Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Flipped Calculus Lessons

Well, I dove in from day 1 and started flipping my lessons. Thanks to the nice gentleman that discussed how "exploring" fits in here, and I think I found something that worked. In my previous thinking it seemed to be all or nothing: ALL of class was spent on practice, and NOTHING else. Hah! There's nothing that says you can't break it up and do some exploring and some practice and such .... even a quiz.

After my APSI workshop, I decided to do what the presenter recommended, and part of their grade is based on daily quizzes for things they need to know down pat. I call them IR quizzes (immediate recall), and there are about 15 every grading period (every day quizzes), and I drop the lowest 3 grades.

Here's how the first 2 days went.

Day 1:
intro, syllabus, bla bla bla.
Start immediately with showing them the zoomed in graph of y = sin x. And we bound off from there talking about local linearity (ala my summer workshop). Then they each got a special number to explore on y=x^2 to zoom in so much to make it look linear. We gathered everyone's information and plotted on my calculator. Then class was over.

So. Now it was time for me to flip. Lots of starts and stops. Computer at home didn't accept the new webcam. Made video at school the next day. SchoolTube never successfully loaded video. Neither did YouTube. Then I tried my weebly account. Eh. Then my nice teacher friend made a suggestion, and voila, I uploaded them to my google docs and sent the links to the kids.

Day 2:
On that flipped lesson, they were supposed to start their ISNs and then explore y=x^3, y=x^4, y= sin x. So in class: IR quiz. Then after a brief prep, they just practiced finding secant slopes and tangent slopes ala 2.1 Stewart. Simultaneously, I passed around my calculator and they entered their hwk information of slopes at their points. Meanwhile, I graded the quizzes (sine and cosine 10 problems 1st 2 quadrants). I handed back the quizzes. Then I stopped them working and we looked at the results on the calculator of their hwk and saw patterns (y=x^3 ..... slopes form y=3x^2....). Then class ended.

The flipped lesson I recorded for their new homework is just summarizing all this information. I love the format.

No longer do I have to wait for them to draw the graphs I'm drawing (they can just pause the video). My tonight's videos were about 16mins and 8 minutes (?). Send me e-mail if you want a sample of me babbling through the discussion, and I'll send you the link.

I also like the Interactive Student Notebook: my stuff on the right, their stuff on the left. I'm doing it on the videos as a guide.

Monday, August 27, 2012


It sure was a fun first day back. We do a big assembly production to start the day, and there are lots of smiles and hugs and confusion and new kids and old kids and new teachers and oldies. We put out small fires and remember how to juggle a bazillion things in our head at the same time. We don't sleep well the night before. We worry about the students who haven't shown up and hope they're okay. We wrap up the day and start worrying about prepping again. Loved it.

I've decided to be picky about homework structure for all my math classes this year, so I'm handing them out this (copied in the obvious way to save paper):

They're going to tape it in their notebooks, and I'll make a poster and be a stickler. I liked the phrase: the final number is not your answer, the WHOLE PROCESS is your answer.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mini Vacations...

In order to be proactive, I want to generate a list and keep it fresh in my mind of routines of things I do to make the stress palatable. I know things are going to come around in work, and I'll have no control over them, but I will have control (hah!) over my reactions and memories of all the little things I do to make life fun and keep in mind as a "happy place" to go to in stressful times.

Here are current small things that make me happy:

* I listen to books on CD in the car to and from work. So as I'm stressing about the workday ahead I sometimes find myself looking forward to the drive just so I can be read to (currently on the 3rd listen through of the Harry Potter books).

* I don't know why, but the saying, "how do you eat an elephant? one bite at a time." always makes me smile. I know that the HUGE thing I'm facing just gets chipped away at and eventually gets done. Don't see the WHOLE elephant, just your current nibble.

* I keep a foot massage rolly thing in the bathroom at home, so I vow to roll each foot across it 12 times for each visit.

* every Thursday during the school year, I go out to breakfast as a treat. It's something to look forward to and to see as a light at the end of the week's tunnel.

* I chant the mantra, "It's going to be great. It's going to work out fine." accompanied by a deep breath when I am getting stressed.

* On the mornings I exercise on the treadmill, I have a book/magazine rack on it, so I can read through my latest things and that will be motivation to get on it and sweat. So I'm not really exercising, I'm reading.

* It's helpful to kvetch with friends and make the problem sound ridiculous, so that you don't feel so alone in your apparently HUGE problems. Laughing always helps.

Okay. And I'm not really that stressed just yet (though maybe I should be because my room still is a shambles). But ..... I'm guessing it's coming soon.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Beehive in the Brain

Today was our first day back for the week before students officially arrive, and I know this will be a shocker, but there are a bazillion things floating around my brain. Stressed. Here, look at a pretty picture (as someone once said):

This is where I was this past week. Lots of sleeping and sitting and eating and visiting with a new niece ..... who was a recipient of one of these cuties that I finished JUST in time:

The person who made the pattern is so creative. Must make more. I smile every time I look at them.

And here is me staring out and probably thinking school thoughts:

And, as I was going over calculus stuff to prepare, I read over my APSI notes and remembered that the teacher said something about Texas being great about sending kids to college but not so good about having them graduate. I did a search and found this site. You can scroll to the graph at the bottom of the page and if you scroll over the bar that's your state, that page will pop up, and you'll get more numbers.

Okay, off to practice with the TI-nspire.

Monday, August 13, 2012

CS week one DONE and CHECK

Okay, now I can rest a wee bit easier since my first week of computer science planning is done (mostly). Next up is finishing my syllabi and day 1 / week 1 for my other classes. Here's what my kiddies are doing in CS class for the first week.

Of course I haven't tried this on real humans yet, so I'm expecting to have to work out some bugs and clarify as I go. I will keep stressing to my students to discuss with each other and to make sure they understand what their experiments tell them.

In other news, I'm batting around a homework idea in my head (for all classes) that I haven't completely formalized yet. It's something to the effect of having the students write a little pledge at the bottom of each homework (that will be required to earn full credit on the homework). The statement will be something like:

By signing below, I vow that I gave my (best/average/below average/medium ....) effort on this assignment. *signature*

I will have the discussion with my students that they are not graded on the actual TYPE of effort, simply on fessing up to it. I want it to be an awareness thing for them. We will have a discussion on the importance of always striving to do your best no matter what the situation and that sometimes that is not possible for whatever reason, but I'd like them to develop having that automatic internal discussion for everything.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

First CS homework

I finished my AP Audit Syllabus, and feel like I have a huge weight off my shoulders. Yip! Now, I'm working on their first day's/week's program (I'll share when it's done), and I just finished their homework for the first night:

I'm also wondering if I'll actually get around to planning/prepping for geometry and precal and calculus and DE. Who's going to get the short end of the stick? Maybe it'll be like a baton, and I'll pass around the "phoning it in" lesson each day to various classes.

In other news of progress:

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Waning Summer Days...

My goal is to finish my AP Computer Science syllabus before this Friday. I've been pecking away at it and trying to wrap my mind around the structure all summer basically. It's ALMOST there. I ended up really enjoying my APSI workshop, but there seems to be a trend in computer science (and by trend, I mean 2 cases!). The gentleman that was teaching us had a ton of experience and a ton of ideas, and he gave us resources to learn from, but the bulk of his stuff was copyrighted because he sells his textbook and labs and such. I've also found this with one other "package" that seems to be popular.

I'm used to the math world, I guess, where we seem to just put it out there and share freely. I'm feeling judgy and don't like that feeling, and the stubborn part of me says, "no, I will not buy your stuff". I've also heard various things about, "just get a syllabus online and don't stress about it". That doesn't work ideally for me, since if I don't jump in and get my hands dirty, I feel I'm missing an opportunity to justify all my syllabus choices of what to teach when and why and how much, and get a deep understanding of the year, etc.

I've been cutting and pasting and moving around the various topics to meet my goals of engaging the students and having a logical flow and such. It also feels like a wee bit of a fairy tale because in all honesty, I don't know how much time it will take for each concept to sink in to their brains. My take is that you "dab and go and keep coming back to it". Exposure and constant revisiting seems to be the key.

I'm also making 3 of these for my trip next week to Canada/in-laws for the last vacation of the summer and the first sight of a new niece and a visit with 2 other little nieces-something-removed.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

APSI day 2 notes

Day 2 was just as intense as day 1. Here are things I took away from our session:

* There are lots of opinions floating around. You want a good teaching approach, but don't let ANYONE tell you that there is only one way to do things ... that THEIR way is perfect because they've had success. Unless they've been at your school with your kids, they don't know your situation. A great teacher can have good and bad years in various ways that "success" is determined. Listen to things and absorb and intelligently decide your best approach for your situation.

* Repetition is useful. There are certain skills you just have to practice over and over again, not in the sake of doing "hard math/computer science", but for the sake of getting a fluency with mechanics and basic skills.

* Kids most likely won't completely understand things the first time (all humans for that matter). Frequent revisiting and exposure is the key.

* He does these "80 point Free Response" tests to practice getting ready for the FR section of the AP exam. He picks a specific reasonable amount of time (3 minutes for an easier problem or 8-10 for a more involved one) and the kids go. The second they're done they can walk the test up to him for grading. When times done, you need to be done. You have 2 possible grades on the test: 80 or 100. He wants the kids to start practicing and getting it down and being comfortable with timed portions and with FR format and skills. Also, he checks handwriting in terms of neatness and legibility and such and comments on it. Only people with perfect answers done in time get 100. Everyone else gets 80. ... I like this and will modify it to suit my situation.

* Your overconfidence on the exam could be your worst enemy. He's had valedictorians and smart kids get a 1 on the AP CS exam because they made judgments about the ease of a question and quickly skimmed and answered and missed the subtle points of what was being asked. I found myself doing that (as a smart kid, ar ar ar) on some of the practice problems. I was "being a human" and part of my brain was doing the problem, and part of my brain was analyzing their intent, and then I would get the problem wrong. I think you have to train yourself to THINK LIKE THE COMPUTER and just make diagrams and fill memory and change values based on the instructions given. I had most success when I remembered that.

* Sprinkle GridWorld skills throughout your whole year. Keep coming back to it. This goes with the repetition thing. If you cover the last skill right at the end of your teaching phase, the kids haven't had enough contact with it and won't do well with it. This goes with something someone else said in Lincoln. She pretty much finishes all the content the first semester, and then spends the next semester on projects and practicing the skills (is this possible? check.).

* LOVE that geometry comes back into play on the Boolean portion of the class. Yay De Morgan's Law!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


I'm at my 4th of four workshops (and dorms) this summer. Apparently, I'm going for the seasoned professional dorm dweller award. This one is an APSI on computer science, and there are only 9 people in the class. Sheesh, it could be the reason there is the NSF 10K Project:

"The CS 10K Project aims to have rigorous, academic curricula incorporated into computing courses in 10,000 high schools, taught by 10,000 well-trained teachers."

or it could be like our teacher said, "I was told that the whole APSI was closed for further enrollment because they had the maximum total people they could handle, so we couldn't get more in our section."

Either way, here are some tidbits I learned/heard already:

* "Students will be 8 different people for 8 different teachers."

* The first lab assignment he gave us was differentiated. We were working with methods and objects, and he said, "if you are new to APCS, do this one. If you're in the middle of your grasp, do this one. If you're seasoned, do this one." The first was graphical in nature, so there was an easy visual on if you were right or not. The next 2 were related, so if you started with "medium", and it was easier than you expected for you, then you could extend it to the more challenging one.

I like this idea and want to remember it for my assignments.

* He said, "students get really good at programming on the computer in class. Unfortunately, the AP exam is based on non computing skills. You need to intertwine theory and practice of the theory throughout the course in addition to programming."

* His WHOLE class is paperless, down to assignments and quizzes. I don't know if I can go that far, but maybe I'll start with more things they save online. One idea I am toying with is an Excel spreadsheet of vocabulary of a certain structure. Maybe columns for type of word and hints on remembering or anchors to past learning and topic the word is related to in addition to the columns for word and definition. That way, the kids can sort as they need in various situations. (I'm also toying with the idea of those big binder rings and vocab words so that they are more portable).