Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Random Thoughts

* Sometimes it's just nice to have a full period of just practice on current topics without feeling you have to physically "teach".

* Kids that are chatty and goofy to you and seem to disrupt the class are welcome diversions for some other students ("thanks for making class fun").

* Sometimes students just feel like zoning out by 7th period because they've had to sit in their seats ALL day, and they're tired after lunch, and they need a brain break.

* Having kids volunteer to go caroling to another math class with your "fraction song" is fun.

* Some kids are so shy they never talk to their group mates, and so their groupmates never talk to them, and so the kid feels like no one likes them. Note to self: take another groupmate aside and ask her to make a special effort to talk with this shy one.

* Losing your school keys and STILL not finding them after 2 weeks even though you KNOW you opened your classroom door with them and then POOF they were gone is creeping you out.

* What stays in the corner but goes around the world?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Seating Charts

The natives are getting restless, and chatty, and so it's time for new seating charts. I used to feel semi-bad about moving them around and deciding where they sit, but now I don't. As I tell them
1. it's not fair to always have to sit in the back/front/etc for the whole year
2. it's nice to meet new people

I poll them on quarter sheets of colored paper before I switch seats, to see if they have issues (eyesight/air conditioner/strong dislikes...), and to see how everything else is going in class and in life. I've gotten various positive comments back about seating charts, and I've noticed students actually making new friends after seats have been changed, so I guess it's a good thing ... AND quiet for a while.

And if I remember, the first day after seats are changed, I make sure to put 2 questions on the overhead for them to discuss with their new group (they sit in groups of 4 seats) for about 5 minutes, and then we class share, so that they get a chance to be forced to interact and learn each others' names.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

My Classroom Clock

Classroom Clock
Originally uploaded by math_mambo.
A couple of years ago my student aid showed me this great idea for my classroom clock, and I've used it ever since. Now my frazzled mind does not have to remember the quirky ending times of each period. I can just glance up and see how much time I have left for my fascinating mathematical lectures.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I bought an intriguing book a few weeks ago, and I've been reading snippets of it. It's about "how the brain learns", and I just read a section that gave me pause:

Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. If a student is just learning something new and is starting their practice of the concept, but does the method incorrectly over and over at the start, that's going to stick in their brain and will be harder to unlearn later.

Well that's kind of scary, and I can see how I now want to rush around the room and make sure they're all doing it right the first time.

I also read on another thread someone's thoughts on how we teach math: if we taught English the way we are prompted to teach math, then we'd never teach Poetry or Shakespeare. You'll never use them in real life. However, your education would be remiss without being exposed to them.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Testing Testing 123...

I tested in all my classes today. I re-remembered (?) a strategy I've used before for particularly chatty/social classes - the ones that take about 5 minutes to settle down to start a test. I stand at the door and hand them the tests as they enter the room. That way, they immediately put their stuff away and get to work, and I don't have to "shhhh, shhhh" them at all. Note to self - don't forget this strategy. Note-note to self - who are you kidding.

I also noticed yesterday that my precalculus classes were all stressed out because I was going to make them remember trig sum/difference/double/half formulas. So I pulled out another trick today. I "sold" them a formula sheet for one point off their exam (out of 30 points). If they chose not to use it, I added a bonus point to their exam. Sheesh. I hope it worked for some of the kiddies.

I again differentiated my calculus exams. They're onto me now, though. As I'm handing them out, they all (the upper level ones) pipe up with, "are there different versions?", and they watch how and to whom I pass out what, and I don't even say anything, and then they answer themselves with, "yea, different versions."

Okay, now I get to grade the things. Yay, grading.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Old Age Benefits

In precalculus the other day, I was demonstrating with my body (ooh, tactile learning) how angles can be coterminal. I propped out one arm to signify my original angle, and then did a windmill type motion with my other arm to signify going around 2*pi times to end up at the same place. I was exuberant in my delivery and went around a couple of times.

A few kids in the front rows started giggling. "Can you do that again?". Giggle, giggle. I realized they were staring at my arms ... specifically at my "tricep" region that didn't stop moving when my arm did.

Hmph. I fake grimaced them and asked if they were laughing at my fat, and warned that they'd be there some day. Little pipsqueaks.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Last Day of Grading Period

I was uncharacteristically on top of my grading and entering this week (thanks to my student aide in a big way), and I was trying to have no work to do this weekend because it's our 12th anniversary. Well, wouldn't you know it I had about 5 or so students stay after scrambling to turn in late work for partial credit and do retests and a "hail mary pass" to try to pass for the 6 weeks. Some of them made it, and some didn't.

Hey! here's an idea. Turn in your work on time and come in for tutoring BEFORE the last day of the 6 weeks. Well. I guess some of them are still learning how to learn, and I believe they need to fail before they see the need to actually change their ways.

Funny joke from a Laffy Taffy wrapper from my students: Why was the policeman in bed?

He was an undercover cop. (ar ar ar ar)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

differentiating instruction

For my last calculus test, in both classes, I gave 3 versions of the test to the students, and I decided silently which to give to whom. I had a bulk of studetnts take the "middle of the road tests" that was challenging but doable. For my struggling kids I gave a basic straightforward "regurgatate what I taught you" test with teeny "twists". Then, for the elite "yawn, I can do this in my sleep" kiddies, I gave a 3 question super hard exam with the unspoken thought that I'd give them full credit (which they would have earned on any of the other versions) if they just put out an effort.

No one knew what I did, and as the test began I watched the "elite" faces. They looked at the test, looked at me, looked at the clock, looked back at the test, looked at me. I just smiled and made the "come on what are you waiting for" motion with my hands. They rallied forth. They didn't finish, but I quietly went around and stuck sticky notes on their tests to tell them to finish at home and turn it in the next time or whenever they finish.

Several have turned it in. A few have questions, and I gave them hints. A couple of kids have come in for tutoring and I set them to work with each other, and they fed off each other's brains. I keep reassuring them, "I wouldn't have given it to you if I didn't think you could do it". Most are doing fine. Only one kid keeps saying, "it makes me feel stupid". He's the one that was a wee bit cocky about his abilities, such as they are. Hopefully, he'll step up to the plate.

No other news. Except a ton of kids come after school for tutoring. I provide snacks (graham crackers and "cheddar bunnies" and such), but I make sure to kick them out in time to go to yoga or tap :). Sheesh, they're demolishing my supplies. Must. Go. Shopping.