Friday, August 30, 2013

Classroom Tour

Welcome to my classroom!  I am super excited to show it off to the world this year.  I have been working and planning all summer and when it all came together the way I wanted it, I was just overjoyed.  There are a lot of Pinterest ideas at work here and I am so thankful to everyone who shares on blogs and Pinterest.  I have been so inspired!  Here are just a few pictures of my room.

This is looking at my classroom from the door.  My classroom is small compared to most of the classrooms that I see in blogs, but it is my little corner of the world and it works just fine.  My curtains are world maps in bright primary colors, so that is the inspiration for the color pallet in my classroom.  The bowls are trash bowls that go on each table when we are making things.  One person from each table will empty it into the trash when we are finished.  There are also sturdy plastic plates that I found 4 for $1 at the dollar store that will work great for dry erase boards.  The drawers hold small group role cards, "stoplight" cards to do self evaluations, calculators, rags to erase dry erase boards, post it notes, and anything else I decide to add to them.  I found great little frames at IKEA after seeing them on Pinterest to be my table numbers.

I do have a goal to write down the objectives each day for students.  Another Pinterest inspired project lead me to buy wood frames at the dollar store.  I bought the wood frames thinking that they would work with the woodwork that I had in my classroom.  After deciding I didn't like the wood frames, I bought a can of spray paint and  made the frames black.  Not a horrible mistake, just could have saved time painting.

The plaid strip on the right is my calendar.  I found it at an estate sale years ago.  The black box slides down the row and highlights the date.  I really like that it takes up hardly any space in my classroom.  The students like changing the date.   
Here are my supply boxes for each table group.  Each box contains markers, colored pencils, scissors, glue sticks, tape, and a mini hole puncher.  In years past, I just used the three drawer box on top for markers, crayons, and colored pencils.  I am keeping that box around for the days we need crayons or a brown colored pencil is suddenly missing from the supply box.

I am keeping scrap paper, graph paper, and loose leaf paper in the stackable trays.

The table to the left hold my absent work folders, no homework binder, rulers, three hole punch, stapler, and my extra copy files.

The cabinet on the left has art supplies.  The magnetic body parts are to make silly faces. 

This is my favorite new thing in my classroom.  I read in a blog, and I didn't pin the picture, about how a teacher organized her units into plastic, modular, stackable drawers.  I liked the idea, but I just didn't quite know if the modular drawers would work for me.  Thanks to some awesome deals this summer, I was able to afford three of these rainbow drawers.  I have been organizing games and activities into them.  They work so well.  Everything is organized by topic and my file cabinet has room again! :)

The crates to the right will hold corrected work and anything that the kids will leave overnight to work on the next day.

This picture just shows some of the things that I have blogged about this summer.  My homework question board and small group role assignment boards are hanging.  Also, my NOISE sign is there too.

I teach Social Studies too and the world map is going to be for my Geography class.  We are going to play "Where in the world is (insert student name here)".  The students will write clues to where they are and others will guess.

The last picture is of the front of my room as you look from my desk.  I realized that I took this picture before I put the books in the bookcase.  Opps!

Well, there it is!  My pride and joy right now.  I am ready for Tuesday and the kiddos coming back.  I am excited for them to spend time in the space and for me to see if all the planning created the environment that I wanted!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Comparing Real Numbers

I have noticed in the past that there are some students in algebra who can't set up the real number line correctly.  With that, I have noticed that placing numbers on a real number line is challenging for some students as well. 

For the lesson that reviews ordering and comparing real numbers, I was thinking that it would be a good idea to make a number line and do some ordering of real numbers.  I wanted something that would be compact and fit into the ISN. 

I thought about using a piece of paper folded in half because I liked the idea that zero would be on the fold and in the middle of the line.  From there it was just a matter of putting positive and negative numbers on the number line.  I also added tick marks for every tenth.  I thought that this would help to place the numbers more accurately.

I then used some colored dot stickers cut in half to mark the position of two sets of numbers on the number line.  The stickers were a bit too big, but ultimately did the job.  I just made sure that the straight cut lined up with the numbers position on the number line. 

The lesson also deals with adding and subtracting real numbers.  I layered some sticky notes so that I could highlight two things:
1) The procedure the book uses for adding and subtracting real numbers with mixed signs, and
2) Reminders about fractions needing the same denominator and about lining up the decimal points.

I have been finding a lot of uses for sticky notes in the ISNs that I am trying to put together for the students.  (I hope I'm not alone in saying that I use sticky notes for everything and could probably join a 12 step program if one existed.)  I have been using them to highlight steps in procedures and to save space by layering ideas similar to the picture at the left.  Does anyone have other ways that they use sticky notes in their ISNs?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Comparing Expressions

Most of my algebra kiddos are pretty good at evaluating expressions.  So, the lesson on it in the textbook should be a review.  To review, I wanted to do a quick game that wouldn't take too long and would be a good way for me to do a quick check in as to who remembered from the summer and who didn't.  The text does a lot with comparing expressions after evaluated.  I like this because it reviews two skills at once and it causes a moment of pause for most students.  They just can't whip through to the answer.

The game that I developed to review is pretty simple.  Students roll a number cube at the beginning of each round to determine the value of the variables in each expression.  Each partner draws a card with an expression on it, evaluates it, and then compares the values of the two expressions.  Finally the students write the expressions, not the evaluation, as an inequality.  I did this to match the book a little bit and to get them to stay abstract with their comparison.  We'll see how it goes when they play it for the first time.  Maybe I'll change the rules midway.

Here is the game if you would like to have it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Converting Measures

I am going rogue with my lesson on measurement conversions.  I am leaving the book's explanation and doing my own.  I always try to be fairly consistent with the textbook.  I know that students and parents will reference it.  So, I don't want to create frustration between "the way I taught it" and "the way the book says to do it" when parents are trying to help.

My decision to go rogue started last night when I sat reading the lesson on converting measures and I was having difficulty designing anything.  A foldable didn't seem to fit the lesson, a graphic organizer didn't seem quite right, and just a page of plain notes didn't quite work.  It was just one of those lessons where it felt like the pieces didn't come together exactly.  So I slept on it.

This morning, I realized that what didn't seem to connect for me was the equation that the text was using.  There were a lot of subtle concepts that the students had to understand to make the equation work well.  Students had to understand which units are being canceled and understand how units increase and decrease numerically when you convert in order for the equation to work out right.  I know that their will be questions as to why we wrote the conversion as 3 ft = 1 yd and not 1 yd = 3ft.  Proportions seemed like the natural course to teach these conversions.  So I designed the chart below:

I decided that WKU (Words-Known-Unknown) would be a better way to get students to correctly set up and solve these conversion problems, introduce proportions, and set them up better for how the book will later work with proportions.  I also decided that this was a good time to get them to notice that the units line up, hence the color.  Highlighting the measurement words in the problem will assist then in figuring out the known conversion to use and to set up the order of the proportion.  The only concession that I made using this was that I will just teach them a procedure for solving the proportion verses setting up the algebraic equation.  We'll emphasize that later in the text.  Right now it is about correctly converting between measures.

If you would like this, you can download it here.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A New School Year

Math notebooks are my biggest goal for the next year.  I am committing to them and what they entail.  I will be busy developing lots of foldables, graphic organizers, and processing pieces for the students side of the notebook.

Practice activities are my second goal.  I want the students doing more math that involves talking and exchanging ideas, yet at the same time reinforces the skills that we are learning.  Thanks to the many teachers who put their great ideas out there, I don't think will be a hard goal to keep.

Finally, putting learning goals (a.k.a standards) on the formal assessments and scoring students based on the learning goal.  I know that my students know more than they believe that they do.  Like many of us, myself included, we get hung up on the one area that confuses us or makes us uncomfortable.  By placing the learning goals on the test, I want them to see that they know more than they think and give them an area to focus for improvement.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Liebster Award

I don't like to do two posts in one day, especially when one is this long, but I realized that it had been two weeks since Jessi at Mrs. Hester's Classroom nominated me for a Liebster Award!  Thank you Jessi!

As it was explained to my through Mrs. Hester's Blog and my own research, the Liebster Award is an award that is for blogs with less than 200 followers.  It is a means to promote your blog and hopefully gain some more followers.  It is a way for fellow bloggers to welcome the new little guys into the world of blogging.  One also can't deny that when your starting out, a nomination is acknowledgement that someone is reading and liking what you are producing! :)  There are some rules to accepting the award, though.

First of all, I need to answer the questions that Jessi left for me to answer.  So here we go!

1. What is your favorite thing about your job?
My favorite thing is that it is never the same day twice.  I love that everyday is different and that I have so much say in making my day be what I want it to be.
2. What is your morning routine once you arrive at school?
It's usually warming up the computer and doing a quick e-mail check.  Double checking that I have everything I need for my morning and sometimes making a quick run to the copier!  The last part of my routine is the all important bathroom stop.
3. How do you decide what to assess?
I usually check the standards for my state and make decisions from there.
4. If you weren't a teacher, what would you do?
I would like to do interior designing.  I would also like to try my hand at technical writing.  This is of course assuming that being a college professor would still be in the realm of teacher.
5. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I want to say that I would move to Hawaii to be closer to my best friend, but I think I would go island crazy after awhile.  I think moving to Costa Rica would be nice for awhile, but Minnesota is where I always call home.
6. What is your favorite meal to cook/eat?
My mom's roast beef by far is my favorite meal to eat.  I can't make mine taste like hers.
7. What is your favorite school supply? You have to choose one!
New notebooks because there are so many possibilities of what it could become.
8.  What is your best tip for new teachers?
It came from a college professor who said that becoming a teacher was a process.  You don't just walk into the classroom on the first day and suddenly become a teacher.  The first year you teach you just are.  You are five minutes ahead of the kids and things go badly sometimes.  The second year you become.  You have less things going wrong because you learned from last year.  You are better prepared and full of new things to try.  It is the third year that you say, I am a teacher.  Looking back at my first three years I would say that Sr. Patricia Ann Obremski was correct.
9. How do you handle the tardy bell? What is the first thing students do?
My school is a small private school.  We don't have a tardy bell, which is good and bad.  Kids are good about being on time.  First thing students do is get out homework for me to give them completion points.

10. How many years have you been teaching?
This will be my 15th year teaching.

Next, I need to share 11 random facts about myself:

1. I am a huge Little House on the Prairie fan.  
2. When I adopted my dog Ella from a rescue shelter, I asked her if she was sure she wanted to stay.  She put her paw on my arm and I signed the papers with a tear in my eye and giggle at her.
3. I live in Minnesota, but prefer to watch the Green Bay Packers.  Sorry Vikings fans!
4. I love gardens, but hate gardening.  I purposely buy the clearance plants that are half dead.  That way, if they don't make it I don't feel so bad and I am not out a lot of money.
5. I have a degree in Spanish Education as well as Elementary/Middle School Education.
6. I love teaching math, but math isn't a natural gift.  I have to work at it to get it.  I wish my students believed me when I tell them that.
7. I want to be a college professor someday.  I would love to work with pre-service teachers, especially in a methods course.
8. I hate when I forget to put on my watch or the battery runs out. 
9. I found out that I really like archery at camp with the kiddos.  I'm a decent shot.  I just need to practice more!
10. I love going to estate sales and garage sales.
11. I only crave chocolate that has caramel in it.

Next, I need to nominate 5 other blogs and then let them know that I've nominated them. 

School of Fisher
Algebra's Friend
The Teacher Who Hated Math
Trust Me-I'm a Math Teacher

The last thing that I have to do is pose questions to the newly nominated blogs.  So here you go!

1. Why did you decide to start blogging?
2. How long have you been teaching?
3. What is your favorite part of teaching?
4. What was your favorite subject in high school?
5. What is your favorite quick and easy dinner after a long day at school?
6. If you could transport yourself to anywhere else, where would you go?
7. What qualities make an amazing teacher?
8. Where did you go to college?  Why did you pick that school?
9. What is your favorite classroom activity?  (The one you can't wait to do each year.)
10. If you were given a magic wand to change one thing in education, what would you want to fix?

And, with those questions, I have completed the process to accept the Liebster Award.  Thanks again to Jessi at Mrs. Hester's Classroom for the nomination.

Addition and Subtraction Word Problems

This foldable is very specific to lesson 3 of Saxon, Course 3.  I wanted something this year that was more concrete and organized than what I did last year.  Classifying the problems comes up a lot it feels like during the beginning lessons of the book.  So I felt that it was important that the kiddos have something simple and straight forward to refer back to when needed.  I started with a square and folded the corners into the center.  I found it helpful to fold the square along it's vertical and horizontal lines of symmetry so that I could get the corners to match in the center better.  A little color and labeling and the outside was completed.

The inside is all organized the same.  I said if this classification was for addition or subtraction word problems, wrote the equations in words the same way the book did, and wrote the formula.  Then I made up an example similar to the book's example and solved it.  I also color coded the parts of the equation. 

I consistently used the same colors.  I am torn about that because the colors don't stand for the same thing each time.  It is just about position in the problem.  I don't want them just memorizing the position of the numbers in the problem and I am wondering if that will happen.  We'll see what happens when I teach it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Properties of Numbers

Today I was working on making a chart for my 7th grade kiddos about the commutative, associative, identity properties of addition and multiplication and the zero property of multiplication.  What I created is in the photo below:

It is just your basic table of properties and I wasn't in love with this.  I thought color would help and it did, but not enough for me to be satisfied.  I liked that this year I was going to have the kiddos decide how they would remember the property whether it was by a key word, picture, phrase, etc.  It will be more meaningful to them if they come up with something like "changes places" for the commutative properties than if I just tell them a key word.

I just remembered somewhere in the back of my head doing an activity that was actually interactive.  So the hunt through the computer files began.  I did come across an activity that I did a couple of years ago.  It was an information gap.  If you aren't familiar with an information gap, students are partnered up and each partner has missing information on their sheet.  The other partner has the information that each one needs, so through questioning each other they learn how to fill in their gaps.  It is an ELL technique that I learned several years ago.  It is actually really hard for the students to figure out how to ask for the information that they need.  They want to just copy each others' paper.

Here is the information gap that I developed for Lesson 2 of Saxon Math, Course 3.  Saxon doesn't write the property out in words, but I think that there is great value in knowing how to say and write the math in words.  Therefore, I added the words section.  Also, the first page is the full chart completely filled.  The following two pages are for the students.

I like this idea much better than just filling out and color coding a chart.  I am also thinking that this activity would be good to try using an inside-outside circle.  Since it is early in the year, it would give them a chance to talk to everyone in the class.

If you liked the format that I used at the beginning, you are welcome to it.  Here it is:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sometimes Mistakes Aren't that Bad..

I made this simple little foldable to teach finding the value of an expression given the values of the variables.  My only problem after finishing it and looking at it for a second was that I made an equation not an expression!  After a big sigh I was back to the drawing board and did come up with something.  However, this got me thinking a lot.

I started thinking about what I liked about this.  I liked that it was a hands on manipulation of an equation.  It involved thought and planning to create.  It required an understanding of input and output to be able to create.  Students also had the freedom to customize the values on their foldable.  I likes how it laid out a mapping of a function.

There seemed like my "opps!" had a lot of good surrounding it, so I didn't want to let it go.  Then it hit me!  Linear equations are always tough.  Especially when they first start to learn about two variables.  When we make tables, there doesn't always seem to be a connection between how one variable changes and its affect on the other.  So, I went back to the drawing board again and here is what I created.

I really like it, especially for my 7th grade math kiddos.  The first introduction to equations with two variables will be this year.  Hopefully, this will help solidify the idea of what is happening in two variable equations.

Now, here is what I originally set out to create:

As students replace the "a" with a value, the value of the expression can be calculated and moved into position.  A couple of tips: 1) Think about how you want it to look in the INB, especially composition notebooks.  My first one was too big for the notebook and I had to downsize.  2) I found it was easier if I traced the yellow strips width onto the paper and then determined where to cut the openings.  It was also way easier to change the size of my strips than to try and open the openings more. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Order of Operations

 I have been thinking about two lessons in my text that are three lessons apart from each other.  The first is a basic review of the order of operations and the other is about nested grouping symbols.

My thoughts have been very focused on how to make a quality graphic organizer or foldable that will help my kiddos think through the order of operations.  They tend to work from left to right which causes a problem in so many ways.

So the pictures are my graphic organizer for the review lesson.  I loved how Sarah at Math=Love ( organized the letters to PEMDAS.  So I decided to use that as the left hand side of my table and then have 3 examples that come after it.  I wanted the kiddos to think about each letter of PEMDAS and decide if they had parentheses or exponents in the problem and not just start at the left and work right.

I am going to have them color code the letters of PEMDAS which are on their sheet already and add the  L –> R above multiplying/dividing and addition/subtraction.  Then, using their colors, I want them to color code the steps on the problem before we begin to solve anything.  Again, I am hoping to stop them from simply working left to right.

After we have done all of this, we are going to work the problem.  The students will fill in one box at a time as they work the problem following the order of operations.  My other goal of this graphic organizer is to have them see what showing their work looks like.  Sneaky, huh? :)  Also, if you like this graphic organizer, you can download it at the end of this post.

The next lesson on nested grouping symbols always seems difficult for the kiddos.  I think it is terminology.  They don't use "inner most" in their vocabulary often and "inner most" changes position in problems.  I wanted a foldable that would help them to see that they start at the inner most parentheses and work their way out.

To do this, I took a fairly simple problem and three different colored pieces of paper.  I folded them over about an inch and then glued them together at the fold.  I wrote the problem so that each part was on a different color.  I also number the order in which to do the parts.

Students will then lift the flap to reveal the value of the expression.  Then, they will work the second part. 
Lifting that flap reveals that the value of the green section's expression and the rest of the expression is solved using the order of operations.  The value of the entire expression is circled after all of the operations are preformed.
This last picture is how the page in the students INB will look.  After the initial foldable, I decided not to make another for the notebook.  However, if time, I would love to give them a problem in the next day or so and ask them to make the foldable for their problem.  It would be neat to display them in the classroom.

Anyway, I elected to have the students write two additional examples and highlight the step they are going to calculate before writing the next line.  The text also throws in the absolute value symbol as a grouping symbol, so I need to say something about it.  Thus, the note about absolute value at the end.