Monday, April 30, 2012

Keeping up with paperwork for absent students

Keeping up with the paper shuffle created when students are absent can be a daunting task.  I have a strategy I use to make sure that I do not forget who was absent and also to make sure that students receive any papers that were passed out when they were absent.

I have a file sorter with five slots.   I teach four math classes: Hr 1, 2, 5,  and 6 so each class period has a slot in the sorter.  When papers are passed out during class  I will immediately label them with the student's name, date, and class hour.  Students know when they are absent, they should check the file for any papers that were handed out.

Papers filed for absent students.
The reason I prefer this system over other systems for dealing with late work is because I can keep track of who has picked up their missing work.  It also saves me from having to dig around and find missing papers after they have been filed away.  If I get a homework request from the guidance office I am able to go right to file and grab the papers I need and send them down.  Saves time and frustration!  Students always know where to check for missing work.  This also works well when students come into class late from an appointment or music lesson.  They go right to the file and I do not have to interrupt my teaching to go and get papers for them.

How do keep on top of handouts for students that are absent?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Inequalities with sidewalk chalk

This is an activity that we did in my math classes way back in March (seems like forever ago), when we were doing MAPS testing so we were in block schedule, and we were having unseasonably warm weather her in WI (70 degrees in March is not typical here).  We were studying inequalities with my regular math classes.  Due to the block schedule we had two 51 minute math classes combined.  To break things up a bit I decided to take the students out to the front of the building and let them write and graph inequalities using sidewalk chalk.  The kids really enjoyed going outside (and normally it would have been too cold to do this in March, but we jumped at the chance to get some fresh air while learning our math due to the warm weather).

I had written out the inequalities on index cards and color coded them so the first card I handed out was a simple inequality with a positive number and eventually the kids did combined inequalities that involved a mix of positive and negative numbers.  I was careful to make the progression for them as I wrote out the inequalities.  The success they had helped boost their confidence before moving on the more challenging inequalities.  As each group finished they would call me over and if they were correct I would collect their index card and give them the next color (that's how I made sure the groups were getting different cards and progressing in difficulty level).

The kids wanted to be in the picture so here are their feet. (see the mismatched shoes?  I love middle schoolers and what makes them tick!)

This was a more complex combined inequality.

This group chose the bright blue chalk.

The students really thought this activity was more of a game then just practicing the skill of writing and graphing inequalities.  They loved using the chalk (which I bought last summer at the Target Dollar Spot).  It definitely broke up the long block schedule class that day.  I love when the students are able to be active learners and have fun while mastering our learning targets.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tennessee Spring Break 2012

We arrived home last night around 10:30 PM, from what had to be one of our favorite family vacations ever.  We went to the Wilderness Water Park at the Smokies in TN.  We had the best time and now that Cooper is 6 and quite a proficient swimmer, going to a water park no longer means that Greg or I have to be at arm's length of him at any given moment.

After going to church on Easter Sunday and then having a delicious meal with my parents, two of my brothers, my SIL, and my adorable niece we came back home and packed up the minivan for our journey to TN.  We left home a little after 4 PM and made it about 45 before blowing a fuse and having to stop at a gas station.  I guess when you have splitters hooked up charging 3 DVD player, and five different personal devices something is bound to blow!  Fortunately Greg fixed it and we were back on the road in a matter of a few minutes.

Kids these days travel in style and comfort I tell ya!  That's T for Tennessee.
We drove to somewhere in KY and then spent the night at a Holiday Inn Express.  We arrived at the Water Park in Sevierville, TN around 3 PM after lunch at TX Roadhouse.  The line to check in was CRAY!  It didn't take as long as I thought it would and the park was not as crowded (thankfully) as it seemed at check in.
The gorgeous view from our room of the outdoor park before it opened one morning.
We spent a glorious five days in TN.  The weather was not as hot as it could have been, but it was definitely warmer than what we left behind in WI.  I spent my days lounging at the outdoor pool and read the book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  It was in the high 50s one of the days, but I braved the chill and went into the outdoor pool with Drew.  We had the entire lazy river to ourselves for about an hour. All the lifeguards were wearing hoodies.  :)
Drew and I braving the chill in the air.  We are hearty midwesterners for goodness sake!
The boys and Greg spent much of the time in the indoor water park going down the tube rides.  They also spent time at the indoor Adventure park playing games, laser tag, and all sorts of other fun stuff.  We ate at lots of great restaurants and just had a fun awesome chill vacation!  I even hit the outlet mall and believe it or not, but I did not buy a single thing.  I checked out several stores and found nothing that interested me.  We were so blessed to not hit any significant traffic whatsoever.   Unlike our horrible trip home from FL a few years ago.  We absolutely loved where we were in TN and I would highly recommend it as a vacation spot.  It was nice to only have a 10 hr car ride from WI instead of the 20+ we are used to when traveling to Port St Lucie, FL.

My favorite boys in the world!
Drew catching some waves.
We created tons of fun memories and I cannot believe how fast the boys are growing up.  I can't even bring myself to think about how many years it will be and then *poof* Ben will be gone to college.  This Spring Break vacation was exactly what I needed to get my mind off the stress that comes with the end of the school year.  I am completely reenergized and ready to go back for the remainder of the school year.  I am looking forward to hearing about how my students spent their Spring Break.  I also have another week of teaching before my student teacher is going to be taking over full time for a few weeks. I look forward to finishing the school year with some fun activities and lots of new learning stations for the students.
The bunk beds the boys slept in and also watched TV or just chilled.
These guys were crazy on the water slides!  At the beginning of last summer Cooper was not even swimming on his own.  Look at him now!
One last time at the indoor park before heading home.  Boo hoo!
Today I am spending the day doing laundry, unpacking, grocery shopping, and getting the house back in order.  The necessary evils after returning from an amazing vacation!  Feeling so very very blessed to have the amazing family I do and feeling so fortunate that we were able to take this wonderfully amazing trip together.  I hope you all had a wonderful Easter and Spring Break!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Learning Stations-Circles. Tangrams, and Pentominoes

A few days ago we did some learning station work in my regular math classes.  We made three different learning stations and rotated them between the six table groups in my class.  It certainly was much easier to do these learning stations this quarter because I have a student teacher.  Two teachers are definitely better than one!  My fifth hour class is my inclusion hour and there were three of us.  The stations were pretty loud and sometimes chaotic with more than one group finishing different centers simultaneously, but the students were really engaged in their problem solving and most groups collaborated really well.

Two of the learning stations were activities I found in the binder Tangrams and Pentominoes purchased many years ago from Nasco.

I was shocked how many of my students had never used tangrams or pentominoes.  In past years they were really familiar with tangrams and this year some students said, they had used them in previous years.  No one knew what a pentomino was.

The tangrams with the introductory tangram packet.

Students working.

This girl really wanted her hand in the photo!  :)
The pentomino station seemed to be a student favorite.  They really enjoyed solving the pentomino puzzles.  Several students asked to do the next pentomino packet after they finished the three learning stations.
Pentominoes with the intro packet.

Students really worked together on this and had fun.

Many wanted to keep doing pentominoes.

The final station was measuring the radius or diameter of cut out circles in either centimeters or inches.  Then students needed to calculate the area and circumference of the circle.  Our text teaches circumference and then area of circles separately and we definitely felt that this center really helped students to be able to keep the formulas for area and circumference straight.  The special ed teacher who teaches with me cut out all these circles, bless her heart!  I had the idea for the center, but no time to cut circles and she volunteered to do it.  I was thrilled with how the station turned out.

This is a complete station (we stored it in a large ziploc bag.  They needed a full sized ruler for the large blue circle.

Working on the station.

Measuring and calculating.

I made a chart on the SMARTBoard where we kept track of each group's progress on the stations.  While a group was working we put a check mark under that station and after they checked their work with one of the teachers we changed the check mark to an X.  It was important for us to have a visual record of where everyone was to minimize the chaos.  These activities were perfect to keep students focused for the last two days before Spring break.  Can we say it was a bit crazy?!  I was really proud of how well the majority of the students worked together.

I would love to hear about any learning stations you have been using in your math class.  For more learning station ideas shared by other teachers check out this post on Corkboard Connections.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Carnegie Learning Math

If you are a regular follower of mine you know that I have spent this past school year helping to lead our k-12 math curriculum review as part of my middle school math liaison responsibilities.  I am happy to let you all know that a few weeks ago we finally chose our new math curriculum for grades 6-8.

We chose Carnegie Learning.   After MANY meetings we agreed 6-8 to adopt Carnegie for next school year.  They are fully Common Core aligned and the whole program is built around the Standards for Mathematical Practices.  What a blessing to find such a perfect math program to fit our needs!  Another very exciting development was that the high school ended up choosing Carnegie too.  They will be phasing the program in because I think Carnegie is still developing their higher level HS courses.

The 6-8 program has a 2011 copyright so this school year is the first year it was available commercially.  I do not know of any districts in WI that are currently using it at the middle school level.  If any of you readers know of ANYONE using this middle school curriculum, I would love for you to share contact info.  
All the teacher books are soft-cover and three hole punched.
We are trying to pilot some of the materials for the remainder of this school year with our students, just to start wrapping our brains around how it works.  There is an online component, in addition to consumable student textbooks.  I love that the texts are consumable so we are not stuck with a text for 6 yrs.  They have the ability to update and change things on a yearly basis.

I am still very unclear how this personalized learning approach will play out in our classrooms.  In 7th grade we are starting the year in our separate three math classrooms, but by semester we plan on teaching as a large group (although there is no space for 90 kids to be in a room together).  It's a very exciting time to be a math teacher and I think that in the end we are starting something that will really be transformational math education.  

There will lots of inservicing and other training for us as we move into uncharted territory.  Our director of instruction and our principal are both huge supporters of what we are attempting to do.  I will be doing lot of work this summer to prepare myself for all the changes next year.  I am just so pleased to have what I feel is a great curriculum to support this major shift in delivery model.  Again if any of you have any connections or experience with Carnegie I would love to hear from you!  I plan on perusing these over Spring Break.

All the preview materials we were sent.  The student text comes in two volumes.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hands-on Surface Area of Prisms

Last week we were learning about surface area in my three regular math classes (we did this earlier in my accelerated class).  I had my accelerated students (in groups of three) make a net of a rectangular prism.  They had to measure in inches or centimeters and label each edge of their net, they also labeled each face with the letters A-F).  On a piece of looseleaf they had to give the area of each face and then give the surface area of the whole prism.  
Completed nets from my accelerated math class

I had my regular math students work in their table groups (4 or 5 students per group) to figure out the surface area of the nets that my other students had made.  Now this group did not do any measuring, but they got practice finding the surface area.  I think the hands-on experience of finding the surface area of multiple rectangular prisms helped them to understand the process of needing to find the area of each face and then add them together to get the total surface area.  They were much more enthused and engaged with this activity than they would have been just solving a worksheet with surface area problems.

Perfect for Easter!  :)

After each group had found the surface area of four different nets (there were 10 different nets total) they then had to find the surface area of a rectangular and triangular prism that I had traced onto centimeter grid paper.  Students had to label each edge with a measurement.  They had to option to put the area of each face on the net, or to label each face with a letter and then write the area off to the side.
They found the surface area of a rectangular and triangular prism

Triangular prism

Rectangular prism

Students had to option to cut the net out and fold it up, but most chose not to cut it out.  If I had math notebooks I may have had them cut it out and then paste it into the notebook.  Students have had lots of exposure to nets as I have the following Geoshapes nets from Nasco.  It is really comical to me how much 7th graders love to play with the nets.  They still love anything they can get their hands on.  I do with that they had a triangular prism that was not equilateral.
I was really pleased with how this lesson went.  In the past students really struggled with surface area.  I even heard one girl who is in my math core plus intervention group say how easy this was!  That's a new one.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Currently April

I am linking up with Farley at Oh Boy 4th grade for her Currently linky party for April.  Join in the fun!

Survey Says Linky Party

I am linking up with Fifth Grade Rocks for an easy survey.  I have once again neglected my blog due to the insanity that is my life.  Answering someone else's questions is an easy way for me to jump back in to blogging.  Join in!

1.  Are you married, do you have a bf, or are you flying free as a single lady/man?
Married to my wonderful husband Greg for 15 years this July 26th! 

2.  Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Southeastern WI in a small town north of Milwaukee.  I went to college at UW-Eau Claire and have taught in the same school district in a suburb of Milwaukee for over 20 years.  

3.  Do you have any pets?  If so, what kind and what is his/her name?

N to the O!  All the guys in this house want a dog, but mommy has the final word on that one and it is a definite NO.

4. What is a favorite tv show you are embarrassed to admit to watching?

I am not really embarrassed to admit watching anything, OH WAIT, I am embarrassed that I watch the morally bankrupt Kardashian clan.  I put my foot down on Khloe and Lamar this season and stopped watching because it seemed like s0ft c0re p0rn.  YUCK!

5.  Are you a saver or a spender?
Really both.  I only buy things I can afford and have the money for, but I really am a binge shopper.  When I go shopping I will spend several hundred dollars at once.

6.  What is your favorite children's book?

All of a Kind series by Sydney Taylor.  These books seriously made me want to live in the olden days and be jewish.

7.  Were you the class clown, teacher's pet, or neither?
Probably closer to the teacher's pet for some teachers, but definitely not all!

8.  Who is your favorite athletic team?
WI Badgers and Green Bay Packers.  I used to LOVE the Pittsburgh Pirates back in the early 90s when Andy VanSlyke was on the team and I even bought a Pirates jersey!

9.  Where did you go on your last REALLY fun vacation?
We went to Chicago for a weekend in February and had a blast with the boys.  Anytime we go somewhere as a family we have a blast.

10.  Who is your favorite actor?  Actress?
I think Alec Baldwin is a comic genius and I actually think Zoey Deschanel is hysterical.  Love her new show New Girl.  I watch way more TV than movies, Reese Witherspoon is another actress I love.

11.  Tell about the last time you cried because you were happy.
The other night Greg and I came home after going out to dinner and we were joking around about something and I was laughing so hard I had tears coming out of my eyes.

12.  What is your favorite season?
Fall for sure, but with the beginning of school and three boys playing football our falls are so busy these days, I don't get to enjoy the season as much.  I love the crisp fall air, the changing leaves, burning my Autumn Wreath Yankee Candle, getting Starbucks Peppermint Mocha and Pumpkin Spice Latte, and I love going to my happy place Door County, WI during the fall.

13.  What is your biggest regret?

Not getting back to Europe before I had kids.  I studied in Spain my sophomore year of college and traveled all over Europe.  My goal was to go back to Spain for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and instead I met a guy that summer and dated him for three years (not my husband).  I really wish I had traveled back to Europe, but I met my husband in 1995, bought a house and got married and then had my first son all within two years, so priorities changed.

14.  What food do you just NOT like at all?
I do not like raspberries, but I have started eating them a bit in some desserts.


15. Who was your most memorable teacher, and why?
I had many memorable teachers.  My top two were my 1st grade teacher Mrs. Wochos.  She was such an amazing teacher and did so many cool things with us.  My third grade teacher was Miss Dougherty and then she got married and was Mrs Bohn.  I just idolized her and wanted to be her.  She was an amazing teacher and a beautiful woman.  It was in third grade that I new for sure I wanted to be a teacher.  I was blessed with some amazing teachers!