Tuesday, December 8, 2015

11 days away from Winter Break...

...not that things have been bad, but come on, who can resist 11 whole days off from work!  On a serious note though, sometimes I really can't believe that work can feel like this.  Yes, it's work, but its different.  I really am enjoying my job this year.

Arts Elective
Last Friday was our Arts Elective presentation.  The 6th grade class that took Drama, but on some awesome, thought-provoking skits, the 7th graders made an amazingly funny music video, and my young artists showcased their work in the hall and in a slideshow that I put together.  It was really great!  This Friday I get my new group of artists, my 7th graders, and I am looking forward to working with them.  I have a better idea about how I want to structure the 10 weeks, and I think it will work out well.  The first difference is that I am going to have them create sketchbooks  the first day (so that they don't have to go out and by them) and we can use them throughout the class to sketch and take notes.  I am looking forward to Visual Art 2.0!

Informal Feedback
The day we got back from Thanksgiving Break, my principal did an informal walkthrough with one of my 6th grade classes.  Here was my feedback:

Student-to-Student Discussion
Students provided clarification for one another. The majority of students used accountable talk techniques (agree/disagree, paraphrasing other speakers). The majority of students tracked speakers. You paraphrased when necessary and stayed out of the discussion (only intervened when necessary). Continue to encourage these discussions with your class. It was great to see them talking their was through these ideas.

Mathematics Vocabulary
Students used appropriate vocabulary. They used this vocabulary such as absolute value, negative number line, denominators to talk through their understanding of the hierarchy and patterns inherent in fractions. It is evident that using appropriate contextual vocabulary is the norm in your class. Keep this up!

Student Participation
Eight students contributed to the discussion. While rich, we encourage you to cold call students who have not contributed to share their perspectives or questions. You can allow them to pass if they do not think they can contribute with the expectation that they will participate next time.

So I will work on encouraging more discussion from the quieter students, maybe giving them time to tall at their table first before the whole group.  I was proud that I didn't intervene much and that my students were really taking ownership of the discussion, since that is something I wanted to work on since my last informal.

Curriculum Updates
My 6th graders are finishing up Comparing Bits & Pieces (unit 2) and will begin "Let's Be Rational" (unit 3) next week.  My 7th graders finished up "Comparing & Scaling" (unit 2) last week and began "Moving Straight Ahead" (unit 3) this week.  I am a little worried about my pacing with my 6th graders, especially since 6th grade is new to me.  I have this month all planned out, but I plan on reevaluating and revising my pacing calendar over the Winter Break.

This is probably what I am most excited about!  This week, at the recommendation of the science teacher who taught math last year, I signed up for a Mathalicious account and I love the lessons they have on there!  In fact this week, my 6th graders will be learning about the jen ratio and explore how the media affects our happiness.  This will also be the bulletin board piece at the end of the month, which is cool.  I highly recommend this resource for any middle or high school math teacher.  I can't wait to see what other lessons we do!

Students vs Teachers Volleyball Game
Our students have been studying volleyball in PE the past couple of weeks and yesterday we decided to do a Student-Teacher Volleyball game on the Tuesday before Winter Break!  I love doing things like that and I think it'll be fun.

Lastly, last week I started restructuring advisory differently.  We started sitting in circles and literally using a microphone for the "one mic rule."  I do see some improvements.  We've been discussing our service project and so far it's been good.  During yesterday's weekend check-in a lot of them shared, which was nice, so I think the circle helped.  I hope to keep building on this momentum.  I also want to use some ideas from The Advisory Book.  I am confident we will get there!

Math Club
My math club has been working on designing their own board games the past couple of weeks.  The Thursday before Winter Break, they will be presenting their board games to each other, Shark-Tank style.  Their games are looking pretty awesome.  Plus today, the science teacher asked me if I wanted to do some rocket launcher STEM projects with the math club in January (which of course I said yes to) so I am super excited for January, since we'll have that and the Math Counts gold-level project to work on.  I go back and forth between if I want to continue Math Club in the Spring or come up with another elective (maybe photography or mindful yoga) - we'll see.