Saturday, November 19, 2016

(Almost) Thanksgiving Break

Ask any teacher (at least in NYC), and they'll probably say that aside from March, November is probably one of the most stressful months of the school year.  November usually involves end of marking period grading, post-Halloween and pre-December excitement, and usually Parent-Teacher Conferences.  This year, PT Conferences (which were usually held this week) were moved up to October, which I thought would make this month easier, but of course our school Quality Review was scheduled for this week instead.  Oh yeah, and one of our teacher left for a different job earlier this month, and as a result, our whole schedule had to change, which just added to the usual November stress.  Anyway, we've made it (almost) to Thanksgiving Break, which is always a nice milestone of the school year.  We can do this!

Last weekend (which was a glorious three-day weekend), I finally got caught up on all my grading.  I very much enjoyed not bringing home stacks of papers to grade this weekend!  I think the combination of not having our online grade book up and running until mid-October and teaching five classes across three grades that made me fall behind, but I made it, and my goal is to not fall as behind again this marking period.

As for how my classes are going, I am mostly pleased, although as I've said before, I feel like I have so much on my plate work-wise, that my classes are just OK.  I wish there was more time to plan more - seriously I feel like your prep time during the school day should directly correlate with how many different classes that you teach, for example, I teach two 6th, two 7th, and one 8th grade math class five periods every week, plus three days of advisory and one elective every week, so I should have (at least) a prep for each of the grades every day, not one prep for 5 periods (or more) periods of teaching a day.  I know that this is unrealistic, but it would just be nice to have more time planning for my classes, and not just have OK lessons, but truly awesome lessons every single day, for every single class, every single period.  If only teachers weren't only human, lol.

Anyway, my classes are going well.  My 6th graders are still on Comparing Bits and Pieces, although I have supplemented with some problems from Comparing & Scaling from 7th grade, NCTM, and Mathalicious tasks.  My awesome colleague who is teaching the one class in the middle school that I do not teach, has been incorporating social justice throughout the unit, and has shared her resources with me, and I have used some.  I am lucky to work with some truly creative, hard-working people.

My 7th graders finished our Comparing & Scaling/Stretching & Shrinking hybrid unit, and have started Moving Straight Ahead and I already know that I will be supplementing with some of the Thinking with Mathematical Models problems from 8th grade.  I debated including a scale model project with this unit, but decided against it, so that we could spend more time with linear relationships.  The 7th grade classes are so nice because they only have 20 and 21 kids in each, which make one-on-one conferencing great.

My 8th graders are in the middle of Frogs, Fleas, and Painted Cubes, which I am enjoying, because I love quadratic equations.  The feedback from students is that (for the most part) they are enjoying the level of challenge too.  Ironically, three of the problems I have done with the Math Club this year, have shown up in this 8th grade curriculum this year, Sissa's Reward, Handshakes, and Squares to Stairs (which they actually explored during my QR observation this past week).  We've also been using Desmos more and more, which has been nice since I finally have my own set of laptops!  It's been a little challenging since we don't have the textbooks for this unit (since it's Algebra 1 only) but we've been making it work.    Yesterday we even explored first and second differences of quadratics, linear and exponentials, and I referenced derivatives in calculus, which was exciting (and terrifying), lol.

As for Math Club, I am proud of myself for finally incorporating our unit of voting to tie in with the election.  And I love my 6th grade advisory... they have been doing such a great job with our circle check-ins lately - they make me so proud!

Moving forward, I want to bring in some Three Act Tasks to my classes, and continue to tie Mathalicious, NCTM Illuminaions, NRICH, Illustrative, MAP,  and Inside Mathematics tasks whenever I can.  I would also love to include something from Radical Math or BIE.      

This Wednesday, in celebration of Fibonacci Day (11/23) all my classes will be exploring Leonardo Numbers and the Magic of Fibonacci Numbers.

Here's to making it (almost) to Thanksgiving Break!    

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Our job requires a lot of us...

Planning for three grades & grading five classes worth of work takes up more time than actually teaching five classes across three grades every day, especially since I am being mindful about balancing work and life.

Non-teacher-me is proud of myself for setting and keeping boundaries when it comes to doing (and not doing) work; but like all teachers, teacher-me knows that there is always more that can be done, but it would require having no life outside my classroom.

Our job requires a lot of us mentally, physically, and emotionally.  What we do everyday is hard, because what we do every day is important.

I've planned out this week as best as I can, and even though I still have grading (and more planning) I could be doing, I am going to call it a night, meditate for a bit, and then enjoy dinner and the third Harry Potter movie, because I believe in balance.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Planning & Performance Tasks

Wow, it's been almost a month since I reflected on here... time flies when you are having fun (or super busy).  Just have time for a quick update, so here it goes...

All three of the grades I teach (five classes in total) are well into their second unit.  My 6th graders have started Comparing Bit's & Pieces, my 7th graders are almost done with Comparing & Scaling, and my 8th graders are in the middle of Growing, Growing, Growing.  I am still using CMP3 as my main curriculum, but I have been cutting out more, condensing, and adding in lots of other enrichment tasks.  For example, my 7th graders have explored Icy Hot, The New Twenty, Civic Duty, and Coupon Clipping, while my 8th graders have explored Flix, Billions & Billions, and this week my 6th graders will explore Jen Ratio, all from Mathalicious, which I am grateful that my coworker introduced me to last year, and I encourage every middle/high school math teacher to check out.

My 6th graders have also Made Their Own Product Game, and tomorrow my 8th graders will be Predicting Their Own Financial Future, both from Illuminations.  My 7th graders also played the Stock Market Game and invested "$1,000" into real stocks and tracked them, and researched different careers and hourly wages.  Math Club explored Sissa's Reward from NRICH, and the Handshake Problem, also from Illuminations.  I also just introduced them to Alcumus from The Art of Problem Solving, and I am finally getting to explore the Math of Voting during an election year, which I was first exposed to during my Bank Street years.  I've also brought in some Illustrative performance tasks this year.  Speaking of Bank Street, I am going to the Math Saturday this weekend and am looking forward to it.

Overall I'm happy with how things are going, and I do see progress from last year.  I'm not going to lie, planning for three grades and five classes is a lot, but I am finding balance.  It would be nice to be able to get a little ahead in terms of long-term planning and grading, but I am making it work.  I will be sending out my first student surveys in a couple of weeks, and students will be taking the first interim assessment since their baselines, so I'll have the data to look at.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

First Post of the New School Year!

So here we are, about to finish our first full week of school.  Tomorrow is the first day of fall and we are officially in the swing of things.  This year I am teaching two 6th grade classes, two 7th grade classes, and one 8th grade Algebra 1 class.  That's five different groups of students every day.  The best analogy I can think of is juggling five balls in the air at once.  But I am doing OK.  I moved up with the current 7th & 8th graders, so only my 6th grade students are new.  My 6th grade classes are full at just about 30 each, 20 in each 7th grade class, and 25 in the 8th grade. Overall, the beginning of the year has gone pretty smoothly and I am excited for things to come.  

The First Two Days of School aka Week 1
I did my usual Hundred Chart Hunts with my 6th graders and tried out two new new first week of school math activities with my 7th & 8th graders: Broken Squares and Exploring Magic Squares.  I also included the Horse Algebra puzzle that was making it's way around the internet recently, and some Math Jokes for Mathy Folks (again with my 7th & 8th graders only since I already know them).   I also had all my 6th graders make Figure Me Out Posters, which I was able to put up for Back-to-School Night last week.  Magic Squares wasn't originally on my first week of school plan, but I'm glad I made the change, because my 7th & 8th graders loved it.

Curriculum & Weeks 2 & 3
As for the past two weeks, like I said, I am slowly getting my ducks in a row.  I am working through Prime Time with my 6th graders, Accentuate the Negative with my 7th graders, and Thinking with Mathematical Models with my 8th graders, all from CMP3.  I have been actively working on not using the textbooks during the launch (and keeping it less than five minutes), being selective with how I want my students interacting during the explore (writing out work or just discussing), and including writing during the summarize.  Like last year, this can be a challenge when periods are only 40 minutes long.  My summarize still needs work, but I am seeing glimmers of success with the launch and explore.  If I stay on pace, we'll be done with Prime Time next week, and Accentuate and Thinking early next month, which I am proud of.  

Even though I am teaching five classes, there is one 6th grade class that I am not teaching, because literally, it is not possible in my schedule.  So the science teacher is teaching them, and I am so grateful to have someone else teaching my content to collaborate with.  I am so lucky to get to talk to her about math, because she has some really great ideas.  For example, we had our classes make their own Product Game this week, and tomorrow my classes are exploring abundant, deficient, and perfect numbers, after her suggestion.

8th grade Algebra 1 has been going well too, and I have already decided that my 7th graders will do Thinking with Mathematical Models sometime this year too.  I wore this shirt when teaching my 8th graders today...

So, yeah, things have been busy, but good so far, and I think this year will be fun.  Oh, and we have thirty kids in Math Club this semester, including 6th, 7th, and 8th graders!  Looking forward to seeing what else this year brings...

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

CMP3 Summer Institute, My Goals, and the Planning for the First Day of School

Two weeks from now, I will have my 10th first day of school as a teacher.  It's kinda crazy when I think about it.  It's a mixture of excitement from getting a fresh start, to nerves about about what they year will bring, to pure exhaustion from setting up your classroom and setting the stage for the year ahead.

Last week I finished my G & T classes at Hunter, which, for the most part, I found helpful.  My next step is to take the certification test, which I plan on doing in the next few weeks.  My main takeaway from my classes was that if we are to be truly equitable, my G & T students deserve as much of my time as my IEP and general ed students, which was a challenge for me last year.  As a teacher, I know which of my students are gonna struggle the most and our natural instinct is to go and support them because we believe G & T students will "get there on their own" and that is just not equitable.  Speaking of Hunter, I literally have like eight Post-its of things I want to blog about on here - so any things would come up in our classes that I'd make a note to reflect on it when I had more time.  There'd be no way I could meaningfully write about all of it at once, but I hope to cover a lot of it as the school year goes on.

This week I have been attending the same CMP3 Summer Institute that I attended last year, only this time level two for 8th grade.  Next year I will be teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, and even though I am excited about it, I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't stressed out about the amount of work that comes from teaching three different grades.  Overall, the PD has been OK.  I am definitely looking forward to teaching new content like irrational numbers, laws of exponents, exponential growth/decay, transformations, and quadratic functions.  I haven't taught 8th grade in a few years, and am looking forward to the new content. Here are my personal notes/takeaways/things to remember from the last three days:

  • It's OK if not every student has gotten through every part of the problem every single day, but I must make sure that I am giving them enough time to "muck around" with it.
  • The problems in Investigation 1 of each unit are all about setting the stage for the rest of the unit and I shouldn't let the misconceptions in Investigation 1 derail my plans.  In other words, I don't need to fix every misconception that shows up in the first few days of a new unit, but rather take note of those misconceptions and make sure that they are addressed as we move through the unit.  This made me think a lot about the practice that I used to have where we would always spend the last 5 minutes of class "taking notes" generated by the students.   For some reason (maybe the shorter class periods last year) I stopped doing this, and it is something I would like to bring back this year.  This also includes introducing new vocabulary during the summarize, after the students have, again, had a chance to "muck around" with the math.
  • I need to change up the way I do my written reflections in order to keep my students engaged.  Typically, I post the reflection questions after most Investigations on Google Classroom and my students choose one and post a response to it, but that can get boring after a while, so I would like to find other ways to incorporate those written reflections so that they are more engaging.
  • In the Teacher's Guide in each unit, there is a section on the mathematical (content) background and I need to start reading these.  I usually skip these pages because I feel pretty confident in my content knowledge, but there might be something in there that I hadn't thought of or perhaps didn't even know.  I think reading these will also be a way to support my own growth as a mathematician, which is another personal goal of mine this year.  Speaking of professional growth, the CMP3 website has videos of lessons, which I should probably look into, again in order to perhaps get new ideas to bring into my classroom.
  • I need to stop having my students read directly from the textbook during the launch part of the lesson.  It can be boring and I am sure that I lose some kids when I do it.  My main reason for doing it so often is that I am afraid that I will miss something key in the launch, but facilitators this week warn against it, so it is something I will work on.  My goal is 5 minute launches so that within 10 minutes of class starting, students are exploring... yes, I will make this happen!
  • We had a guest speaker yesterday talking about ELLs and my big take away from him is the idea that in order for something to be a "quantity" it must have three things: a sign, a number, and units.  I love this because it emphasizes two big mathematical ideas that students tend to forget - sign and units, so from day one I will be drilling this into my kiddies, because it is an important part of thinking like a mathematician.
  • The CMP3 facilitators also suggest not cutting out any whole Investigations, which is something I struggle with, mostly due to timing - we physically don't have enough days before the state test to do it all (especially since I will probably only being seeing my classes four days a week for 40 minute periods).  I need to come back to this as I plan out my units this year.

Some other ideas that have crossed my mind over the past few days:
  • Get rid of unit tests or rather, give out unit tests for homework as a test grade.  To give a formal unit test at the end of every unit can waste precious time that again, we don't have.  I would still keep my interim assessment (IA) (made from old state test/Regents questions) every marking period, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of no unit tests.  I think this would also help with the standards-based grading because my IAs are already aligned to standards.  Again, I did something similar a few years ago, and think I want to bring this practice back.  Although I would be curious what students would say if I asked them if they wanted more or less formal tests - I don't think the answer is as obvious as we would think.
  • I must incorporate more problem-based learning (PBL) and social justice issues into my classes.  Some of my favorite resources I want to include more of are: BIE, Radical Math, 2030 Schools,  Three Act Tasks, NRich, and Rethinking Mathematics.  

And lastly, I've been thinking a lot about the first day of school, and though I like how I've structured it in the past, with reviewing the 5 Ps & SLANT, and a Getting to Know You survey (followed by the syllabus and a Get it Together puzzle on day 2 and baseline on day 3), this year I think I might try Broken Squares (variation 1, variation 2) on day 1 (which would also tie into our school's core value of inquiry) and then maybe some kind of station work on day 2 to cover the syllabus/survey.  I want to be able to get right into work at least with my 7th & 8th graders since I had them last year.

So here's what's on my back-to-school to-do list:
  • Print out student photos from some of the activities from last year - to make my classroom more personalized this year.
  • Create the 8th grade/Algebra 1 baseline assessment and update 6th & 7th grade baselines
  • Outline curriculum maps with PBLs & social justice issues to incorporate
  • Plan out which standards I am going to track as I try to incorporate standards-based grading.  I've decided that I am only going to track a few big ones from each grade because it would be impossible for me to track all standards for all grades right away - this way I am starting off small.
  • PTA Family Welcome Picnic this Sunday, followed by two optional days to come in offered by the principal next week

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


I did not want to write this post...

I have been waiting for this day for the last several months.  Today would be the day that I found out whether or not I got into Math for America.  

I didn't... and that sucks.  But I'll be OK.

I found out yesterday.  It caught me off guard and I wasn't expecting it.  After last week's interview, I felt good.  After all, I had made it that far.  Mentally, I saw myself getting in.  I knew how I would feel, I knew how I would celebrate.  Man, I really wanted it.

So now what?  First, I gave myself permission to feel bad (at least for a little bit).  Yeah, this sucks.  I wanted to get in.  I worked for it.  I would be a better teacher because of it.  So yeah, I'm sad and a little angry.  I would also be lying if I said that a part of myself didn't feel personally hurt because the subject that I have struggled with many times as a student, once again got the best of me - maybe I'm just not good at math.

But then I realized that that just wasn't true.  I have worked my butt off to get where I am today.  I have failed in math before, and come have back from it.  I am just not in Math for America, yet.

I tell my students that everyone is a mathematician.  Everyone can think mathematically.  There is literally no end to where you can go in math.  So what kind of teacher would I be, if I took this failure, and just gave up?  I would be a hypocrite.  And middle schoolers pick that up fast.  So that is just not OK.  If I want my students to be mathematicians, I need to be be a mathematician right there with them.  

So, what does this mean?  I need to dig deeper into my own mathematical practice.  I already do do this to some degree, but it's time to step up my game, and I think this blog can a good vehicle for that.  Originally I started this blog to focus on my teaching (which I will still most definitely do) but I also want to use it to reflect on math that I am learning.  I think I'll start exploring with Khan Academy and Desmos and make sure I connect with other math teachers looking to do math on the MTBoS.  Plus I'll be teaching Algebra 1 next year, so that alone will open me up to new things.  After all, I plan on interviewing for Math for America again next year, and I want what I share in my interview to be good ;)

Not getting into MfA this year simply means that I have more math to learn.  And the more I think about it, this could be really cool for my classroom this year because I'll be getting messy with mathematics, just like I want my students to.  We can explore our ideas, and apply new concepts, and invent hypothesis and argue with each other and question why and prove our reasoning... we will be doing math together.  And it will be great.

I will be a better math teacher because of this.  

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Twitter, MTBoS, Kagan Cooperative Learning, Maker Faire, 5 Summer Secrets to a Stress-Free Fall, and the TED Ed July Challenge

Like most teachers, most of my Sundays from September to June are usually spent lesson planning and preparing for the week ahead.  Luckily it's July, so my next nine Sundays can be spent blissfully having brunch with friends and catching up on my reading instead.

The beautiful thing about summer vacation is that I don't *have* to do any work.  For two glorious months, the immediate pressure of teaching is off.  But again, like most teachers, just because I don't *have* to work, doesn't mean that I don't do any work.  In fact these past few days, I've been exploring the MTBoS and other teacher resources and have been pretty inspired, so I wanted to take a minute a digest what I've found.  I know a fault of mine is I tend to want to do too much at once, and then what inevitably happens is that nothing really gets done well.  So here's what I've been exploring...

Twitter and the MTBoS Directory
I've known about the Math Twitter Blogosphere for a few years now, but this weekend, I officially added myself to the MTBoS Directory.  I'm telling you, making my Twitter account public a few months ago, has been such an eye-opener.  I have gotten exposed to some many other math teachers that I cannot help but be inspired!  I think that this is so important because it's so easy to get "tunnel vision" as a teacher, especially in a small school, so I am grateful that I get to learn from and collaborate with other amazing math teachers all over the world through this form of social media (seriously if you check out the Map page, we are all over the place).

Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures
Through the MTBoS, yesterday I learned about Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures, which are essentially protocols for student collaboration.  Students work together to learn and responsible for the teammate's learning as well as their own.  Now, I already do a lot of group work in my math classes, but I am very interested in learning more about these specific structures.  I found this resource through Google and have reached out to other via Twitter about it and am excited to see how I can incorporate these tools into my math classes next year.  Also thanks to a new blog that I found through MTBoS, I think I found my first day of math activity for this year, Broken Squares.

2016 Maker Faire
I bought a one day ticket to this year's Maker Faire in October at the NY Hall of Science.  I've never been before, but I've heard good things and the science teacher is also going so you know it's going to be awesome.

5 Summer Secrets to a Stress-Free Fall
Yesterday morning I participated in a free webinar hosted by Angela Watson on the 5 Summer Secrets for a Stress-Free Fall, and found it to be inspiring.  My biggest takeaway was that I am the type of person who needs structure.  I am completely guilty of being totally lazy when I don't have a set schedule.  Don't get me wrong, I love free time, but my free time can very easily spiral to hours of time wasted if I don't give myself some sort of structure.  In the beginning of the webinar we were asked "What do you want your life to look like when summer is over?"  My personal vision includes easy-to-maintain organizational systems at home, first quarter lesson plans sketched out, and great memories with people I love.  In order to make my vision a reality, I am going to decide what my priorities are and break down those priorities into tasks and schedule them into my to-do list.

Ted Ed July Challenge
Something that has been fun the past 3 days has been the TED Ed July Challenge - to learn 31 new things this month.  So far I've learned about writing introductions, the behavior of cats and the science behind The Odyssey. The videos are less than 5 minutes long, and who doesn't love learning new things?

Summer Reading
I added another book to my summer reading list in addition to Flip Your Classroom and Mathematical Mindsets,  Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities, just because it sounds like fun.  But here I go again, I am taking on more than I can chew, and what I don't want to happen is to end up not finishing any of them, so I must prioritize and plan out a schedule.  How about I commit to finishing Flip Your Classroom this month, and then picking one of the other two for August?  After all, I also have non-teaching books I would love to read this summer too, on yeah and the books for my Hunter classes.  Ahh, the beauty of summer <3

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

EOY Student Survey & Reflection, Summer Goals

Is there anything more perfect than waking up that first morning after the last day of school?  I did respond to two work emails this morning, but I was in bed, so totally vacation mode ;)  I didn't want this day to go by without me reflecting on my year and setting some goals for the summer.  There are nine weeks between now and when we go back  to school and I want to make them count, so here it goes...

EOY Student Survey & Reflection
I gave my students an end-of-year survey as their last homework assignment.  I didn't know if we were going to have access to computers during the last two days of school, so I didn't have them do it in class.  The feedback I got from them was useful, however, only about half of them responded, which is a potential flaw in my data (yes, I am still in the mindset of our last 6th grade unit on statistics and data analysis).  Based on the students who responded, some of my noticings include:

  • Overall my students feelings about math are mostly positive now compared to the beginning of the school year
  • Most of my students consider themselves mathematicians, but not all
  • Most of my students felt like they learned a lot this year
  • I need to work on finding more challenging work, as most students felt neutral when asked if they felt challenged in class this year (hopefully my Gifted classes at Hunter will help with that this summer)
  • Most of my students felt that this class connected to their lives, but there is room to grow there
  • None of my students who responded felt disrespected by me
  • Surprisingly, my students overall felt I gave them good feedback on their work, which is ironic because I always feel like this is an area that I need help with
  • Overall my students felt that I had high expectations for them and most students felt comfortable enough to ask questions in class
  • Not unexpectedly, the favorite projects of the year were the Coke Project and Data to Make a Difference projects for 6th grade and the Gameathon project for my 7th graders.  What this means for planning for next year, is how can I do more of that memorable, rich work with my students?
Again, only about half of my students responded, which kinda sucks, but was expected since I was a homework assignment and not classwork, but I feel good about how this year went and what I can work on for next year.

We also reflected on the year as a staff during our PL time on Monday, with questions adapted from Elena Aguilar.  We reflected on this year, the summer, August/Fall, and next school year.  My biggest goals center around preparing to flip my Algebra 1 class, and setting a stricter tone in my class, not that I wasn't strict this year, but since this my first year at the school, I feel like I let some things slide that I normally wouldn't have because I was still getting a feel for my school's culture.  Next year, I will be more confident in how I want my classroom to run using what I already know as an educator and as a veteran teacher at my school.  As it looks right now, almost all the 7th & 8th grade teachers besides myself will be new to our school next year, so consistency will be important, and I am optimistic that I will be able to rise to the challenge.  

Summer Goals
As for summer, here are my goals...
  • I would love to keep blogging on here, at least weekly, to stay in a productive mindset.  I know how quickly it is to get lazy, and don't want to fall into the trap and wake up and having it be Labor Day.  Specifically, I would love to have my unit plans and IAs done for all three grades before we go back, which is a lot of work, but will make my life so much easier next year.
  • Personally, I have been studying Spanish on Duolingo and I am currently 46% fluent.  I would love to be at at least 75% fluent by the time school starts back up
  • On my professional summer reading list is Flip Your Classroom and Mathematical Mindsets as well as just-for-fun summer reading books
  • Become a Google Certified Educator
  • Rock my MfA interview next month
  • Get something productive out of my Gifted Education classes at Hunter.  The summer institute is 6 weeks long and I plan on taking the CST as soon as I can after that
  • Create a Donors Choose project for some iPads for my class next year

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Last Week of School, MfA, NYTL Summit, Google Certification, ATMNYC Conference

The summer solstice may have occurred on Monday, but all NYC teachers know that summer doesn't actually start until next Tuesday at noon.  Yes, we are 3 and a half school days away from summer break!  I remember around this time last year, after I knew for sure that I would be working at my current school, I walked to what would be my new building one afternoon, and just looked at the outside, and wondered which of those rooms would one day be mine, and no here we are...

What Are My Kiddies Up To This Week...
So how exactly does one keep 7th graders mathematically engaged for a double period at the end of the day during the last week of school?  Well, with TED Ed and zombies of course!  My 7th graders explored the bridge riddle in class today and the engagement was through the roof!  They loved it.  We followed up a gallery walk of their work no chart paper, this article and these NRICH tasks.  I totally recommend it!  It was the right balance of challenging and fun for my kids.  Oh and right before we explored the bridge riddle we watched John Lewis' twitter feed as the House floor sit-in began because history is happening, which just made me think about just how fast info is shared today.

My 6th graders are finishing up their Data to Make a Difference statistics project and infographics.  On Friday, both classes are presenting their work to each other during a gallery walk/ math fair.  I love how this project came out and is one I will definitely do again.

As for next week, we have our end of year survey (which I am in the process of modifying), the top 100 things we learned in math this year, one final TED Talk, and Pop Up toasts with my advisory.

I am officially an MfA Master Teacher finalist!  I have my interview next month and I am looking forward to it.  I picked out my topic for my presentation from one of my old Bank Street math exploration papers.  Now that the Praxis and application are behind me, I think I have a real shot at getting in.  More to come...

NYTL Summit, Google Certification, ATMNYC, Teaching Matters
The NYTL Summit was last week, and I feel great about our project to make our students more self-reflective through blogging.  I am so lucky to work with this team who is so open to my ideas and are such wonderful educators! I started working toward my Level 1 Google Certification last week.  It is a small summer goal of mine.  Another summer goal is to start working on my Teaching Matters micro-credentials.  I also signed up for the ATMNYC Conference in November, which will be at Hunter in November.

Still more to come, but that's all for now... here's to an amazing end of the school year!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

EOY Rating, Next Year, Algebra 1, NYTL Summit...

And the magic number is 9!  Yes there are only nine days of school left this year!  Crazy, right?  Today our 6th graders had their Greek Olympics, which consisted of a neighborhood scavenger hunt (our school is in Astoria, after all), games, trivia, and the movie Hercules.  I was the leader of Team Sparta and being a math teacher, of course my team number was pi.  The kids had fun and we had fun too, but as with any field trip, I am ready for a nap, but not before I reflect on what's been going on in my classroom this past week...

EOY Rating & What I'll Be Teaching Next Year 
I had my end of year conference and got my end of year rating this week.  I received an overall Highly Effective, which I am proud of because I worked hard.  This was my first year going with option 1 (one formal and 3 informal observations).  My area of growth is (3d) using assessment in instruction, which will definitely be a focus of mine next year.  Speaking of next year, we got next year's organizational sheet, and I will indeed be moving up with my current 6th & 7th graders, and will also take on two sections of our incoming 6th graders.  I am excited (and a little stressed) to be doing 6th, 7th, and 8th grade/Algebra 1 next year, but I am optimistic, especially because I think there will be a lot of overlap between the grades.  We haven't seen a schedule yet, but it looks like I'll be seeing each class four days a week.  Again, it's a big undertaking, but I am up for the challenge, especially Algebra 1.

Algebra 1 10 Day Challenge
Speaking of Algebra 1, this week also started the Algebra 1 Teachers10 Day Challenge and have found it helpful.  I am not keeping up with it daily, but the resources provide a good framework for thinking about priorities for next school year, and I hope to fully flush it out this summer.

Flipped Classroom & Standards-Based Grading
Speaking of next school year, while at the gym I the pieces of the puzzle that is my classroom next year began coming together.  This is most definitely a work in progress, but right now the plan is I will be fully flipping my Algebra 1 class, have students move through the CMP3 investigations at their own pace in learning groups, assess using standards-based grading, and incorporate ePortfolios (which my 7th graders are beginning in class tomorrow, actually).  I am super excited about it and like I said, my vision came together while I was running at the gym, but I think it is do-able and I am pumped about it!

NYTL Summit, Micro-credentials, Google Certification, 175 PD Hours, Kahoot, Padlet
Some other things coming up include the NY Teacher Leadership Summit that I will be attending with a coworker on Friday and then my AP and two coworkers on Saturday.  I am looking forward to collaborating with Teaching Matters again and making our proposal happen at our school next year.  Also on my to-do list: earning micro-credentials, getting Google Certified, and building on my 175 PD hours that I submitted this week.  Also, I tried out Kahoot in my classroom last week and will be trying our Padlet tomorrow.

Teacher Interviews
Lastly, since our middle school is doubling next year, we have been interviewing.  In terms of core teachers, most of the 7th & 8th grade science, literacy, and social studies teachers will be new to our school and I will be the only (core) teacher moving up with our first graduating class, which is kinda crazy.  However, we have had some great candidates, that I think will really push my thinking, like the 6th grade teachers have this year.  I think we have some great things coming up on our horizon and I can't wait to continue to build and grow!

Favorite Resources
Lastly, I have been updating my Favorite MS Math (& Other) Resources with a bunch of new resources I have found, so be sure to check it out and let me know if you have others!


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Hunter, CMP3, Math PL, Flipped Classroom...

It's kind of crazy to think that in three weeks, we will be on summer vacation.  Really, where did this school year go?!  Although summer 2016 is already pretty packed...

I start my classes at Hunter in July, and they are full time for six weeks.  I met with the Gifted Education Program director earlier this week, and I am looking forward to the program.  I'll take my four G&T classes this summer and then the Gifted CST and then I can apply for my certification extension which will make me K-12 Gifted Certification in addition to my 7-12 Math certification.  She did share with me two new resources W & M School of Education Center for Gifted Education Curriculum and Linda Sheffield's Math Teacher Resources, so I am already learning more.

I also signed up for August's Getting to Know CMP3 Summer Institute Level II for grade 8.  I really felt like I got a lot out of it last summer when I went for grade 6 and since grade 8 CMP3 will be new to me, I hope I get as much out of it.  Then I can say that I've taught every grade using CMP3, which is pretty cool.  I still remember the days a few years ago when I was just getting my feet wet, trying a CMP2 unit in my 7th grade class.  What growth!

Looking forward to a PL I am attending tomorrow on creating a student-centered (high school) math classroom, which I am looking forward to.  Speaking of PL, this past weekend I went to the UFT Teacher Leadership Conference, and was inspired by a high school math teacher who flipped her geometry class this past year.  Definitely more to come on that in a future post.

What have my students been up to?  My 6th graders started their statistics projects and they will be presenting them during the last full week of school and my 7th graders have played around on Desmos Marbleslides twice now and they are loving them - 100% engagement!  Next week are their last interim assessments for the year, and I am using a lot of the same state test questions from this year's state test.

That's all I have time for today.  More to reflect on later...

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Praxis, UFT Conference, NY Teacher Leadership Summit, e-Portfolios, What's Been Going On In My Classroom...

Wow, I cannot believe that it's been more than a month since I posted on here!  How did May get away from me like that?  Well, the wonderful news is that it is June and lots of stuff has been going on, so here it goes...

I passed the Math Content Knowledge Praxis Exam!  As part of my applying to Math for America, I had to take it, and I'm not going to lie, it was work.  I even recruited my old math tutor, and fellow MfA teacher, to tutor me.  I spent at least an hour (or more) every day I could to study and my hard work paid off.  I took it in April and did not get a passing score, so May was my last chance this year for MfA.  I felt much better during the May test - I paced myself better and I got to use my own calculator.  I wasn't able to get my score right after, so I had to wait two weeks to get it, and last Friday I got the wonderful news that I passed.  Now I wait until June 17th to see if I get an interview, and I am optimistic.  I have grown so much as a teacher this year, and think I have a decent shot of getting into MfA if I can get an interview... stay tuned!  Studying and taking the Praxis exam reminded me of something mathconfidence mentioned during the NYC Math Project Conference, two weeks ago about the importance of putting yourself into the mindset of a student.  Studying for this test was hard and took time and effort (and failing the first time), and it reminded me of what it feels like to be a student, and for that experience, I am grateful.

UFT Teacher Leadership Conference
Looking forward to attending the UFT Teacher Leadership Conference this weekend.

NY Teacher Leadership Summit
Our team got invited to the NY Teacher Leadership Summit later on this month! I am so excited to partner up with Teaching Matters again and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to bring our idea into our school next year.  Speaking of Teaching Matters, now that the Praxis is behind me, I can focus on earning micro-credentials again, which was on the back burner while I was studying, so I am looking forward to that.

iLearn & ePortfolios
I attended an awesome PL given by one of my colleagues last week on blended learning and I will be trying out e-portfolios through iLearn with my students before the end of the school year.  ePortfolios has been a goal of mine for a while, and I am excited to get my feet wet with it.  I am lucky that she does a great job with it and was willing to share her knowledge with me and help me bring it into my math classroom.  Speaking of PL, I am looking forward to this Algebra 1 PL at this awesome school right up the block from me next week, so I can hopefully get some great ideas for next year.

What's Been Going On In My Classroom
My 6th graders have been exploring social justice issues, specifically the Wealth of Nations and looking at the ages of US Presidents (which I have done with 7th graders in the past).  I have been incorporating articles into as much as I can, such as this one from CNN.   On Friday they will continue looking at Presidential data and work on this activity from Illuminations.  Right now, the plan for their final project will revolve around the essential question "What data can you collect that will help understand or improve our environment?" and them creating a survey and analyzing their data.

My 7th graders took the January Algebra 1 Regents yesterday and explored Tessellations today.  Instead of doing Filling & Wrapping with them (which I have done in the past) I decided to focus on parallel lines cut by a transversal and some of the problems from Thinking with Mathematical Models.   My goal for the end of the year is to also have them play around with Desmos Marbleslides, because it looks awesome.  Teaching 8th grade Algebra 1 next year will be a new challenge for me, but I am looking forward to it!  

One thing I am looking forward to doing with both grades during the last full week of school is the Week of Inspirational Math.  I wanted to do it last year, but just so drained by the end of the year, I hope I can make it happen this year because I think it could be awesome.  Another option would be Fractal Challenges, which would tie in nicely with the work my 7th graders have done with tessellations.  Decisions, decisions...

My Harry Potter elective has been fun doing transfiguration (charades with play-doh) and Harry Potter anagrams, and doing some neat Scholastic activities.  Only two more meetings before our end-of-year feast.

In Visual Art, last week my students studied Takashi Murakmi and designed their own skateboards decks and will begin their final piece of the year, their Keith Haring Social Justice Poster.  I gotta say, I was terrified to teach art at the beginning of the year, but it has been fun teaching (and learning about Pop Art) overall, especially since I was able to revise my curriculum twice (this is our third semester of art, each being 10 weeks long)

2016-2017 School Year
I have been adding to my Favorite Math Resources and as a result, have begun planning for next year.  Lots a good stuff to build on from this year!  This week last year, I was invited to demo a lesson at my current school, and man, what a difference a year makes!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Space Mud & the NYCTF, Wrapping Up This Year, Planning for Next Year, My Favorite Math Resources, and Mastering the Art of Living

Space Mud and the NYCTF
On April 5th, nine years ago, when I was but a Stony Brook senior about a month away from graduation, I went on an interview for the NYC Teaching Fellows.  Part of this interview included me doing a 10 or so minute demo lesson.  I chose to do a science lesson on the properties of matter and had my "class" (aka other interviewees) make "Space Mud", which I had made several times with the kids at the Child Care Center.  I don't remember why I chose that particular activity.  I suppose I thought it would be fun, educational, and (hopefully) memorable enough (in a good way) to get me into the Teaching Fellows.  Today, nine years later, I made Space Mud again, although the context was in the form of "potions class" and it was with my 6th & 7th graders who are part of our Harry Potter elective.  I hadn't thought about that demo lesson in years, but it was (at least partly) what set me on this journey called teaching.  I would ultimately get accepted into the math immersion program two days before graduating from SBU, and moving back home, and had to let them know in less than a week whether or not I accepted.  And it all started with Space Mud.

Now that state tests are over, I've been thinking a lot about next year, as most teachers do.  I am looking forward to Spring Break next week as well (as all teachers do) even though I'll be scoring math state tests every day during the break.  Being in a new district this year, I'm curious to see how it is different than in my old district.

Wrapping Up This Year
As we wrap up this year, my 6th graders began their final unit on statistics and data analysis, Data About Us and my 7th graders will began their Gameathon Challenge projects and then it's right into Algebra 1.  I'm happy with how this year is turning out so far.  My goal in the next few months is to continue to use this blog as a place for me to reflect on my practice, ultimately with the goal of being a better teacher.

Planning for Next Year
As I begin to think about next year, I started formally collecting my favorite math resources from the past nine years.  I'm sure I will be adding to it as the year goes on.  This summer I will be taking grad classes (yet again) for six weeks at Hunter for my G&T certification.  I have some awesome sounding District 30 PDs coming up on the Algebra 1 Regents, and Creating a Student-Centered Math Classroom, and I'm staying optimistic about getting into Math for America, as well as the NY Teacher Leadership Summit with my colleagues.

Before I close, I wanted to share a quote that I heard for the first time yesterday, that I think sums up my goal when it comes to teaching and you know, life...

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

EdCamp, Praxis, NY Teacher Leadership Summit, Test Prep, Post-Test, PBL & BIE

Despite the weather feeling otherwise, Spring is indeed here!  My students have been taking their ELA state test this week, and then next week is math.  It's so wonderful that they have unlimited time this year, and so far, everything has been running smoothly.  Needless to say, though, that I've had a lot a time to think, while actively proctoring...

April Events: EdCamp, Praxis, NY Teacher Leadership Summit application
I think my biggest realization so far has been "Wow, I have a lot going on in April, but man I am happy about it."  It's true, every weekend in April, I have something work-related going on.  This weekend I'm participating in EdCampBrooklyn, the following week I am taking my Praxis exam for MfA, and I am scoring state tests the last two weekends.; and some of my amazing colleagues and I have been working on our NY Teacher Leadership Summit application, which I will be submitting for us later on this month.  So April has been busy, but I see myself growing and learning so much!  A year ago, I felt... stagnant - I was overwhelmed, and didn't feel like I was growing anymore.  What a difference a year makes!  I also recently got reacquainted with something I wanted to do more than a year ago, but never followed through - Teaching Matters Micro-credentials.  I signed up with my old school, but never did anything with it, but now I think I am in a much better place to take advantage of these opportunities.  

Another thing that has been on my mind as I proctor, is, obviously, what to do after the test, and I think I have a rough idea.  My station work reviewing for the state test next week has been going well.  I really like my structure of four stations (multiple choice questions w/o calculators, multiple choice questions w/ calculators, constructed response questions, and grading constructed response questions (and if I want smaller groups, or have more time, sometimes a fifth station of online practice) but I really like how it works.  It gets kids moving and talking, and is a different way to review for the state test.

After the test, however, my 6th graders will be studying statistics, so I think their final project will be either be a quantitative or comparative investigation.  I skimmed the CMP unit project, and it looks like it has potential.  I may skip the post-test standards for my 7th graders and have them participate in the MIND Research Institute's Game-a-thon as their big project for this year and then I want to start on 8th grade CMP, even though we don't have the books yet.  The Game-a-thon project ties in nicely with our current unit on statistics and probability, and would work out perfectly for our family engagement night in May.

Next Year
Another thing that always comes to mind this time of year, is "how am I going to make next year awesome?"  In addition to our NY Teacher Leadership Summit project (even if we don't get picked, we are gonna try and make it happen anyway), I want to explore standards-based grading and project-based learning more.  My AP even shared this awesome PBL resource, Buck Institute for Education (BIE), with me earlier today.   I will most likely be moving up with all of my classes next year, so I will be teaching 7th and 8th grade/ Algebra 1, so lots of opportunities for growth next year.

2016 MoMathlon
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to bring ten of my 7th graders to the 2016 MoMathlon, and even though it was a cold, rainy Monday, we had a great time and one of the teams was even able to bring home the 5th place trophy!  I was so proud of them, and so grateful to all the parent support.  It was our first time participating (I had brought students to the Bronx one the past few years) and definitely gives us room to grow, so I am excited.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Field Trips, Electives, Math Competitions, PD, iLearn, and TED Ed

Wow, I can't believe that March is almost over!  Next week my kids will be taking their ELA state tests and then their math test the following week.  This week would normally be Spring Break, so it's kind of depressing that it's not, but it will be glorious when it happens in the end of April in a few weeks (even though I'll be scoring math state tests the whole break)!  Here is what's been happening in my math (& art) classroom these past few weeks...

Field Trips
Our field trips to the Math Museum with my 7th graders three weeks ago, and my 6th graders last week was OK.  I wish the museum had more (and wasn't so expensive), but I think the kids enjoyed it, and both days were nice enough to have lunch in the park across the street.  This past Monday, my advisory students and I volunteered at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen for their service learning project, which was a great experience.  They were super organized, and I think my kids got a lot out of it.  I would definitely volunteer there again.  The last trip of the year I have planned is a whole middle school trip to the Festival of Cultures, in May, which I am looking forward to because it is always a good time.

Math Club & Harry Potter Electives
Tomorrow is the last day of the Math Club elective.  We will be celebrate becoming a gold-level club, and do one more STEM activity - the Marshmallow Challenge!  Afterwords, they will also take a survey to reflect on the elective and give me feedback on how I can improve for next year.  Already at least one of my 6th graders said they she wants to come back, which makes me feel good.  Overall I enjoyed the elective, but I wish it had been shorter.  We have met once a week, for a double period since September.  Some of the other elective teachers feel the same way, so next year, we might do 12-week elective cycles, to give other kids the chance to participate.  Starting April 7th, the next elective cycle kicks off, and the Harry Potter Elective will start.  The kids have been submitting their preferences the past two days, and there is definitely some buzz about it, which I am excited about.  Plus, the four 6th grade students who came to me with the idea for a Harry Potter club, have planned out rules, activities, and even wrote lesson plans for it (oh yeah, and they wrote essays about why they should be in Harry Potter club - which they didn't even have to do!).  It's hard to not be so excited when they are so into it, so I am looking forward to being Headmaster Anna ;)

MoMathlon & Olympiad for Girls
This coming Monday I am taking a group of 7th graders to the 2016 MoMathlon, which will be fun (they even opened it up to bringing more than one team without having to pay another registration fee, which is sweet).  The team is looking forward to it, and their parents are happy they we are participating too, and who knows, maybe we'll even be able to bring home a trophy?  On April 15th, myself and our ICT teacher are also brining a group of girls to the Math Olympiad for Girls, and the girls who are participating are super excited.  

Professional Development
I've been looking into a lot of different PDs lately, and am excited to have some (hopefully) good ones coming up.  Next weekend I'll be attending EdCamp Brooklyn, and I signed up for the UFT Teacher Leadership Conference in June.  Last week, I also shared with my colleagues info about the NY Teacher Leadership Summit, hosted by Teaching Matters, and hopefully we will be submitting an application next week.  It would be great to work with them again.  I also submitted my Hunter application for the Summer Institute.  My biggest goal, however, is to get into the Math for America Master Teacher Fellowship.  I am taking the Math Content Praxis in a few weeks, and I am not going to lie, I am a little worried about it.  If I can do well, then I am fairly confident I can get in, but man, is that test is scary, but I will keep studying and give it my best shot.  

Standards-Based Grading & iLearn ePortfolios
I shared out my independent inquiry on standards-based grading with my colleagues this past week, and I am looking forward to trying out some things with our current grading platform, Jupiter.  I also want to test out using iLearn for our math ePortfolios.  All our students already use it for social studies, and I am looking forward to exploring it's use for math.

I just had to share out this excellent resource that I just started using with my students, TED Ed.  I've been using it with my 7th graders, and it is a great site for short video clips to get kids thinking, and they even have lessons you can customize.  I am telling you, next year I am just going to use TED Ed, Mathalicious,  nrich, and Illuminations with my 7th & 8th graders.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Engineering Design, Harry Potter, and Growing Professionally

Wow, I cannot believe that has been over a month since I posted on here.  Mid-winter recess is behind us and we in the middle of probably my least favorite month of the school year.  March is long, state testing is right around the corner, grades are due, and the end of the year just seems so far away.  I've been busy, but productively busy as opposed to overwhelmingly busy, which is nice.  Not every day has been good, but there has definitely been some good in every day...

6th Grade Coke Engineering Design Project
So my 6th graders have been working on their engineering design projects where they had to come up with a new box for Coke that was not the same as the original 3x4 and 2x6 can configurations.  They had to come up with a rationale why their box was the next big thing, both a net and a 3D model of their package, accurately calculate the surface area and volume and cost of their package, and come up with a pitch to present their ideas with visuals and enthusiasm.  It was a two week project that they worked on in both their math and science classes and between yesterday and today both classes gave their presentations to their classmates and about 25 parents and adults.  The parents acted as "representatives" from Coke and had questions and eventually picked the "winning" design.  This was a fantastic project and I was so very lucky to have the support of the science teacher and my co-teacher.  I was so proud of my students and got to see so many of their talents.  They enjoyed working on it, and the parents really appreciated coming in to see their kids shine.  I also learned a lot from this experience, and got many ideas for other project-based learning opportunities.  I hope to do something similar with my 7th graders for their current unit on statistics and probability.

Math Museum Field Trips
Tomorrow is my first of two field trips to the Math Museum this month. Tomorrow I am going with my 7th graders and in two weeks I'll be going with my 6th graders.  I am looking forward to and I think they'll have a good time exploring Mobuis strips, plus the weather has been so nice, we should be able to enjoy a nice lunch in the park afterwards.

Math Competitions
Next month, I'll also be taking two different groups of students to two different math competitions, the 2016 MoMathalon and the Girls Math Olympiad.  I was also looking forward to possibly going to Pi5NY this year, but I have another engagement that day, so maybe next year.  

Ten Marks Math Madness
Ten Marks Math Madness began again this week and interest has been OK.  We are taking a break from Khan Academy, which will be a nice change before the state test next month.  I am hoping that once my students see the week 1 standings they will be motivated to try for the grand prize, a class set of Amazon tablets, which would be awesome.  We'll see how they do....

Service Learning
My advisory will be volunteering with Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen later on this month as part of their service learning project.  I am proud of them for picking a huge topic like homelessness and finding a way to give back.

Harry Potter Elective
Our current elective cycle is coming to an end at the end of the month, and I think I want to take a break from Math Club.  I was thinking about doing meditation/ yoga or photography, but some of my 6th graders asked me if I'd want to do a Harry Potter elective, and I told them I'd think about it.  Well, they were very persistent, sending me several documents that they created outlining inclusive activities, rules of conduct, and even a schedule.  So I did some of my own research (here, here, and here) and submitted a proposal to my AP and it looks like I will be a headmistress next month for our first Harry Potter elective and I am kinda super excited about it.  I will definitely be sharing more details as it develops.

Growing Professionally
One of the reasons I changed schools last year was because I felt I wasn't growing anymore.  Despite being Lead Teacher for the past two years, my thinking was stagnating, which is never really a good thing.  One of the best things I did was take on the new challenge of finding a new school to force me out of my comfort zone, which I am happy to say has worked.  So what next?  Well I finally started my application for the Summer Institute for Gifted Certification, which will get my my G&T certification, and I am also applying to the Math for America Master Teacher Fellowship for next year.  I went to an info session a few weeks ago, and I just had stars in my eyes!  Math for America sounds like an amazing organization to be involved with and I want to be amazing!  I started my application for there too and even signed up for the math Praxis exam next month.  I won't hear anything until the summer, but I think I have a decent shot of getting in.  I want this!  Lastly, I was also inspired by a former colleague to sign up for EdCampBROOKLYN next month.  It sounds like really amazing teacher-led PD, so I am looking forward to that.

So lots of good things happening and lots of good things to come!  Like I said before, every day may not be good, but there is some good in every day.  I am very lucky that I am in a place in my life where I can keep growing and learning.  Isn't that what education is all about?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

CMP3/ Curriculum, Standards-Based Grading, School Visit, Math Club, Spring Electives

Some things that have been on my math & art teacher mind lately...

CMP3/ Curriculum
I love teaching algebra!  It is truly where my heart is.  I am finishing up Moving Straight Ahead with my 7th graders and I think next year I'm just going to skip 8th grade and do Algebra 1 with them because it's so much more fun.  I love teaching slope and graphing and equations!

My 6th graders started Covering & Surrounding this week and I am getting more comfortable with what I can skip.  I'll also be doing the 7th grade package design project with them and have parents come in for their final presentations in the beginning of March.  Variables & Patterns will be our last unit before the state test in April, so more algebra!  Yay!

Standards-Based Grading
My independent PL cycle is going to be on standards-based grading.  I am hoping to start small this year, and see what works for me so I can fully implement it next year.  I've gotten some good input from the Facebook group that I've joined.

School Visit
Next week I'll be visiting the Brooklyn School of Inquiry with my AP.  I hope it is a productive visit and that I get some good ideas.

Math Club & Other Math Stuff
My Math Club is in the middle of their Gold-level project for the National Math Club.  I am looking forward to seeing their final presentations next week.  I've never been a gold level club before, which is kinda cool.  I also launched the St. Jude Mathathon this week, and the kids seemed interested.  Turn in has been slow so far, but I am optimistic.  I also told my 7th graders about the 2016 MoMathlon competition in April, and there is some interest, so hopefully we can get a team of 5 together and compete.  I've brought students to the Bronx one for a few years, so I know it's a great experience.  I'm waiting for the pi5ny competition to open up for this year so I can finally bring kids to that for the first time.   

The Math Club elective will end at the end of March, and I am thinking about what I should do next.  I could do a shorter Math Club elective with new kids, or I was thinking about meditation/ yoga, or maybe photography... decisions, decisions...  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Formal Observation Feedback

Only have time for a quick post tonight...

Formal Observation Feedback
I received my AP's feedback from my formal observation earlier this week: Effective in 1e designing coherent instruction, 2a creating an environment of respect and rapport, 3b using questioning and discussion techniques, 3c engaging students in learning, 3d using assessment in instruction, and 4e growing and developing professionally; and Highly Effective in 1a demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy, and 2d managing student behavior.  In addition to component-specific feedback, my "glows" centered around activities, assignments, and discussion techniques.  My "grows" and next steps centered around instructional materials and resources.

Being that this is my first year teaching in a G&T school, a personal goal of mine is to visit another middle school G&T math classroom, specifically to learn how to better structure class time and curriculum, so that all students are engaged on intellectually challenging material.  I think a key component of this will be a move towards standard-based grading, where students are working on different material, while mastering the content.  My next 7th grade unit is on statistics and probability, and since I feel more comfortable modifying the 7th grade curriculum than the 6th grade, I think I may change up my current class structure.  I also signed up for a 6-week online PD from the NY Hall of Science on Design Thinking, which I will hopefully be able to get ideas on.  I also started applying to G&T certification programs for the summer.  I also began looking into NCTM conferences, Math in the City programs, NYC Math Project programs, and Math for America programs.  Must continue growing because I want to be the best!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Field Trips, Formal Observations, STEM...

After Fridays, Wednesdays are probably my favorite day of the work week.  More than half the work week is over, and Mondays - Wednesdays are usually my most productive days, so Wednesdays are good.  Even though it's been hard to get out of bed the past few days (it's just so warm and cozy) work has been good.  Like last week, I am still amazed that we are almost half way done with the school year!  It is going by so fast!  And almost not a day goes by where I don't regret making the (scary) choice to try something new.  So here's what's been going on in the math (& art) middle school life the past week:

Field Trips
I scheduled my first whole-grade field trips of the year!  (My art trip in November was just one class).  My 6th graders and 7th graders are going to the Math Museum on two different days in March, which will hopefully break up the miserable school month of March a little bit.  I also scheduled our trip to the Festival of Cultures in May for the whole middle school.  Fun trips coming up!

Formal Observation/ Mathalicious
Tomorrow morning I will have my formal observation with my 7th graders.  We will be doing an inquiry investigation on linear equations using Domino's Pizza.  It hits some important 8th grade standards on equations and functions (yes, I am doing it with 7th graders!).  I am so happy with my Mathalicious subscription, I highly recommend it for any middle/high school math teacher!       

Math Club/ STEM: Building Straw Bridges
Tomorrow my Math Club will begin formally working on their Gold-level project for the National Math Club and they will also explore building straw bridges.  One of my 6th graders (who isn't even in Math Club) shared with me this game as a resource.  I am excited to see what they come up with!    
Ten Marks March Math Madness
A few years ago, my students used Ten Marks as an online resource.  It was especially engaging in March when they have a contest, March Math Madness.  I got an email from them about it this week, so I decided to check out an account.  I even had a student test it out, and I think I may use it again (at least for Math Madness) as a way to change things up.  Currently my kids use Khan Academy online, which is great, but it might be a nice change (and good motivation) to switch over for a bit.    

Interim Assessment #2
One of my classes took their second interim assessment this week.  The other two classes will take theirs in two weeks.  These are assessments that I make, using released state-test questions.  The next round will be in March and the final will be in May.  I am proud of myself for following though with this goal.  The data has been useful and I don't feel like I am over-testing them, especially since I create the tests, so I know they won't be a waste of time (like prior benchmarks given to us from the city have been).     

Parent Engagement
I finally sent out my first parent newsletter of the year this week!  I have been wanting to do it all year, but it just hasn't happened.  I like how it came out and I hope to send one out every Tuesday during our parent engagement time.  When my 6th graders start their geometry unit, Covering & Surrounding, we will also be inviting families in for the Coke Project (probably sometime next month), which should be fun.

Andy Warhol
In art this week, my students will be studying Andy Warhol work on this project.  

Working with Individual Students
I am so lucky to work at a school that is so flexible with their schedule.  Today I was able to skip lunch duty, still have my prep period, and use what would have been my prep to work with two individual students during their study hall period.  Nothing is better than being supported in working with kids one-on-one.  This is something I tried to bring to my old school, but wasn't able to make happen.  Right now this is on a week-by-week basis, but it is fantastic and I hope it continues!     

Advisory Service Project
My advisory is still working on their service project around homelessness.  I am so proud of them for taking on such a great cause.  They are really starting to own this service learning project.

G & T Extension Certification
I started looking into Gifted & Talented Extension Certification programs.  I am currently only have my secondary math certification.  The Summer Institute for Gifted Certification program at Hunter College looks promising.  My only fear is that it will be very elementary school focused (since G & T testing happens to little kids).  I know St. John's has a program too, which I believe is online (which would be nice) but I hear it's pricy.  Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

First Post of 2016!

Happy New Year or as I like to call it, the almost half-way point of the school year!  There is nothing quite like making it to Winter Break!  As happy as I am with my job, nothing beats being on vacation for 11 days.  I didn't do as much work as I planned, but I have no regrets.  We've been back for three days now, and I must say, they have been quite smooth.  I'm definitely not as stressed as I was last year.  Looking back at my 2015 New Years resolutions, one of them was to "find a new (more fulfilling & balanced) job" and although I was scared to take the leap, I am so glad that ultimately I was brave enough to make a change to try something new.  Here's what's been going on in my classroom in these first few days of 2016...

Happy Teacher Challenge
Someone posted about this 30 Day Happy Teacher Challenge on one of the teacher Facebook groups that I belong to and I think it's a really cute idea, I am gonna try it!  I printed it out today and will hopefully start with day 1 tomorrow.    

Scratch Project
The Programming teacher at my school told me about a Scratch project the 6th graders are going to be starting next week, where they create a calculating machine.  So I shared with him the 6th, 7th, 8th grade, and Algebra 1 reference sheets from the state tests and they are going to use them!  I am so excited for this project.  I cannot wait to see what they come up with!
Math Club
After presenting the board games they designed, Shark Tank style, before the Winter Break, the Math Club will be working on a classroom redesign challenge this week and will begin looking into their gold-level project for The National Math Club.  I also would love to do another STEM project with them soon.  I was thinking maybe having them make a balloon car, but I still want to do some research.

My 7th graders in art will be studying Pop artist Romero Britto this week and creating a piece inspired by him.  I also found this awesome teacher art blog to follow with some really great ideas.

My 6th graders have been working through the Let's Be Rational unit, which focuses on operations with fractions, which I know some of them needed because the pre-assessment, but some of them are pushing back because they already know the algorithms for working with fractions.  Since this curriculum goes for conceptual knowledge, they have been doing a lot of modeling in class, which for some of them, seems unnecessary.  Today, my ICT class really wanted to discuss mathematical modeling, and I didn't want to disrupt the discussion, so I threw the lesson plan out, and we had a Socratic Seminar on mathematical modeling today instead.  They were begging not to leave when the bell rang.  It just goes to show you that sometimes the best lessons are not even planned!

My 7th graders are finally working on Moving Straight Ahead, which is all about linear relationships and I am loving it!  I am even getting to do some of the slope investigations that I used to leave out in past years.  This is always my favorite unit because I love algebra.  My next steps will be to find some good problems on Mathalicious or Illuminations or Illustrative.  I am having my formal observation with them next Thursday, so I want to make sure we do something good.  It's a great unit to be formally observed on because there is just so much you can do with linear relationships.    

Advisory Service Project
My advisory finally decided on a cause for their service project - homelessness.  I am so excited because not only did they choose it, but I think it gives us a lot of options for projects we can do.  We had been leaning towards homelessness since we read this article earlier this week and then Channel One had a segment on it today, which I think sealed the deal.  They began researching today and I cannot wait to see what they come up with!

Goals/Next Steps/Ideas for Next Time:
  • Incorporating more literacy into math class
  • The Package design project with my 6th graders and inviting their families in
  • Standards-based grading
  • Math portfolios
  • Field trip ideas - Math Museum