Sunday, October 28, 2012

CMC - South: What could be?

November 2 and CMC South are only a few days away! I'm excited for a few reasons:
  1. World of Nathan Kraft is flying in (if Hurricane Sandy isn't too absurd this week) from PA to attend. I'll pick him up and we'll carpool to Palm Springs for the conference.
  2. Fantastic Fawn is literally missing her favorite football 'game of the year' to attend and cause some trouble with Nathan and me.
  3. Mullet King Matt Vaudrey is both attending and presenting.
  4. Recent doctorate and newly appointed Mathalicious brain Matt Lane is making the trip.
  5. The infamous Dan Meyer is presenting (need I say more?).
  6. ... and there will be a Tweetup on Friday with all these fab people, hopefully with John Berray too.
There are some appealing conference speakers this year. I wish there were more on Standards Based Grading. I think the two presentations I'm most looking forward to (besides Dan's) are Standards Based Grading to Evaluate Mathematical Practices by Lisa Miller and Take Your Places by Brad Fulton. I've seen Brad present before. He has got some great ideas and is hilarious with a capitol H. Sorry Mullet Vaudrey, I truly wish I could be at two places at once. Video record yours and post it, will ya?

I'll admit, there are parts of me that would get a kick out of the following:
  1. Nathan checks his tuba at the airport, pays the outrageous fee, and carries it around CMC testing out the echos. Heck, we are in the desert, but there is a small mountainside nearby and we could test the echo off of that sucker. 
  2. Tuba Echo from Nathan Kraft on Vimeo.
  3. Matt Vaudrey needs to sport a mullet the entire CMC (if he hasn't grown one out by now) and have his camera ready to take pictures of some locals with mullets. I'll bet Matt a beer that by the end of Friday, we spot at least 3 mullet-y locals worthy of your ratio lesson for this year.
  4. Fawn, better bring me that box full of avocados she owes me from File Cabinet. I'm tempted to pack my OG Nintendo and Tetris so we can have a little Tetris showdown. That way, she can't cheat on her Xbox (Okay, she might still kick my butt). At least I'll stand a better chance, right? If she doesn't bring me the avocados, maybe she'll bring me all her Brad Fulton books so I can steal, I mean copy them.
  5. As for Dan Meyer, I'm looking forward to meeting him and actually looking up at someone for a change. I'm speaking of height here people. I look up to everyone mentioned in this post! However, wouldn't it be fun if our Twitter group heckled him during his entire presentation?
Stay tuned for a full report from CMC and some fun contributions to

CMC to be,

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Transversals, Tape, and Stickies

Today in Geometry, we're discussing two lines, a transversal and the angle relationships formed. We did a few minutes of word wall pics and direct instruction of Corresponding angles, Alternate Interior angles, Alternate Exterior angles, and Same-side (or Consecutive) Interior angles. Then students were presented with the following setup on my walls. I used three strips of masking tape to create the lines intersected by a transversal and numbered stickies. I was able to set up 3 stations since I have a small group of 8th grade Geometry students this year.

Students worked in groups and were instructed to start with the two parallel lines and the transversal. It's a lower entry point as opposed to the three lines intersecting to form the triangle (which my textbook chooses to introduce this concept. Silly publishers). Groups are given the following handout and need to place the stickies in the correct places, based on the given clues. Work together, GO!
Handout and solutions here.
If you have limited space, create 1-2 stations and have groups rotate as other students are completing a task at their desk. Put a timer on the board and tell the students to get as far as possible within the allotted time. When the timer finishes, I'd take a picture of their work, reset the stickies, and let another group tackle it, resetting the timer.
Here are possible solutions. Let me know if you find any errors.

It went well. There was a lot of tension in the groups. Some kept moving stickies around because they disagreed. They disagreed because of the overall connection, not because of getting the relationship wrong. It was so fun to hear them get so excited about this activity. We ran out of time and the quote of the day came from a girl, "That's upsetting me." She wanted to finish. She wanted to know the answers. She wanted to figure out the puzzle. Many other students had similar feelings. I love it!

What I learned: Don't make the groups too large. Go with about 2-3 students (4 max) per group. Use really good stickies. The orange ones you see in the pictures were old and had lost their stickiness. If groups are struggling too much, encourage them to find a set of angles that has the least amount of possibilities.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Parent Conferences 2012

Today I had Parent Conferences from 7:45am to 3:30pm with a 45 minute lunch in there somewhere. We hold them in the gym as the middle school teachers sit at tables placed around the perimeter of the gym. Parents roam around the gym looking for teachers to talk with. I suppose I should back up a few days before I dive into today's happenings.

Wednesday, I did two things. First, I sent all my parents an email saying how excited I am to meet them on Friday during conferences and that I request they bring their child so they can help lead the conference. Secondly, I gave students a Review Quiz to assess their mastery, growth and retention of the concepts from the first few weeks. Many students demonstrated mastery, substantial growth, and are retaining algebraic concepts. They came into class Thursday to receive the results of the Review Quiz and were expected to fill out the following form. This form [editable version here] would help students lead the conference with their parents.

This form had multiple benefits such as guiding the student and giving them talking points. It was so cool to hear kids tell parents the concepts they were mastering such as "Distributive Property" or concepts they needed to improve like "Number Systems." It gets better. I had kids explain to their parents how Reassessments worked and how many they've set up with me. Again, there were some fantastic moments of kids proudly explaining the process. Of course, there were kids who haven't even set up one reassessment who should have by this point and it really drove the point home that their learning and 'grade' is ultimately in their hands. I wanted students to remind their parents that I only assign 2-4 home exercises each night and although they're not worth points, I wanted students to use their own words to illustrate why it's important to still attempt and complete them. Behavior was an additional suggestion by Chris Robinson and kids were actually very honest, if not modest at times. Lastly, let's move forward and have students come up with some specific, yet attainable goals and ones other than "Get good grades" [BORING!!!!]. Check some of these student created goals:
  1. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
  2. Do all Home Jams completely.
  3. Keep myself organized throughout the year.
  4. Avoid doing PS on Sunday night.
  5. Ask at least one question per day.
  6. Learn with a smile.
  7. Avoid making careless mistakes.
Avoid making careless mistakes! I found myself telling parents that 'careless mistakes' are a natural feature built into a middle school student. My job is to help them get better at strengthening their skill of double-checking their work by being their own "math lifeguard." Yes, having goals, working toward mastery, and learning concepts will lead to "good grades." It was amazing how little I actually informed parents of their child's current percentage and grade in my class. It was amazing. Compared to previous years, there was a huge, apparent, and welcome shift in the context of Parent Conferences. Thanks SBG! Numerous times I told parents that students are being less "grade enthusiasts" because they are owning their learning and working on mastering concepts one at a time. See ya later points!

Some parents came in with agendas, skeptical of this "different way of teaching". Oh, you mean the teaching where I present students with a question, task, or problem and let them grapple with it for a few minutes, fleshing out ideas with their group members on their giant whiteboards as I circulate the classroom listening? The teaching where I only jump in if they are a hundred miles off base? The teaching where I look for students to discover solutions on their own and then share their work with the class using a document camera? The teaching where students are learning from each other and not following a contrived algorithm or procedure blindly without direction, interest, or appropriately struggling with it first? The teaching where I encourage students to take ownership of their learning? Right. Well, after a few weeks of ironing out some kinks from being too 'hands-off' at times with instruction, I've found my groove and I've found that happy medium between being hands-off and knowing when to intervene and instruct students. Not all students are ready or welcome the idea of a teacher being hands-off. Some, especially these middle schoolers, still need that procedural learning from the get-go. I respect that and am sensitive to that. Therefore, my happy-medium place is that where I allow students to grapple with concepts at first and with each other, but students will always leave my class that day knowing an efficient way to navigate to a solution, even if it's procedural.

Ending on a positive note, I had two conferences that truly brought warmth to my heart! Two girls in separate classes struggled in my class the first few weeks of the year. By no means are they strong students. They try and work hard, but not as hard as many of my other students. At first they wanted good grades, but that's changed to wanting to succeed and learn. They figured this out on their own. Their 'grades' were in the dumpsters the first few weeks. I gave the Review Quiz this week and holy smokes, they kicked math butt! Giving them back their assessment yesterday, sharing this news with their guardian at conferences today, and seeing their current 'grade' was an experience that confirmed that SBG is here to stay.  I'm proud of you two girls! We don't need no stinkin' points-based-grading.

Conferenced out,

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Global Math & 3 Act tonight

Stop in tonight at #globalmath for a discussion about Dan Meyer's 3 Act lesson format. I am fortunate and honored to discuss the use and implementation alongside Dan Meyer and Chris Robinson. Hopefully, my pal Nathan Kraft will join the fun too.

Wednesday October 10, 2012
6pm PST

Be sure to register, ask a few questions, and check it out. Thanks to Megan Hayes-Golding for organizing this.