Friday, August 18, 2017

Classroom Management #SundayFunday

Classroom management is a tricky and expansive subject.  I think that's why no one talks about it.  What works for one teacher will not always work for another teacher.  What bothers one teacher may not bother another teacher.  For example, I have a high tolerance for certain student behaviors, but I cannot stand when they throw their trash across the room into (but usually out of) the garbage bin.  Also, there are so many aspects of classroom management, it is hard to discuss them all.

Here's what works for me:
Since I teach teenagers, I keep respect at the center of everything I do.  They want to be respected, and they are at the age where they view respect as a two-way street.  As teachers I think most of us expect respect, but in the minds of our students, we have to earn their respect.  We are the adults, it is our job to model respect for our students by giving them respect first.

I lead by example.  I demonstrate good manners.  I don't bark out orders or commands.  I make everything a request.  "Please put away your phone."  "Take off your hood please."  I ask politely with a smile.  When students don't follow my requests they look like jerks because they are school rules and I am asking them nicely.  Oftentimes their friends will encourage them to follow my request.  When students don't follow the request, I ask again and remind them that right now I am asking nicely, if I have to say it again I won't be as nice.  This is usually where the students sigh and comply.

I explain things to my students.  Teachers have to make countless decisions.  Sometimes we get push back about our decisions from our students.  If students ask why something is a certain way, I explain it to my students as best as I can.  I think this discourse is completely worth it, and I trust my students enough to share it with them.  Usually when I explain my thinking students understand.  Sometimes students come up with alternate solutions.  I love it when they do that.  I take their viewpoints into consideration, and use their ideas when I can.

When students are difficult, I take the time to try to win them over.  Last year I was unsuccessful.  The year before I was successful.  It won't always work.  I try to be extra pleasant to students are unpleasant to me, but this can be exhausting so it may not happen every day.  My rationale is that you cannot teach a student that you do not like.  So when I have these difficult students I will go out of my way to find something about them that I like, and I hold on to that thought when I interact with the student.  

Here's what doesn't work for me:
Has anyone ever advised you to not smile until Christmas?  If smiling comes naturally to you, it's not easy to not smile for an extended period of time like that.  The idea of this advice is that you don't want your students to think that you are nice and try to get away with anything and everything.  The thing is, I am nice.  I smile at my students all the time.  I tried so hard to follow this advice my first year of teaching, and to be strict for no reason.  Guess what happened.  My students saw right through it because I was being inauthentic.  I had to be myself.  I smile at my students.  They try to get away with things, but you know what?  I don't let them.  I am firm with them when I need to be.  Usually because I am so nice most of the time, students understand when they cross a line because I'm not smiling anymore.  My emotions are all over my face whether I want them to be or not.  There's no point in trying to hide it.

Something new I am trying:
I am a member of the 40 Hour Teacher Work Club.  We were given the advice to plan out our procedures before school began, and I did just that.  We were given a list of procedures to plan for.  I picked out the procedures that are relevant to me and my students, and I planned out how they work in the classroom, how to teach them, and when to teach them.  Many procedures were ones that I had in place previously, but never committed to paper.  Some procedures are new.  I'm excited to have this list to refer to at the beginning of the school year because I always feel like I forget to warn students about certain procedures before we need them.

Parent contact:
Parent contact is hard for me.  I rely heavily on email because I am rarely alone in my classroom to make phone calls.  I collect parents' email addresses at the beginning of the year.  I email all parents about up-coming assessments along with a brief update about what we're doing in class and any other important information.  Parents love these emails.  I end each email with an invitation to the parents to email me if they have questions or concerns.  I like to build this good rapport with parents.

I rarely contact parents about student misbehavior.  Most student misbehavior that I encounter can be handled in the classroom.  The worst thing my students do most of the time is talk at the wrong time.  (I hope I'm not jinxing myself for this year.  *Knock on wood)  My typical discipline hierarchy is as follows:  first a warning, second a small consequence (taking phone for the period, moving seat, etc), third a referral with phone call home.  I think I've only made it to the third step once in five years.  Typically, when I call parents about student misbehavior it's because the student's behavior has been repeated for a few days and the consequences in the classroom have not deterred it.

I cannot wait to read other #SundayFunday posts about how other math teachers approach classroom management.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hard Questions

All summer I have been considering the changes proposed by my principal to improve my classes.  I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around his one recommendation especially, so I wanted to open it up to the #MTBoS for advice.

The first recommendation (and this was to my whole department, not just me) is to eliminate homework.  His perspective is that since we are in a Title I school, assigning homework just widens the gap between students that have access to tutors and parents that are able to help with homework and those that do not.  I can't say that I disagree with this point.  My perspective has always been that students need to experience doing the math on their own, without me there to help them.  It is also my perspective that students need more time to interact with the material.  We only have 42 minute periods.  I can barely get through everything I have to teach as it is.  How could I possibly create more time for students to practice?

The solution I've been considering is changing the name from "homework" to "daily practice."  I don't care if students do their homework at home or during study hall or during lunch or while waiting for sports practice to begin.  All I care about is that they put forth the effort to try it.  I think if I call it "daily practice" instead I'm sending the message that math is something we need to practice daily.  Not that we have to do this at home.  Just for context:  A typical homework assignment in my class generally 4-5 questions long.  It should not take longer than 10-15 minutes to complete.

The second recommendation is to eliminate test corrections and retests.  My policy is that students may take a retest after completing test corrections.  My rationale is that I simply want students to improve.  Students traditionally take a test on the unit, and think they are done with it whether they were successful or not.  Having the test corrections/retest policy encouraged students to spend more time learning and understanding material that they found difficult.  My principal's perspective is that a student's class grade should be similar (within 5-10 points) of his/her regents score, and that allowing students the opportunity to retest is inflating student course grades.  I disagree with this because a class grade reflects a student's effort over an entire year, and a regents score reflects how a student did on a longer test under more stressful conditions on one day.

My solutions so far include intentionally spiraling quiz and test questions, having shorter quizzes more often, and adjusting percentage weights for calculating grades.  I am currently reading Make It Stick, and it sounds like more frequent quizzes with spiraled questions will solve many problems for me.  However, the thought of eliminating test corrections and retests makes me feel icky inside.  (I don't know any other way to describe it.)  I've always done test corrections.  I don't know what taking this opportunity away will do to my students, and I also don't know that more quizzes will help my students for sure until I try it.  As I write this, I am forming an idea for using the quizzes to replace test corrections - moving in the direction of a standards based grading approach.  Just for context:  Final test grades are 50% the first test score, 25% test corrections, and 25% retest score - this was my principal's suggestion a few years ago.

My questions for my fellow #MTBoS members are:
(1)  What are your thoughts on "Daily Practice" vs. "Homework?"
(2)  What are your thoughts/experiences on eliminating test corrections/retest procedures?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

First Day Plans 2017-2018 #SundayFunday

This week’s Sunday Funday topic is first day of school plans.  It’s hard being one of the teachers that don’t go back until September because I don’t want to have to think too hard about such things yet.  I want to enjoy the remaining weeks of summer, but I also like to be prepared.  Luckily, I actually started planning my first day of school in June before we ended the school year.

I cheat a little.  I look at the first two days of school as being the first day.  I only have 42 minute periods, so I often teach one topic over two periods.  I like to do the same with the first day of school.

On the actual first day (Wednesday, September 6ht):
 Students start class by filling out the student survey that I have posted as the Do Now.  I either hand these to students as they walk in, or place them on each desk before students arrive.  It depends on what I have time for.  Handing papers out as students walk in sounds like a great way to introduce myself to them, but on the first day it’s hard to tell if students have your class or are lost, so I will probably aim to have them out on the desks.  On the back of the survey, I ask students to answer three questions:  (1)  What makes a successful math student?; (2)  What do you need from your math teacher to be successful?; (3)  What do you need from your classmates to be successful?

Last year I did name tents also as the Do Now, but this year I'm on the fence about doing them again.  Students were not into it at all last year, and it kind of took the fun out of the activity for me.  Plus, getting all of the tents out each day was a pain.

After students complete the Do Now, I tell them the safety information – where to go during a fire drill, and what to do for a lock down drill.  I tell students my three main rules, and any other new rules the school may have.  I tell them about the supplies that they need to have for class. 

I don’t read over the entire syllabus with students, but I go over the highlights with them, and the things they may have to read carefully to understand.  Their first homework assignment is to return the parent signature sheet the next day.  (I am lenient about accepting this assignment late because the assignment depends on their parents/guardians more than the students.)  On the back of the signature sheet is a parent survey that parents may opt to fill out.  It has provided some great information in the past.

Toward the end of the period, I will go over an “About Me” presentation and share some information about myself with my students.  I make sure to answer the frequently asked questions regarding my age, marital status, pets, and high school sports.  (I always get asked what sports I played in high school, but never get asked what instrument I played or what other clubs/activities I was involved in.  Isn't that weird?)

At the end of the period, I facilitate a discussion with the students about the 3 questions on the back of their surveys.  I have one page in my SMART Notebook file for each question, and I write down their responses.  The bell will probably ring as we do this, and I collect the surveys and say goodbye.  When I get the chance, I read over their surveys and question answers.  I will add any answers to the SMART Notebook file that were good, but not brought up in class.

On the second first day (Thursday, September 7th):
On the second day, students start by taking a growth mindset survey to assess where they are on the fixed-growth mindset continuum.  Then I show them a short video explaining growth mindset.  (I've used the one about the tortoise and the hare in the past, but I want to find a new video for this year.)  We have a short discussion about growth mindset.

Last year, I added a few slides to my presentation using these memes I found online:

With these memes, I share some facts with students like, "you are not going to use everything you learn in school," and "60% of you will have a job that has not been created yet."  I essentially have to spend some time exploring the rationale for the class.  The big thing that students need to understand is that they may not use most of what they learn in Geometry after high school, and that is not a reason for them to not learn something.  I'm going to reference a quote that I have yet to turn into a poster, but it is going to be "I'd rather know something I don't need to know than need to know something that I don't know."  The big concern this year is that the students coming up to Geometry failed the Algebra course, but passed the Algebra regents.  (This year in particular a student was able to easily pass without even knowing Algebra - they only need 14 2-point questions correct, and they were able to get these correct by knowing how to use the calculator.) 

This may sound horrible, but I have to set a tone in the first days to help weed out the students that shouldn't be there.  Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to teach any student that wants to learn, but most students in my school have a hard time making the transition from Algebra to Geometry.  Geometry is difficult.  Geometry requires much more work and effort than Algebra.  Students spend about 3 years preparing for Algebra.  Geometry is like learning math in a foreign language without the years of preparation.  I have to make sure my students understand what is expected of them from day one.  Students have less than two weeks to change their classes, once those two weeks are up, they are stuck.  (If you have any tips/tricks for making this transition easier, please let me know!)

The next thing I do on the second day is reference the questions we discussed on day one about success.  These lead us into the rules.  The rules are based on what students need to be successful.  Then I explain the routines that students need to know for our regular classes.  

Then finally, we get to our first activity.  I have done a different activity every year.  Last year my students and I really enjoyed the 100 Numbers Task.  Originally I was planning on repeating this activity, but this year I’m looking for an activity that will simultaneously work as a group work norms establish-er and an ice breaker.  I’ll let you know if I find such an activity, but the 100 Numbers Task is my fall-back plan.

At this time, I am planning to begin teaching the last day of our first week (Friday, September 8th).  However, if I don't get through everything else I have planned, that day will be used to complete the first week back stuff.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Geometry Activities

In the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club, Angela Watson gave us a list of things that we can accomplish to reduce stress when we return to school in the fall.  One of those things was to make a list of all the activities we had for each unit we teach.

As I did this, I realized about one unit into it, it would make much more sense to type the list so I could change it later.  I continued to write everything out anyway because it was relaxing, kind of like using an adult coloring book.

Then I realized, it would be even more beneficial to type the list and share it with other teachers.  Then I realized that not just sharing the list, but also linking to everything would be really helpful.  So below is my list of the activities I've curated for Geometry over the last five years.  Some of these I used only once, some of these I've used every year since finding it, and some of these are recent purchases that I haven't had a chance to try out.  Many of these are items for sale on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I am linking everything I use that is available online, but I am not in anyway sponsored to write this post.  I simply want to share what I have used/will be using to help other Geometry teachers that do not know where to start.  (There are a few things missing because I made my own resources out of copyrighted material that I cannot share online.)  Many items are new purchases because I went a little nuts during the TPT back to school sale.

* = paid TPT item
+ = my paid TPT item
# = new item that I have not yet used
% = link directs to Mrs. Newell's Math classroom activities page (instead of giving a link directly to the activity)

Introduction to Geometry
-Gallery Walk %
-Segment & Angle Postulates Super Secret Number Puzzle *
-Finding Angle Measures Task Cards *
-Angle Pair Relationships Task Cards #*
-Angle Pair Relationships Scavenger Hunt *
-Angle Pair Relationships Scavenger Hunt %
-Angle Pair Relationships Math Lib #*
-Angle Pair Relationships Maze - Finding Angle Measures #*
-Angle Pair Relationships Maze - Solving Equations #*
-Parallel Lines Scavenger Hunt *
-Parallel Lines Super Secret Number Puzzle *
-Parallel Lines Math Lib *
-Parallel Lines Maze %
-Parallel Lines Coloring Activity #*
-Parallel Lines Maze - Identifying Angle Pairs #*
-Parallel Lines Maze - Finding Angle Measures #*
-Parallel Lines Maze - Solving Equations #*
-Parallel Lines Relay Race #*
-Isosceles Triangles Super Secret Number Puzzle (great for a challenge) *
-Isosceles & Equilateral Triangles Task Cards #*
-Angles of Triangles Maze, Riddle, & Coloring Page (great for remediation) *
-Angles of Triangles Scavenger Hunt #*
-Triangle Inequality Super Secret Number Puzzle *
-Triangle Inequalities Discovery Activity *
-Inequalities in Triangles Task Cards *
-Triangle Inequality Theorem Coloring Activity *
-Triangle Midsegments Math Lib *

-Identifying Congruence Transformations Card Sort+
-Line & Rotational Symmetry Discovery Activity
-Transformations Task Cards *
-Transformations Scavenger Hunt *
-Transformations Logo Project *

Triangle Proofs
-Line & Angle Proof Properties Scavenger Hunt *
-Congruent Triangle Postulates/Theorems Task Cards *
-Congruent Triangle Postulates/Theorems Sorting Activity *
-Proofs in Seven Days *
-Geometry Proofs Task Cards Bundle *
     Bundle Includes:
     -Algebraic Proof Task Cards
     -Introductory Geometry Proofs Task Cards
     -Parallel Lines Proofs Task Cards
     -Congruent Triangle Proofs Task Cards

-Parallelograms Maze %
-Parallelograms Partner Activity *
-Special Parallelograms Task Cards *
-Special Quadrilaterals Sometimes, Always, Never #*
-Rectangles Maze %
-Quadrilaterals Properties True/False Activity #*
-Quadrilaterals Stations Activity #%
-Quadrilaterals Coloring Activity *
-Quadrilaterals Task Cards %
-Quadrilaterals Task Cards #*
-Quadrilaterals Scavenger Hunt #*
-Trapezoids Scavenger Hunt *

-Similar Polygons Color by Number #%
-Similar Triangles Relay Race #*
-Similar Polygons Card Sort #*
-Indirect Measurement Partner Experiment
-Similar Figures Math Lib *
-Similar Triangle Proofs Card Sort+
-Similarity Task Cards *

Right Triangles
-Simplifying Radicals Maze *
-Pythagorean Theorem Riddle (great for remediation) *
-Pythagorean Theorem Math Lib #*
-Special Right Triangles Task Cards *
-Special Right Triangles Color by Number #%
-Special Right Triangles Mazes #*

-Similar Right Triangles Sort & Solve +
-Trig Ratios Maze *
-Trig Ratios Task Cards *
-Identifying Trig Ratios Card Sort +
-Finding Sides Coloring Activity *
-Trigonometry Mazes #*
-Trigonometry Math Lib #*

-Area Project *
-Volume of Prisms Task Cards #%

Coordinate Geometry
-Slope of Parallel & Perpendicular Lines Inquiry Activity
-Slope of Parallel & Perpendicular Lines Card Sort +
-Distance & Midpoint Formula Super Secret Number Puzzle *
-Plan a City Project #*

-Angles in Circles Scavenger Hunt *
-Segment Lengths in Circles Task Cards #*
-Arc Lengths & Sectors Mazes #*

General Resources
-Geometry Warm-Ups *
-Angles & Algebra Worksheet (great for sub plans) *

Activity Notes:
My students generally enjoy the "Math Lib" activities.  As they go through the stations I set up in my classroom, they write out a silly story.  Math Lib downloads usually include an editable Power Point version where you can change the names of the teachers to teachers in your school or any other element of the story.  Some students tolerate the mazes, other like them because they are more motivating than a worksheet.  I love mazes because they are easy to check.

What are your go-to Geometry activities?

Classroom Management #SundayFunday

Classroom management is a tricky and expansive subject.  I think that's why no one talks about it.  What works for one teacher will not ...