Monday, July 31, 2006

Summer Reading

Every summer I reread all or parts of each of these books to refresh my aging memory on the kind of teacher I want to be.

"How to Talk So Kids Can Learn" Faber & Mazlish (ISBN 0-684-82472-8)
This is a great book on how to interact more successfully with students (well really anyone) and to make them (and you) better people.

"Tools for Teaching" Fred Jones (ISBN 0-9650263-0-2)
I love his methods on discipline. Here's just one thing that sticks in my head: no means no. So if you say no the first time and then the student/child keeps pestering you or whining and you finally give in, then you're teaching them to whine again in the future. But if you're consistent with your "no", that works out better in the long run. He also has a section on body language of the students and their compliance and such. I don't use all his methods, but several things have helped me.

Three David R. Johnson books: "Every Minute Counts", "Making Minutes Count Even More", and "Motivation Counts".
They're all math related, and he has great ideas on how to ask questions, collect homework, structure a class, etc.

This year at an airport bookstore of all places I found "Fish for Schools". I was excited because I'd heard of it before. It's basically a structure for living that's based on 4 concepts the authors developed by watching the Pike's Place Fish Market workers. I like their ideas, and I was eager to see how this book could help, but alas, it seemed to be just an advertising to get their school video package. I wouldn't have minded, but it was really pricey. Still, the book had some great ideas and teacher stories.

I also skim through "The First Days of School" by the Wongs to remind myself of (for example) what 7 things (7? ... better start skimming) students want to know on the first day of class, etc.

Any other teaching book recommendations out there?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Note Taking / Using Your Notes

I'm batting an idea around my head about actually teaching "note using" skills this year in all my classes. It seems to me that a majority (or at least too many to be comfortable) of my students don't know how to use their notes once they get home. They seem to be just humoring me by "taking notes" and then don't really see the point of them later (or their book for that matter).

I've not fleshed everything out completely yet (all ideas are welcome), but here's what I've come up with so far. Every so often during a class (10 minutes? 5 minutes?), I'll pause the class and ask them to quickly scan over what they've written and then put a noticeable star or mark near things that they need clarification on or more time to think on. Time seems to be in short demand in class, and there are those students who don't need the extra time, so I don't know if I'll spend too much time in class going over every concern. I also want them to become self sufficient and confident in their skills of figuring things out on their own, so maybe I won't address concerns.

Then I'll discuss or teach them how to use their notes when they're at home doing homework. ... Maybe a poster up in class (and give them a copy) as a constant reminder:

"How to do homework"
1. scan over class notes to refresh your memory
2. spend time figuring out the starred/confusing sections (ponder / look in book / call a friend / go on line)
3. start your homework (with header: page #, problem #s, date, topic(?)). attempt every problem.
4. for those you do not know how to do, make a start / look for examples in book/notes, write down specific reasons you got stuck
5. in class as we are going over answers, IN A DIFFERENT COLOR, put a check by correct answers, indicate wrong problems and write down the answer. Make sure to ask someone (me / groupmate / friend) for help on the ones you didn't understand.
6. later on make sure you go over incorrect ones and find out how to do it (friend / notes / book)

Hopefully, this will grab some extra students and make them more successful. I think when I check homework, their points will be based on: attempt, in class corrections, header.

Friday, July 21, 2006


TMI alert.

It hasn't happened lately, but who's to say it won't again. Invariably when I have to get up at night to pee, you know, that mind-ping-pong: "but I'm tired. but I'm uncomfortable. but I don't wanna get up. but you'd better" feeling, right when I wake up, I realize I've had another "pee nightmare". Maybe I'm not the only one.

The dreams often occur in public restrooms and one or more of several things occur. Either there are no doors on any stalls, or there are doors, but the bowls are filled to the brim, so that you would not want to sit down, or there's no paper, or there are a lot of people in the bathroom and one or more of the previous things occur. Or there's the dreaded "dippage": somehow a piece of your clothing gets dipped in an unflushed toilet.

I guess that's my mind's way of waking me up and prodding me to take measures.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Calculus Workshop Ideas

I just returned from my weeklong workshop, and now I feel more secure in teaching BC this year. Except it won't be strictly BC, I think, because of numbers, I may have a "stacked" class of mixed AB / BC students together. Maybe I'm being totally unrealistic, but it was either that or no BC, and I wanted the challenge for the kids (and me) that signed up for it.

The workshop teacher was mostly a lecture type of teacher, and she commented that since BC goes at such a fast pace, she doesn't feel she has time for explorations or "fun" activities or such. So in that sense I didn't get any "fun" ideas directly from the workshop. I did get some teaching-mechanics ideas from her.

She seemed to like Staedtler MEDIUM nonpermanent pens for her overhead. She found them at art supply stores, and I liked the fact that you could buy individual ones. Purple, here I come.

She also had a teeny water bottle (3" high?) with paper towels nearby, to clean parts of her slides instead of using her fingers all the time.

When a kid asks something she didn't know, she said, "I don't know. I haven't thought about it. What do you think?" And that seems to get good discussions going.

On the overhead, do scratch work on the side in a different color to keep everyone on the same level and the "not so quick" students will have a point of reference instead of not asking and feeling stupid.

Her homework policy is to walk around the room for a quick check and chat with the students (with grades given and such). The main thing about that (instead of collecting it) she feels is that they have to look her in the eye and tell her they didn't do the homework, and she felt this got more of them to do it. Also, it builds a sense of community and the kids felt acknowledged.

I thought of having an activity or several activities where the kids analyze a multiple choice question. I found that last year, the kids all thought the MC questions were easy because they found their answer and moved on. It didn't occur to me to ever teach this skill that the test makers know what types of mistakes they make and will have such answers. So my activity is for them to do one problem and circle an answer. Then give the right answer. Then they have to go analyze the other choices and literally figure out what types of mistakes would have gotten that answer. With this hopefully they'll build an awareness of checking work and being careful on MC tests.

I'm thinking of having a suggestion box up front for various comments students want to make but don't have time for in class. There'll be a template of what's acceptable/needed ... mainly date, period, and maybe name, and comment. Maybe I can also have a Whole Foods kind of wall where comments are displayed and responses shown.

Some (rough) poster ideas of ones I want to make and display in my room:
"What do you do when no one is watching? Do the right thing."
"Get more sleep"

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Summer Activities

How lucky am I? Today we're going to Canada for a week to visit my husband's family, and from there I'm coming back to go to a week-long calculus workshop. And THEN the traveling is done for the summer. Whew. Then we get to continue on our quest of "making a wedding cake that doesn't embarrass us".

My husband's sister is getting married (another mixed marriage - Canadian to American), and apparently, the tradition is for someone in her family to make a wedding cake (fruitcake base). Yeah, yeah, I know, but we actually have a great recipe from their grandmother. It's dark, and you smother it in brandy (you keep "feeding" it for a long time after it's done). And it keeps forever - apparently, all that pickling does it good. And maybe we say it's tasty because after eating it, we are slightly tipsy, and think it's tasty.

What we're practicing is the shape and the icing (type and technique) and the decorations around it. So we're eating a lot of practice cakes, and inviting people over to share in the calories of our trials. We've had 4 run throughs (hmmm, maybe that's why my clothes are getting snug), and I think this last one is really close.