Monday, February 23, 2015

Deep Learning looks like...

  • chaos
          Very rarely will you find the class working in any particular order.
  • students  working together
          Students never work alone.  They are discussing, scribbling ideas, trying different things.
  • students yelling (well, not really yelling, but disagreeing about an avenue)
          Some groups actually end up disagreeing and then agreeing and then disagreeing.
  • students walking around room talking to one another
          Often, the students are going from group to group to discuss with each other their ideas
  • I am no longer the center of attention or even in control.
          I circulate around the room, stirring the pot, offering counterexamples, but never telling what to           do.
  • many "aha" and "wow" moments
          Students get the smiles, when they might have it.  I love to hear the "wows" and "really"
  • authentic learning!
          Students not being talked at, or lead.  Students create the road.

Monday, February 9, 2015

What I heard in my classroom, on a Monday!

I happened upon a twitter hashtag of #CelebrateMonday.  It got me thinking about my Monday, my students, and my classroom.  Here are some of the comments that I remember students saying today that made me smile.  There were many, but these are the ones that came to mind as I was thinking about my Monday.  These are in no particular order!

1.  Can't I just stay here with you? Your room is my happy place. (This came from one of my low-level remediation math students!)  This was probably my #1 #CelebrateMonday comment.

2.  Who knew that fractions made things easier?  (I wasn't going to bust her bubble and say that I knew! Students were working with fractional exponents.)

3.  I love radicals within radicals.  (One of my 8th graders shouted out as I he was working on a team check with his team.)

4.  Why can't all teacher's teach this way?

5. Math counts, BABY! (I gathered that one of our middle school math counts teams did very well this weekend!)

6.  Rational exponents are HARD! Time to rewatch the video! (said to the "Time to make the donuts, theme!)

7.  Thanks for caring, Mrs. McGowan! You are like our mom!

8.  I hope we have an early dismissal, BUT after this class, of course! (and no, we didn't have an early dismissal.)

9.  Student 1: Can't we just abolish Mondays?
     Student 2: Then Tuesdays will become the new Monday.

So, as several of my teaching hero's say, "You got a day here! Make it a great one!"

Depth vs Breadth, that age old question!

What I teach in which course actually is on both ends of the pendulum.

In my Flipped Mastery remediation course, I have to cover/review topics from Algebra 1 to help the students pass the Keystone Exam.  I really have the say of what I remediate and how I remediate those students.  I generally use the Keystone Exam results to structure those topics. Not much depth goes into that because it's a limited amount of time that I see the students prior to them taking the exam.  I try different activities to engage the students, such as popsicle stick activities, online matching activities, puzzles, online interactive games, and stations, but the depth isn't really there.

As for my Advanced Algebra 2 class, my department got together and looked at the PA standards for all strands, and decided where certain topics should be and would be taught.  So, the course is outlined for me.  We do take the standards to a much higher thinking for the advanced level student, and cover far more content than our college prep level of Algebra 2.  With flipping, I am able to teach the basic foundations through video, which allows class time to take the depth a little farther.  Without flipping, I never had time to pause and explore.  Now, I do that with my students far more often.  When a student fills out a WSQ that asks a question that is perfect for this, I am able to use the time to have students explore.  Before flipping I used to have to say, great question, research it at home, and tell us about it tomorrow.  Now, we don't need that.  Also, now that we are 1-1 with chromebooks, students have the devices at their fingertips (or at least in their backpacks.)

I wrote a blog about my espoused platform just recently, and in it, wrote about how my teaching philosophy has changed over the 19 years of teaching.  As it was discussed at Flipcon 14, learning is at the intersection of content, curiosity, and relationships.  My classroom has moved from content heavy to where there is starting to be a balance of all 3.  It only took me 19 years, and it wouldn't have happened without flipping.  So, the skills that I feel that are important to teach my students tend not to be entirely based on math, but on living.  Here is a short list to start those skills:

1.  I want my students to learn how to appreciate everyone, accept everyone, and to get along with all beings.

2.  I want my students to take risks, and learn from failure.

3.  I want my students to be able to work with other people, to problem solve with each other, and to trust each other's opinions.

4.  I want my students to be able to communicate effectively and affectively.

Oh Yeah,

5.  I want my students to appreciate math and learn life-long skills.1

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Overcoming my fear of skiing

Today was monumental.

I have had a fear of skiing, both downhill and cross country, for many years.  I dislocated my knee cap 18 years ago, so the thought of skiing scared me to death. Furthermore, I hate snow and I hate being cold.  

Last weekend, my husband and I went snow shoeing, which I do like.  I have a lot of control over that, and falling isn't often.  We decided to snow shoe at the golf club which I am a member.  No golfing happening now, so it wasn't an issue.  Living in the Appalachian Mountain range, the golf course is quite hilly.  So, it was a challenge and a phenomenal workout.  While we were snow shoeing, we saw cross country ski tracks.  The snow was quit deep, and we were often thinking that cross country probably would have been a little easier than snow shoeing that particular day.

After snow shoeing, we met a couple friend for dinner and this couple are snow birds.  They love skiing, and in fact, they both have worked on ski slopes in Colorado.  Through this conversation, I thought maybe my husband and I would rent a pair of cross country skis to try it out.

Today was the day.  The weather was beautiful, sun was shining and the temperature was in the 40's.  An avid cross country skier recommended a particular canyon to go to learn how to ski.  This canyon follows a creek and is relatively flat, with very small inclines.  My husband and I embarked on this adventure.

We had a blast!

I watched a video on the basics on cross country skiing.  It was very helpful.  The only thing I didn't watch, and should have, was how to get up after falling.  We traveled more than 6 miles, and I fell 5-6 times.  I was actually happy about that.  The one fall was particularly interesting, because I right on the edge of the creek and was fearful of falling in.  I could not get up for anything.  At one time I was on my back with my skis in the air.  My husband politely reminded me that he didn't think that was going to be much help.  I finally got up, but not gracefully at all.

We also decided to climb a rather steep grade that wasn't part of the canyon.  Climbing was a work out, but fun.  When we go up to a bend, and realized the hill just continued up and around the next bend, we decided to turn around and go back down.  This was when we realized that we probably didn't make the best decision.  For a newbie, going down hill on cross country skis is not easy.  In fact it was quite rough and very scary. A couple of tumbles later (Thank God nothing is broken!) we made it down to the bottom.  We celebrated at the bottom.

This particular fear was mastered.  I loved it! I want to go back soon.  I want my own skis.

Why is this important to me realize?

How often do I get students that have a fear of something.  Possibly a fear of math all together, or a fear of tests, or a fear of working with others.  There could be a long list of fears a student may have.  My job is to try to help them overcome those fears.  My job is to find the beginner's canyon trail to help them move forward.  As I did with learning today, I had failures.  I fell, and I fell again.  I stepped on my own skis, and my husband's skis.  Coming down the hill, I wanted to cry.  I wanted to just sit down and not move.  But I didn't.  Overcoming those obstacles made me proud, and made me love cross country skiing.  Not quite ready for down hill, but frankly, that fear isn't s profound as it used to be.

If I can help one student this year overcome a fear related to math, I will be thrilled.  I will feel accomplished.

Monday, February 2, 2015

#FlipClass #flashblog on getting kids over the "suck."

Unfortunately, I don't give very many big projects in my math classes.  When I taught Geometry, I gave one every marking period, but not so much now.  We do little investigative things often, but nothing long term. The one big project that I do assign is in April/May is with my advanced math class.  In the past, these students didn't need much poking on my part to finish things, so I never used anything with them.

We are defining the "suck" as the time between a student gets excited to start the project and when they finish.  How do I keep my students moving along, meeting the goal at the deadline, and getting over that "suck."

Unfortunately, I am not very good at this. Personally, I work better sometimes under pressure, and have been known to wait until the last minute to finish something that is due (like a college recommendation, or a proposal of some sort) and it usually turns out to be a good product.  So, teaching high school students, I tend to want to put the responsibility on them.  They know their own schedule, and should work at it at their own pace to finish tasks. They have to learn sometime, right?

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately as you may see, last semester my students didn't care, and didn't want to finish things.  They would rather play games on their phone, or snapchat, or instagram, or maybe even pick dirt from their finger nails than to finish anything math related.  A lot of pleading on my part got things done, but certainly not without a struggle or an argument from the other end. This was my flipped mastery class, with my remediation students.

Here's the fortunate part of the students not caring.  I still cared, and it really bothered me that they didn't care and didn't finish their work. This made me change!  Starting the new semester, I decided to make a check list.  On this checklist, there is the current weekly homework, with due dates, current weekly goals/tasks for the week, and then the upcoming homework assignment(s).  The reason I did the upcoming homework on this checklist is because the checklists aren't necessarily Monday- Friday, and their weekly homework is Monday - Monday. Not sure if it is confusing or not to the students, but I have already heard students asking other students, how their checklist is coming.  Maybe it will work.  If not, I will look for other ideas.

I am also using the website to remind the students to continue working. I figure they are on their phones so much, that an occasional text from me might spark their memory to finish things.

I hope it works.  If not, I will have to continue to figure out a way to "unsuck" my students again.