Saturday, July 26, 2014

In Class 1st Day Activity

Okay, after 17 years of teaching, maybe I WON'T leave everything until the last minute, because I think I've just finished all my 1st day things. Hah! Who am I fooling. This is a fluke. Soon it will be back to business as usual. This year is different, though, because I think I'm going to fly out for the weekend before school starts to see my turning-80-years-old dad, so I won't have those 2 days to get ready.

I did just remake my 1st day in-class activity for precalculus. It really has nothing to do with precal, but that's the class I'll use it in. I like my calculus activity from last year and will do it again, and for digital electronics, I'm going to have them do a DE thing, and for CS, they will be coding independently from day 1.

I was inspired by this activity from KFouss. Woot! Internet Searches! 

Here is my version:

These will be done by the kids in class while I'm snapping pictures and calling roll and passing out a seating chart and passing out more information.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Who Vacuum Up All the Summer?

Sheesh! I just realized that I only have 2 unstructured-ish weeks left of summer. Must. Soak. Up. Fun.

I did enjoy doing a crafty thing by knitting and felting a "bowl" for a friend (just look away from the glaring error that SOMEONE was too "zen" to fix):

And I have revised my first-day homework assignment:

And I'm trying to sit less by sprinkling exercise in throughout the day via a checklist:

 Other than that ....

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Studying Tips for Students

I recently attended a CS workshop for teachers, and if you live in TX, I highly recommend it for next summer. We learned a variety of things, and though some topics were not immediately adaptable to taking back to the classroom, they still were fascinating things you could mention to your students or adapt in some way to your population. Example, did you know that your brain doesn't have to process how to walk (for the most part), the mechanics of the motion are stored in your spinal cord.

One of the talks was on effective teaching, and the presenter mentioned VARK, which I had never heard of. This stands for visual/aural/read-write/kinesthetic, and, of course, refers to learning styles. What I found useful in the talk was actual suggestions on how students could study for and take exams more effectively than they may be doing currently. The hand out was not in a form I would hand out, so I made my own version on half pages for the students to tape in their composition notebooks on the first day of class for future reference. I culled from the VARK website and others that offered tangible ideas.

Online they have a questionnaire for the kids to take to determine which type they are (yay, first night's homework!). I like that you can choose more than one answer for each question and that you could be a "multi-modal" learner. There are different versions of the questionnaire for adults and such (do a search on VARK).

I want the students to tape in ALL four styles into their notebooks because they may find helpful ideas from a mix of strategies.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Geometry Idea

Next year will be the 2nd year in a row I haven't taught geometry, but I had an inkling of an unformed idea for a possible exploratory activity. Whoa! Doesn't that sound like you just want to jump on it and use it the FIRST day of school (far far away from now).

I was in an Airport Shuttle and staring mindlessly out the window and saw a building wall made up of tessellated hexagons. Then I remembered how learned about angle sums of polygons in class by separating various polygons into triangles from one vertex and noticing a pattern [(#vertices - 2)*180]. 

Let's use the pentagon for an example of my future I-can't-use-it idea. Kids most likely don't know that there are 3*180 or 540 total degrees in all the interior angles of a pentagon. I was thinking of (for the pentagon group) having the kids use 10 pieces of spaghetti taped on 5 different scraps of paper to form 5 different angles. Then they would measure the angles and get a total sum of the 5 angles. Then they would try to manipulate the 5 taped down "2 sides and a vertex" scraps of paper to try to form a pentagon. 

I'm thinking there would be 4 or so people in a group, and they would each have a different sum they would most likely come up with. Most likely a pentagon won't be able to be formed unless they happen upon a 540 degree sum.

Then maybe they could try again. Then maybe they could see what works and get that sum (having a human error discussion at some point for measuring mistakes). I'm also thinking there would be different groups with 4 sides and 6 sides (3, too??).  In this way, they can see the tactical things that go wrong with angles that don't "fit". Then there would be a follow up summary and pattern.

Next post: things I could teach in 6th grade math ..... KIDDING

Friday, June 20, 2014

Playing with Math

I just finished a nonfictional Romance Book called "Playing with Math", edited by Sue VanHattum. It's filled with passion (for math), joy (of games and puzzles), good-looking heroes and heroines (math makes you sexy), conflict and tension (hello math haters and standardized tests), and a warm and fuzzy resolution (math conquers all). Okay, it's not really a romance novel, but the passion about math is threaded throughout the whole book. There's basically something for everyone, whether you are a math teacher of any sort, a parent, or a math enthusiast.

I teach in a public school to goofy high school students, so I can only give my perspective as a non-mother, non-math-circle-participant, non-unschooler, non-homeschooler. But just like in math, where you see patterns in one problem and can then extrapolate to solve OTHER problems, in this book, I could read about the variety of settings, and always find something that I can either take back to my classroom or take back to my mind to work on. 

Every other chapter is a math problem of some sort. These range in levels of difficulty and variety of math concepts. Many times I found myself putting the book down and pondering the cool problems and figuring them out. There are also a ton of resources listed, from books, to online options, to people you could e-mail and start a discussion with. This wealth of goodies in itself is a reason to read "Playing with Math".

Before I read this book, I only had my biased, public-school-teacher opinion of homeschooling and had never heard of unschooling. Through the various sections and vignettes shown, my opinions were swayed with an understanding of how such situations could be in the best interest of different students, and how kids could thrive. And even if I won't rush out and un-enroll my non-existent offspring and start unschooling their imaginary selves, I did find myself taking notes on each chapter to remember great quotes and philosophies and teaching techniques that I'd like to remember and adapt to my classroom.

I also enjoyed to peek into things I didn't know existed. There is a section on taking a math circle to a prison, and the nonthreatening and successful way the teachers engaged with the men. There is a section about the nonlinearity of learning math, written in a nonlinear and creative fashion, and it's filled with words I want to mull over and process. And these are just a few examples.

Whether you want to have a new source of good math puzzles, or find out how to start a math circle, or re-engage your love of math, or find more things/thoughts/techniques to bring back to your class this coming fall, or simply to stay awhile in the company of others that love math as much as you do, I think you can't go wrong with this book.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Binary Addition

I would like to move towards SBG for various basic topics in my Digital Electronics class next year. To that end, I will spend this summer creating and/or finding online practice tools for my students to hone their skills. 

One of the topics they learn is Binary Addition. After searching for "just the thing" online and coming up short, I created a Scratch program for them:

I think I'll leave it as such, but if you have any suggestions for improvement that can easily be done by a summer teacher, thanks for sharing.

Also, I had originally created this program with Java with the intention of making an applet to put on our school website. This turned out to be a pain full of "security issues" ... "bad!" .... "don't even think you can open or share this applet". Don't know if I'm doing something wrong, or if that's the way of applets these days, and I have to pay money or some such to be able to have that message not come up. Does anyone know?

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Viva La "Inflated Sense of Self"

And by the way, Viva La End of the School Year.

This week our school got together as a team and discussed children and things that may benefit them next year and what resources they may need that we should provide. Threaded through the conversation a handful of times was that so-and-so had an "inflated sense of self" with the meaning that the kid may be in for some wake up call in terms of college applications and acceptances. I nodded my head in agreement because I knew the kid(s), but then later I started to wonder if we have it all wrong.

I think back to my childhood, and alternately absent and alcoholic and human and goofy as my parents were, they ALWAYS made us feel like we could do anything and why shouldn't we and of course it's possible. Maybe we were living in a (champagne) bubble and other adults were going around tsking and shaking their heads and wondering when our big fall would come. I know my 6th grade teacher despised me and thought I scraped the bottom of the barrel, and I know a few HS teachers and college professors that would scrunch their faces if they knew what I accomplished, but being "bubble girl" (and I now realize "inflated sense of self girl") I still plowed on. 

Maybe that's one of the important things we can provide for the kids we teach, "of course you can do it" ... "why not you" ... "don't be silly, it's totally within your reach". This, obviously, has to be sprinkled with lessons on hard work and persistence and grit and the power of failing and getting back up and such. But how sad the alternative would be, a kid looking at you and your shaking head and attitude of "bless your heart" and taking that to heart and giving up on whatever before they even put out their whole effort into the endeavor.

There are students I have who I don't know if they'll "do it", but who am I to decide. And mostly, I hope what comes out of my mouth and heart is, "DO IT" "you can do it" "obviously it's within your reach". I just do this without thinking all year long, but I'm reminded of the power of this when I get a smattering of end-of-the-year cards that state, "thank you for believing in my and not giving up on me". I am also reminded of this when a student, just by happenstance, gets put into a position to shine, and they soar way beyond what we've seen of them before. These may not necessarily be the kids that think they are all that, but whatever "that" is, hopefully I don't, as a teacher, contribute to snuffing it out before it has a chance.