Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2015

#flipclass Flash Blog: Classroom Community

Tonight's #flipclass topic is building community and collaboration in the classroom.

Classroom community is another area where I've come a long way in the last few years. It wasn't that long ago that I said, pretty regularly, "I don't like group work."
A couple of years ago I discovered partners. Students seem to work much better with partners. They're more focused and accomplish more. I can put two sets of partners together when I need to, but I almost always begin work in class as partners.
Last year my colleagues and I found partner-matching cards, and this makes the process even better. Partners are random, and nine times out of ten this works extremely well. Occasionally a partnership or two has to be adjusted.
I like students working together, because they often seem to learn more from each other than they possibly could from me. They can reword things in ways they understand. The student helping another solidifies their understanding, and the stude…

Spending a Week with Pythagoras

Standards dealing with the Pythagorean Theorem fall in our eighth grade course of study. If I don't cover those standards with my eighth grade Algebra 1 students, they will miss learning and using the Pythagorean Theorem. And high school teachers will come after me. :)

I always cover the Pythagorean Theorem with my Algebra 1 students, but this year I decided to follow the lead of a blogger friend who also teaches Algebra 1 to eighth graders and start the year with it (after discussing square roots and real numbers). I covered the material in fewer days than I will with my Pre-Algebra students, because, after all, we still have a lot of Algebra 1 standards to get to.

We started the unit with a visual proof of the theorem. It's a proof out of a book I've used since teaching high school geometry another lifetime ago, Visualized Geometry (I just looked it up; the book was published in 1990!). A right triangle has squares drawn off each side, the squares from the legs are cut a…

#flipclass Flash Blog: Connecting with Parents

Connecting with parents is much different in my "2nd career" as a teacher than it was when I first started teaching. I began my teaching career in 1993 at the high school level before the age of email. I taught at the high school for six years and could probably count the number of parent conferences I had during that time on one hand.

I came back to teaching in 2004, this time at the middle school level. I was floored at the level of parent contact. Not only was email now an option, I was in LOTS of parent conferences!

I think it is important to keep parents informed.

I send all of the basic information home at the beginning of the year and share a few more details at Open House.

This year I am using Remind to send weekly texts with upcoming plans attached and other reminder texts as needed.

Parents have access to their student's online gradebook. I try to keep grades updated weekly (every 2 weeks at the most) so there are no surprises.

I try to answer emails quickly. P…

Starting Strong and "Thinking Rationally"

We've finished two weeks of school!

It's been a great start. We got into a routine very quickly, and I feel like I've known my classes much longer than two weeks.

As usual for this time of year, I am very, very tired. My legs feel like I've started training for 5Ks again. My brain shuts down mid-to-late afternoon but occasionally gets rebooted by a quick nap when my schedule allows. It then shuts down for good some time after 8 PM.

It's a good tired, though. :) I'm having fun. Probably way too much fun.

Our students did not start getting iPads until the 3rd day of school (last year they got them at schedule pick-up), so I didn't get started with videos until the beginning of this week. These students had heard about my flipped classroom, so I don't think there was as much apprehension about the process as I had at the beginning of last year.

Like last year, we watched the first video together in class. I showed them how to access the videos, how to watc…

Twas the Night Before School Started

I wanted to be all creative and write a poem, but I've decided if that was my goal I should have started a couple of weeks ago.

Students will enter my classroom tomorrow morning. And after wondering two weeks ago if my very hectic, very fast summer had been "enough," I am confident I am ready.

I have always loved the start of the school year. It is so full of promise and possibility. Oh, I know there will be frustrations and difficult days, but at the beginning of the year the hope of what CAN be shines brightly.

This year will have lots of new. I'm rearranging the order of topics in both Algebra and Pre-Algebra to hopefully be more efficient and give more time to what's most important. I working with a new colleague (a brand-new teacher who has brought back so many memories of my first year).  I am moving closer to a digital classroom. I am moving farther away from a textbook and closer to the type of classroom I want to have: one of inquiry, discovery, discuss…