Saturday, August 20, 2016

Trying to Find my Groove

I just finished Week 2 with students, and I have to say it's been a rough two weeks. My students are fine. I have one challenging class, but we are approaching the place where we understand each other. :)

I have just felt perpetually behind the past two weeks. I feel like I'm barely staying one step ahead of where I need to be. I don't have my sea legs, yet.

There are probably good reasons. We moved my son to his freshman dorm last weekend. I had to miss a day this week for a committee I'm on. There have been after-school appointments, which completely cramp my stay-at-school-until-I'm-done style.

I have been reminded of when I returned to teaching after 5 years at home, with two small kids. It was Christmas before I felt I was in a routine.

I really hope I'm not going to feel this way until Christmas.

The point of this blog, however, is not to whine about how hard everything feels right now (at least, not too much).

I want to reflect on what has happened in the classroom in two weeks.

I've pretty much followed what I did last year in Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1, but - as usual - I tweaked a few things.

I ditched last year's growth mindset lesson. I believe growth mindset is important and work on it all year, but I was bored to tears with the lesson I did last year. And if I'm bored, I know my students are.

This year I did this activity by Sara VanDerWerf to introduce cooperative learning and looking for patterns. I loved it! Students did, too! And it seems to have been beneficial; when we work together, students show many of the characteristics we talked about with this activity.

I did part of the lesson I blogged about here. It was a fine lesson; we had some good discussions. It highlighted some misconceptions. But it still didn't accomplish quite what I was looking for in my review of subtraction. I'll try another iteration - which I've already outlined - next year.

The tech start to the year has gone very smoothly. I've used Google Forms - including on a sub day! - and Flubaroo to quickly and efficiently assess students and adjust the next day's instruction. The newest updates to Google Classroom have me a very happy teacher.

The new annotation feature in Google Classroom is awesome!

I started my flipped lessons with Algebra 1 a little differently this year.

Typically, we watch an intro lesson to square roots together, then the remainder of the week's videos are completed at home.

This year, I went with an explore-flip-apply approach. I wanted student to build the conceptual foundation for square roots. So I started with this lesson from Illuminations. The extra time it took to do the discoveries and lay the foundation was worth it. I was so thrilled yesterday to hear a student - several days after the lesson and well into the next topic - define "square root" as the "side length that gives you the area of a square." SCORE!

We watched all the week's videos in class. Square roots, cube roots, sets of real numbers, classifying real numbers. My thought was students and I might benefit from me being with them as they watched their first videos. I could give tips for how to take notes. I could check their notes as soon as they finished a video. And all of that happened, but I think students were more distracted watching the videos in class. It also messed up my class time. My timing was completely off for class activities (mostly too short and having too much leftover time at the end of class). Another iteration will come next year.

One change I made in a particular video was very positive and much needed. I made my real number video two years ago, changed it a bit last year, and changed it again this year. It started entirely too long (about 15 minutes), and last year I got it down to 11. But I was still not happy. It was a lot of listening/writing.

So I decided to split it into 2 videos. The first video defined the sets of real numbers and gave examples, the second video looked at the Venn diagram organization of the system and how to classify numbers.

I'm happy, now. :)

Yes, it's two days instead of one, and if these videos are watched at home next year - which I think they will be - I'll have to find a few more meaningful activities to fill class time, but I'm happy with the two videos in place of one.

I continue to focus on shorter videos.

I didn't take a lot of pictures this week, but I did catch what is still one of my favorite activities: a search & order where students have to properly classify numbers and order them least to greatest. I heard lots of great discussions and answered lots of good questions. It was made even better with the new Classroom annotate feature.

So...I'm confident I'll find my groove. Before Christmas. I already feel better after completing the "big" activities currently on my calendar and staying at school way late yesterday to get a handle on things.

Do you know how quickly a school building gets dark and quiet on a Friday afternoon?

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