Wednesday, May 22, 2019

End Of Year Letter to Myself

Dear 2019 May Self,

Hi! Remember when you were this young? And remember how in the past you have made students write letters to the incoming kids in your class with various prompts of “what would you do differently?” and “what did you like and wish to change about this class?” ? Then remember when you had an epiphany sometime in April 2019 about writing a letter to yourself, your older more rested end-of-August self that will be the “new teacher in class”? Great. Do it.

What do you want to remember about this year and about what to do or change or keep or stress in your 23rd year of teaching next year. Remember that you had on the agenda to teach for 2019-2020:  Algebra 1 preAP, AP Calculus AB, Precalculus preAP, Digital Electronics, and APCS-A. Aaaaah, good times.

Wow. What a year! Is there any year you don’t think this? If you recall, you taught: Algebra 1 preAP, AP Calculus AB, Digital Electronics, and APCS-A. Here are some thoughts and things you want to remember for next year.

Life/General Things/All Classes:
·      No one likes to be “yelled at”. I know you didn’t yell at her, but remember that time you chastised a student in front of the whole class for being on her cell phone. Yes, you were thinking of 5,000 things, yes, you were tired, but it turned out she was done with what you had been asking them to do and was just waiting for the next thing. Then she shut down for the rest of the class. Good thing you apologized properly, but still. Figure out a way to either humorously get the same task done or don’t even go there.
        Remember that you are teaching students and not Information-Inhalers. Make sure to ask after them and check in with how things are. Remember the student with family cancer issues. Remember the student Ms. L talked about who just blurted out in her college essay prep about the horrific things going on at home. You need to check in more frequently.
       Remember how good it felt to choose fun instead of endless work. Remember you soaked up weekend fun and were all refreshed inside and out as Monday rolled around? Remember to not take work home because it’s usually just a field trip for papers.
       Remember to hang around with teachers that are not “mean girls”. Life is too short for that.
        Remember your idea of starting this document early in the year so that you could write these things down as they came up and you wouldn’t potentially forget them.
        After 22 years, I have jumped on the grade for accuracy bandwagon. I let them redo homeworks to build up points, but remember how they worked harder to understand because of this.
·         Answer Banks rule.

Algebra 1:
      They are little puppy dogs who pee on the rug, but they are super cute and fun to be around aside from the constant chatter and off-task behavior. Soak up their cuteness and their ability to be amused by silliness.
      After looking at a kid’s notebook and seeing that it was not helpful at all, you realized you had to do a better job of making notes that they could easily refer to and figure out what’s what after time passes. Hey! Better page titles that specify skill. Hey! If you hand out a “cool” assignment to finish in class that will “solve ALL THEIR PROBLEMS” and are all impressed with yourself, remember the ½ sheets that had them solve various types of special quadratic equations on 4 separate ½ sheets that each had a different color. You rushed them through apparently. You never went back and checked they did it right. You never made them link each sheet to a generic “what type of problem is it”. You never then practiced just that and made sure they went back to use this resource. Winning! Things like this had/have potential, but you need extra time with it.
      Holy Moly, you need to find the strugglers early in the year and FORCE them to come in frequently for tutoring. You can’t rely on your “they are in HS now and have to fend for themselves and learn how to ‘student’ “ attitude. They are babies. They still need hand holding. Don’t be a loser, Dadmehr! Remember how cute they are. Remember how after Z. and E. came in at the end of the year, they pulled up their grades.
      Use the power of parents. A quick email home may get the little kidlet in and doing work lickety split.

AP Calculus AB:
      Who would have thought? You need a word wall or some sort of vocabulary resource. Remember when after ½ the year went by and then you had a student ask you what a word meant. I don’t remember the word, but I do remember thinking, “geez, how did you do so well before on tests and homework when you have no clue what this word means?”. Don’t assume. Don’t just mention periodically, “if you don’t know a word, ask”. They won’t/don’t. You need to push the issue. And do it effectively.
      Remember that around early May, FINALLY 2 seniors, LP and YR who had been struggling all year and never completing homework on time and never coming for help and never asking for help in class finally came in for help on Volumes of Revolution. And how proud they were when they got 100% on a quiz. And LP’s comment, “Is that all it is? I thought it would be way harder.”
      Remember also to force these kids to come in for help. You need a better system other than just putting it on them. What about you once a 6 weeks schedule a 5-minute session to gauge things. And they get individual attention. Then you can see how things really stand and set up a mandatory system for them to get more help. Can you map out class time for one-on-one?
      Oh, and that reminds me. Some of their EOY comments about my tutoring time being so overcrowded that they couldn’t get help needs to be addressed. Can you designate one time a week where it’s only ONE subject and not everyone?
       Remember to adjust the number of hwk problems. It was too much to grade and for them to do.

·         The formative quizzes worked great. Thank you AP Annual Conference Guy who shared his idea. I liked that they could redo. I liked the 6/5 points and ½ page-ness.

·         Remember not to provide worked-out keys. They started to use them for evil and not good. Even the kids who were “good at calculus” got lazy. See earlier comment about grading on accuracy.

·         Oh! Change homework structure so that it’s DUE next class ideally, or within 1 week of handing it out if they want (eventual?) full credit. They can redo, but if the first time they do it is way later, the grade needs to represent that. This seemed to work out well so that they didn’t procrastinate tooooo much and they didn’t stress too much about finishing it in 2 days and then just being sloppy with it.

·         MORE FRQS all through the year.


·         OMG how did you lose so much time and not have time for 4 major topics? Too much time on soldering? Too much time on SSD project? Figure it out, Missy.

·         Geezus, remember their breadboards for the SSD project. Here are some things you need to teach better: (videos? Notes? Other?) jumping, stripping not too much, XYZ switches and how you do NOT attach both X and notX to power and ground, for example, not using the same row to jump for different paths, not using the same row to jump for itself, you can’t jump via columns, Hey, Dadmehr, you should really check their Multisim printout before they start to breadboard. Some kids who didn’t finish in time, printed it out and then way later you found out that they had done the pin numbers wrong or wrote them in or it wasn’t even working on Multisim.

·         Hey! Map out the timeline of the whole year in August. Do it! Do it, trust me …… put in the bajillion days they will be gone for Internship and ARS stuff and life. Then stick to it otherwise you will run out of time.

·         Hey, you did a great job on the SSD ½ sheets that helped them map out pin numbers and gates and chips and such. Do that again.

·         Remember CL and BO and how you need extra scaffolding all the time.
·         Remember WORD WALLS.
·         Remember that homework is good.
·         Remember how you Loved Practice-It.
·         Remember your FRQ scaffolding at the beginning of the year. Do more of that.
·         Projects! Why did you stop.
·         Map out time. You ran out.
·         4 weeks (3?) was great for review. Schedule for it.
·         More Class stuff and method writing.
·         Greenfoot at the start of the year?
·         Love how you are hungry now and are rushing and this last section is “less”.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Calculus Extras...

One of the fun things about learning calculus in high school is that as a student you get to refresh your memory and pull from your memory and create sweat droplets from all the extra work in juggling the things you have to know in addition to the new crazy great topics you are learning at a breakneck speed.

There's algebra! geometry! trigonometry! rational functions! ln x! fractions! It's like all your years bundled up into one. 

My students this year do not as a whole instantaneously remember the trig values in any quadrant of any of the 6 special angles. I am also not doing my daily "IR" quizzes this year (immediate retrieval) because of the other things I am implementing, and I just don't have the time. I am trying to put basic trig questions on many homework sets, but that is not always possible or enough. So, my next attempt is the following: (can download HERE).

 I have created a practice sheet for them to use at home. All triangles are such that they can be reference triangles in Q1. I am hoping that the repetitive nature will help. Then on the back, I have the same set up, but the side values are omitted. 

My thinking is that after this is perfected (maybe I should have a quiz they must answer in a set amount of time), then the next installment is a picture of the xy-plane with a terminal side marked in Q1 with the angle given. Then the final installment is just the statement given.

Hopefully, this will work to keep things stuck in their brains.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Make It Stick Changes

I finally had life/brain/school space to read this game-changing book (Make It Stick). The fuss is now crystal clear. Because of this, I am changing how I do homework and flipped lessons and tests and reviewing in my Calculus class. I will also change other classes, but this is the one I am most worried about right now. 

tldr: there is a linked document above the first picture with next year's baggy problems and a notebook insert.

I felt I was doing a good job teaching them, and maybe I was, but after my results on the AP exam this year, that were DRASTICALLY poorer than the previous years, I reflected on what I did differently. I know I had a different population of kids. I know they had life issues that were so enormous, it's a wonder they still came to school and functioned semi-normally. I know their time was pulled in all sorts of different ways. I know all that. I also know I am a good teacher, so I am not fishing for praise (hah! or maybe I am one of those people who thinks they are one way but are really not). I just also know that this year's results were a big suckfest. Boo. The one thing I did change was that I made a copy of the homework key all worked out, every period, for every kid. I was trying to be helpful. 

I wanted them to see how the problems were worked and be able to learn from examples and skip happily into the sunset in their new-found calculus knowledge. Homework doesn't count for much of a percentage in my class, and my thinking has always been that homework is for practice and students shouldn't be penalized for trying or for making mistakes. I know there are a ton of different theories and ways teachers approach homework, and obviously, everyone should do what feels best for them and their students. I see now that potentially a certain portion of my students did not use the key as intended. 

There are always those students who do the right thing and have an effective way of "studenting", and they used the system wisely. They also passed the AP exam. I also know that there are students who half-heartedly (that wasn't the first body part that came to mind for that adverb) "attempted" each problem and put something down all in the mistaken belief that, "oh, Dadmehr will just show me how to do it next class. I don't have time for this calculus nonsense."

Rinse that and repeat all year, and you have a math student who does not know how to solve problems. Sure this isn't the first time I thought that's how they were attempting some (all?) problems, but I thought that the incentive of test grades would lead them on the right path. Silly me. 

Also, I always knew that I should do cumulative or spiraling of concepts both in review and on homework, but I could never make myself adhere to this consistently.

Fast forward to now. I will change my world. All things will now work perfectly and all students will get 5's and I will be continually doing a happy dance. Thank you "making it stick" and AP Conference. ... Or maybe not, but I have high hopes about these changes.

My first thought was how to effectively (for me) get the students to do interleaved practice (as they call it) so that they can interrupt forgetting of concepts from long ago. The following is what I have latched onto. I will have a large baggy that stays in the class. Students will each buy and keep in the baggy some index cards (2 packs?). I will have them put the shown insert in the bag, copied on pretty paper (that will make all the difference), and they will put their name on one side largely on the inserted instructions: (can download here: word pdf).

Each class day, or every new concept day, I will have them create at least one new problem. They can follow the examples I have given, but the numbers or something should be different. They will follow the format from the insert. I want only the problem on the front (nothing about the answer or what unit it is from). Then on the back, they will work it out, and on the top will list the answer and the concept.

I will collect it at the door and correct and hand it back next class, and put the baggy back in our storing place. Eventually, they will have a wide range of practice problems. Now, periodically, in class, I will say, pull out 3 (2? whatever) cards and BY YOURSELF WITHOUT NOTES OR HELP do the problems on a separate paper (notebook?). Also, put a check mark on the top to indicate you have done this. Then check your work and/or refer back to the appropriate notes to fix your weaknesses in this topic.  I feel like this will interrupt their forgetting. It will also give them a hint as to what they need to work on.

I also see that potentially, they could swap temporarily the cards or they can search for certain topics or they can see if they haven't done any of the problems since there are no check marks and then attempt those. They also are working blind and potentially don't know what topic it is, so this mimics the AP exam, and helps them distinguish key words/phrases that will help with recall. A thing I still need to think about: how can I make them have a variety of easy/medium/hard problems?

Also, I am still not finalizing how I will do homework. Based on the book, I see that certain students were not struggling effectively with the content, so it wasn't sticking in their memories. I will no longer provide any key. They can come in for tutoring. I will have worked out examples available. I always have an answer bank at the bottom, so they know if they did it right mostly. I need to take this worked-out key crutch away from them so that they use their brains more. I will also mix up the work and not just have it on the current content. So this was all my plan before I went to the Houston conference. Now I have some different ideas rolling around in my mind that I haven't solidified yet, but anyway, here is the insert for their notebooks (see above the other picture for the links):

I want to go over this with them and discuss learning and all the reasons why I am teaching this way. I want them to have this to refer back to. I will also start moving my videos to edPuzzle, based on something else I learned in Houston! Apparently, on edPuzzle, you can insert questions for the students all through the video, and, get this (!), the video will not progress until they answer them, AND apparently, the students can't go to another tab or whatever and pretend to watch the video because it will stop. So excited to try this! 

This will make it a more active learning process when they are taking notes.

I am excited to try these things this year and hopefully make my students learn more effectively.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Functions and Rates of Change

Some students in calculus get confused when you are comparing a function and its derivative and second derivative. I get various creative answers of "if a function is positive, then its derivative is positive" .... "if a function is increasing, then its derivative is increasing". I am hoping that this activity will make things gel for more students. Who knows. Not me, but I am willing to try. 

Here's to wishing me luck. One day I will have more perfect moments than not-completely-successful topic teaching and EVERYONE will get it. And cute puppies will bark and wait to be pet and flowers will bloom and I will get enough sleep.

Here is a link to the PDF.