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Showing posts from 2013

More on GRIT

I have been saving interesting articles and blog posts lately that all point to the importance of certain non-cognitive skills for our students to be successful. Below are links to recent good reads. Also, discussed here on This American Life and in my blog a bit here.
Kids need these skills for success:

Focus - Avoid Distractions
Positive Attitude - Never saying "I'm bad at Math"
Resilience - I haven't mastered factoring YET
GRIT, hard work, growth mindset matter most. As teachers, we can't just teach the concepts. We won't be successful unless we are encouraging these skills too.

Kids Need Rest and help with managing Stress...

I heard two interesting reports on NPR while driving to work this morning about two issues facing high school students: they are sleep deprived and stressed out.
Key Quotes:
Because teenagers need eight to nine hours of sleep, waking up at 6 a.m. can lead to a pattern of sleep deprivation. And that puts them at higher risk of a whole range of potential problems, from depression to automobile accidents.
"A little stress is a good thing," Alvord says. "It can motivate students to be organized. But too much stress can backfire."
As educators we are always trying to create a rigorous, challenging academic environment for our students to grown and learn. I am constantly preaching the importance of grit and hard work in my math classroom. Still though I often worry about the pressures we put on our students so I was happy to hear this report this morning. Because we only see our students 40 minutes a day, it is easy to lose perspective. My algebra class isn't their onl…

Geogebra Sample Blog Post

My geometry students are going to use Geogebra to construct a quadrilateral (based on its definition) for their next blog post.

Problem: I couldn't see the embedded applet when using Chrome when I first started. Then magically, it worked.

Here is a link to the prompt.

Here is my sample:
I made a parallelogram by drawing a line, and then the line parallel to it. I repeated the process and then connected where the lines intersected. The resulting polygon is a parallelogram.

If a quadrilateral has both pairs of opposite sides parallel, then it is a parallelogram.

As you can see above, no matter how you drag around the diagram, the following remains true:
AB and CD bisect each other

BC \\ AD
BD \\ AC
m<CBA = m<CAD
m<BDA = m<ACB

Awesome + Blog = Blossom

My students' correlation examples....

So every year in Algebra when we discuss positive and negative correlation, I tell the same story:

When I was in high school, my stats project was an attempt to find a correlation between the length of a girl's hair and the number of boyfriends she has had... Yes, I was THAT girl. Wouldn't you know, there was NO correlation.

Then we have an entertaining conversation in which all the students share their own examples.

Here are the results from today:
xypositive or negative Correlation# of hrs cutting trees# of trees cutp# of bananas eatenamt of potassium consumedp#of peices of candy eatenpeices of candy remaining nvolume of air in a baloonbaloon's diameterp# of As tests# of As on Report Cardp# of hours spent studyingscores on examsp# of french fries eatenmg of fat consumedp# of energy bars eatendistance ran in x countryp# of rainbows we see

My own symbaloo...

Over the summer I typed up a list of web tools that I am using or that I want to start using in my class. I posted it here.
Yesterday, my student worker got to turn my list of links into this fun Symbaloo of links. I like that I can keep adding to it. I am going to add this to my class website (we use Canvas) so my students always have an interactive list of different ways to show they know. #digitalportfolios

Mindsets, Mindfulness and GoNoodle

Last Fall, we had an interesting speaker, Dr. Dan Siegel, come to speak at a joint faculty meeting. He spoke about mindfulness and how to embrace its tenets to enhance how the teenage brain works. One point he made that spoke to me, was the importance of spending time reflecting and relaxing. After his talk, I started leading my students in mindful meditations (breathing) before assessments.

This fall, our speaker Carol Dweck, spoke to our faculty about fixed vs growth mindsets. While her research isn't directly tied into mindfulness, her focus on the importance of the process and not just the outcome, follows the spirit of mindfulness: balance is key to well being. My (naive) hope is that my students will focus on learning and growth, and not merely on outcomes and grades. I hope that they will leave middle school as good people, and not just good equation solvers. Perhaps an effort driven, balanced-well-being environment is a lofty (hippy-ish) goal, but one I (the hippy algebra t…

I need to remember this: Project Based Learning isn't just doing projects.

Read this.

I do want more real life based, ongoing, STEM related projects through which to teach geometry and algebra. The problem is... I don't have them created. I do have lots of mini projects, that are interesting, on par with students' knowledge base, valuable, strongly related to the content, and most importantly, already in my toolbox!

My plate is already full this year with the whole digital portfolio goal, so perhaps I can find just one unit this year to amend slightly so that it fits this model....


Introduction to Scatter Plot - Quick Class Survey & Desmos

Today in Algebra we discussed scatter plots and best fit lines. It is really handy to use the Desmos online graphing calculator to quickly graph the points as students say their heights and shoe sizes aloud. I had to measure a few kids before we started, which was fun too.

I would like to find more examples of variables that I can ask my students though. The shorter kids tend to say their heights a bit quietly and I am worried that I might be embarrassing them. I give them another data set in their notes (Life Expectancy vs Time in the 20th century), but I feel like a data set to which they contribute is more valuable and memorable.

Passing "Fixed Mindsets" (on math) on to our kids...

I have been asking my students' parents to refrain from telling their children if they were bad at math at Back to School nights for years. Why would kids want to try at a subject that is hard if their parents give them an out? Here is a good synopsis, backed up by a recent study linking the anxiety of parents to the performance of students, of how and why parents (and teachers) should change their tone and "jump into the subject they once feared with both feet."

If a segment is a median and an altitude, then it is a maltitude!

Geometry teachers often have strange, geometry related dreams. This image came to me last night and 9th grader Nate kindly agreed to illustrate my vision. 

Next Blog Post: Make a Concept Poster

My algebra students' next blog assignment will be to create a concept poster online for Writing Linear Equations. I am going to suggest they use Google Drawing or Glogster. Any other ideas for embed capable online poster making?

Here is the prompt:

Alg Blog Post #5 Use this blog post to explain key concepts of chapter 5: You will write your own linear function and show it in all forms. You will use an equation editor like Daum, an online graphing tool like Desmos and an online poster tool like google drawing or Glogster. If you end up using other tools, let me know what you use so I can share new information with your classmates. 1.Come up with your function. You will start with two points.
Your first point will be determined by your birthday: x = the month of your birth and y = the day of the month of your birth
Your second point will be determined by your mom or dad’s birthday (pick one). x = the month of parent birth and y = the day of the month parent birth *** If you parent w…

More Digital Portfolio Fun

My Algebra students are finishing a unit on slope and graphing linear equations. Each unit has a project and for this one, they summarized their projects by creating Prezi or Jing videos.

"The Race" ran by Mr. Solid and Ms. Dash was represented by the following graph.

They were asked to calculate the slopes of each segment and express their answers as unit rates. They also had to answer a few questions such as when the runners were in the same location and who was ahead at a given time.

My favorite part of the project is the task of summarizing the race like a sportscaster. In years past, they would write a paragraph. This year, they had to create a multi-media presenation and put it on their blogs!

Here is what their prompt looked like:

Algebra Blog Post #4 Describe the race like a sportscaster. Write a story that describes what is happening in the race according to the sections below. You will record yourself reading this story aloud. Watch this for inspiration: http://youtu.…


I often take pictures of my agenda in my morning Algebra class so I'll remember what to do later on for my afternoon algebra class. I thought it'd be neato to look at a week or so of agendas and reflect on how we spent our class time. 
Overall, I think we are doing a lot in and out of class. My students are moving forward on multiple goals at once: video lessons, note taking, practice, homework completion, long term projects, blogging, and learning new technology. That's a lot! They are amazing!
Note: The last picture is purely self-adulation (I have two lovely students in period 8 who are good at showing their appreciation).

I don't know what happened on Monday...

This picture will remind me to make more signs!

Video Blog Prompt

I can't even begin to say how much I am enjoying my students' blogs this year in math. My geometry students will soon complete their first video blogs. I will assign each a different proof for them to explain.

I decided to try out powtoon to introduce the prompt.

Dweck Notes

Yesterday we had the pleasure of listening to a talk by researcher Carol Dweck at our faculty meeting. She spoke about her research on mindsets. I enjoyed her talk and I am eager to put it into practice, though I think encouraging growth mindsets in my students won't be an easy, instant change.

I consider myself a positive person and I try to encourage my students to have positive outlooks for success. I have also spent the last 6 months reading parenting books that warn against praising actions and encourage praising effort or simply summarizing actions to build self-esteem. In short, I was eager to hear her talk to learn more ways to help my students (and children) to succeed.

Here are my notes: Fixed mindsets = non-learners
Growth mindset = intelligence can be developed

People with Fixed Mindsets are concerned with not looking dumb, believe talent in innate and tend to hide mistakes.

People with Growth Mindsets will learn at all costs, work hard, pushing themselves out of their…

Last week was spirit week...

Penny demonstrates her HW spirit.

Interleaving....Spaced Repetition...

Do I need to shuffle and spiral my homework assignments? 
An interleaved assignment mixes up different kinds of situations or problems to be practiced, instead of grouping them by type. When students can’t tell in advance what kind of knowledge or problem-solving strategy will be required to answer a question, their brains have to work harder to come up with the solution, and the result is that students learn the material more thoroughly.

Students use their blogs to summarize their Stock Projects

I am loving digital portfolios! This week my Algebra 1 students are publishing their results from their stock projects. They were told to choose four different stocks and to track their values over the course of two weeks. They recorded the values in matrices.

Here is a sample of how their summaries turned out:

Sleep helps you make memories...

We need sleep! Another article on the importance of sleep for adequate brain function. I like this quote below and hope my students take it to heart.
So what happens if you don't sleep? "A whole constellation of different brain and body functions start to deteriorate," he says. Our brains are less effective at absorbing new information without sleep. Plus, our ability to retain recently learned information is impaired, and "you lose the chance to essentially hit the save button on that information."

Digital Portfolios are up and running!

I have been teaching for 12 years now and I still experience a small sigh of relief when students actually do the assignments... This year I added digital math portfolios to my list of goals for students and they are coming in! *sigh of relief*

1. First assignment: Just create the blog with title and description.  

2. Prompt #1 (I felt like an English teacher). I casually put this prompt on the HUB (our school's name for Canvas).

3. Collect the Blog URLs via Assignment Drop Box Google Form. Thank you Will Kimbley for showing me how! I embedded my form on the HUB. The google form generates a nice spreadsheet from which you can click through your students' portfolios. I made a template, which hopefully, you can use here. You will have to be a HW drive person. If you aren't, contact me and I can try to help (or use Will's link above).

4. Final Product. :)

Teaching is...

Great blog-post on what teaching IS and ISN'T.
Teaching isn’t just “making it fun” for the kids. Teaching isn’t just academic content. Teaching is understanding how the human brain processes information and preparing lessons with this understanding in mind. Teaching is simultaneously instilling in a child the belief that she can accomplish anything she wants while admonishing her for producing shoddy work. Teaching is understanding both the psychology and the physiology behind the changes the adolescent mind goes through. Teaching is convincing a defiant teenager that the work he sees no value in does serve a greater purpose in preparing him for the rest of his life. Teaching is offering a sympathetic ear while maintaining a stern voice. Teaching is being both a role model and a mentor to someone who may have neither at home, and may not be looking for either.

Digital Portfolio for Math sample

Students in my classes this year will make a blog using blogger (we are a google apps for education school) to create a digital portfolio of key concepts. They will use their blogs to publish projects and results from interacting with digital learning objects online from time to time. Here is a sample of what I am hoping to get from students after they interact with a java on transformations.

More warm and fuzzies to start the school year off right!

Today in our opening middle school faculty meeting, our head of middle school shared the following video and thoughts for starting of the year. I enjoyed it. Thanks Jon.