort to collecting it daily to see who was/not actually completing it. I found one student that looked like he was working but had completed nothing. Nothing!! Not even the non writing problems. What made it worse is that this student does not struggle and we had gone over the answers so he could have just written them in! Okay rant over.The sad thing is that there is a special ed teacher and I am circulating and helping students during this time. But he is on our radar now!  Week # 3 I only had two out of the four days with a multiple choice/explain your answer . One for each day was taking too long, but I am not willing to give it up as I see improvement on students being able to explain their reasons.     Back to the MTBoS and what I love about Twitter is seeing many other teachers struggle with some of the same issues. It  helps to know I am not alone. They are trying to improve and inspire, which inspires me to not give up. Tweeting to people I don't know is a little hard as by nature I am not out-going. I have lurked on Twitter for a year but this MTBoS Challenge is helping to realize that its okay to jump into a conversation and its okay to ask people whose blogs I read for ideas even if they have no idea who I am. If they have time they will reply, if not other teachers will likely toss out some ideas. 

AFTER THOUGHT:Something I just thought of to encourage a culture of thinking: I can make a wall of quotes from the DMR's. I can quote students by name(with their permission of course) with the good math explanation they gave. Some of  my students will try harder to be quoted, and other students that struggle will read what good reasoning looks like. Hmmm might be a good thing.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mrs. Olsen's World

   I'm a little different and that's okay. We all are but as we grow from being a middle schooler where everyone wants to be like everyone else into adulthood where we learn to embrace our uniqueness there is a major transition in our thinking. The same thing has to happen when you become a teacher. When I moved to Virginia I was hired as a 6th grade science teacher. After doing that for two years I mentioned to the principal that if they were making changes over the summer (something that often happened in this very large school) I would like to go to math as that was my major and something I love to teach. Well I asked for it and I got it. But it was a much different experience than I had when I was back in Connecticut. Here there was an intense pacing guide that allowed 8 days for this concept and 10 days for another. ACK!!! My student's abilities were not matching with the pacing guide???What do I do?  So in my core meetings I would listen to what all the other teachers were doing and I would try to do things the same way. FAIL! How did this happen?? Now my students were doing even worse? Talk about stressed. I went back, re-taught things, tweaked things... and found something out. I'm a little different. Yea I know I started with this. But I did not realize it applied to teaching too. Its four years since that experience and what has happened each year little by little I have found my own voice in teaching. I have learned that what works for one teacher does not always work for me. We may use the same foldables, or worksheets, or walk-about activities but each of us implement them differently in our classroom. And that's OK in fact its better than OK its great.  
     My voice has gotten stronger and so has my confidence as a teacher. The more I am true to my beliefs the more passionate my teaching becomes. So now when students enter in the fall I introduce them to Mrs. Olsen's world. In Mrs. Olsen's world everyone loves math. Its on the homework stamp so it must be true :)  Now initially a student will want to argue the point or set me "straight" on my thinking. But in my silly way I let students know that what happens outside my door I cannot control, but here in Mrs. Olsen's world we love math. Some people may have to work harder than others but everyone can be successful. We are not mean to each other. We make mistakes, I make mistakes and its OK. If anyone is negative in class about math I will remind them " are in Mrs. Olsen's world and we don't want that negative attitude in our atmosphere, you are bummin' me out. No, no deep deep deep down you are just repressing how much you love math and its fighting to get out."  I explain "You will have trouble learning something if you hate it. So its not allowed. You cannot tell me you are not good at math, you can say I have to work harder at math than others, and that's ok."
      Last year I had one student who always came in with a depressed down attitude, he just hated being there. I finally asked him "Mike what class is your favorite because its obvious its not my class." He struggled and thought and said " Well you're not my least favorite ...I guess my favorite is English because we almost never have homework." Lol, what a reason. So after that when he would come in class sluggish, and slunk down in his seat, I would say to his friends around him "Ignore Mike because he just doesn't want you all to know how much he loves math. He thinks its not cool but I know deep, deep down inside he really loves it."   I would kid him all the time how much he loved math, that he was not fooling anyone. And you know what happened? His demeanor in class started to change. Before I knew it he was walking upright :) I saw this student who would put anything down to get the assignment over with, actually putting in effort, even helping other students that were struggling. The Mike's of the world is for whom Mrs. Olsen's world was created.
    Last year in that same class with Mike I had one of the other 7th grade math teacher's son. He was another one that walked into class with no confidence in math. She shared with me he told her this year that math is his favorite subject. He said something like:"Is it weird that I have to really work at it but I still like it?" Gotcha!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Before I start I want to say Thank You!!

     I took the leap! I started a math blog. I wanted to join the ranks of the wonderful math teachers whose blogs I have read and enjoyed.  I am not sure I have a lot to share but I look forward to getting some wonderful input from some of the teachers I have been following.  I did this because I want to be part of the "Explore the MathTwitterBlogosphere" challenge starting tomorrow. I hunger for people to talk math with and am excited to connect with other teachers.
     Before all of this starts I just want to say thank you to all of the blogs I have been reading for the last year. Thank you for making me a better teacher.  Thank you for taking the time away from your children, family, life to write on your blog and share your teaching ideas with me. My students have benefited from your sharing. I work with some wonderful teachers that truly care about teaching. But because of school requirements much of our core meeting time is spent on making common assessments and looking over the data from the last test and not enough about sharing how we are teaching.  Our schedules don't always allow us the time to talk math like I would love to do. The MTBoS allows me to meet up with other teachers anytime. I can read some one's blog at midnight if that's when I have the time. I can put a question out on Twitter and if someone can help they will respond when they see the post. Thank you for giving of yourselves to make someone you may never meet, a better teacher.  (A special thank you to Justin Lanier for the Math is Personal class this summer. Its that interaction that is giving me the courage to go beyond voyeur to participant.)  So to every one who has written a blog to share an activity, classroom decorations, foldables, or just the funny things kids say. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have inspired me to be a better teacher, inspired me to create a better classroom, my students have enjoyed your foldables, and you gave me a laugh just when I needed it. I hope I can give back just a little of what you all have given me this past year.