Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Computer Science Activities

I'm still finding my sea legs on how to best teach the material. I want the students to learn by doing, so we explore a ton. I haven't perfected a way for them to have easy, ready access to past information, though (without searching through tons of worksheets or old programs).

A student suggested a "goals" portion on each sheet, and I think it's a great idea, so I incorporated that. Also, through Haiku (an online teacher-type site our school purchased for us), I put some practice quizzes. I like it because I can see who and how they did. We JUST had our first quiz on strings and math, so I'll see how it's sticking.

Here are three recent activities on random numbers, a Math Quiz Project (that I've had good feedback on), and for loops:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Chugging Along

I'm still trying to get my groove going for my AP Calculus flipped class. I love it because the kids actually have time and energy now to do hard problems since they're doing them in class. I also like that I've had conversations that clarify things for the students. BUT. Here's an enlightening conversation I had on Friday. The kids had watched videos and took notes on the product rule and on the quotient rule. There was a day of practicing the product rule. Then then next time they were practicing the quotient rule.

My basic flipped calculus class structure is:
Take the IR quiz (fast immediate recall type questions).
Get started on the new practice problems to reinforce what you "learned" on the video.
I walk around and answer questions and make sure they are getting it.


The students were working on these problems:

A student calls me over and asks: so how do we know when to use what rule ... product rule or the quotient rule.


I guess I was making assumptions with this particular group of students that EVERYONE would clearly see when to use what.

I think writing this out has made me want to change up the class structure.

Possible New Structure:
Take the IR quiz (fast immediate recall type questions).
Use my guiding questions to have a discussion with your table about various key important parts of what you learned from the video and how it ties in to previous learning. (I think I also want to use this as an opportunity for students to talk with students OTHER than the ones at their table)
Journal about your understanding for about 3 minutes in your ISN.
Get started on the new practice problems to reinforce what you "learned" on the video. (possibly have less problems since they seem to be having a hard time finishing the ones I give)
I walk around and answer questions and make sure they are getting it.

Now that I write that, it seems obvious. Oh well, it's a learning process for me, too. I still like the flipped structure, but it's a work in progress for me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Funnies of the Week...

* In Digital Electronics, we're working with resistors. In case you don't know, they're color coded with these TEENY TINY bands of color where red looks like orange and brown could be black or it could be brown. A student was needing a particular resistor strength, and I couldn't read the colors with my aging (47) eyes. A kid asked me why I wasn't wearing glasses. I mentioned that it was vanity, and if I got new glasses I'd have to get bifocals, and I wasn't ready. One kid asked, "what are bifocals?" Another kids started being helpful .... "it's these glasses you'll see old people ....." and she stopped ... and we all laughed ... some less genuinely than others.

* After school, another student was in for tutoring. I've had her for 5 different classes, so I've known her for a long time. She's Hispanic. She wanted help, and after I was resisting going over to help her, she jokingly said, "bring your big booty over here." Hah. .... "no! That's a compliment!". ..... (okay, 2 for 2 .... old and fat)

* Another kid in precalculus was lamenting the fact that I called a homework sheet, "Quadratic Quirkiness". "Please don't ever use the word 'quirky' again" she pleaded. Huh? Why? "Quirky sounds like Quaid, and I hate Dennis Quaid." Okay ..... Then she listed reasons. Okay then. Of course I had to mention 'Quaid' a few times in class that day. Her friends also ratted her out, so "J Lo, Paltrow, ...." are also on the list.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I guess I should periodically look at my old files. I know what I'm doing tomorrow in calculus (after a brief intro for "easier" problems).

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Group Projects

I'm not so good at assigning group projects (mostly because I side with student opinions of them and mostly because I'm a control freak and like to do things myself, so I don't like working in groups). But. I realize I may be doing the students a disservice by not allowing them the periodic struggle of working with others.

I've come up with this sheet that I think I'll add to my next group project. I'm SURE I'll assign one. Soon. This year. Some time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


School is in its third week, and now the lack of sleep is taking its toll (that bell .... it's tolling for me). Today I left "early" (6pm) and treated myself to frozen yogurt and Sudoku and bad guitar playing (from lack of practice and wonky strings). I'm a wee bit more revived, and I guess extra sleep will be the cherry on top.

I went to an NHS 2-day weekend workshop this past Saturday and Sunday, and hmmmmm. Now my co-sponsor and I know all the things we SHOULD have done last year :). That's okay, we kept hearing that the first year is a throw-away year in terms of how effective you are. There were sponsors there that had been at it for up to 30 years. We got tons of great ideas to implement this year (service project every month; little service projects; leadership skills; laws and handbooks and by-laws; ...).

There was one great speaker. He said several great things, but here were some that resonated with me:

* Don't wait for opportunities. Create opportunities.
* You're never going to be paid enough or have enough time. Create good perks for yourself in spite of that.
* Take 10% of the time you have and make someone else's day at work. Make them feel appreciated.
* Kids say thank you in ways without saying, "thank you" .... coming back to visit ... asking for your advice ... changing their behavior because of something you said ... hugs ...

Oh, where does that "relationships" thing come in? We have seniors for the 1st time this year, and BOY are they stressed. There have been tears and anger and wan looks. They're taking about 4 AP classes. They are dealing with adjusting to newness of new-to-the-school teachers. They're dealing with the fact that they'll be leaving home soon. They're dealing with applying to college.

I've tried to make time to just shoot the breeze with them (though I'm thinking of all the things I should be doing) .... people before paper ..... We did our "stress write" ... we made funny pictures of stressed out characters and stapled them to our bulletin board. .... It's GOING TO BE FINE.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

First CS Project Results

Love my students. Their first Computer Science project was due this past Friday, and here are samples of the things they did after just 2 weeks of learning CS (their first time ever).

I don't even know why I bothered to put any constraints on the project (at least 2 of these, at least 4 of these ....).

This past week we started working on Strings. Here is a worksheet I had them do:

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Second Computer Science Task

Can anyone say "whirlwind week"? If you're a teacher I bet you can. I guess it's getting cliche to be all, "oh no, I'm so busy!". Anyway.

My computer science kidlets will turn in their first project tomorrow. Exciting. They're thrilled with their pictures they drew. Last class we started talking about Strings in Java. I didn't want to go the power point route - one, I didn't prepare; two, I think they'd just half listen and maybe take notes and then not learn until they were doing it.

So, we all opened our laptops, and I guided them through Strings and declaring and assigning and getting user input. Then I had them do a Google search on mad libs examples. There's a free Mad Libs generator that we walked through. After the giggles (and refresher on what an adverb or noun is *sigh*), I told them that their next task is to create a Mad Libs. Only about 10 minutes was remaining in class at this point, so I said, "start with a 2 sentence one.".

Also, instead of text book assigning and yapping, I assigned this homework for the "extras" I have to teach:

Good Times.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Funny Story That Made My Day

In my harried existence as a teacher at the start of the school year, I don't have all my "routines" in perfect place yet. For example, I don't yet make time for a snack between breakfast and lunch (or maybe it's just my tapeworm gobbling up all my food). Anyway, by lunch time I was literally clutching my stomach in the cavernous pain of hunger. I was "hangry" as they say.

As I was coming back from washing my hands and on my way to my classroom to eat lunch, I yet again clutched my stomach (wah wah wah). I happened to see 3 former students and a teacher friend walking towards me. The students asked if I was okay or if I was pregnant (note: I'm in my late 40's and the kids know I'm not having kids). My teacher friend mentioned that yes, I was pregnant with triplets, and we all mentioned that we should "spread the rumor". We chuckled about it, and I forgot the conversation.

After-school tutoring comes about. A student I hadn't seen that day comes in to work on her computer programming and asked if I was pregnant. She mentioned that she JUST got a text from a friend (and former student) that now lives in West West Texas asking if I was pregnant. Woot! Rumor spreads like wildfire!

Funny way to end the day.