Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Creating a Learning Station

I have done several previous posts about Learning Stations.  This post is to show you how easy it is to create a learning station in place of just having students fill out a worksheet.  It's nothing fancy and I created this learning station in just a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.

I started with creating an exit slip for a lesson I had taught on Triangle Sum, Exterior Angle, and Exterior Angle Inequality Theorems.  I made this a brief three question exit slip.  I then created a station for each of the learning goals being assessed on the exit slip.  The exit slip was quick and easy to grade and based on what answers students got wrong (and what the mistake was they made) I will assign students to the stations.

Exit Slip
 There are three different stations and each has six questions.  Are you curious to know the secret to this easy station creation?  I just took problems off a skills practice worksheet and put them on index cards numbered 1-6 and then laminated the cards.  Believe it or not, the students are much more engaged in doing this skill practice because they get to move from station to station, the questions are differentiated based on what their needs are, and most importantly, they aren't completing what they consider to be a boring worksheet.  You can decide how many question each students completes per station.  I

Station 1

Station 2

Station 3
 I really wanted to find some clear picture frames to hold the station directions, but the last time I was at the Dollar Store I could not find any so I improvised and just used a plain old sheet protector.  The sheet protectors make it easy to store the stations in a three ring binder.

All three stations fit in a binder for easy storage

Sheet Protector storage
You can store the index cards on in the back side of the sheet protector.

Back side of same sheet protector above holds cards for storage
I hope this post inspires you to try to switch things up and turn a simple skill review or remediation activity into a learning station that students will find more engaging.  I would love for you to leave a comment linking any station activities you have done in your own classroom.  My 7th graders love any activity that allows them to get up and move around the classroom while learning.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Books currently in my cart on Amazon

Proof that I am a grown-up is how much of my own money I choose to spend on professional teacher resource books lately.  All of these books are currently in cart on Amazon.  I just need to place my order.  A couple of these are a for sure purchase and a few may by saved in my cart for later.

Last summer I joined an online Guided Math Book Study.  We read Laney Sammons' book.  It was a great learning experience for me and I need to read through all those linked post to refresh my memory.  I find this book on using Literacy Strategies to make meaning very intriguing.

As I was browsing through some books on Amazon I found the book below.  Don't know much about it, other than I can always use help with literacy strategies.

This book on Math Workshop for Grades 4-8 was recommended to me by our awesome middle school literacy coach @UWKatie.  Katie is phenomenal with all things literacy and I love when she passes on tips or recommendations to me.  She knows I want to do math workshop in my classroom, but I haven't found much guidance for the middle school level.  I hope this book will be the resource I need to get myself going on math workshop.

This book has been talked about all over Twitter by people I follow and there are even a couple online books studies here and here.  I've heard lots of great things about this book by people currently reading it and I follow the author @burgessdave on twitter.  He is a great down to earth guy.  I enjoy reading books by people that get what it's like being a "real" teacher in a "real' classroom.

If you have read (or heard about) any of these I would love for you to leave me a comment.  Especially the first two because those were not really recommended to me by anyone who has actually read them. I teach 7th grade math and there are not nearly the resources for this age level when it comes to math resource books as there are available for the elementary level.

I promise to do some follow-up posts on the books I end up purchasing.  What are you currently reading?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Curriculum Planning

With our new math implementation we are fortunate enough to have some full planning days to put together our Carnegie units.  The planning days definitely help and are greatly appreciated, but we still spend hours upon hours putting everything together on top of what we are able to accomplish in an eight hour planning day and during our PLC meetings.

This coming Monday is a planning day where another 7th grade math teacher (who is absolutely awesome getting all our assessments and assignments together) will out as much as we can for our next five chapters (we need to get through two chapters for sure).  Our math interventionist will be working with us in the afternoon so I am excited to have her on board to help us create some interventions in advance, rather than after the fact, like we tend to do.

We are lucky that we have Carnegie Learning a common core aligned math curriculum so we definitely have an overabundance of resources available.  As I am sure many of you will agree, teachers rarely are able to use the assignments and assessments as they are, that text companies provide.  This creates a lot of extra planning time to put everything together the way it works best for our students.  Again, I am quite lucky in that my colleague Bill, does almost all of that.  Our biggest task, is pulling together the best of what Carnegie has offered us for teaching the CCSS to our 7th graders.

I thought I would share with you the items that I list on our Google Doc as we do our Module Unit Planning so we can keep track of what everyone is responsible for and by what date they need to have it completed (well in a perfect world anyway).

Module Unit Planning:  A Module consists of two to three chapters

  • Chapter Quiz Review/AK (Answer Key)
  • Chapter Quiz/AK
  • Chapter Quiz Retake/AK
  • Chapter Quiz Correctives (students complete after the quiz)/AK
  • Module Test Review/AK (This covers 2-3 Chapters)
  • Module Test/AK
  • Module Test Retake/AK
  • Module Test Correctives (students complete after the test)/AK
  • Assignments/AK
  • Mathia Pacing/Assessment Guide
  • Mathia Small Group Lesson
  • Mathia Notes/Study Guides
  • Warm-Ups/AK
  • Exit Slips/AK
  • Mini Lessons/Small Group Instruction from exit slip information
  • Learning Goals/Assessment Correlation
  • Cross-Referencing Assessment Questions to Lessons
  • Lesson Plans
  • Lessons on SMARTboard software
  • Answers Keys to project on SMARTBoard
  • Word Wall Vocabulary 
  • Math Focus Wall Posters
  • Foldables/Notesheets
  • Anchor Charts
  • Core Plus Activities
  • Learning Stations Activities
  • Tech Enrichment/Learning Support

Its easy to see why unit planning feels overwhelming when there are so many different items that need to be either created completely by a teacher or modified.  That does not even include having to work through the lessons ourselves and do all the problems.  That also takes quite a bit of time and we do not even spend any of our planning time doing that.  We all do that on our own time.

We also have two components to our curriculum: collaborative classrooms lessons out of the text and Mathia personalized learning software.  We are definitely focusing much more on planning for the collaborative classroom this first year.  

The items highlighted in green are the things we have been doing and planning all year.  Those are the things we always try to accomplish on our planning days.  The items listed in pink are things that we have done at least a few times throughout the year, but need to be more consistent with them.  The other 7th grade math teachers have their own versions of word walls and math focus walls so those two items I really put on the list to remind myself to keep up with planning them in advance.

I have found a few foldables online that I have used with my students and shared with my colleagues.  I would really like to increase my use of foldables and start using anchor charts in my classroom.  I know my students would benefit greatly from both.  I just always seem to run out of time to do this justice as I would like.

We have a 45 min class every other day called Core Plus and this quarter I have Enrichment on A Days and Intervention on B Days.  I would like to be more purposeful in creating lessons to use on my Intervention day so there will perhaps be less need for retakes, a girl can dream, right?!  I also would like to create some fun and engaging learning stations to use on both my CP Enrichment and Intervention days.  I have some great resources for that.  I just need to find the time to put the stations together.

I have a laptop cart always available to me because the students work on Mathia software 1-2 days a week (as well as during CP or Homebase at the end of the day).  I would like to start using the technology more on my non Mathia days.  Maybe doing some exit slips on a Google Form or trying out Socrative.  Please share your favorite ideas of how you would use laptops in your classroom, if you have unlimited access.  I would love to try some engaging technology because right not they really just do Mathia.

One thing that I feel is a non-negotiable going forward is using exit slips (or whatever formative assessment preferred) to get instant feedback on students that can be used for targeted small group remediation or instruction.  I did that last week and considered it a huge success.  I just have to make the time to create the exit slips and mini-lessons that go with them.

How do you go about planning your math units?  Isn't it crazy how much more is involved these days than just opening up the book and teaching a lesson and then giving homework and a quiz or test?  Next year our district is going to Standards Based Grading so that will again really change the way we do things.  I tend to think it will end up being easier in the long run as we focus more on Power Standards.  I feel right now we are trying to assess nearly everything we teach and it becomes overwhelming for both us and the students.  I would love to hear any ideas or suggestions you have for anything relating to unit planning (how you are able to do it all), luckily I am on a team so we are able to split up the work.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Currently February

I cannot believe January has come and gone and I did not take the time blog.  It was a super crazy busy month for many reasons.
  • My oldest had a sick day, my youngest had a sick day, I had a sick day for fluid behind my ears
  • The transmission went out on our 2001 Odyssey and we suddenly had to buy an new van.  Not in the plans, but now that I have a 2013 with all the bells and whistles I am in love with the new van.  Our youngest is only 7 so we still need a minivan.  Spent 6 hours on a Saturday getting the best deal possible.
  • Lots and lots of meeting for school.  One of my students asked why I always have meetings in the morning.  I told him because I am so important!  LOL  He seemed to feel that was enough of an answer.  ;)
  • Days of never ending test corrections and retakes, every possible spare minute for our Module test prior to the end of the quarter.  I'm not sure I've ever been so happy for a quarter to end!
  • Chauffeuring our three boys to LAX, Basketball, and Baseball practice (to be honest my dear husband does most of the driving, but sometime we are triple booked and I have to lend a hand).
  • Plugging away at our new math program Carnegie Learning.
  • Gearing up with two friends to co-facilitate lesson study next week.

I am linking up with Farley for February Currently.  Join in the fun.