Sunday, September 30, 2018

Thanks for the Challenge, Andrew! #flipblogs

If I've counted correctly, I've made it! This is Post #20 for the month!

So much for front-loading posts near the beginning of the month, given that this is the last day of September, and I'm blogging today to finish the challenge. But that's OK.

The 20 out of 30 Challenge was made by @flipping_A_tchr, Andrew Swan, and I just gotta say, "Thanks!"

I have more blog posts this month than in each of the previous two years.

As I've mentioned from time to time, there has been a lot going on in my personal world over the last year and a half. That plus "normal" school goings-on has meant little time or energy for blogging.

I'm hoping this challenge has been the jump-start the blog has needed.

It's been good to reflect. I am constantly reflecting, but it's been nice to once again put some of that reflection "out there."

The challenge has encouraged me to look for the positives in my classroom that deserve a shout-out. It's also encouraged me to think about and share those days that don't go so well.

I can't promise that there will be another 20 posts over the next month (I can almost guarantee there won't), but I hope the next post will happen before 2019!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Know as You Go #flipblogs

My students completed individual practice the same way for a long time.

Me: here are these (probably way too many) problems. Go home and do them.

Students: Ugh. OK.

Return to school the next day. Post the answers for students to check their work.

A chorus of students: I missed all of those!

Me: What? OK...let's go on to this next lesson.

It was terrible.

Over the last several years - since flipping my classes - it has become very important to me that students know if they are doing something correctly WHILE they are working, not after they have finished.

Different types of activities allow for self-checking, but one I have begun to use on a fairly regular basis is a self-checking Google Form.

I first started using them last year (and mentioned them briefly in this post) and have continued with them this year.

Questions are put in a form, and "Response Validation" is used to let students know if they have the correct answer. Students can be prevented from moving to the next question until they get the right answer.

What I like about self-checking is that, while some students randomly guess answers until they accidentally hit the correct one, most will get help if they are missing questions.

It is a great tool for me to teach students to try to find their own mistake. I usually direct students to try the problem again before they ask for assistance from me or a fellow student.

Students get tired of the same type of activity over and over again, so I try to mix Google Forms up with other self-checking activities, but they're a great addition to my rotation. This week I used a "plug-your-answer-into-the-next-question" activity where, if students got a question wrong, a problem down the line would be affected. A few begged me to never use that type of activity again because it could be 2 or 3 questions before an issue was discovered, and they would have to go rework several problems. They requested more Google Forms.

One thing I discovered they really like on a Google Form: the progress bar. Knowing how many questions there are and how many more they have to do helps them focus better on what they're doing. Having filled out many Google Form surveys, I have to say I agree with them.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Working One-on-One and Seeing Growth #flipblogs

This week I have been reminded of another benefit of flipped lessons: the ability to work one-on-one with students in class and see the resulting growth.

In Algebra 1, we are solving equations right now. I've had several students who can get to the right answer but struggle to show their thinking in a way that is organized and easy to follow. And often, when students can't organize their thinking, they can't get to the right answer, either. Many students are seeing that a little negative sign - easy to lose when one's work is not well-organized - can cause big problems.

As students have worked through activities in class, I have sat with students who have been having difficulty demonstrating their thinking. Yesterday we did an activity where I asked some students to let me see each problem as they finished it. We talked through each problem together.

Today I gave a "quick check" with two equations to solve. Several students showed marked improvement in the organization and presentation of their thinking. I wrote "Bee-you-ti-ful!" on a couple of papers.

This improvement happened because students were able to work on content in class after watching the lesson at home. And I was able to circulate amongst students and spend time with those who needed me.

Another #flipclass win.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Another Puppy Pic #flipblogs

I'm cheating again, but it's going to be a busy evening, and I want to get a post out there.

And the last puppy post has the most views of any of my #flipblog posts, LOL.

Here's Shuri after her grooming appointment today.

At her last appointment, she was a bad girl. Since then, we've been sending her to weekly bathtime at the groomer to get her used to it.

They said she did well today!

Her hair is cut shorter than we've ever had it. I'm not sure how I feel about the little furball being shaved close, but I think she still looks pretty cute!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Why I STILL Love Flipping #flipblogs

I was so proud of my Algebra 1 students today.

I blogged last week about introducing them to flipped lessons. We watched 2 videos as a class. Monday, they watched one in class but individually.

Then I assigned 2 videos for the rest of the week, one due today and one due Friday.

Last year, I didn't assign videos for homework. But it really slowed me down. Some things that could have been done in one day took two days, and I didn't get to all my content.

So, this year, I decided to assign some videos for out-of-class viewing.

I was a little worried that my first assigned video was on a football night. It was only a 13-minute video, but game nights are challenging. And then we had storms come through last night with widespread internet outages.

I have never made a huge deal out of videos not being watched at home - sit down & watch the video and join the activities when you're finished - but it does put kids a little bit behind, and they miss some in-class practice time.

I decided there would probably be a good many of my students who did not watch last night's video, so I prepared for that.

First Period comes in this morning, and EVERYONE had watched the video. Even the student who had been absent the previous two days! Out of 4 class periods and almost 80 kids, only 4 had not watched the video!

I remembered two big reasons I love flipping:
1) Accessibility - students watched the video in their study hall yesterday, some watched it after the power came back on last night, some got up a few minutes early this morning to watch it. It was there when they were able to watch it.
2) Student ownership - two students who were absent yesterday watched the video. I LOVE this. It's responsibility at its highest level. "I wasn't at school, but I don't have to get farther behind."

I was so proud of my students. After a night that gave several reasons for excuses - some of them likely valid - they all stepped up and took control of their learning.

In just a few days, I have been reminded of why I choose to flip lessons. And I still love it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

If Teacher Ain't Happy... #flipblogs

I started this school year differently than in years past. It was something I wanted to try, so I did.

There were things about what I was doing that I liked. There were some lightbulb moments. There was growth in vocabulary.

But, a lot of the time, I wasn't having any fun. And if I'm not having any fun, I'm pretty sure my students aren't.

I was stressed over the new stuff a lot.

And my students weren't as engaged as I like to see.

So...I'm tapping out. I've given it a grading period, and for my well-being and the well-being of my classroom, I need to be more of the old me.

Happy teacher = happy students = happy classroom. Or, at least that's the way I hope it works.

I have a bit of a nagging sense of failure, know what? Ain't nobody got time for that.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Necessary Evil #flipblogs

It's possible for me to actually get 20 blog posts by the end of September, so here I am, blogging on a Sunday night.

And since today's school task is getting a set of test papers graded, the post is about grading.


To me, it's a necessary evil.

I know why I gotta do it, but I don't like it.

I'm all about feedback. I want to know how kids are progressing, I want the kids to know how they are progressing, but I don't need marks and a number on a piece of paper to do that.

In fact, since going #flipclass, I know better than ever what my students know and understand and where they need more work. I spend more time with them while they work through material than I ever did before.

And besides all the philosophical/pedagogical/whatever-ical reasons I'd like to see grading go away, one of the biggest frustrations for me is finding the time to do it. There is no time at school. My class periods are full. Of, you know, teaching.

When I'm not teaching and interacting with students, I'm planning. Getting ready for the next day, the next week, the next thing.

I stay at school late almost every day.

Then I have my personal and family activities.

By the time I finally sit down and try to catch my breath, I'm exhausted. I just want to go to bed. And I need to go to bed because being over-tired is never a good thing.

But then papers aren't graded.

So...that has been my current issue. WHEN do I get the grading done I'm supposed to do?

It gets done. Eventually. But it sure is a stressor.

And with that said...I'm off to finish grading those papers.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Return of Speed-Mathing #flipblogs

I first blogged about Speed-Mathing here.

Last year, for some reason I don't remember, I didn't Speed-Math. (Insert sad face)

My Algebra 1 classes got to do it yesterday.

It went well. My rotation was much better than the first time.

I love hearing "math talk" from kids. I love when they can explain things to each other and clear up their own misconceptions. I love when they're engaged and learning and don't really need me.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Flash of Something (Maybe) Resembling Brilliance #flipblogs

I get it wrong. A lot.

But every once in a while I have a spur-of-the-moment idea that I look back on and think, "That was pretty good."

I gave a "Quick Check" to Algebra 1 this morning. Four questions on our last concept. I give a Quick Check when I feel students are ready to receive a grade on the material we've been working on.

I began collecting students' work, and many of them were missing #4. Half of them were missing #4.

I could have graded it as is - maybe showing students how to do it later - or I could try to correct their misunderstanding immediately.

After I collected the papers, I instructed students to get their notes on the material out and look at the examples relating to the missed problem.

I gave the students a quarter-sheet of paper, wrote the problem from the Quick Check on the board, and told them to use their notes to rework the problem.

Students kept working on the problem until they got it correct.

I told students I would take their corrected work and count it as their #4. A large portion of students originally missed the problem; now they all had it correct.

They got immediate feedback. I think many of them learned in the process.

And I smugly gave myself a virtual pat-on-the-back for having a spontaneous idea that wasn't half-bad.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Introducing Flipped Lessons #flipblogs

Today was the day.

I introduced my Algebra 1 kids to flipped lessons.

We watched a video - a review of one- and two-step equations - together. I paused every once in a while and gave tips on how to "actively engage" with a video.

This is my fourth flipped year, and this is the latest I have introduced video lessons (we've been in school for almost seven weeks).

The reasons I delayed and how I feel about it are topics for another post (or two) that I'm still trying to flesh out.

I'm trying to upgrade some of my oldest notes and videos; that will take some time, but maybe I can find an hour or two every week to work on them.

I'm excited to see what happens over the next couple of weeks as students see the benefits of flipped lessons and as we get to do some of the "fun stuff" in class.

I'm really happy to be flipping again.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Making an Effort, Making Progress #flipblogs

...aaaaand just like that, I'm behind.

The weekend was packed. There were plans last night.

But this IS Post Number 10 out of 20 in the #flipblogs challenge.

I'm not even completely sure what to talk about today.

I think it'll be about my collaborative Pre-Algebra kids. As things have become more in-depth,  the mixture of "I find this a bit challenging" and "I don't really want to do this" has become stronger. Throw in "I'm distracted by my friend over there" and "I like to distract my friends over there," and some days are difficult.

Today we did some mixed practice - via a self-checking Google Form - and I worried they might revolt. Sit there and stare at the screen.

But they worked so well! Hands were going up, asking specific questions about things they didn't understand. A couple of kids who battle apathy were asking questions. My partner teacher and I got to work one-on-one with several students.

They're not all where I'd like them to be, but many of them are making an effort and making progress.

And I'll take that any day.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Break Linguine

I tried a lesson today I've never done before.

Students were (trying) to see that the only information needed to determine if two triangles are similar is the measure of two pairs of corresponding angles.


The lesson involved making triangles out of linguine noodles. I knew the lesson was going to be a challenge, but I wanted to try it.

And then...

First, I was late to class due to a meeting that started during my planning period (my partner teacher was in there, so she got my students started on work some of them needed to finish).

When I got to class and was able to get started, I explained to the students we were going to try a lesson that was new to me and we were all going to enjoy the ride.

Well...we broke linguine into pieces and made things that resembled triangles.

Some linguine was broken into itty-bitty pieces.

One pair of students saw what I needed them to see. I showed their linguine triangles to the whole class.

I would not call it a successful lesson.

But, you know what? I didn't sweat it.

The kids said they had fun playing with the linguine. We were successful at matching the measurement of one angle. The kids all helped me clean up linguine from desks and the floor. No one stressed out that the lesson wasn't working because *I* wasn't stressing that the lesson wasn't working.

My wheels are turning, and I'm trying to figure out how I could make that lesson more successful in the future.

Monday we'll pick up and move on.

Not every lesson is a home run. Sometimes it's a pile of pieces of broken linguine.

And that's OK.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Staying Limber #flipblogs

I try to stay flexible as a teacher, but there are times when the realization that what I have scheduled is not going to work in the timeframe I envisioned freaks me out.

It happened this week.

I had mapped out the week, and a test nicely fell on Friday.

Then the students started sharing what all was going on in their classes this week. Including - for some of them - 3 tests on Friday.

As teachers, we try to work together to make sure students aren't slammed. We move things around and reschedule when we need to. But I have to confess my first thought is, "AAAAAHHHHH! The test has to happen on Friday!!!!"

After thinking about the week, what *had* to get done and what I'd *like* to get done, and what my options were, I decided to give the kids a say.

I let them vote on moving the test one day earlier or keeping it (and the other scheduled tests) on Friday.

By more than 2-to-1 margin, they chose to move the test up.

So today, I changed my original plan. Students had a work day. They could work on their practice test (which I don't often spend class time on) and ask questions.

The test is tomorrow.

Everything's going to be OK.

And the best part: I gained a day this week. That hardly ever happens!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

'Cause Who Doesn't Love Puppies? #flipblogs

I don't know how many times in the month I can get away with this, but who couldn't use a cute puppy pic or two?

Meet Shuri, my almost-6-month-old Shih-Poo.

She's mostly sweet and a little bit rotten. She can be a down-right demon dog during bath time or if you're trying to take something away from her like a paper towel that she thinks belongs to her.

She's a bit of a miracle since she got really sick the first week we had her, and the vet didn't think she was going to make it.

She's COMPLETELY messed up my morning routine.

But she gives awesome puppy snuggles and puppy kisses, and I'm thankful to have the Lil' Squirt around.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Take Time to Rest #flipblogs

Teaching is a tiring job.

I know I'm not saying anything anybody reading this blog doesn't already know, but I finish most days mentally, physically, and emotionally spent.

By the time I get to Friday, I'm exhausted. My poor family wants to go out and do something, and all I want to do is crawl up on my chair in my jammies and watch TV in a semi-comatose state.

I realized a long time ago how important some rest on the weekend was to my health (mental, physical, and emotional).

I try to make Saturday a school-free day. close to school-free as I can. No papers, no plans, no emails.

It doesn't always happen. I'm not always successful.

But some sort of down time is so important.

It's important for me. It's important for you.

What do YOU do to ensure you stay healthy and effective?

Friday, September 7, 2018

"I Love that Teacher!" #flipblogs

My Algebra 1 kids got back a test this week. It was a deep test, what I like to call a "thinker test." It was very accessible but also required kids to dig a little deeper. I really liked the test.

But many kids did not do as well as they would have liked. There was some minor panic amongst students (I always tell kids that I will tell them when it's time to panic!). I posted grades at 10 PM one night and had a student in my classroom at 7 AM the next morning to discuss her test.

I've been a big believer for several years in giving kids the opportunity to learn or relearn material they have struggled with. To improve their understanding and - in doing so - improve their score. As I blogged about here, I am a big believer in hope.

I have had an extensive retake and redo policy for a few years. But right now that particular policy is not a good fit for me.

I decided to try test corrections again. There are many test correction procedures throughout the interwebs, but I decided to go with Math Giraffe's policy.

(I must note that I still think grading corrections will take longer than grading new tests, but I think the other parts of the retest procedure were more difficult than the corrections procedure...maybe that's another post.)

Anyways...yesterday I returned the test and explained the test corrections procedure. The looks of shock and fear slowly calmed as students realized they might not be grounded for the rest of the grading period.

Today students came in proudly declaring, "I'm ready to turn in my corrections!" (They're not due for a week.) A few came this morning to ask questions about their test.

One student said, "I told my mom about the corrections and she said, 'I love that teacher!'"

It is not my goal to be liked by every student and parent. It hurts my heart a little bit, but I know there are those out there who don't particularly care for me. And that's OK (or, at least, I try to convince myself it is).

But it IS my goal for every student and parent to know I care about student learning. That I believe in hope. That I will do what I can reasonably do to ensure students experience success. That I have my students' backs.

It all goes back to that relationship thing. Relationships with my students are important; relationships with my students' parents are important. The stronger both of those foundations are, the more positive - and successful - experience a student will have in my class.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Is it Bad that Some Groups Seem a Little "Easier"? #flipblogs

Post 4 out of 20 (I've made it 1/5 of the way!)

I love all my students. I really do.

But some groups are more challenging than others.

One year I had a class that was "too cool for school." They looked down on fellow students; they looked down on me.

One year I had a class that was out for blood. They circled like sharks, waiting for any sign of weakness so they could attack. They really seemed to want us to be enemies.

I work hard with challenging groups. I weaken their defenses by working on those relationships and finding what matters to them and what makes them tick. I adjust my approach until I find their sweet spot. And most of the time we end up in a positive place.

The work must continue all year, though, and challenging groups can be mentally and physically tiring.

This year's group - as a whole - seems to be a bit easier. They're nice to each other. They're respectful and pleasant to me. They're fun to be around. I am spending less time on classroom management and am able to devote more energy to the teaching and learning process.

I'll take any group you give me. Give me time, give me ideas, give me patience, and we'll be just fine. I'll love them just like any other group and give them the best me I can give.

But I've noticed myself being grateful for an "easy" group.

Is that a bad thing?

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Pythagorean Stackin' #flipblogs

Twas the day after Labor Day. As has been the case the past several years, we were on an activity schedule for a pep-rally. Shortened classes. Excited students. Brains a little rusty after the three-day weekend.

On Friday, Algebra 1 looked at how to use the Pythagorean Theorem to find unknown sides of right triangles.

Today was our practice day, using one of my favorite activities: Pythagorean Stacks.

I got the activity from Jan at Equation Freak (who has since retired). It's a great activity to not only practice using the Pythagorean Theorem but to also hone those diagram-interpreting skills. I've blogged about the activity before.

Students did well with the activity. Once they saw how to use the diagram to find the information they needed, most of them took off with it. (In the rush of each class period, it never even crossed my mind to take any pictures of kids working!)

Due to the shortened classes, we will finish the activity tomorrow. Then we'll move into the converse of the Pythagorean Theorem before looking at applications of the theorem.

(By the way, I've used Jan's Pythagorean Short Stacks with my Pre-Algebra kids. The diagram is a little more straightforward and accessible to my inclusion students.)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Has it Already Been a Month?!? #flipblogs

No, not the "20 out of 30" blog challenge month.

It's been a month of school already!!!

We completed 4 weeks with students last week.


People ask me how school is going, and my answer has pretty consistently been, "Exhausting." It's been a great start and things are going well, but it is tiring. That's typical, of course, but it seems to catch me off guard every year.

I've started a little differently this year. I'm trying the Open Up Resources curriculum. There will be more blog posts to come related to this. I like the curriculum - particularly the types of questions it asks and the depth of thinking it requires - but there have been no flipped lessons, yet. GASP! I know! Like I said...more posts to come. (And, yes, there will be flipped lessons eventually.)

I have a good group of kids. Discipline challenges are at a minimum. Thanks to the hard work of their previous teachers, they have a good foundation and are stepping up to the level of thinking I am asking of them.

The kids can't believe we're already a month into the school year. I told them progress reports would go home next week, and one boy said, "That means we're an 1/8 of the way through the school year!"

That made for one happy math teacher.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

20 out of 30? #flipblogs

So, Andrew (@flipping_A_tchr) has challenged those of us in the #flipclass community to blog 20 times in September. That's 2 out of every 3 days in the month.

I haven't participated in a blogging challenge since I first started my blog (and, coincidentally, it was also in September). I see blogging challenges come up from time to time on Twitter, and my first thought is, "I want to do that!" followed quickly by "There's no way."

Two out of every three days is not *quite* as daunting as every day for a month, but it is still a bit daunting. we go. Even if all I can do is pop in with a story from the classroom that day, I will. And I'll frontload as much as I can at the beginning of the month in case I have to miss more than 1 day later in the month. :)

Here's to blogging!