Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Unit Tests, Performance Tasks, Field Trips, BBs & Halloween... oh my!

Before I even start this entry, there is something I must say...

I am all caught up on my (paper-based) grading!  

I know that only fellow teachers can actually appreciate those few, ever-so-brief, few-and-far-between moments where you are actually all caught up on your grading <3  So yeah, I am doing my happy dance.   Here are some of the goings on in my math & art teacher life...

Unit Assessments:
Work has been busy, but good busy.  Not the overwhelming kind, the happily productive kind.  My 6th graders took their Prime Time unit assessment last week and they did OK.  Not great, but OK.  I made my first review video of the year, and I am letting them do test corrections.  I think moving forward, I would like to include at least one quiz before the next unit assessment, to gauge formal understanding more.  The problem with that is our periods are so short (42 minutes only) and I hate taking away from our already limited class time.  My AP has mentioned that we might be changing the schedule to have longer periods (it is a school-wide concern), which would be fantastic, but for now I have to make do with what we have.

My 7th graders are taking their unit assessment tomorrow, so we'll see how they do.  The next suggested unit is supposed to be Stretching & Shrinking, but I may just skip that one and go right into Comparing & Scaling, with maybe some Stretching & Shrinking problems thrown in.  I am going just based on prior experience, but I need to go back to the standards and baseline and make my final decision.

Performance Tasks:
Something I did last year was use released state-test constructed response questions as standard performance tasks.  I held onto these pieces for student portfolios and used them as formal pieces of student work.  I used to think of these pieces as "meeting the standard" but this year my thinking is more that these are the bare minimum to demonstrate mastery of the CCLS.  I have all the 6th, 7th, and 7th grade released state test questions organized by standard, but not Algebra 1 yet, so I think my next step is to find some high school-level performance tasks and incorporate them into my rotation.

Field Trips:
I scheduled my first field trip!  I am super excited to be taking my 6th grade art class to the Canstruction Exhibit in Manhattan next month!  It ties in really well with my Pop Art unit and it's for a great cause.  Typically my school doesn't do Friday field trips, but since art is on a Friday, I was able to make it happen.  I feel really organized and my kids were excited when I told them about it last week.  On a personal note, it's just nice being excited about things like field trips again because last year, I just wasn't.

BBs:
Ahh yes, one of my least favorite parts about teaching - having to update the BB, which is weird, because I love scrapbooking and stuff like that.  Our first official BBs are due by the end of day tomorrow and I am looking forward to putting up my 7th graders Dealing Down reports (our BB theme this time around is "inquiry").

Halloween:
So even though we don't have school on Halloween, I have found some cute Halloween-themed explorations for my math club on Friday (Halloween Logic Puzzle, Witches Potion, Halloween Algebra Puzzles, and of course problems from Math Counts) and a great Pop Art Halloween themed activity for my art class, in addition to finishing up their Pop Art Candy Wrapper piece.  When one of my 7th graders saw the candy corn catapults that my math club made last week, he even said he wished he had signed up for math club instead, which was pretty cool.  I am grateful that I get to teach these two electives because they give me such freedom to try out different things and they allow me the time to explore different projects with my kids.  

Advisory:
I love celebrating random holidays with my advisory every day.  I highly recommend National Day Calendar, because it's both fun and educational.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

It's not perfect, but it's pretty darn good...

I finally feel like I am getting into the groove of things.

Routines are feeling more natural and I really feel like I am finally owning the school year.  I find myself leaving work (most days) feeling successful, accomplished, and looking forward to what the next day will bring.  This doesn't mean that every day is perfect.  In fact a few weeks ago, I left work feeling dejected because I had not one, but two 6th graders cry during math class.  This also doesn't mean that I am 100% on top of all the things things that teachers must do (parent emails, grading, etc...) but still, I leave work knowing I accomplished a lot, and proud of my hard work.  I mean, after all, if you're a teacher, there is *always* more work to do.  As happy as I am with all my new challenges pushing my thinking and practice, I think I big part of it, is simply I have more time.  My official school day  is 30 minutes less than my old school, and not commuting for an hour on the subway in the AM and PM, is amazing.

Last Friday was amazing!  My math club did their first engineering design project, my 6th graders (and I) did our first Socratic Seminar, and in art, my 6th graders discussed Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans.  Next week my 6th graders will finish their first CMP3 unit and I'll get to go on my first school trip.

Something I think is going well is using discussions in Google Classroom for my students math reflections.  In previous years, I have used Schoology, but the science teacher taught me how to do discussions via my Google Classroom page and it's been working out well.  Keeping up with grading has been hard, but I am able to give my students individual feedback on their math writing and they are able to comment on each other's thinking, so I am proud.

I am also feeling closer to my Advisory.  We did a bag project where they decorated paper bags on the outside with things that represented their outside personality, and then inside they put things that represented who they are on the inside.  I have learned so much about them, and am glad we did it.  I feel like we are slowly getting there.

A couple of things that have come up that I don't have time to go into too much detail now:

  • I want to incorporate social justice into my math curriculum.  I bought this book a few years ago and would love to actually incorporate some stuff.  I might start with freerice.com.
  • I have an iLearn account!  My amazing social studies teacher, who uses iLearn, is going to give us a PD on it next Monday, and I think it might have potential.  I watched my class today for a few minutes, and I was just so inspired, not only by by physical classroom space, but what the 7th graders were working on!  I have so much I can learn from her!
  • I'm gonna be bring student-led conferences to my school!  I sat down with my AP and school social worker yesterday afternoon, and they are on board.  I am going to give a PD for the whole middle school staff on Election day and we are gonna make it happen for our first round of Parent-Teacher Conferences next month.  I am so excited to bring this great practice from my old school to my new one!
  • I was introduced to Genius Hour this weekend and I think it has potential (maybe during study hall?) - I need to look more into it.
  • I also want to look into Makerspace -  one of my 7th graders shared that he attended the NY Maker Faire a few weeks ago, and he was excited about it - another thing I need to look more into.  I also have these resources: MakerCamp, and Maker Space at NYSCI.
  • I still want to teach my kids mindfulness and yoga.
  • I found this NY Times article about the importance of recreational math, which is just beautiful.
So many things coming up with work that I am looking forward to.  I am really grateful that I was mindful enough last spring to know that I needed to push my thinking professionally, and then actually brave enough to make a change.  After all, "sometimes change can be scary, but life without no change at all is terrifying."  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I survived the first full week of school, and I got a cold to prove it!

It wasn't a bad cold, more annoying than anything, but yes, the school year is *now* officially official.  A couple things to share about this past week:

* I painted with my art class for the first time last Friday.  It was messy, but I survived.  It was a two-week project, so we will be finishing it up this Friday (luckily only a couple of them need to actually finish painting).  They are coming out so good.  I really am so impressed.  Even more than the actual works, we had a great discussion before we started painting, using the elements of art.  This week they'll also be doing a formal pop art critique, so I am pretty excited with how are is going.  After this week, there are only six more sessions before we switch classes.  I am really enjoying teaching art.

* Speaking of electives, my Math Club this week will be exploring an engineering project on building towers, which I am super excited about!

* This week we finally got our grading system, Jupiter Ed, up and running, and I have at least two pieces of graded work in for all of my classes!  (yay me!)  I have never used this system before, but after a short PD on it from our literacy teacher (who is all about blended learning) and I am really impressed with it, specially with the potential for standards-based grading and parent communication aspect.   

* This week I had my first informal baseline observation.  My principal and AP came into my last period ICT class yesterday, and it went well.  My students were exploring when finding the common factors of numbers might be useful.  I was happy with how the lesson went, and the feedback I got today from my principal was positive and helpful.  Moving forward, I am going to work more on class discourse and discussions, which lead me to my next topic...

* I am trying my first socratic seminar ever this Friday!  I have always wanted to do a socratic seminar in math, especially since my social studies colleague last year was amazing at it, so after talking it over with my co-teacher today, and seeing how this Friday's lesson was kinda bland, we decided to try it this week.  The 6th graders have been doing them in their literature class, so they are familiar with the expectations, and I am excited about it.  My big concern (besides having never done one before) is that the questions my 6th graders will be discussing aren't really big, philosophical, open ended questions, but rather they will be exploring different approaches to finding the least common multiple and greatest common factors.  I am really excited to try something new that I have never tried before and always wanted to.  I will be sure to share the outcome next time.  

* Something that has been on my mind, especially this past week as we continue to move through the first unit on integers and rational numbers, is challenging my 7th graders.  Our first unit is on working with integers and rational numbers, which most of them already know how to do, being G&T.  They will do any work I assign in class, but the investigations we have been working on are all about understanding conceptually how integers work, and I am finding that, again most of them, already know this.  Today I even suggested playing the Stock Market Game, and about 10 of them said they had already done it in 5th grade.  So moving forward, finding challenging and meaningful math for them to explore will be a much bigger focus of mine, because CMP3 might be too easy for them.  
  
*Lastly, and this is a silly update, yesterday my boyfriend found this article on how much it would cost to build the Death Star, so of course the first person I thought of was my advisee who is obsessed with Star Wars, and I couldn't wait to share it with him this morning.  He was so excited, it might have been my favorite moment of the day.

So that's where I am.  Learning, trying new things, and nerd-ing it out, as usual.  I am pretty lucky to get to do what I do for a living <3