Where has the time gone?
I can't believe that we are already in week SEVEN of the new school year.
The point of me blogging is to share and reflect on trying new things. To this point I have been sprinkling in new things here and there. I can honestly say that I haven't dug into anything yet. Part of the reason is that I don't feel like I've hit that teaching groove yet. I have NOT had a FULL FIVE DAY WEEK of teaching yet (fingers crossed that I don't get sick in the next three days). We started on a Wednesday, we had a holiday, a day of Cyber Citizenship, a day of PD, a day of department PD, and I took a day off to meet with my daughter's team of doctors of CHLA. So I haven't taken the time to write a new blog post yet because I haven't felt like I've had much to report... YET. So here's a few notes from this year...
1) I MISS MY CARPOOL BUDDY! I used to have my daughter in the back seat with me three days a week. I was fortunate enough to have a preschool on our school site, so I would park my car in the staff lot, drop her off at preschool, grab my stuff from my car and head to my class. She has now started Kindergarten and she loves it! I'm finally on the other side of the school experience. SHE HAS HOMEWORK! And surprisingly, she enjoys it! Her preschool teacher would give us homework to work on, but it wasn't mandatory (but it proved to be great preparation). We would work on it here and there on the weekends and always reward her if she finished all of the pages. Now Sierra comes home from school, eats a snack, and then gets her homework done. The funny part is that I'm not so concerned about how much she is learning as much as I am how much she is growing up. She runs into class without even giving her mom a kiss goodbye, and she is making friends, seems to like her teacher, and has adjusted to school being 8-2, five days a week.
2) One thing I have tried this year is using activities to introduce lessons...
I used this Cup Stacking 3-Act Math problem to introduce solving equations with variables on both sides. I think it helped students a few different ways: 1) They were able to solve it by making a tables and not just solving it "the correct way" by setting up an equations and using inverse operations. 2) The cups never actually have the same height, so there was conversation about where they matched. 3) I started with a difficult "word problem" to set up the topic. I followed up the activity with three more word problems, using the same set-up that we established with the cups. Then I gave them problems that were already set up as equations.
To start the next section, I used a Blind Kahoot to introduce the topic. I used it for a lesson on Literal Equations, which take most of the numbers out of the problems and replace them with variables. I went back and forth between regular equations and literal equations, showing them that the solving process was still the same. After we completed the Kahoot we went through the textbook's notes and then I followed that with a Google Forms Quiz and a review on Quizizz. Using the Google Forms Quiz was AWESOME because I could see immediate results as to how my students were performing, plus I didn't have to grade a single paper! Everything is graded for you automatically and you can scroll through the results without printing anything or opening a spreadsheet. I felt really good about the entire process. I introduced the the topic by mirroring it with what they already knew, instead of throwing up a bunch of intimidating examples. By doing this I avoided the whole "WHY IS THERE MORE THAN ONE LETTER?" discussion. I was also able to poll students at the end of my Form and ask them how they were feeling. Most said that they at least felt "confident" at the end of the lesson.
3) I have been more cognizant of the discussions we have had in class.
I kept seeing an article about Attendance Questions in my Twitter feed, so for one day I let them choose their own groups and took attendance using the question "What color is the number four?" In first period I wrote the question on the board in black and the majority of students answered black. So for the rest of the day I wrote each letter in a different color and that seemed to create a variance in answers. Some students had fun with it, giving me random colors (like flesh or burnt sienna), and others (seriously) wanted to know what the right answer was. It kind of blew my mind to find that there were students that thought there was an actual right answer. I told them afterwards to imagine what kind of medal they would give in the Olympics for fourth place. The next time I do group work in class I will definitely need another good question. When I searched "attendance question" on twitter to find the article I came across some pretty good ones that students were tweeting about.
Last week I used a quick 3 Act Math problem about nail polish to open class. Students have to estimate how long it will take a girl to paint her nails and then let them dry. She has 20 minutes to complete the painting and drying. It takes her 42 seconds to paint her first three fingers and students should use that rate to make a time estimate. [ We have a block schedule with 3 classes per day ] When I went through it with my first two classes the big question at the outset was "Why doesn't she paint them in the car?". I could only laugh. Of course the girls were more savvy to the process of painting their nails, but the boys were involved in figuring out times and freely shared their answers. The activity on the first day went well and I was happy. While we were working on it in first period, one of my students told me that she really liked doing them because she was able to apply proportions and ratios in real life! WOO HOO! That was obviously the best start that I could ask for.
The second day went a little differently... In 2nd period the girls again took the lead, mirroring what happened in periods 1 & 5. However in 4th period, the girls were totally quiet! I had one girl get me through the questioning process, but no girls wanted to share their time estimates... it was only guys. This class is my quietest, and it will obviously need a little more work feeling comfortable. Then there was my 6th period... in that class the biggest question of activity was "Is that a guy's hand?". They were more concerned about whether the hands in the video were of a female or a male... And that pretty much gives you the gist of that class on a regular basis. At the end of the day I was very surprised because in 3 periods, nobody brought up the whole painting in the car idea. I started with a simple prompt, "Can the girl in the video paint and dry her nails in under 20 minutes?", and much to my surprise I had several very different experiences.
Looking forward to the next few weeks, we have two more school holidays, so maybe I won't find the "groove" that I want for a while. But maybe not getting comfortable will be a good thing... I titled my blog "Out of My Comfort Zone", didn't I???
The great part about the new things I've been trying is that I just had to FIND them. I didn't have to create anything, type up anything, or cut anything out. I saw the Cup Stacking in a tweet over the weekend and used it in class on Thursday. Okay, I take that back, I did create my Blind Kahoot and a corresponding form, but the great part was that I didn't have to spend any time grading them. And now, as I go to try and find the link to the Kahoot! , I have discovered that it's been favorited by 13 people in the week that it has been up! HOLY GARBAGE! Sharing is the best! I literally JUST went to find the link to it and noticed that it has been played in a bunch of classes. AWESOME. My day has been made. Wow.....
Okay, I am very proud of myself right now, but I need to wrap this up. I am looking forward to the upcoming month, as we are starting a new unit on graphing and functions. Which means that now I can start using Desmos in my classes. I have everyone enrolled in my Google Classrooms and the 3 that couldn't have now been fixed by the IT department. The internet upgrades at my school have been completed and I am ready to go.
Have you heard that Daya song, "Sit still, Look pretty"? I have had that stuck in my head today and I figured out that it's how I've been feeling. If I spend more than 20 minutes in front of my class, just going through notes in the book, I am starting to feel restless. I don't want to be a sage on the stage and sit still, look pretty. I can feel the shift in my brain to get me away from the things that I have always done. I am getting out of my comfort zone and it is working and I am enjoying it.