Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beginning Geometry Postulates

Today was the first day my geometry students would see postulates. The book starts with the standard "through any 2 points there is exactly one line", etc. I didn't want to just present them and state their significance, so I tried something new. I handed out this True/False sheet and had the students work in their groups to determine which statements were true or false while I walked around. I heard some great discussion, and I gave them about 7-10 minutes. Not every student got every one right, so that makes me glad I did this. I'm guessing if I just presented the postulates and explained them, I'd get a bunch of nods and, "oh yes, we get it" expressions when in reality, maybe they didn't.

Here's the sheet:

By the way, 5 of them are True and the rest False (as if you didn't know :) ).

Friday, August 27, 2010

One Week Into It...

Phwoosh! Bu-bye well-rested person with time to spare. Hello, person who wakes up at 3am or 4am or goes to sleep at 11pm and is already starting to see circles under the eyes.

I've moved rooms this year, I still have to set up my "second" room which is for the engineering (PLTW) class, I still have a ton-o-boxes to unpack, and dates to write down in my calendar for the bazillion "change of schedule" and "meetings" and "special" days, oh, and planning ... you, know, business as usual.

This year, I'm teaching 3 classes of 10th grade geometry, 2 classes of 8th/9th grade geometry, and 1 class of engineering for 9th graders. Part of my homework 2 nights ago for my geometry students was to find 3 interesting facts about geometry and write them down in their 1st page of their comp notebook which I dubbed "Ode to Geometry". I had already discussed how geometry was so cool and why (one of the oldest math disciplines, one of the only places in HS where you learn reasoning and logic and proofs and why that's important, one of the math topics that's most clearly everywhere: buildings, banked roads, pyramids, ...). They came back with some good stuff (mixed with other, of course): on spheres, the sum of the angles of a triangle are not 180 degrees, in England, they call trapezoids trapeziums, a 15-sided figure is called a pentadecagon,...

Here's something I want to work on this year. The week went great (for a 1st week). Last period of the day, on Friday, sheesh. You can imagine the weariness of the kids, and me, the chattiness of them, the "oh my god can you be quiet so I can actually get through a sentence" scenario. I read somewhere (and I "know" it, but I don't adjust for it much) that you can't teach the last period of the day like you teach the 1st period of the day. The kids are physically and mentally in a different zone. I literally got at MOST 2/3 or 3/4 done in class of what I got done the other periods. This cannot continue. I have to reflect on a way to teach the same amount of material in a way that's effective for last-period-itis kids.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Extra Homework Component

The kids are coming Monday, and shockingly, I'm still not ready. This past week we've been doing teacher prep and district-wide math in-service. Last Monday I found out that I'd be switching rooms, so the afternoon was devoted to rolling all my things from one end of 2nd floor to the other to get to the elevator, then down to 1st floor, then roll roll roll all the way to the other end of the building to my new classroom. My body was in shock after an alluring summer of sitting most of the day.

Wednesday we went to break out sessions for various math components. I learned 2 interesting things that I want to explore this year. The first is THIS WEBSITE. I really liked his "reading and sketching graphs" sheet, so maybe the others are as useful. The second was the idea of Webquests. I've never done such a thing, and apparently there's a ton of them already made up for us to choose from. The instructor said she'd e-mail us the link ... you know, in her free time between getting ready for the school year.

I also formalized the extra component I want the kids to do on each homework assignment. I'll have them cut out this sheet and paste it to the front cover of their composition books for a quick reference. I'm eager to see if it improves their work habits (if they need it). I like question 5 because it's another avenue for them to communicate with me if they have questions and may possibly forget the next day. The sheet looks like:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Two things I want to do in my classroom this year

I'm thinking if I gave a pop quiz to my high school students with just a variety of clock faces (with hour and second hands) and asked them to write the time, too many (for comfort) would fail. I guess that would mean that even if just one failed that would be too sad for words. Anyway, I came across a picture in an educational book about teaching ideas, and it was probably meant for an elementary classroom, but I'm so going to steal it. The teacher took the little yellow stickies and just to the outside of every number put the correct minutes: 5, 10, 15, 20, ..., 50, 55. I'm thinking that I don't even have to do a lesson on it; it'll just be a silent lesson every time they look at the clock.***

My second idea came from the book, "Eat, Pray, Love". I want to make a poster of it. If I remember correctly, one of the author's friends in Italy said to her after she was berating herself for her language mistakes, "Be polite to yourself when you're learning something new." (or something to that effect). What a nice way to approach the scary waters of unknown math.

*** of course a former student just sent me e-mail about THIS clock, and I bought it, so who knows how good of a "time telling lesson" this will turn out to be.

*** and of course now that I look at each hour, there are 2 I DO NOT LIKE .... but maybe that will spark good discussion in class (cough cough)

Monday, August 09, 2010

Group Work

These past few days I've been in a small town in Texas working with people I don't know very well on a job we all had to get done (not work related) and get done accurately. We would only be together for about 3 days, and we had to get along. Well, we didn't have to get along, but it sure made the time more pleasant if we did. Also, we had jobs to do, and all our jobs depended on other people and other people depended on our jobs. Lots of us were new to our tasks, many had done things before and had set ideas on how to do things, many people had strong personalities or weird personalities or quiet personalities, but we still had to work well together.

So that got me to thinking, "group work" just crops up everywhere in life, and the more we get exposed to it in school and the more there are issues that we have to resolve while we're in our groups and the more troubles that arise, then THE BETTER. If you never have the chance to figure out how to solve "group work" problems early on in school and such, then later on when it's not a choice, you'll have a hard time managing, and you'll be part of the problem.

I'm one of those people that inwardly groan when we're assigned groups in an educational setting and think, "I just want to do it by myself". But now I'm thinking, okay, if "bad" things come up (someone doesn't contribute, someone dominates, someone thinks they can do it better themselves (ahem)...), then this will be my opportunity to think of ways to address problems that may come up. Maybe I won't do it perfectly, but I'll try something out and if it doesn't work, then I'll know to try something else next time. ... Now this all sounds like I think I'm the jewel of the group work and never do ANYTHING wrong (it's hard being so perfect), but I don't think that at all. I guess I'm more along the lines of thinking I have to adjust my attitudes about it and maybe even I'm a thorn in the side of the group and don't know it. Viva la group work!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Old and New Ideas


I was/am Queen of the Sticky Notes. All my to-do lists for school would be scattered about and usually I'd find all of them, but who knows. I saw the teachers at my school carrying around various composition notebooks and such to meetings and recording things. It turned out this was their "Book Of To Do Things". I loved it. I started using one in the middle of the year, and here are the pros:

*everything is in one place
*you have a record of your year
*portable, portable, portable so you don't have to be at home and stress that you're forgetting something

A To Do List:

Planning My Line Project:

Visual of the End of the Year:


Next year I want to put up a classroom comment board ala Whole Foods. I'll pass out some cards to the kids to keep in their folders, and have a box up front where they can turn them in, with extra cards available. I can respond in writing on the card and post the cards. If at any time during any class a kid notices something or wants to say something, but it's not feasible for whatever reason during class, they can submit a comment. I'm thinking in this way, I'll get a better sense of what's what during class, and I'll promote more of a sense of community, and the other students can read the comments/responses on the board.

Here's what I'll print & cut out to hand the kids:

Sunday, August 01, 2010


As probably for many other teachers, this is a hot-button topic for me. The first 6 years I taught, I'd never heard of the concept. No students asked for a retest; I didn't know such a situation could exist. My next 6 years of teaching in another state and another type of school, I got indoctrinated. Eventually, I felt I "bowed" to the pressure and allowed retests. I finally worked out a system that sat "okay/well" with me: anyone with all their homework assignments turned in could retest, and your final grade on the test is an average of your 2 tests, so technically, your grade could go down if you did worse on the retest.

One reason I didn't like retests was that I saw too many kids either not studying for them, or not studying for the original test, knowing they could have a do over.

Now that I've moved schools, I gave no retests. You got what you got.

This summer in Philadelphia, I happened across this book, and there was a discussion on retests of some sort. As I felt my hackles rising, I ran across a statement that gave me pause:

If a kid fails a test or does poorly and shows they don't know a particular concept and you just move on, you are in essence saying that you're okay with them not having that knowledge under their belt, that it's okay not to ultimately understand something in your course.

I don't know that I'll move back to retesting as I've done before, but I want to think further on this idea for next year. I know there's been discussion on the blogs on this, and I've been reading it, and I think I need to find something that works for me and is manageable in my classroom and that I buy into; otherwise, obviously, I won't effectively implement it, and it's doomed to fail.

My initial kernel of an idea is to have a list of concepts they need to know, and by each concept I have 2 boxes with a room for the date of success. This may be on box.net or something with each student's name in a chart, and when they have successfully mastered the concept twice (time frame?), then they are good to go. Grading? Haven't thought of that yet. I was thinking more of a general holistic idea because realistically, maybe all kids don't get to all concepts twice. Maybe their final grade will include a percentage based on what they've shown .... but then I'm still saying that I'm okay with them not knowing things .... ARGH .... must ponder more.