Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Very Good Day :)

Well, after Thursday's post about the good and not so good, I knew I had to post an update about how Friday went.  Let's just say it was marvelous.  I'm still overwhelmed by student council responsibilities, but I will start dealing with those on Monday.  I need to get my lesson plans and everything else ready for next week before I start stressing over student council.  My students need to come first. 

So, Friday was an amazing day.  I left school feeling energized and excited to plan next week's lessons.  What made it so great?  My students.  I had at least three different students tell me yesterday how much they were enjoying my math class. 

In my 3rd hour Algebra 1 class, I had a student raise his hand during the middle of the lesson.  I assumed he had a question.  No.  He just wanted to say "You make math fun." 

In my 6th hour Algebra 1 class, I had one student just start telling everyone how much she loved this class and that she was learning so much more than last year.  This led to another student informing me that this was his favorite class.

I don't think my students realized just how much I needed to hear those comments.  I didn't ask for compliments or feedback.  They just felt compelled to give them.  My students are loving the INBs.  Sure, some of them make remarks about how all the coloring, gluing, and cutting is like kindergarten, but I think they all secretly enjoy it.  And, I've noticed that when students create the table/foldable/graphic organizer in their interactive notebooks, they are so much more likely to refer back to it than if I had just referenced it in the textbook.    

I've been using the individual dry erase pockets, and I think they have made a major difference in my students' attitudes about math.  Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I'm not a fan of math homework.  I attended a high school where very few students did their own math homework.  A few students would do theirs and then answers would be copied from student to student.  No learning was occurring.  Only copying.  Then, I student taught at a school where students didn't do their homework.  The school allowed students to turn in late work at any time without a penalty.  So, the students were typically 3-4 weeks behind in doing their homework, if they did it at all.

Instead of assigning homework problems, I've been giving my students the problems that would normally have been homework to do on their dry erase pockets.  I read a question or put it up on the Smart Board.  Each student works the problem and holds up their solution.  I say yes or no.  If they got it wrong, they look back over their work.  The students that got it right start helping those others setting at their table.

I love having my desks arranged like this!  It's perfect for encouraging students to communicate and discuss the problems we are working on.   

My students love it.  They actually look forward to working the practice problems.  That sounds crazy, right?  Students looking forward to doing math problems.  But, it's entirely true.  And, I think I've figured out why.  Most of my students have traditionally struggled with math.  They haven't been successful before.  Math leaves them feeling frustrated.  When I give my students 10-15 practice problems, what I'm actually giving them is 10-15 chances to leave class today feeling like a success.  To the students that understand the lesson from the beginning, they leave my class feeling like a math super star.  To the students that don't understand at first but start to get it through lots of practice and help from their classmates, they leave my class each day feeling like they've got this.

Every student is engaged.  Every student works every problem.  We work problems until the bell rings.  I try to ensure that no time is wasted at the end of class.  My students don't have homework.  I don't have piles of homework papers to grade.  And, there's just something about that dry erase marker that makes my students more apt to try a problem that they aren't entirely sure how to solve.

Teaching with interactive notebooks and dry erase pockets makes me love my job.  I'm moving through the sections a tad slower than the other math teacher, but I think it's worth it.  I'm building a strong foundation for my students that will pay off for the rest of their mathematical careers.   

I'm able to give my students instantaneous feedback.  They don't solve 20 homework problems and wait a day or two to figure out if they really understood how to solve those types of problems.  By then, they don't really care.  Each time my students finish a problem, they want to know immediately if they got it right or not.  If not, they are anxious to find their mistake.  They want to hear that "yes."  I'd originally planned to give my students a few problems at the end of each period as an exit ticket.  But, I've discovered that with doing all the problems on whiteboards, that's not necessary.  I know which students have it or don't.  So, I'm trying to find a better way to do exit tickets.  I still love the concept.  I just want to find a way to get more meaningful feedback.    

I also had a really interesting/strange thing happen on Friday.  In the middle of my math analysis class, there was a knock on my door.  I answered it to find the secretary and one of my neighbors, a retired man that lives two doors down from me.  So, I open the door, and the secretary goes "This is your neighbor."  So, I'm like "Hi."  My mind is racing, trying to figure out why my neighbor would have come and visited me at school.  I've only met him once before when I was moving in at the beginning of July.  I'm thinking that my house must have burned down or something. 

No.  He just wanted to let me know that he wanted to give me a couch that he had.  It was a beautiful couch, and he had heard that I was needing some furniture.  I actually have a very nice, matching living room set and a house full of furniture.  So, I had to turn down his offer of a couch. 

So, I guess this is what it's like to live in a small town.  I'm just trying to imagine what the conversation was like in the office before they brought my neighbor down to my classroom.  My neighbor doesn't know my name.  What do you say?  "My neighbor is your math teacher, and I need to talk to her about a couch?" 


  1. I love your idea of using the individual dry erase pockets for the students daily work! I agree using those is much more fun and exciting than doing a homework assignment. My students also do not do homework. I am curious what you do with students who are absent. Do they have a worksheet to complete then?

  2. Hi Sarah

    I would love to not give homework. I totally agree with you about the copying. And so many of my students don't do it. Do you have any parents that complain there is no homework?

  3. Yeah! I just bought some heavy duty sheet protectors to use as personal whiteboards and copied off number lines, coordinate grids, etc. etc. So glad to hear students enjoy this!! School starts in a week for me. :)

  4. This is my first year teaching and I find your blog very inspiring. I'm actually having a bit of trouble in the homework area myself. As in, both, creating and grading them. I'm working in a small school, and am the only 7th grade teacher which means I don't have many people to ask for help. I suppose my main question after all of that is: what do you do for grades? If you just say "yes" or "no" what do you record in the gradebook?

    1. Thanks for reading my blog! On the days that we just do board work (yes/no), I don't record a grade in the gradebook. My school only requires two grades per week. This is more of a formative assessment than a summative assessment.