Monday, November 23, 2015

Fibonacci Day, Zero Socratic Seminar, SLCs, Genius Hour, Coke Project and Thanksgiving Break!

Well I made it to Thanksgiving week!  I'm still amazed at how fast it is all going!

Fibonacci Day aka 1, 1, 2, 3...
Today was good day.  On a whim last night, I decided to do an inquiry lesson on the Fibonacci numbers today (it being Fibonacci Day and all), which meant scrapping my lessons plans last minute, but it was totally worth it.  For my 6th graders I showed this TED Talk and this FoxTrot comic from the NCTM, and for my 7th graders, I did this activity from Teaching Channel.  It took some additional planning, but my 7th graders were really engaged and asked to do similar activities in the future, which was awesome, and inquiry totally ties into one of our schools core values, which was great.

Zero Socratic Seminar
Tomorrow is our "What is Zero?" Socratic Seminar with one of my 6th grade classes (since we have a double period) and Wednesday I am doing it with my other 6th grade class and my 7th graders.  I'll be recording all of them, for inter-visitations, and I cannot wait to have them discuss!

SLCs, Genius Hour, and Coke Project
We debriefed SLCs as a staff during our PL time after school today and the feedback was really positive. Our next steps will probably be to incorporate more student reflection on their work during advisory time (maybe once a month or so).  We also discussed doing Learning Celebration Conferences later on in the year.  Something really interesting that came up after debriefing with students (and that I hope to blog more about at a later time) are that with SLCs, students are already discussing their work with their parents and don't really see the difference in a 10 minute SLC at school vs what they do at home.  It just made me think about the differences I'm learning about teaching G&T students.

Another thing that I was reminded about during today's PL time is how I still want to try to incorporate a Genius Hour soon.  This would tie into my goals of doing more learning centers and self-directed learning.  Even though I do have differentiated work, my students are all starting at A, for example, then some of them work through B, C, D, and E, while some only get to B, which is fine, but I would love to give them more freedom to study mathematics, in class, that they are truly interested in (I say in class because I do have some students who are teaching themselves trigonometry outside of class).  I need to do some more research and make a plan to make Genius Hour happen.

I also paired up with the Science teacher about planning out parent engagement visits (she's doing one next month and I will follow up when my 6th graders do their Coke project in February or so).  I'm very grateful to have her a resource.  Random side note, I am also learning how similar the 6th and 7th grade CMP3 curriculum really is, and I'm happy (since I am the only math teacher) that all the middle school students at my school will go through this curriculum.    

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

SLCs, CMP3, Schedules, Socratic Seminar (round 2), and I survived teaching Art!

I cannot believe that we are more than a quarter of the way done with the school year!  Last night was  Student-Led Conferences (aka Parent-Teacher Night), Thanksgiving Break is within site, and then the glorious Holiday Break!

SLCs and CMP3
Last night was our first round of Student-Led Conferences.  It was a long night, but they went well.  My advisees did great.  We are going to de-brief as a staff during our Professional Learning time after school on Monday.  There are definitely some changes we can make (in terms of scheduling the conferences, and having the students actually do a task with their parent rather than just presenting on their work).  I even got some really great complements from parents (my favorite was from a parent who said that they had gone to a private school open house with their son a few weeks ago and it turns out they were also using CMP3.  Not only was the teacher they spoke to impressed that we were also using this curriculum, but she was so impressed with how her son was able to talk about the math we have been doing (specifically the Locker Problem.)  She didn't have to stop in and tell me that, but the fact that she took the time out of her night to share that with me and thank me, was just another reminder why I (and all teachers do what we do.)  It also reminded me why I am so happy I am teaching with CMP3 again.  It is by far my favorite math curriculum (another student even said she loved how it wasn't just worksheets and practice, but actually fun).  Definitely no regrets there!  

New Schedules
We started new schedules this week, and at first I was not happy with it.  The reason for the new schedules was so that every class could have at least one double period a week (our periods are only 42 minutes long, which is just not enough time).  I guess I am getting used to them, but when my administration suggested changing the schedule, I would have preferred longer periods overall (like 60 minutes or so), not one day of 84 minutes and three days of 42 minutes.  I also don't like that it wasn't really a collaborative effort by all of us.  I'll give it some time.

Socratic Seminar, Round 2
I am going to be doing another Socratic Seminar next Wednesday!  After some very passionate discussions among my 6th graders about whether zero has an opposite or not, I decided that it would be awesome to do this as a Socratic Seminar!  Not only will this be what I used for my video inter-visitation in two weeks, but I asked my AP if it could be my next informal.  I am so excited!  I found these resources: Socratic Seminar Plan for Full Definition of Zero and Thoughtful Dialogs and Socratic Seminars, which I will be modifying.  I will even be doing it with my 7th graders, because it is such a rich mathematical idea.  I cannot wait! 

My first trimester as an art teacher is coming to an end. This week is our last session together and then the week after Thanksgiving, we will be going to a Music and Drama (the other two art electives) presentation and my visual art students will hang up their three major pieces from the past ten weeks.  For our last session together, we will be studying Keith Haring, and they will be creating a Haring-esq Social Issue poster.  I am looking forward to it.  I am also looking forward to modifying my "curriculum" for the next trimester of visual art, with my 7th graders. Being that this was my first time teaching art (and I had no clue what I was doing) I want to make my curriculum flow better and change some things.  Overall I am really proud with how I did.  It wasn't perfect, but I tried my best, learned a lot, and am optimistic about the future.  Last week was also my first time leading a field trip at my new school.  We went to see the Canstruction Exhibit in Manhattan.  It was tiring, but I think everyone had a good time.  I am glad I got to go back again this year.  

So next week at this time, we will officially be on Thanksgiving Break!  I still cannot believe how fast this year is going.  It seems like just yesterday I was going to an info session about job openings at this school.  I remember how nervous I felt submitting my resume, while at a Starbucks (probably on a Wednesday night) and getting a call back for a demo lesson.  I was so nervous then - was I doing the right thing? Was I being crazy for taking a risk?  But here I am, loving what I do (even though it is not always easy) and happy with the choices I have made that have led me down this path.  I am a math (and art) teacher <3 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November Updates

There comes a point in the school year where everything is due at once.  November is that month.  Grades are due.  Informal observations may be happening.  Bulletin boards must be updated.  And oh yeah, you still need to keep planning and grading as usual.  Last week for the first time, I have felt a little stressed.  I am feeling better after last Wednesday (I had my first official informal observation by my AP) but I still have some grading to finish up.

Superintendent Visit:
On October 30th (yes, the day before Halloween) we had our first visit from the Superintendent.  He visited one of my 6th grade classes with my Principal.  I was a little stressed out the night before because I wasn't sure which class he'd visit (math club, 6th grade, or art) but it went well.  Here was my feedback:
  • Glow
    • Your classroom procedures and expectations are firmly in place. There was no time wasted and your expectation of getting started on time is firm. Your knowledge of content and academic vocabulary were evident in your responses and your student's responses. Continue to implement efficient time management. In addition, continue to ensure that academic vocabulary is modeled by you and used by your students.
  • Grow
    • During the share outs, students did not respond to one another. You paraphrased responses and/or asked for more ideas. For future lessons, challenge the students to directly respond to one another using evidence to support their claims. You can even ask students to paraphrase each others' comments.
Moving forward, I would like to build on that, and do less talking.  This was the beginning of the lesson, so I must be mindful of that, but I know it's something I can work on.

Getting Mail:
It took two months, but I am finally getting mail delivered to my new school.  I had ordered shelves for all my lovely math manipulatives and they finally came (after being delivered to the wrong school) and my National Math Club Box finally came (after being sent back twice).  Also my Scholastic Math Magazines are coming in now.  So yay!

7th Grade Unit 2 & Interim Assessments:
After much thought, I decided to skip my next 7th grade unit (Stretching & Shrinking) and go right into Comparing & Scaling (my kids did one of my favorite problems from there today - The Orange Juice Problem).  Most of my 7th graders did really well on the unit 1 assessment, and I don't think all of Stretching & Shrinking is necessary, so I decided to skip it for time.  I may pull out one or two problems from there, but so far I am happy with my decision.  I am loving both of my current units (Comparing Bits & Pieces (6th grade) and Comparing & Scaling (7th grade).  Comparing & Scaling definitely has some of my favorite CMP problems.  (I might even give some to my 6th graders)

Both grades will be taking their first interim assessment (IA) (which I created) later on this week, so that will give me a better idea of where they stand in terms of overall standard mastery.  Both IA's have about 20 questions (all released state test questions)  It's meant to be done in one class period, and they will have some time with calculators.  I'm also going to try to use Flubaroo to help with the data analysis, since we don't have a scantron machine.

Student-Led Conferences (SLCs)
Last Tuesday I gave my colleagues a PD on student-led conferences, and today we started preparing our students for them in advisory.  I felt really good about how things went.  I was happy to share my knowledge and experience with my team and then to work together to make SLCs our own.  We're all even using You Can Book Me to schedule them.  I've been preparing the slides everyone is using during advisory and our kids have been working hard.  Even though conferences are always a long day, I am looking forward to them next week.

Video Intervisitations:
We also started video intervisitations last week.  I had shared the template that we used to use at my old school, and we watched a video of our science teacher and used the template to give her warm and cool feedback.  I volunteered to go next, so I will be videotaped sometime in the next couple of weeks and then we will watch the video and my colleagues will give me feedback.  Based off my informal feedback, I might record one of my Socratic Seminars with my 6th graders.

Speaking of informal observations, I had my first one with my AP last week.  I was happy with how it went.  I got Effective in all categories except 3c (Engaging Students in Learning) and 3d (Using Assessment in Instruction), where I got Developing.  Here were my Glows and Grows:

  • Instructional materials and resources - Experienced teachers provide students with meaningful instructional materials and resources and provide opportunities for students to make good choices about the materials they use. In this lesson, students were able to decide whether or not the use of a calculator or ruler would help them be more efficient in completing the task at hand. Anna should continue to allow students to make smart choices about the materials and resources they use to make meaning from their work.
  • Teacher interactions with students, both words and actions - Strong instruction requires supportive interactions between teachers and students. During the lesson, Anna created an environment of respect and rapport through the use of a respectful tone, countdowns, and her interactions. When a student corrected her about the date, Anna thanked them for their observation. When a student said, “But you’re the teacher, shouldn’t you know the answer?” Anna demonstrated patience and humor by responding, “But it’s no fun if I know the answer” and proceeded to continue the lesson. Anna should continue to engage in supportive interactions like these in order to help her students be successful.

Grow (Next Step)
  • Discussion techniques & student participation - At the beginning of the lesson, students engaged in whole-group discussion where Anna posed questions and students responded. In highly effective classrooms, students pose questions to one another and respond using accountable talk to extend their thinking. In this lesson, "A" used accountable talk when he said, “I want to add on to "C" .” Anna should build on this practice by encouraging students to call on one another and paraphrase each other’s thinking with limited teacher support. For example, students can use some of the Socratic Seminar techniques to deepen their questioning and discussion during more traditional lessons such as this one. Additionally, Anna can begin encouraging student to student discussion by asking students to paraphrase each other’s thinking (“Can someone tell us what "A" just said?”) and asking them to call on one another. Practicing these skills explicitly will teach the students to call on one another without teacher support in future lessons.

My AP's Grow feedback was really helpful and I was able to implement it the next day.  During the Launch and Summarize, instead of having individual students answer my questions (ping-pong style) I have been having whoever answers, call on another student to add on to the discussion.  So it is slowly becoming their discussion, and not necessarily going through me. I want to keep developing this practice and my goal is to speak as little as possible and let my students really own their discussion.  Something that has been helping with that is the my Document Camera is finally working, so I am finally having students put their work under the cam and have them explain their thinking.  My 6th graders are much better at showing their work than my 7th graders (who just write down their final answer).

On a slightly unrelated note, one of my 6th graders, who had never participated in a class discussion before, rose his hand this week to share and my co-teacher and I were so proud of him!  (I feel like only a teacher or parent would appreciate this).  I was so proud of him - definitely a highlight of my week!

Math Club & Art:
I am very happy to report that my Friday morning math club is now Silver Level Math Counts Club! So the next step is to work on a gold-level project and we can become a gold-level club.  I am so proud of them.  This Friday is also our Canstruction trip and the first trip that I am organizing.  I think it's going to be great!