Thursday, March 20, 2014

Workshop-Rich Tasks (with links)

One of the key components of a successful math workshop is finding rich tasks for the students to dig into during work time.  Having our students engaged in deep math needs to be the focal point of our mind-on math workshop.

During our  Minds on Mathematics Book Study last summer  Chapter 3: Tasks focused on the challenging tasks we use with our students during work time.  If you are a regular follower of my blog you know that we use  Carnegie Learning as our math curriculum, for those of you who are new feel free to check out the link to see what Carnegie is about, and you can click the following link to download a sample of the Student Text.  During workshop Work Time students work in collaborative groups solving rich real-world problems.  Students are required to both construct and interpret mathematical models and explain their reasoning.  While solving problems they make connections between different mathematical concepts.  I feel extremely lucky that I have Carnegie as my curriculum.  It marries perfectly with the workshop model of delivery.

Our student text is divided into two volumes for the year.

I realize that many of you do not have a strong common core aligned curriculum.  I have shared some of my favorite go to resources for rich problems to use in your classroom.  I have only shared free resources below.  Some of these you will have to dig around a bit to find links to tasks you can use in your classroom.

Challenging Tasks
No matter what source you use to find your rich tasks, ask yourself the following questions to make sure your tasks have high cognitive demand.  Does the problem offer all of the following?

  • multiple entry points
  • various possible approaches
  • a need for higher-order thinking
  • opportunities to synthesize, justify, and explain
I am heading off to Wisconsin Dells for a few days of waterparking with the family.  Please feel free to add your favorite FREE resources for rich tasks in the comments and I will add them to my list.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Marshmallow Challenge, a Great Team Building Exercise

I am on Spring Break this week and have been going through my Blog Post Drafts.  I came across this empty post that was titled Day4- The Marshmallow Challenge.  On the fourth day with my students this school year I did a team building exercise called "The Marshmallow Challenge" that I had read about on Twitter.  I decided that this would be the perfect activity for team building as we transitioned to math workshop this year in our 7th grade math classes.

Somewhere I took photos of the students working, but I am on my second new iPhone since then and I must not have been using the cloud when I took them.  I will have to ask my husband when he gets home from work today if he can locate those photos.  August/September seems to be missing at the moment.  If I locate the photos I will be sure to add them to this post.

I created this Google Presentation and we used the Workshop format of Opening, MiniLesson, Work Time, and Sharing/Reflection to have the students get used to the structure of what workshop looks like.  The students absolutely loved it!  I cannot even begin to explain how creative they were and how amazed I was how well they worked as teams on Day 4 of school.  Students will still ask me when we can do something fun like The Marshmallow Challenge again.

I figured out how to embed my Google Presentation thanks to a nice tutorial video I found online. Here it is:

I hope this post is helpful to you.  I cannot emphasize enough how well this activity worked with my students.  They really worked on team building while completing one of their favorite activities of the year.  Not a bad way to start the year.  You could use this activity at any time.  If you do please come back and comment on who it went.  I would love to hear about your Marshmallow Challenge.  If you would like me to share with you the google presentation I made leave a comment below telling me how you plan on using this and make sure to leave your email address.  UPDATE 6/19/15:  I will not be emailing anyone the link anymore.  Here is the direct link to the Marshmallow Challenge Google Presentation for anyone who wants to use it.  Enjoy!   UPDATE 9/4/14:  I am sharing this with everyone, but getting MANY MANY delivery failure notifications with the emails people are posting.  I have no idea why this is happening nor how to fix it.  If you don't receive an email with the google presentation link it is because of this and I'm sorry about that.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

How our middle school handles passes

This posts has been in my drafts for several months.  It started last summer when I did this #made4math Monday post on passes I had created.  Through blog comments/twitter conversations people requested that I do a post explaining on all the different types of passes we use at my school.  As you can see from the student planner picture below I took these photos back in November.  This post has been a long time coming, but hopefully it will shed some light on how the middle school I work at handles all the various types of passes needed to keep our halls quiet and safe while keeping track of where students are.

Blue House Passes are used during our last class of the day called Homebase. Homebase is a twenty minute period where students can get help from any teachers.  The passes allow our 120 students (who are in Blue House) to get help from any of the other three core teachers.  Students ask for permission to use a Blue House pass and just grab one out of the green bucket on my desk.

Guidance and Office Passes are for when students are called to either the Guidance Office or the Main Office.  This way I do not have to interrupt my teaching to fill out a gold pass.  The student can just go to the green bucket on my desk and grab the pass.

Gold Passes are used when a teacher needs to send a student somewhere and does not want to use one of the student's planner passes.  I typically use them to send a student to the health room.  We also have one Encore teacher who has some of our students in Homebase at the end of the day.  If one of those students needs to see me for something math related and cannot access the digi pass I give them a gold pass.

Library Passes are used primarily for students to check out books from the Library Media Center during Homebase.  These are stored in the green pass bucket on my desk.

front of pass

back of pass

Planner Passes- Every week students get six passes to use for that week for anything they need.  Students use these passes primarily to go to the restroom, get a drink, or go to their locker.  Students must fill out the date, time out, and destination, and then the teacher signs or initials the pass to make it valid.  When students leave the room they must carry the student planner with them as it is the pass.  Students used to get a certain amount of passes per quarter.  I much prefer for them to get the six passes a week.  Students are supposed to carry their planners to all classes (they don't bring them to lunch).

Close up of the planner passes for the week

Digital Homebase Pass- Students fill out a digital pass if they need to see an Encore teacher during Homebase.  They are expected to fill this out during the class of the teacher they are seeing (so that teacher knows if they have room for the student during Homebase).  Students can use a QR code or link on the classroom desktop computer (if the teacher has one) to fill out the digi pass.  Teachers can see during Homebase where any students are that are normally supposed to be with them.  This has alleviated the need to fill out paper passes and it is nice to be able to refer to the document when checking attendance during Homebase.

I would love to hear about how other schools handle passes.  We have over 700 (I think) students so you can imagine how important it is to keep track of where everyone is.  Let me know if you have any questions.  Our system of passes really seems to work well with minimal interruption to my teaching.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Currently March 2014

I am linking up with Farley for her March Currently.

I am listening to Spongebob not by choice, but by default of waking up after my two youngest boys today.  I slept until 7:20 AM which is sleeping in for me.

I am loving my math workshop delivery model.  I really cannot say enough about how much I am loving it and how well it is going with my students.  I have really had some epiphanies lately about workshop that have made it go more smoothly.  I just want to let all you middle school math teachers know that workshop is not just for elementary.  I feel my students are getting much more targeted instruction to what they need individually.  Small group work time is going so well and I am impressed by my students every day.  I also love pulling small groups to work on targeted skills/concepts.  I need to start doing some math workshop blog posts.  I have so much to share.

When I think about the fact that Spring Break is only two weeks ago I have a hard time believing it.  Our break is ALWAYS the week after Easter except for this year.  I have no idea why our district changed the dates of break, but I am not happy about it at all.  The kids will be getting Spring Fever a month earlier than they should this year and it's going to make for a LONG 4th quarter.

I want Winter to exit the building.  This has been a brutal winter in WI (and most of the US).  We had a record four cold days in January.  Fortunately because of our super long school day with kids we don't have to make up any time.  YAY!  Our HS has to start 10 min early starting this coming Monday to make up the time.  I drop my son (who is a freshman) off most mornings so we will now be leaving at 6:50.  YIKES!

I really need a new blog design.  If you know of anyone reasonable and reliable please let me know.  Every time I find someone who looks promising it seems like they are months out from being able to design.  Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.  I also need a spa day.  Full on massage, facial, mani, and pedi.  I am really carrying a lot of stress in my neck/shoulders lately.  Teaching is STRESSFUL!

$332.76 is the amount of items I currently have sitting in my Amazon cart.  Most of them are books, a mix of professional and just for fun.  I also have some tea cups for our Keurig.  I will be placing some sort of order today because my youngest wants to order a Webkinz.  I assure you my total won't be $332.67.  Must move some things to saved for later.