Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Keeping It All Together- Mission #6 MTBoS

How do I keep all of the ideas I find in the MathTwitterBlogosphere organized? This week's topic is one that has changed for me over this past year. Google Reader was my feed reader of choice. I used it to follow all of my favorite teacher blogs. Diigo was an easy way to save and share some of my favorite ideas that I discovered with other teachers on my staff. I used Tweet Deck  at first for Twitter but I am not one of those teachers that has time to tweet throughout the day and/or keep up with other teacher tweets.

This summer I prepared for Google Reader going away by moving all my feeds to Feedly. It has worked out okay. Another magazine style feed reader that I find myself using even more than Feedly is Flipboard. This is a free app and since my school has iPads, Flipboard is super convenient for me to use. Flipboard allows you to link up to all of your blogs as well as Twitter. My school  uses Google and Flipboard allows me to follow my circles from Google+, So I am basically able to follow all three in just one place. Like I said earlier- Super Convenient! Here is a link to my Math Ideas Magazine. Flipboard manages to keep all of my MTBoS in one place and allows easy collaboration with others.

I have also created my own Virtual Filing Cabinets using Google Sites. These are sites that I add to throughout the year that I share with my middle school staff. I have my math virtual file organized by grade level and topic for easy to find lesson ideas. Another easy to use virtual filing cabinet is Livebinders. I have several of my Livebinders attached here on my math blog that you can check out if you want. As you can see they are easy to create and share with others.Technology definitely has enabled me to expand my learning beyond the classroom!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

Got my "grab bag" of goodies ready for my 6th graders this morning thanks to Algebra's Friend who shared this idea on her blog. Since this is the first year my students will not get to celebrate with a party at school, I thought this grab bag idea was genius!  I happen to start off the day with a super smart group of advanced 6th grade math students in a 30 minute study hall/homeroom period. Most of my students come to school with all of their work completed already, and since I figured today might be tough to keep them quiet, the grab bag idea which includes a fun integer Halloween worksheet along with a couple pieces of candy will hopefully keep them entertained while they get some fun math integer practice. Then it is off to the computer lab to create Halloween pictures using Desmos. Between these two activities there should be lots of time for fun and math at the same time- a definite treat for this Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mission #4- Listen and Learn @MTBoS

I have enjoyed attending a couple of Global Math sessions over the last year but have not been a regular. I find it hard to attend the live conference sessions so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that you can watch old episodes at any time. No reason to miss a session that interests me any more! One session that had sounded interesting to me previously but I could not attend was a session on review activities. So I grabbed my computer and a cup of coffee the other night and took in "Review Activities That Don't Suck". I like activities that are easy to put together, are fun, and require all students participate in the review. I liked what I saw and tucked away a couple of ideas for my next review with students. Little did I know that I would be using one of the ideas the very next day at school. A lesson that was planned ended up being changed due to shortened class periods to make time for an all-school assembly later on in the day. Last minute I decided to play The Race Car review game over what we had been working on in class. All I needed to do was cut out a car for each group of 4 students. I put math problems up on the screen and had all students work each problem on their whiteboards in their groups. Students could talk to each other and help one another but I would only call on one of the students in each group to hold up their answer at a time- and it was random- they never knew which color I might call out. More difficult problems were worth more miles. Students could move their car that many miles on the board in the front of the room if they were correct. My principal came in to observe that day unannounced and walked into a room of students that were all engaged in the learning activity. I am not even sure how many students even noticed he was there- and he stayed in the room for about 15 minutes. I am sure he had no idea that it was a last minute activity that I put together thanks to Global Math. Best of all the students loved this activity and they got some great practice in and my shortened class time was very productive.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mission #3 @MTBoS Collaboration Nation

One of the best things about teaching math in this day and age is the collaboration between teachers that technology makes possible.  The Resources listed for us to look through for the MTBoS mission #3 are all favorites of mine that I have used in my middle school classroom depending on my needs and shared with the other teachers at my school. The Desmos Graphing Calculator is about the easiest graphing calculator to use ever. My students love it. I like to use 101 Questions, Estimation 180, and Math Mistakes for bell work activities. Easy, fun and quick. The variety is amazing and my students find the topics interesting/funny. It is nice to be able to pull out a problem from Math Mistakes and have students look for what was done wrong and describe how they would explain to the student how to correct it. Estimation 180 is fun with the variety available....loved the hot dogs inside the liter bottle the other day- hysterical! I have contributed in the past to Made4Math and have gotten some great ideas for things to make for my own math classroom from the other teachers. VisualPatterns is great to use in the Algebra classroom. I love the variety of patterns. Whole lessons can be taught from the Visual Patterns sight. Don't stop at this site. Fawn Nguyen's Finding Ways to Nguyen Students Over is a must read. She always has ideas that you can put right to use in your classroom. She is so creative. I would love to have had a teacher like her when I was in school... or how cool would it be to work with her?

When you get right down to it the MTBoS has so much to offer teachers. It is all there for the taking- you just need to look. The Resources listed for Mission #3 this week is a great place to start!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Math Activities I Discovered @ MTBoS

Everything I needed to know I learned from the MTBoS.... Well not EVERYTHING but I have the MTBoS to thank for many of my successful lessons/strategies taught so far this school year. A great place to begin that will prove my point would be the Middle School Math Wiki. This is a resource full of lessons sent in by the MTBoS community. Do you like to use interactive notebooks in your math class? There are lots of examples from countless bloggers to be found here- and they are awesome. The MTBoS community can almost be overwhelming. Where to start? Find a few bloggers that you like and follow them. See who they follow and check out those blogs as well. This should get you hooked. Just a few examples of  activities that I have used in my classroom to introduce my middle school students to linear equations  that have been influenced by the MTBoS are: Mr. Vaudrey's Mullet Ratio lesson, Fawn Ngyen's Barbie Bungee lesson, Cheesemonkey's Double Stuf Oreo lesson, Graphing Stories video site, Mathalicious...and that is just what I have used in the last month or so. As I said in my previous post, you will not regret learning more about MTBoS. Get started on the 8 week session on MTBoS today and you will see what I mean.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Exploring the MathTwitterBlogosphere- Mission #1 The Power of the Blog

It has been awhile since I have posted to my math blog... haven't really had much of anything new to share. I feel so strongly about the power of the MTBoS however that I felt that it was important that I join in the 8 week Exploring the MTBoS sessions. I have gotten more ideas for math lessons and activities from teacher blogs and twitter than I can even count. I went to the first Twitter Math Camp in St.Louis a couple summers ago and was blown away by all the talent and energy in every session I attended. Math teachers really have it together as far as using the TwitterBlogosphere to share and discuss ideas for teaching, support, strategies, technology, and more. If you are not a member of the group you should be. It is so rewarding to follow teachers who have a passion for what they do. You will not regret it and I can assure you that you will get a whole lot more out of MTBoS than you put in.

The topic that intrigued me the most for session #1 was to write about the one thing in my classroom that makes it distinctly mine. I wrote a mission statement for my math classroom several years ago- "Make it Real. Make it Simple. Make it Fun." I strive to have lessons that make math come alive for my students. I can not remember the last time I had a student ask me "When are we ever going to use this?" I try to break things down into easy steps with lessons that build upon one another and most of all I try to make lessons that students have fun doing. My classroom is loud, we move around and we laugh a lot. We talk about math and how we are using it to solve problems in our activities and lessons. We share the different strategies that we might use to go about solving problems. We learn from our mistakes. I guess the one thing that would describe my classroom best would be that it is a place where you feel safe. One of the nicest things a student said about my classroom was that it was a place where students were not afraid to share their answers- even when they were wrong- because they know that together we would get the problem solved. My students love to play my review games before tests...and we never play the same game more than once. Students love the variety.

This takes me back to MTBoS. Following teacher blogs and tweets have made the biggest difference in my classroom over the past several years. My classroom is fresh and new because of these amazing people.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Life is Good... A Day in the Life

4:50 AM- I am an early morning person. My alarm rarely goes off thanks to my Jack Russell, Henry, who starts making noise at around 4:45. After taking Henry out for a short walk around the block I settle down with coffee in front of my fireplace to read my newspaper on my iPad as well as catch up on twitter and check out interesting new posts from blogs I follow on my Google Reader. I send a couple posts to teachers I work with that might be able to use the information for their classes. A second cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal gets me through my emails. This morning I have an email from a former student telling me that she has been thinking about me because a math song I taught them for SOA CAH TOA to the tune of The Hallelujah Chorus helped her on a test- A nice surprise. I send her a quick response and head upstairs to get ready for school.

6:50 AM- I walk through the doors of my middle school. Besides being an algebra teacher I also serve as an instructional coach for my building. I like to get to school before the rest of the staff so I can get prepared for my classes before teachers drop in for help with one thing or another. This morning a parent drops in unannounced to pick up work for his son who had surgery the previous week and who will not return until after Thanksgiving. I give dad everything he needs and show him how to access the online texts, lesson tutorials and homework calendar. After dad leaves I send an email to this student to wish him a speedy recovery as well as send him the links for all that he needs just in case. I am also a sponsor for our student council and one of my officers walks in with updates about our "Penny War" that we are having this week to raise money for The Red Cross and Hurricane Sandy-  pretty quiet morning compared to most.

8:00 AM- School starts. My schedule this year is not the best. I teach an algebra class every other hour and  coach the rest of the day. Seems like I never have enough time to get any major projects going so I end up taking lots of work home each night. My first hour is for coaching. I make preparations for a technology session over lunch tomorrow- "Appetizing Apps To Be Thankful For". Our district provided our staff with iPads last summer so a focus of mine this school year has been helping staff with  some of their technology issues. Once a month I plan a session during their lunch period to share apps they might find useful in the classroom. It is totally optional. Lunchtime is the best time to reach the most people so I try to make it worth their while. I've been getting a pretty good crowd every month so far. I also spend some time this morning working on a session for New Teacher Academy for tomorrow after school from 4-7 PM. New teachers from our district are provided with sessions once a month to help them with their first year of teaching. Tomorrow's topic is classroom management. I am presenting on Randy Sprick's CHAMPs approach. I spend time on these two things throughout the day as I have time.

My algebra lesson today is on graphing linear systems of inequalities. Students have been working on graphing inequalities in previous lessons so they do well on todays lesson. All of my classes have time to get started on their practice problems for tomorrow before they leave. I am able to get around the room to check on their progress and answer their questions before they leave. I have great students this year. They are actually much easier to deal with than teachers most of the time!

8th grade team plan time today was spent working on updating our curriculum maps for the common core. Tomorrow we will be going over individual students learning plans and progress reports are going out so I make sure all grades are entered into the gradebook. I love our computer gradebook program. What a time saver it is! Technology has really made a teacher's job easier.

Teachers drop in to see me throughout the day with questions about one thing or another. Simple stuff today- nothing very time consuming. Four o' clock is here before I know it and I head out the door for home. I bake a batch of Ligonberry Bars for tomorrow's Appetizing Apps Session and then go to my 5:30 PM yoga class while they cool.

I get home from yoga in time to watch the 2nd half of my Jayhawks basketball game. They are playing Michigan State tonight. The game is pretty close- the season is just getting started so the game is somewhat sloppy. I check things out on Twitter, my gReader and work on this blog post before my Jayhawks lose the game in the last few seconds...Oh well, it's just a game! Henry needs walking, so I think I will call it a day. I am grateful for this job that I love, working with people that I enjoy. Life is good.