Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Scattergories Style Describing Graphs Game

So, I'm about to share an idea with you that I have no idea if it would actually work.  I haven't tried this out in my classroom.  One of the presenters at the conference I'm at this week presented an idea yesterday for bellwork. 

I'm kinda attached to my current way of doing bellwork, but I decided that it was a worthwhile activity and I needed to incorporate it into my classroom in some form or fashion.  I love to play games in my classroom.  Maybe that's because I'm a very competitive person.  I have a sister who is three years younger than me, and we competed at everything growing up.  We competed to see who could climb in the car, shut the door, and buckle up the fastest.  On road trips, we would compete to see who could count the most cows out their window.  Around Christmas time, we would change this to counting houses with Christmas lights.  Over the years, we've played countless games of Scrabble, Monopoly, Uno, Checkers, Chess, Bananagrams, and a million other games.   

My students like playing games in class because they don't think it counts as work.  They are almost always doing the same amount of work or more than if I had just given them a worksheet.  But, if they don't want to see it that way, I'm not going to complain. 

I have a special affection for word games.  But, as a math teacher, I've never quite figured out how to make them mathematical enough to use in my classroom.  Here's both the original idea and my Scattergories style adaptation. 

Original Idea

Our students need to be able to describe graphs using the correct terminology.  One of the Standards for Mathematical Practice is that students will be able to attend to precision.  Attend to precision means that students will "try to use clear definitions in discussion with others and in their own reasoning." 

As bellwork, project a graph on the board.  For Algebra 1 students, this could be a simple linear graph.  For Algebra 2 students, this might be a quadratic function or a piecewise function. 

Number the board from 1-10.  Challenge the students as a class to write 10 different descriptions of the graph.  Examples: The line has a positive slope.  The x-intercept of the graph is at (2,0).  The line goes through the point (5,7).  The domain of the graph is all real numbers. 

After the class has come up with ten statements, discuss whether each statement is correct or incorrect.  Modify the incorrect statements to make them correct. 

My Gamified Version

I can't exactly decide what to call this activity.  My ideas thus far: Describing Graphs Showdown, Graphing Scattergories, Graphing Scattergories Showdown.  I'm not super-thrilled with any of these, so if you have a better name, please, please, please leave me a comment! 

Divide the class up into groups.  Give each group a specific section of the dry erase board or give each group their own large dry erase board to write on at their desks.  (I think it needs to be big enough for all of the students to write on if they choose.)  Project a graph.  Set a timer for 2-3 minutes.  (This time limit might change once I actually complete this activity with students!) 

In groups, students write as many one-sentence descriptions of the graph as possible.  To be eligible to count for credit, all answers must be in complete sentences and only include ONE fact about the graph.  So, they could not write "The slope is 3, and the y-intercept is 2" because that includes two facts.  And, "Slope 3" would also not count because it is not a complete sentence.   

When time is called, everybody takes a seat.  If group-sized whiteboards were used, these could be propped up in the tray of the dry erase board / chalk board for the entire class to see.  The scoring of the game works a lot like Scattergories.  If two or more teams have the same answer, everybody has to mark it off their list.  The group with the most unique (and correct!) answers wins. 

As a class, the students will verify all of the statements that Group 1 made about the graph.  If other groups also made that statement, the statement will be marked off all of the lists.  If a statement is incorrect, students will discuss why it is incorrect, and it will also be marked off of the list. 

Group 2's remaining statements will then be verified, etc.  After each group's statements have been verified and all matching statements have been erased or marked out, each team counts the number of remaining unique and correct statements to find their score. 

The team with the highest score wins.  (Ties could be broken by looking to see which team had the most correct descriptions regardless of uniqueness.) 

Why I Can't Wait to Try This Out

This past year, I taught my students learned how to solve a lot of different types of problems, but their vocabulary was majorly lacking.  A lot of this was my fault.  I didn't force them to attend to precision.  A lot of times, I didn't even attend to precision myself.  As part of the Oklahoma Geometry and Algebra Project, I gave all of the Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 students in my school a Common Core style test at the end of the year.  This week, I received the rubric to start grading these.  When my students were asked to explain their reasoning, I knew what they meant.  But, they didn't use the vocabulary and structure that will be looked for when the Common Core assessments are graded.  My students need to be precise with the vocabulary usage.  I need to be precise with my vocabulary usage.  I cringed when I read a lot of my students' answers because they answered questions using a lot of the same terminology I used in class.  Because I wasn't clear, they weren't clear. 

Grading these tests has also shown me that my students hate to write.  Next year, I need to emphasize the importance of writing in complete sentences.  The more my students do it, the better they will become at it.  Yes, they'll complain.  But, I'm not going to give in.  My students need to learn how to write.  Writing should not be confined to English class. 

This activity is structured in such a way that students will be learning from students.  It won't be me at the front of the classroom explaining for the umpteenth time what an x-intercept is.  If this activity works as I hope it will, mathematical conversations will be sparked.  Questions will be asked.  And, the depth of this activity will grow with my students.  If we did this every single day for 10 minutes for an entire week, I think the quality and type of answers would improve dramatically.  On the first day, students might not be thinking about domain and range.  As different groups come up with different descriptors, other groups will follow suit.  If students want to win, they will have to dig deeper and think harder.  The team that wins will be the team that is continually adapting their strategy.   

I also believe that this activity helps fulfill the 3rd Standard for Mathematical Practice: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.  As a class, students will have to determine whether other statements that they did not come up with are indeed correct.  I want my students to not be afraid to ask questions.  I want them to learn to respectfully disagree with other students.  Basically, I just want my students to talk about math as much as possible. 

I think this would work great as a "Oh no, my students got done with this activity ten minutes faster than I thought they would, and I don't have anything else planned" activity.  Surely, I'm not the only teacher who needs a few of those in their back pocket.    


Ideas?  How can I make this better?  And, it still needs a cool name!    

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Common Core Training Reflection (OGAP Recap #1)

I'm attending an amazing Common Core State Standards workshop this week for high school math teachers.  It's called the Oklahoma Geometry and Algebra Project (OGAP.)  I'm two days into it, and I've already learned so much.  For once, I'm actually able to visualize my students doing Common Core level work.  Before I learn anything more, I decided that I need to try to write down what I've learned so far and attempt to process it.  My list of things I want to do before school starts is growing rapidly. 

Before starting this workshop, I was terrified of Common Core.  I'd printed off the standards, but I really had no idea where to start.  The only help my district provided was a poster to hang on the wall that contained all of the standards.  We've been studying the Standards for Mathematical Practice, and I think I'm finally starting to understand what they might look like in the classroom.  As we complete activities, we have been finding exactly which standards they align with.  The more time I spend with Common Core, the less I dread it.  Yes, I'd rather not have to learn a new set of standards.  But, these standards will make me into a better teacher.  They will help make my students into better thinkers and problem solvers.  It's going to be a rough transition.  But, I'm excited now to challenge my students so I can watch them rise to the occasion. 

I don't know if any of this information will be of use to anyone else.  But, I'm putting it out here in the hopes that it might be.  And, if it's on my blog, I'll be more likely to find the information again than if I have to go searching for the many post-it notes that this information is currently written on. 

Personality Test

One of the first activities we did was a True Colors Personality Test.  I had never done this test before.  After choosing which words best describe you, the test will tell you whether you are primarily Blue, Gold, Orange, or Green.  Blue people value relationships.  Gold people value duty and responsibility.  Orange people value freedom.  And, green people value information and knowledge.  I was not surprised to find out that I was almost pure Gold.  My perfectionism, my obsession with to-do lists, and my need for order attest to this. 

I'll be honest.  At first, I thought this activity was kind of silly.  Okay, I'm gold.  Now what?  But, as the week progresses, the other teachers and I are constantly realizing how knowing someone's color sheds a lot of light on why they do what they do.  I think this would be beneficial to do with my students at the very beginning of the school year.  I'd also love to do this as an activity with my fellow teachers.  I'm going to be part of the professional development team at my school next year, but I'm not sure we will have time for this on our only in-service day before school starts.   

If you're interested in learning more about this personality test, I found some great copies of the test and explanations of the meanings of the colors online.  Let's just say there is a whole lot more to the colors than the one-word descriptors I wrote above!

Graphing Calculators

As part of the workshop, each teacher received a new TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition Graphing Calculator.  This is my first time to use a calculator that graphs in color.  I like that you can choose what color to graph each line or set of data in.  And, the adapter that allows you to plug it in to charge is also a nice feature.  The menus and features are similar but not exactly the same as the TI-84s I already have in my classroom.  However, it was suggested today that we update the operating system on all of our TI-84s.  I definitely need to look into that this summer and get it done before school starts back up!  I think the color and other added features may have slowed down the calculator a bit.  I find myself sometimes getting impatient with the calculator because it doesn't graph things as quickly as I think it should. 

One thing that was mentioned this week was that we need to force our students to choose their own window when graphing with the graphing calculator.  Our students need to think.  And, teaching them shortcuts such as Zoom Fit doesn't require them to think.  Thinking should be our goal.  I'm definitely guilty of this. 

We've done several activities that involved collecting real-world data, creating a scatter plot on our graphing calculators, and using the linear regression feature to find a line of best fit.  As a way to start learning everyone's names, we timed the teachers at the first table as they said their name and their color from the personality test.  Then, we timed the teachers at the first and second table saying their name and color.  This continued until we had made it all the way around the room.  This gave us a set of data to enter in our graphing calculator.  We used linear regression to find the line of best fit for our data.  I think this would be a great way to review the concepts of slope and y-intercept with my Algebra 2 and Statistics students. 

Participating in this activity makes me hope that the grant I wrote for a classroom set of various measurement tools gets funded.  I really need stopwatches for my students to use!  I'm going to have my Algebra 2 students start getting used to the graphing calculator from Day 1 next year.  And, I will expose my Algebra 1 students to the graphing calculator next year to help them prepare for Common Core even though the graphing calculator will still not be allowed on next year's Algebra 1 EOI exam.  If I don't start my Algebra 1 students now with the graphing calculator, I will be putting them at a disadvantage when they get to Algebra 2.   

We also used stopwatches and our graphing calculators to complete the Bouncing Tennis Balls activity from NCTM Illuminations.      

Collaborative Learning

"Collaborative learning [group work] involves more than students sitting around a table and working on the same task." 

If I'm going to use collaborative learning in my classroom, I need to establish norms.  And, I need to hold my students accountable for maintaining those norms. 

If a student is off-task, approach them with a question instead of a command.  It's much more powerful to ask, "What do you need to get started today?" than to tell them to get to work. 

Teachers must make thinking intentional. 

As teachers, we are not the only people with knowledge in our classroom. 

Our students need to experience constructive struggling.  We read this article about constructive struggling, and it was eye-opening.   

We typically give students easy problems that later build to harder problems.  What if we started giving our students the hard problems first? 

In a collaborative learning classroom, students should not ask the teacher for help unless they have already asked every single group member for help. 

Don't ever take the pencil out of the hand of the student you are helping! 

Students (and teachers) need to know that helping is not the same as telling.

If you want your students to be accountable, here are some rules you can implement: You can write only on your own paper.  You can let people see your paper, but you cannot hand it over to somebody else. 

Provide students with sentence starters to help students discuss their thinking together.  (I need to make a poster of these to hang in my classroom!)

Function Notation

My Algebra 1 students really struggled with understanding function notation last year.  Today, we did a great activity that links the concept of function notation to a family tree.  This activity is taken from the October 1987 issue of the Mathematics Teacher.  I found a link to a pdf copy of the activity online.  Before I use this with my classes, I will definitely be retyping it and making sure that every single person in the family tree has a name that starts with a different letter of the alphabet.  I love how this activity quickly moves students from reading function notation to finding the composition of two functions. 

I'm hoping that my students will start to understand exactly what function notation is.  f(x) does not mean f times x.  And, I'm hoping this will help keep them from deciding that they must divide both sides by f in order to get x by itself.   

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Word Wall Reflection

This past school year, I attempted to maintain a word wall for my Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 classes.  I don't think I ever had a teacher use a word wall when I was in school.  And, none of the teachers I did my student teaching with had word walls.  I didn't learn about them in college, either.  So, I guess I learned about word walls via blogs and pinterest. 

I didn't really use my word walls to their full potential during this first year of teaching.  I think I updated them about three times over the course of the school year.  I never created words for the last few units of each subject. 

Algebra 2 Word Wall
Students didn't use them as much as I would have hoped, but I didn't teach them how to use it.  I did have a few students who would use it when they couldn't think of a word.  And, as soon as they started using it, other students would start using it.  So, they are useful.  I just need to find a way to better incorporate it into my classroom routines.  
Algebra 1 Word Wall
One day in Algebra 1, I required my students to choose a word from the word wall and write a letter to the celebrity of their choice.  In their letter, they had to explain what the vocab word meant.  Those were enlightening to read.  And, they made me realize how out of touch I am with pop culture. 

I put up the words randomly, and I think that was a mistake.  I'm going to replace the fun fonts with a font that can be easily read from across the classroom.  Next year, I think I want to color-code the words by unit.  And, I want to put the units up in a linear fashion.  I know it won't be as "cute," but I think it will be more functional and lead to a higher level of usage by my students.  If they are looking for a word that they have learned recently, they will look at the most recently added words.  If they've forgotten a word from the beginning of the school year, they can quickly look at the first sets of words.

Next year, I will prompt my students to use the word wall more often.  When I want my students to express themselves using more specific and appropriate terms, I can direct them to the word wall.  The word wall in my classroom will only be as useful as I make it.  Next year, it will add more than just color to my walls.  It will add to the learning environment.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cardboard and Fish Stories

I sometimes wonder if the things that come out of the mouths of my students will ever stop shocking me.  As I've been cleaning up my classroom and attempting to organize all the papers I've collected over the past year, I've ran across several notes I've jotted down of crazy things that my students have said. 

Scenario 1
Towards the end of the year, I had to tell one of my Algebra 1 students to please stop eating a piece of cardboard.  He didn't.  I did google it to make sure it wasn't deadly or anything.  He ended up eating a piece of cardboard that was probably 6 inches by 2-3 inches. 

Scenario 2
One day I asked my 8th grade Algebra 1 students what a quadratic was.  We'd talked about them the previous week, and I was trying to help them refresh their memories.  Without missing a beat, one student responded, "It's what happens at an aquarium when the fishies die."  That gave the class a good chuckle.

Scenario 3
Late first semester, I was tutoring a student to help her prepare for her upcoming EOI exam.  We'd been at it awhile, and I could tell that we were both getting tired.  When I looked up from writing something down, this student had a bobby pin stuck over her lip.  After I gave her a strange look, she announced, "Now I know why fish don't like this."  We wrapped up our study session soon after that, and she did end up making advanced on her EOI! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Math Meets Geography (Road Trip Project Revisited)

After EOI testing was finished, I still wanted to have my students do lots of math.  However, the end of the year brings with it lots of activities, field trips, and missing students.  So, I decided to use this opportunity to go back and fit in some activities that I didn't have time to do when I originally taught some concepts. 

I taught ratios and proportions to my Algebra 1 students very early in the year.  Looking back, I think I rushed through this topic too fast.  Next year, I will probably double the time I spend on this topic! 

During my student teaching in 8th grade, I wrote a Road Trip project for my students to complete.  The original project was 3 days long.  For my Algebra 1 students, I chose to only do Day 1 of this project. 

The task is simple.  Given a map of the United States, plan a road trip to visit 5 cities.  Using ratios and proportions, calculate the total distance traveled.  Students need a copy of the map, worksheet, and a ruler.  I wrote more about this project here.

Road Trip Project

Since I had already done this project with 8th graders, I thought my Algebra 1 students would be able to whiz right through it.  I was wrong.  I had to teach many of my students how to read a ruler.  Rounding to the nearest quarter inch was a disaster.  And, the questions students asked me made me feel more like a geography teacher than a math teacher. 

These are actual conversations I had with my Algebra 1 students during this activity.

Me: Class, today we are going on a road trip.  If we're going on a road trip, that means we will be traveling on...
Class: Roads!
Me: Yes, so that means we can't travel to...
Class: Hawaii
Student 1: Why can't you drive to Hawaii? 
Me: Hawaii is an island.  That means it is surrounded by water.
Student 2: Why does Hawaii look so weird?
Custodian who just happens to be emptying the trash at this point: Hawaii is a series of small islands.
Student 3: Do you mean you can't drive between the little islands?
Custodian: No.  When I was in Hawaii, we traveled between the islands by taking ferries. 

Student 1: Is Washington, D.C. here? [The student is pointing at Washington state.]
Me: No.
Student 2: No, Washington, D.C. is in Virginia.

Student 1: I think this map is wrong.
Me: Why?
Student 1: Oklahoma City should be above Tulsa.

Student 1: Do you mean Nashville, Tennessee is in the United States?
Me: Yes.  Nashville is in the U.S.
Student 1: I've heard of it before, but I didn't realize it was in the U.S.

I required my students to write both the city and the state they were visiting on their assignment.  One student wrote that she was traveling to New Jersey, PA. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Vocabulary Knowledge Survey

Before beginning radicals with my Algebra 1 students, I had my students complete a Vocabulary Knowledge Rating Chart.  I created a book type foldable with three of these (identical) charts for my students to glue in their interactive notebooks.  This was my first idea to try out from Styles and Strategies for Teaching High School Mathematics

I chose the thirteen most important vocabulary words to know for our unit.  For each vocabulary term, students had to circle 1, 2, 3, or 4.  1 stands for "I've never heard of the term."  2 means "I've seen or heard of this term before."  An answer of 3 represents "I think I know this term."  And, 4 means "I know the term and can explain it."

I had students fill out this chart for the first time before I taught anything related to radicals.  Students circled the numbers that reflected their current level of understanding.  Some of my students were a little frustrated with this activity because they didn't know what any of these words meant.  I explained that this was okay because we hadn't started the unit yet.  Students then added up all of the circled numbers to arrive at their "Vocabulary Knowledge Rating."   

I did have a lot of false 4 ratings on the term "index."  They were surprised to find out that I wasn't referring to the back of a non-fiction book.  One class also had an interesting debate over whether the index was the same as the table of contents. 

Front of Vocabulary Survey Foldable
Several days into the unit, we repeated this activity.  It was exciting to see students realize how much their Vocabulary Knowledge Rating had increased over just a few days.  Instead of mainly circling 1s and 2s, students were know circling 3s and even some 4s.  This was a big confidence booster for my students.  Also, students were curious about when we would get to the few terms we had not yet covered in our unit.   

Inside of Vocabulary Survey Foldable

I ran out of time, and I never did have my students complete the last survey.  But, I'm glad I did this activity.  It boosted my students' confidence, and it inspired a lot of great questions.  I definitely want to occasionally incorporate this into my classroom again next year.  I don't know if it something that would be beneficial to do for every unit though.

I've embedded my foldable file below if this could be of use to anyone else. 



Saturday, June 8, 2013

50 Lessons Learned During My First Year as a Teacher

  1. Dry erase markers do not last long in the hands of teenagers.
  2. Always make your copies long before you will need them.  If you wait until the morning you need them, the copy machine will be in use, out of ink, or tell you that it has an F2-37 error, and you will have to wait until the office calls the copy repairman.(While there are many perks of working in a small school, having only one copy machine is not one of them.)
  3. The Internet will be down on the exact days that you plan on using it in your lesson.  The likelihood of the Internet being down increases when your principal is formally observing your lesson. 
  4. Cutting with scissors is hard for students.  And, it takes them way longer than you will intend.
  5. There is nothing more interesting to teenagers than your relationship status.
  6. Grants are great.
  7. The fact that you are a vegetarian will spark more questions than you could ever imagine.
  8. The youtube videos that make your students groan and complain in class will be shown to their friends outside of class.
  9. If you plan on showing your students a math rap, make sure you like how it sounds.  You will hear it for weeks.
  10. Make notes next to grades in the gradebook.  It's a lifesaver.  And, one parent will actually read them.
  11. Some students will need to keep their INBs in your classroom.  Let them.  It will save you both a ton of hassle.
  12. When the electric pencil sharpener no longer works, that is a sign that it's time to empty it. 
  13. If the handle to your manual pencil sharpener goes missing, look inside the pencil sharpener. 
  14. Colored paper makes everything more fun.
  15. Work out ALL of the problems on any worksheet you download from the Internet.  No matter how good it looks, there will always be that one problem that ends up giving your students more grief than necessary.
  16. Long days are inevitable.  A filing cabinet drawer full of snacks makes it better.
  17. Hand Sanitizer is your best friend.  Cold and flu season makes you aware of every door knob you touch. 
  18. Keep your pens and pencils separate from the ones you let your students borrow. They will not bring them back.
  19. Extra-curricular activities are a ton of work.  But, they allow you to meet a ton of great students you wouldn't normally get to work with.
  20. Some days, it's in your best interest to just leave your to-do list at work. 
  21. Chocolate. Ice Cream. TV Shows Involving Murder and Mysteries.  Find the things that help you recover from a bad day.
  22. Some of the best lessons come from trying a last-minute idea.  Some of these ideas lead to the worst lessons ever, too.  That's okay.  Nothing ventured.  Nothing gained.
  23. Meetings will take you out of your classroom more than you like.  Always have an emergency lesson plan ready just in case.
  24. Smile.  Even when you don't feel like it, smile. 
  25. Communicate with your principal.  It will save you a lot of problems later on down the road.
  26. Become best friends with the counselor.  She will save your life multiple times.   
  27. Find a support group within your school.  They will help you maintain your sanity.  The daily battle is easier to fight when you know you're not alone.
  28. Fill your desk with important things like bandaids, safety pins, bobby pins, and hair ties.
  29. Don't hang origami from your ceiling unless you want to hear incessant begging from your students until you teach them how to make said origami.
  30. 500 sheets of origami paper doesn't last very long. 
  31. If you're really and truly sick, it's okay to take a sick day.  Your health is important.  Go to the doctor.
  32. Always make more copies than you will need.  Then, make a few more copies just to be on the safe side.
  33. Make sure you don't forget to eat breakfast.  It's easier to do than you think.  It's even possible to be so busy that you forget to eat lunch.
  34. Always make sure you introduce yourself at an IEP meeting.  Especially if you regularly get mistaken for a 16 year old.  
  35. Your students may hide when they see you in Wal-Mart, but be prepared to answer lots of questions about what they see you putting in your shopping cart.  I never realized buying a can of black beans could be so controversial.  
  36. It's important to have a plan to manage all the papers that come across your desk.  I have always thought of myself as an organized person, but you couldn't tell that from the state of my desk.  
  37. An electric label maker will keep students captivated for a long time.
  38. Teenagers will complain about cutting, gluing, and coloring.  Don't believe them.  They secretly enjoy it even if they won't admit it.  
  39. Write down the funny things that students say.  If you don't, you will forget them.  And, there's nothing more fun than flipping through student quotes when you need a quick pick-me-up.  
  40. When a student writes you a nice note, keep it in a special place.  These are what I turn to when I feel like I'm not making a difference.
  41. Word about you and your teaching style will spread around the school.  Some will be good.  Some will be bad.  Be thankful for the good and forget the bad.  
  42. Invitations to an IEP meeting are blessings in disguise.  Yes, they take a lot of time.  But, I learned more than I could ever imagine. 
  43. Students will do almost anything to earn a cheesy "Super Star Student" Award.  
  44. You can never be too specific with your instructions.
  45. Classroom decorations matter.  You spend hours a day in your room.  Make sure your room makes you smile. 
  46. Students show that they care about you in different ways than you might expect.  
  47. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.  Sometimes it gets a lot worse.  In this case, seek out #27. 
  48. Progress is not always immediate.  Slow progress is still progress.  
  49. If you need help, ask.  Teachers love to help teachers.  But, sometimes asking for help is hard.  
  50. Never stop learning.  My students push me to know my subject area better.  Blogging pushes me to be a better teacher.  I'm continually inspired to become a better teacher, and I hope that desire never ceases. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Algebra 1 Advice

Last month, I posted excerpts from the letters written by my Algebra 2 students to future Algebra 2 students.  Today, I'm going to do the same with my Algebra 1 students.

Here are my takeaways.  I need to manage my classroom better.  I used to think that classroom management just meant that I didn't let my class get out of control.  But, there has to more to it than that.  I too often end up taking my frustration with one student out on my other students.  And, my students don't deserve that.  I was happy to read lots of good comments about our interactive notebooks.  Even though they are a lot of work, they are worth continuing next year.  I may not have made my students love math, but I do think I taught them that algebra is do-able.  I showed them that they could conquer something that others deemed too hard or impossible.  My students learned more math than most thought possible.

This year was a success, and next year will be even better.  I can't wait to see my Algebra 1 students conquer Geometry next year.  I'm kind of sad that I won't be teaching them, but I think they know that I will be there to help them and cheer them on throughout the process.  And, before I know it, they'll be back with me again for Algebra 2.       

Algebra 1 Advice from My Students  

"You will not like the notebook, but it will help you in the long road."'

"Always use algebraic terms when talking to Ms. Hagan."

"Never guess "C" on anything, it rarely works."

"Next year, when you are introduced to Algebra 1, it will all look confusing.  But I promise you, if you just pay attention and follow directions, you will be just fine.  The most important thing is PAY ATTENTION.  If you pay attention, it will be an easy class; if not, it will be your hardest class."

"I'm not going to lie, algebra is not that easy, but you can make it easy as long as you pay attention.  Ms. Hagan makes learning math fun and easy but if you don't like doing the work and want to get rude, disrespectful then get ready for the worst year of your life.  Ms. Hagan doesn't play around when it comes to making sure you get your work done and turned in.  By the way, I don't care how tired or bored you are always get your work done." 

"Don't get on Hagan's bad side or she'll get upset and yell at you and be all butt hurt for the rest of the day so be good and learn, its not that hard.  She's actually a super duper teacher.  You get to play games a lot!  It's like third grade in here but we actually learn stuff we're supposed to. AND WE COLOR! (sometimes)...(like at the beginning of the year...)" 

"You will have fun in this class if you do all your work and do not talk.  Well you need to make fun of her sometimes but don't get in trouble so don't do it on her bad days." 

"Always do what she tells you to do.  No matter how ridiculous it sounds." 

"Ms. Hagan's class is the easiest class I've ever done.  It's fun and makes Algebra easy.  But, if she tells you that she thinks something's fun?  Don't believe her!  It's a trap!" 

"Shut your mouth and listen in this class or you will get in trouble!  Miss Hagan is super mean!  Her work is easy but the test is not!" 

"This class may seem difficult at first, just keep trying.  This is the first year that I have ever had an A in math.  Keep up with your notebook, be nice to the teacher, and don't mention [the science teacher]!  Pay attention as much as you can, if you need help Ms. Hagan will help you." 

"My advice to you in Ms. Hagan's class next year is to steal all her candy in her drawer, make up the work you miss, and be LOUD.  Always do your homework and pay attention.  Listen to your teachers and behave unlike me!  Eat lunch with Ms. Hagan and give her your apple and milk and you'll have lots of brownie points."

"If you are coming into Ms. Hagan's class please be nice.  She is very sweet to most people.  She doesn't get mad very easily unless you are goofing off and not doing your work."

"The thing I liked most about Ms. Hagan's class was doing the notebooks.  They actually help a lot with papers.  If you study the notebook before the test, it's very helpful."

"Dude you may not like the class at first, but it is easy at first, but along the way it gets tougher." 

"Don't argue with Ms. Hagan because she will send you to the office."  

"Dear Random Student who is being forced to take a class, Just turn in your assignments even if you don't have it completely finished because ANYTHING is better than a zero.  Also feel lucky if you get Ms. Hagan as a teacher, she is an amazing teacher that helps people understand math better."

"My advice to you is to always, always, always pay attention.  Try to be here as often as possible.  PAY ATTENTION!!!  I's not hard if you pay attention and are here as much as possible.  Don't be afraid to ask for help if you don't understand how to do something.  She always explains things to you, and gives you shortcuts." 

"There are many terms that seem very confusing at first but if you listen you will understand it and it will be a lot easier."

"I know algebra looks hard, but do not fear, it is easier than you think.  Always listen to Ms. Hagan because once she explains how to do something, it's so much easier to do."

"Make sure to do all of your work and pay attention in class don't get on Ms. Hagan's bad side.  If you pay attention you will do good on your EOI." 

"Make sure to do all your work and don't mess around in her claws.  When you are doing your work always try your hardest in her class.  If you pay attention and listen she is a real good Algebra 1 teacher.  A lot of her work is hard but you understand it after a while."

"All I got to say is that you brace yourself for a lot of info and be sure to bring a notebook so you can take all the notes."

"Keep your grade up and do what Ms. Hagan tells you to do.  Never get on her bad side.  Do all of your work and don't get behind.  Come to class every day ready to work because Ms. Hagan never will give you guys a free day.  Don't play around and do not laugh in her class because she gets really mad and will send you out.  Do your own work so you can pass the EOI at the end of the year.  Ms. Hagan is really easy to get a long with as long as you do what she says."

"Algebra 1 is very easy if you just pay attention to class and it is sometimes fun, but at times you have to get serious and do your work." 

"Do not under no circumstances do not fall behind.  Remember everything you get told."

"Algebra is a very fun, creative class and you do a lot of fun stuff...Always show up to class on time and be ready to work hard."

"You will have lots of work, but it easy and funny.  It's never boring in this class.  You also need to be told about Ms. Hagan.  She nice but don't disrespect her. 

"You will be doing a lot of coloring and glueing.  This class may just be the easiest class you will have all through high school."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Truth Signs

Am I the only one who makes stuff and then never gets around to using it?  I did this over Christmas Break with a set of Truth Signs.  I learned about Truth Signs while reading Inspiring Active Learning by Merrill Harmin.  You can actually read the section of the book about Truth Signs for free at this link.  (Truth Signs are introduced at the beginning of chapter 4 on page 50.)

I haven't decided how I want to use these next year.  But, I think these are all important truths for my students to take away from my classroom.  I have a tendency to get jealous of teachers of other subjects because it seems like their subject matter allows them to engage in more life-lesson style lessons in the classroom.  I'm going to try harder next year to teach my students more than just math. 

I've embedded these as a pdf file below if anyone else finds them useful.   









Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Literal Equations Scavenger Hunt

I was browsing through all of the pictures I took over my first year of teaching, and I realized that I had never posted about the scavenger hunt I did with my Algebra 1 students.  During our unit on linear equation, my Algebra 1 students really struggled with converting equations from standard form to slope-intercept form.  So, I decided to save our unit on systems of equations until later in the school year.  After covering exponent rules, polynomials, absolute value, and factoring quadratics, it was finally time to jump into systems.  I had also skipped the literal equations section from the first chapter of our textbook.

We ended up spending half a week on literal equations.  I emphasized both solving famous formulas for a specific variable and converting an equation in standard form to slope-intercept form.  Instead of giving a test over this mini-unit, I gave a short, two-question quiz over rearranging formulas for a specific variable, and we did a scavenger hunt to demonstrate mastery over converting equations between various forms.

To create the scavenger hunt, I folded eight sheets of colored paper in half.  On the front of each half-sheet, I wrote an equation in standard form.  Inside each half-sheet, I wrote the equivalent slope-intercept form of a *different* equation.  I also wrote a letter of the alphabet next to each answer.  Then, I taped these papers in random places around the classroom.  I made sure to write down the order of the answers on a scrap of paper so I could quickly spot-check their answers.

Front of Scavenger Hunt Card
Inside of Scavenger Hunt Card
For this activity, I let students work in pairs, but I required each student to show their own work on a sheet I created to help them organize their work.  Next to each answer and completed work, students copied the corresponding letter of the alphabet.  Though each pair started with a different letter, I could still check their answers.  (The fact that I could do this did blow a few of my students' minds.)

My students really enjoyed this activity.  It got them out of their seats and moving around.  I don't think I do that enough in my classroom.  I really liked hearing the conversations that started when students couldn't find a corresponding answer card after rearranging an equation.  Often, they would have the right answer, but it was written in a different way from the answer card.  The fact that x/4 and 1/4 x mean the same thing really confused some of my students.  Or, if students had a very similar answer to a card found around the room, they would often work together to rework their problem.  Usually, they had just made a mistake with their signs or addition/subtraction.

Once students find the answer card to their previous question, they solve the new question.  The process continues until the students return to their starting place.  

Because my students couldn't move on with the activity until they found each answer around the room, they were much more careful and focused.  Their questions were more specific, and almost every student completed the assigned activity during the 50-minute class period.  I think I only had 3 students who chose to not participate and work as hard as they should.