Wednesday, August 19, 2015

CMP3 Institute Day 3, Quotes, & Brain Brakes

Day 3 of the CMP3 Institute kind of dragged but I must admit it is much better than the one I went to a few summers ago.  We got both student and teachers editions of the first three 6th grade units, a CMP3 guide, and a packet with some interesting articles, plus, like I said before, the fact that the facilitators are actual CMP3 teachers makes such a difference (the last thing I would need is someone trying to sell me something from Pearson, with little to no actual classroom experience wasting my time).  The more we do the investigations, the more I want to just use CMP3 with my students this year.  The explorations are just so full of rich mathematics!  And that should be enough, right?!  But I still don't fully trust them when it comes to the standards.

I even brought this up to the facilitators during a break today, and asked them what they suggest doing when they see that their kids need more support on a topic that CMP3 only had one problem on.  (They have been pretty clear on not digressing too much from the curriculum)  They suggested using the ACE problems as class problems, Illustrative Mathematics and Dan Meyer's Three Acts (both of which I have heard of, but never used too deeply).  I think the key is really going to be that assessment piece and being very precise with what the standard means.  Either way, I think going back to CMP3 will be where I start with both my 6th and 7th graders.  At least for the 7th graders, they are coming from a (mostly) CMP3 6th grade classroom this past year (and 96% of them passed the state test) and after having done most of the investigations from the first two 6th grade units these past few days, I like the environment they set up and the math that they get into.  My goal next week is to have my assessments and unit plans fully done for my first (and maybe second) unit.  We also talked about dot talks which are more of an elementary school thing, but I thought might have it's place in the middle school classroom.

I also did get some great ideas for math quotes for my room thanks to someone at the PD who was working on quote posters and Calvin and Hobbes cartoon posters on their laptop today.  Some of my favorites from today include:

  • "There is a difference between not knowing and not knowing yet." - Shelia Tobias
  • "Mathematics is not a careful march down a well-cleared highway, but a journey into a strange wilderness, where the explorers often get lost." - W. S. Anglin
  • "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I've lost almost 300 games.  26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I've failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed." - Michael Jordan
  • "To make a great dream come true, the first requirement is a great capacity to dream; the second is persistence." - Cesar Chavez

OK, well I'm off to listen to a webinar on Brain Breaks by Yoga ed.  Between that and my Mindful Schools curriculum training, which I am almost done with (two more weeks to go) I am very excited to bring them both into my classroom this year.

Yeah, it's going to be a good year. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Curriculum, curriculum, curriculum (part 2)

Every time I think I feel confident about which curriculum I am going to use next year, I end up with more questions than answers.  Ugh, it is very frustrating.

Today was day two of the CMP3 Institute and we did some more Investigations from the 6th grade unit, Prime Time, and I got some more good ideas about how to use CMP3 again in my classroom, and I left feeling pretty confident, that at least for 6th grade, CMP3 is the way to go.  Then, of course, during lunch I go back to researching and comparing CMP3 vs Engage (aka Eureka) and I have major doubts about the alignment.  All I know for sure is that I love the explorations in CMP3 (they fit my teaching style perfectly and teach mathematics deeply) but the focus & coherence of CMP3 is just not as good as Engage (see this post).

Not to add more pressure, but this little tidbit about my new school was also released yesterday, Astoria School Scores 100 Percent Passing Rate on State Math Exam: Data.  96% of my new seventh graders passed their 6th grade math exam.  Teaching G&T is going to be a whole new world for me, and as excited as I am, I feel even more pressure not to mess up.

Ugh, so much to think about in the next three weeks.  Double ugh, in exactly three weeks, tomorrow will be the first day of school.  Super excited to meet my new kids, but definitely feeling the pressure of the new year.

Monday, August 17, 2015

CMP3 Institute, 30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 3, and Summer Reading

Today was the first day of a week-long Getting to Know CMP3 Institute for Grade 6.  My new principal asked me a few weeks ago if I would be interested in attending, and although I have attended similar PDs before (and haven't always found them to be the most helpful), since 6th grade is new for me this year, I figured why not.

It was kind of slow-paced, but we went through the first four problems in Prime Time, and our presenters were actual current CMP3 teachers (not from NY, mind you, but I appreciate the fact that they are current teachers and not outsiders trying to sell me on Pearson).

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the freedom of summer vacation, but I did kind of, sort of get excited about the new school year.  Not that I don't get excited every year, but its different this year, since I'll be in a new district and school.  Lot's of good possibilities!

I also figured today was a good day for day 3 of the 30 day blogging challenge:

Day 3:
Discuss one *observation* area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

Especially after getting back into "work mode" today, the two Danielson areas that I most want to improve on this year are 1E: Designing Coherent Instruction and 3D: Using Assessment in Instruction.  I still feel that there is a disconnect between how I want to teach my students and how I am assessing them.  It's that balance between good mathematical teaching and mastering all of the material for the state test.  I've already updated my test question bank with the released state test questions, but I still struggle with curriculum.  I want to go back to using CMP3, but like I learned in last week's blog post from EdReports, there are better curriculums aligned to the Common Core, like EngageNY.  I have lots to think about over the next three weeks.  

On a side note, I also downloaded this book a few weeks ago, and I want to read it before the school year starts back up, but I am in the middle of one of my book club books that I am really enjoying (A Man Called Ove) and don't want to put down just yet.  #summergoals 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Curriculum, curriculum, curriculum

So, my original today was supposed to be about first day of school resources on Pinterest and Engage NY releasing the 2015 state test questions, but then I came across this article on TheDailyBeast, The Great Common Core Textbook Swindle.  The article from last month is about the majority of math "Common Core aligned textbooks" that really aren't that well aligned - something I think all math teachers these past few years can relate to, including myself.

The article references the nonprofit, EdReports, that set about to review elementary and middle school math textbooks, and found that "of the more than 80 textbooks it reviewed, just 11 met expectations for alignment with the Common Core."  Even more interesting, "nine of those books were from a single series, "Eureka Math" by publisher Great Minds, whose materials aligned with Common Core from kindergarten through eighth grade."  My interest was definitely peeked.

After registering and doing some research of my own on the Eureka Math website, I learned that the curriculum materials Eureka Math were (mostly) the same as Engage NY, at least for the middle school.  What made this a big deal for me is that in 2012-13, and 2013-14, I used Connected Math as my primary curriculum.  I loved the investigations and the design of the lessons, but I felt is was still lacking in terms of Common Core (even though CMP3 was "Common Core aligned"), and this year decided to use Engage NY as my primary curriculum.  I thought the flow of the units in Engage was much better, but the resources themselves were not easy to navigate.  Ultimately, I wasn't 100% happy with either resource.

Why did finding this article and learning about Eureka Math make me so happy?

Well, as I begin to plan out this year, and am once again faced with decisions of what resources to use, I am happy to learn that there is something good about Engage NY's/Eureka Math's curriculum maps and unit plans (even though I learned this on my own last year, it's nice to have it backed up with research).  I also know that the problems in Connected Math are engaging and are a sound basis for developing meaningful mathematical understanding.  So moving forward, blending the two is going to be my goal.  Now, this was my goal last year too, but Engage NY was new to me then, and I feel I have a much better idea (at least for the 7th grade) about how to navigate moving forward.  I also feel better prepared knowing where Engage NY comes from.

Between signing up and exploring Eureka Math, and organizing the released 2015 state test questions, I'd say that today was a pretty productive summer "work" day, that is hopefully laying the foundation for a productive 2015-16 school year.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Rubik's Cube: A question, waiting to be answered

One of the great things about summer, besides the luxuries of being blissfully unaware of the date and being able to go to the bathroom any time I want, is coming across things that have to do with work.  It's nice being able to read and appreciate articles and videos about teaching and education, when it's not something I am being forced to read or watch.  Yesterday I came across this video that was shared on one of the teacher groups I belong to on Facebook, and I appreciated it, and thought I would share it on here, hopefully as a reminder to myself about what's really important about my job... not state tests, not teacher ratings, but asking questions and making my students fall in love with problem solving...  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Massive Numbers Talk & Blogging Challenge Day 2

I blog today from the Starbucks that has brought about so much change to my work life.  It was here that sent my resume to who would eventually become my new principal, after finally deciding to go for it.  I have also come here to grade and generally get work done, when I need to leave my apartment.

I just got back from a Math Encounters talk at the Math Museum by Po-Shen Loh, and was thusly inspired and think I found a great first problem for my math team this year.  He was definitely my Math Encounters presenter I've seen.  His excitement is so pure and his "teaching style" motivating.  You can read more about a similar talk he gave here.  I left loving that the beauty of math is that there is always something more to explore.  Hopefully if I actually do keep up with this blog this school year, I can share some student work.

The other thing I wanted to post about today is day 2 of the blogging challenge:    

Day 2: Write about one piece of technology that you would like to try this year, and why.  You might also write about what you're hoping to see out of this edtech integration.

I am gonna cheat and share two pieces of technology that I would like to try out this year.  Both have to do with grading.  Since I am changing schools, I am losing access to the grading program we used last year, Mastery Connect.  Mastery Connect was nice because we could scan assessments easily and get data fast.  One of the pieces of technology that we might use to replace it is Zip Grade.  Another piece of technology is, to explore standards-based grading.  One of the first things shared with me about my new school was the assessment calendar, which has been helpful with planning and creating the assessments that I will be using next year. especially will be my pet project because I have bee wanting to move to standards-based grading for a few years now, but haven't been able to fully make the jump. I hope that this year changes that.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Well, here I am again...

I started this blog last summer as a way for me to reflect on my school year and to (hopefully) become a better teacher.  Well, considering my last post is from November 2014, obviously I wasn't that successful with keeping with it.  But, the nice thing about teaching is that every year, we get a glorious and much deserved summer break, and then start fresh in September.  And this September will be even more of a fresh start because I will be working in a different school and district.  I'll be starting year nine next month, which I am still a little in shock of.

After five years at my last school, I decided, towards the end of last school year, that I needed a change.  I liked the people I was working with, but my teaching spark was dimming.  I was in a slump and I wasn't excited about what I was doing.  Looking back at some of my posts last summer, it seems like maybe this was something that started even before the first day in September.  So I applied to some other schools, just to see what would happen, and in June accepted a job for a local elementary school in my neighborhood, that was growing each year.  I was forcing myself into some new challenges: a new grade, new co-workers, a new building, and a new population of learners to explore math with.  It wasn't an easy decision to make, but looking back, I have no regrets, and I am excited for the year to come.

I found this blog post the other day, about a 30-day blogging challenge for teachers, which inspired me to give this whole blogging thing another shot.  So even though I am a few days behind, here it goes:

Day 1:
Write your goals for the school year.  Be as specific or abstract as you'd like to be!

Well, goal #1 would be to be able to look back at this school year in June, and feel that I have been successful.  What would that look & feel like?  My students have learned everything that they were supposed to this year, and perhaps a little bit more.  My classroom is a community where students aren't afraid to try new things and work together.  We had fun exploring the big ideas mathematics.  We students ask questions and want to learn more.  I want to look back on this year and see how much I've grown.

Goal #2 would be to continue to work on my work/life balance.  This may be hard considering I am teaching two grades next year (and have never taught 6th before), and because I will be in a new environment, resources may be limited, but nevertheless I think that this is something that I can continue to work toward.  I like my job, but I also value a life outside my job.  

I think that that is it for now, although I may add more as month goes on.  I really hope to keep this going this time...