Thursday, July 24, 2014

My New Blog Design

I have not blogged as much as I hoped to this summer.  Things got so darn busy this month with baseball games, baseball tournaments, and baseball play-offs.  Are you sensing a summer theme here? My middle son, Drew, was in a tournament in the Dells a couple weekends ago and then my youngest, Cooper, was in a local tournament last weekend.  Both of their teams also made it to the championship game of their leagues.  Drew's team lost, unfortunately, in the championship game last week.  Tonight Cooper's team will play for the championship.  After that baseball is officially over, except for the Game Day USA All-Star team Drew was invited to play in, in Aug.  It should be fun because other players from his team were also invited to play, hopefully they will be on the same team, but I have no idea how they form the teams.  Enough about baseball, but now you know why my blogging has been so sporadic this summer.

This post is really to just share my new blog design by Kristin at That Fancy Blog Boutique.  Kristin was so awesome to work with.  She was very patient as I tried to get the design exactly how I wanted it.  I love how she took my vision for my blog and made it so much cuter than I ever dreamed.

I've wanted a new blog design for forever, but with many designers I liked there was a wait of multiple months. Kristin reached out to me and offered to help me with a blog makeover.  She is just starting out so there was no wait time (lucky me).  I highly recommend Kristin before she is "discovered" by bloggers everywhere and has a wait list a mile long.  I really can't say enough about how easy it was to work with her!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Guided Math Conferences Book Study: Chapter 2- The Value of Guided Math Conferences

I am continuing the  summer book study on Guided Math Conferences by author Laney Sammons.  Chapter 2 is being hosted by Hilary of Second Grade is Out of this World.  If you join in and do a post, please comment and I will be sure to head to your blog and check out your post.

This chapter focused on Guided Math Conferences being an effective vehicle for teachers to give formative feedback to students.  She spent time answering the question, What is formative assessment?

She also wrote about how to foster self-assessment in your students.  I really like this and feel it will marry well with my plans to focus on growth mindset in my math classes this year.

Sammons gave Five Strategies for Effective Guided Math Conferences for Assessment:

  • Help students develop a clear understanding of their learning goals and how they will know when they meet those goals.
  • Guide the conversation with questions to elicit evidence of student learning, both content and process, and/or misconceptions and gaps in foundational knowledge and skills.
  • Encourage students to reflect on their mathematical understanding so that they assume ownership of their learning.
  • Provide specific feedback to let students know both what they are doing well and what will move them forward in their mathematical learning.
  • Use the information gathered during the conference to identify a teaching point to move student learning forward.

(Sammons, Laney. "Five Strategies for Effective Guided Math Conferences for Assessment." Guided Math Conferences. Huntington Beach: Shell Education, 2014. 44-45. Print.)

She then focused on characteristics of effective feedback and establishing student learning goals to promote student accountability.

Review and Reflect
1)  How have the demands for increased rigor and depth in mathematics education affected your teaching?  With the implementation of common core my students are learning concepts in 7th grade that used to be taught in algebra or geometry.  Students are expected to enter 7th grade having mastered decimal and fraction operations (which many still haven't).  We adopted Carnegie Learning which does a great job of developing conceptual understanding using models.  This school year will be my third using this curriculum so my teaching has already been shifted prior to implementing workshop last year.

2)  How does the use of math conferences for formative assessment compare to your current methods of formative assessment?  I use entrance/exit slips and classroom observation as well as many other techniques I have previously blogged about here.  I haven't done much with goal setting and I think that will be a key in using my conferencing time to give students effective and timely feedback based on the learning goals students have set for themselves.

3)  When you identify the "next steps" in learning for individual students in your class, how do you provide the needed instruction?  What are the advantages/disadvantages of that method of instruction?  How does the use of math conferences compare to your current method?  In the past I have used the e-slip data to plan for small group/individual mini lessons or tutorials.  This was great for students to get feedback the next day on what they needed to be working on.  This was primarily skill based so I would like to expand on this to provide more conceptual understanding to students who are still struggling even after the workshop mini lesson.  I think math conferences where I somehow document the next steps will be more beneficial to helping me remember what targeted strategies I may need to use.  Keeping anecdotal notes will be another useful formative assessment for me when doing standards based grading.  I will have more information available on where each individual student is at (on paper, not just in my head)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Two of my favorite Pinterest Boards

Quick post today to keep myself on track with the #July2014Challenge Twitter challenge started by Druinok  Please feel free to join in the challenge with other bloggers listed.

Today was a super busy day for me that involved meeting my wonderful mother for lunch followed by a fresh cut and color of my hair, and then simultaneous baseball games for my middle and little (they both won, YAY!).  Middle won the his first play-off game 10-6 and little won a league game 16-15.  I watched littles game because my husband coaches middle's team.

Needless to say, due to my busy day I am just posting now.  I am taking the easy way out today and sharing two of my favorite Pinterest Boards.  The first board is my Middle School Math Board which is self explanatory.  The other is Too Funny where I pin any funny things I see. If you need a good laugh check out that board for sure.  I just did an am still cracking up at some of my pins.

Follow Sherrie's board Middle School Math on Pinterest.

Follow Sherrie's board Too Funny on Pinterest.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Triangle Inequality Theorem- CCSS 7.G.2

Chapter 10 of Carnegie Learning Course 2 (7th Grade) is Triangles.  The lesson sequence for the chapter is shown below.
  • 10.1 "Triangle Sum, Exterior Angle, and Exterior Angle Inequality Theorem
  • 10.2 "Constructing Triangles"
  • 10.3 "Congruent Figures and Constructing Congruent Triangles"
  • 10.4 "Triangle Inequality Theorem"

I won't even get into it with you that geometry constructions tend to be the bane of my existence and that students are now doing constructions that were previously done in HS geometry.  That post if for another day.

I will tell you that I love this lesson and my students enjoyed it too.  It involves giving every student a piece of pasta and then having them randomly break it into 3 pieces.  The students then measure the three broken pieces (I had them do it in cm).  

They put the three pieces together to see if they are able to form a triangle.  There is a table they fill out and then compare their results with their table group.

We have a triangle

Another triangle

Students diligently working
Busy mathematicians dressed up for a spirit day
I then had students come up to the SMARTBoard to record their data.  I made sure to call on students who had/had not been able to form a triangle.  Students recorded the same data on that was on the SMARTBoard, other than the first data set was from their own findings.

Sharing data with the whole class
This lesson does such a good job of building students conceptual understanding of the triangle inequality theorem.  They also are also able to figure out the triangle inequality theorem by looking at the data in the table.  They realize that the lengths of any two sides of a triangle must be greater than the third side.

The lessons ends with practice problems where students determine whether it's possible to form a triangle with a given set of side lengths and when given two side lengths, what can the conclude about the third length.

Prior to using Carnegie curriculum I used to model the triangle inequality theorem by cutting straws different lengths and then having student determine when they formed a triangle.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday Made it/Made 4 Math Monday- Repurposed desk calendar & note set

Today I am linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for her Monday Made It and @druinok for Made 4 Math Monday.  I am excited to see what everyone has been busy creating.

Years ago my mom (make that Santa) gave me a Susan Winget Desk Calendar and Note Set made by Lang.  On top there was a calendar.  I don't even remember if it was daily, weekly, or monthly.  It's been that long.  Well, being the packrat thoughtful saver that I am, I never threw it out because I had lots of notes left in it.  This has set next to the phone in our kitchen for the last 6 yrs it appears (saw the copyright date on the set was 2006 which means I used it for 2007, which means it's been sitting around since circa 2008).

Last summer when I purchased my Martha Stewart chalkboard paint I had visions of painting the top of this black (it was white after the calendar was taken off, sorry I don't have a before shot, I was too eager to start painting).  Instead it sat near the phone waiting for me to repurpose it so it could join me back in my classroom.

This was the quickest and easiest project ever.  I did maybe 4-5 coats of the paint, making sure to let it dry completely between coats. The directions say one hour between coats, I may have been a bit more impatient than that.  This morning I "conditioned" it with a piece of sidewalk chalk I found buried under various bikes and LAX sticks in the garage.  It's not like I have any nice clean pieces of chalk laying around.  I'm happy to tell you the chalk served the purpose.

After a few coats of chalk (which I wiped off with an old dishtowel) I used the chalk markers to free hand my design (as you can tell LOL).  This one was easy peasy lemon squeezy.  I urge you to try out chalk markers for yourself.  They are so fun.  I ordered mine on Amazon last year.  I have used them on my chalkboard and windows at school and they clean of nicely. Not sure how this will come off the chalkboard paint, but if I decide to change it I'll let you know how it worked.

Finished product.  LOVE it!

I used a foam brush, paper plate, and the chalkboard paint and markers

Here's my random chalk I used to condition it with chalk

After wiping the chalk off

It's true, I do <3 math!

Can't wait to bring this baby back to my classroom

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Guided Math Conferences Book Study- Chapter 1 "Conferring with Young Mathematicians"

I am joining this summer book study on Guided Math Conferences by author Laney Sammons.  Chapter 1 is being hosted by Thinking of Teaching and Brenda of Primary Inspired.  If you join in and do a post, please comment and I will be sure to head to your blog and check out your post.

This chapter started by giving a "Tale of Four Students" where Sammons illustrated how little a multiple choice answer tells us about student understanding, whether correct or wrong.  Open response items give us a clearer picture of student thinking (as long as work is shown).

Math conferences are one-on-one conversations with students about their mathematics work, as one mathematician talking with another. (p 16)

Characteristics of Guided Math Conferences:
  • Conferences have a purpose.
  • Conferences have a predictable structure.
  • Lines of thinking are pursued with students.
  • Teachers and students each have conversational roles.
  • Students are shown that teachers care about them.

I am really excited to read this book and figure out a predictable structure for conferring with my students.  I love the last point and totally agree that by meeting one-on-one with students it shows you care about their learning and helping them to be successful mathematicians.  The importance of that point cannot be overlooked.

Guided Math Conferences, Math Interviews, and Small-Group Instruction:
  • Guided Math Conferences- take about five minutes, they are between the teacher and one student where you focus on what the student is currently working on, and give assessment, feedback, or individual instruction (using a teaching point)
  • Math Interviews- last 5-10 minutes, they are between the teacher and one student where you focus in on an instructional task introduced by the teacher and the purpose is for assessment
  • Small-Group Instruction- lasts 15-20 minutes, it's between the teacher and 2-6 students where you do a group lesson, this is for group instruction of a focused lesson, assessment, or feedback

Last year I definitely did small group instruction much more that actual conferring.  My small group instruction could be anywhere from 3-15 minutes working with a group, often based on entrance/exit slip data that was primarily skill based. I'm really proud on how much small group instruction I did with my students last year, but I can see room for improvement even on how I did small group mini lessons.  I am so excited that I am getting a kidney table to use for this next year!  

Review and Reflect Questions:
1.   How often are you able to engage your students in one-on-one conversations about their mathematical thinking?   I would say that I do this on a daily basis in my classroom, however, I certainly don't do it everyday with every student.  During the "work time" portion of workshop I go around from group to group listening in on student discourse.  At this time I will sometimes interject when students become stuck.  Most of the time I do it for the whole group, not an individual student.  On MATHia days (our self paced computer program) I tend to me more with students one-on-one if they become stuck on a problem. 
2. What do you think is the most important benefit of math conferences? What are the greatest hurdles to implementing math conferences in your classroom? How could you overcome these hurdles? I think the most important benefit is getting to know where each individual learner is at, and then using that information to give specific feedback and instruction to each individual learner.  The greatest hurdles are time and for me at this point it is creating the structure to do this in a meaningful and timely manner.  Hopefully I will have figured that out by the end of this book.  I can overcome the hurdles by careful planning, both how to structure the conferences, and how they will fit into my math workshop.
3. Think of a student in your class who is struggling with a mathematical concept or skill.  What would you like to know about his or her mathematical thinking? What question would you ask if you decide to confer with this student?  I would want to know the thought process the student is using to solve the problem, but first I would want him to read the problem and tell what it was asking him to do.  I would ask questions: What makes you think that? What is the question this problem is asking? Can you tell me what you are thinking?  I would observe the step by step process they use to solve the problem.  Also before the students began I would have him mark the text of the problem.  This is a disciplinary literacy strategy that we use all the time in my classroom and it is so helpful to focus students on what is pertinent information they need to solve the problem.

I am really looking forward to sharing ideas with others as we complete this summer book study.  I fully implemented workshop in my 7th grade math class last year, but know that conferring was one of the areas I need to really improve on.  I know this book will help me figure it all out as I prepare myself for this coming school year.