Sunday, August 26, 2007

Surface Area Activity

In a workshop last Saturday we did a cool activity that I have to share. It wasn't new to some people, so maybe I'm the only one who's never seen it. Each group of 2-3 people was given an orange (try to get them as spherical as possible), some wrapping ribbon (or string, something to measure the circumference with), a compass, a largish blank sheet of paper, and a calculator (later she made sure there were wet wipes to clean with). We were going to estimate the surface area of a sphere.

1. find the circumference of your orange with the ribbon. Be accurate.
2. using this measurement and prior knowledge, find the radius of the sphere.
3. with the compass draw 6 or so circles with that radius.
(teacher checks the circles before kids proceed by placing orange on top of circle and eyeballing)
4. peel the orange and fill as many circles completely as you can. (only the "orange" part is the surface area)

It was great, we fit exactly 4 circles, (which are of area pi*radius*radius), so voila we had an estimate of the surface area. Ooh aah.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

We're BAAAaaaaackkkk

Official teacher inservice started this week. We had a gentleman come in and teach us some strategies for engaging the students. Some ideas:

A-Z review - in a group they make a small poster for a particular topic and think of terms for each of the letters (we did "dating"). In math, I guess you could be general and do "math" or maybe "geometry", etc.

A $20,000 Pyramid type of game (I think) - you play in pairs, player A has a hidden index card and mentions the subject to player B (say calculus), and then there are (say) 6 terms on the card (derivative, integral, MVTh ...) and then player A tries to get "B" to say the terms by just giving them clues.

Make an appointment - he gave us a sheet of paper with some time slots: 9am, 10am, ...., 3pm, and we were to walk around the room and make an appointment for 9, 11, 1, & 3 o'clock with 4 different people, 9 & 11 were to be in our subject area, 1 & 3 with others. Then throughout the day when he needed us to pair up, he said, "go to your 3pm appointment and ..... ". I guess this is a way to get students to work with people outside of their small circles and comfort level (find someone who is ...) , and it gets them moving around to make the appointments.

There were other activities, too, so now I feel I have a nice treasure trove to pick from.

We also get 1.5 hours each day this week for lunch. Ooh la la. That will be a big shock when we go to 30 minutes this year!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Teaching Analogy

It's Saturday, and I was at a math inservice today. After initial grumbling (wa wa wa Saturday ... wa wa wa school hasn't even started ... wa wa wa pity party), it turned out to be a very useful day. We discussed and saw examples of what made preAP assessment questions of "preAP" caliber (options chosen from multiple representations, using variables and symbols in the question instead of all numbers as coefficients and constants, testing future topics in a scaffolded way,...). I also talked with people who had taught block schedule in HS math and got some good ideas.

I loved this analogy:
Think of a student and his/her learning as a candle being made. You have to keep dipping the wick in wax, and some of it sticks the first time and as you keep dipping, more and more of it gloms onto the wick and eventually you have a finished product. ... so basically another way of plugging for a continual refresher of all topics even though they may not be in the "current" unit, so that the more times a student sees something, the more chance the knowledge have of sticking.

And finally a student joke (old?) that still makes me giggle:

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Interrupting cow.
Inter .... moooo.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Judgmental Cookie discusses Lock-Step Teaching

Ew. My math specialist friend is going back to teaching and being an instructional coach at a school that is apparently "2 steps away" from being closed due to low scores on the state exit exams. She mentions that every math subject teacher will now have common lesson plans and will have to teach the same things and plan together and do the same activities because the school is in trouble and this is their (last-ditch?) effort to right things.

That sticks in my craw. Suppose you have a teacher that is not successful and needs some help and suggestions on how to present a topic. Just because they're using a from-above sanctified activity, does not mean that it will automatically be successful. The same qualities of their teaching that makes them not successful will still be there with this worksheet (or such).

Sure, make sure they're covering the same topics, but then go in and make general teaching suggestions and follow through and update and check up on the teacher to measure if there's progress made. Don't stifle potentially new and better ideas and creativity by dictating what and how one should teach. I know my friend will do all of these things as she is awesome, but this "everybody does identical work" thing does not sit well with me.

This also does new teachers a disservice. If everything is handed to them/us, they/we will probably never learn to create their/our own activities and will always be at the whim of the textbook companies and such.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Vicious Cycle

My Baton Rouge friend has a 4.5 year old and has to start thinking about school choices and is in a mental tug-of-war. From what she has heard, the public school system is not stellar, and since it's not stellar, many people choose to send their kids to private schools. And since they pay private school tuition, they LOUDLY squawk when asked to pay for public school improvements. And since no money goes into the public schools, then it stays not stellar.

She wants to believe in the public school system and support it, but then she's torn because she wants her child to get a good education. It's easy for me to have a knee-jerk reaction of "well put your child in public school and then work as a community of caring parents to change it" and then on the other hand, I don't have children, and I don't know what I'd do in this case. I know what I hope I'd do, but who ever really knows until they live it? Everyone wants the best for their kids.

The high school I teach at apparently has a nonstellar reputation, and people around the community think nothing of mentioning that to me. But then I teach at the school, and I know some of the great things that go on there (in addition to the bad things), so how much stock can you put in a reputation. There are good and "bad" teachers and admins and students everywhere and every school has problems of some sort.