Classroom Happenings 2.1

I can’t believe it is February!  I am excited to wrap up the percent part of ratios and proportions this week and head into Geometry!  I think we have some cool stuff going on this week I thought I would share!

Weekly Math Coversheet 2.1

I don’t think I have paid enough attention to the generating equivalent expressions piece when it comes to percents and was determined to get it worked in better this year.  Those games you used to play in elementary school when you come up with as many words as you can from a given word and thought it would be a great way to kick that off.  You can find the worksheet I made here!  Equivalent Percent Expressions

Other things going on this week are the Mathalicious lesson Biggest Loser.  Please note this is the one Mathalcious lesson that I don’t use the teacher or student guide for.  I focus strictly on the percent of change and why that is a better measure for selecting the winner than pounds lost.

I will follow that up with this great Illustrative Math task.

By the end of the week we will have some review stations set up as well but I haven’t gotten those quite figured out yet but will post when and if I do!

Stay tuned for some great Algebra I stuff from my friend Jill as well!  What are you doing this week?

 

 

 

Classroom Happenings 1/25

7th Grade Math

Funny story….

We only went to school one day last week due to Winter Storm  Jonas and its precursor storm so this week I am going to do those things I said I was going to do last week.  There is a slight chance that one the one day we went to school I got a wild hare and did the Mathalicious lesson PayDay.  The kids always love this lesson and think it hilarious to learn about how many years it would take me to earn what Lebron James does in a year.  (Here’s a hint I’ll be dead before it happens haha!)

 

I will add in a Mathalcious lesson this week called Time of Your Life mainly because my Facebook Timehop reminded me I did it this week last year and it is one of the best so I will teach it this year and add more of a percent twist in my questioning and conversation.

 

Algebra I

We are working on polynomials right now, I have two quick activities to share thanks to my wonderful teaching counterpart Jill!

The first is a Adding and Subtracting Polynomials Partner Activity  You give each student one of the polynomial cards (or you could even have them write their own which I did one class period when I realized the other class threw the cards away.)  They then travel around the room “partnering up” up with people and following the directions on their sheet.  This is a great way to get the kids up and around the room!

 

The second is a simple factoring Bingo activity called Matho that is just a more fun way to do some of that GCF practice.

 

What are you doing in your room this week?

 

 

Lessons From a Sellout

When I moved back to Kentucky after five years of successful teaching in Virginia I found myself basically unemployable by every school I applied to. I am not sure if it was my lack of going through the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program, a license that seemed to take forever to get accepted by Kentucky, or my lack of inside connections in any school system but I literally only got one interview and job offer that summer that I quickly accepted. By all accounts the school I was hired at would be labeled a “failing school” by our current legislature but I loved it. I was excited about the opportunity to help the students that needed me most and can honestly say I gave those kids everything I had for 177 days, and then at the end of the year like so many teachers in these “failing schools” I left.

I have felt like a sell out since the day I walked out of that school and into a school that would be labeled as a “distinguished school” by our current standards. My plight has supposedly always been to teach the most struggling learners however when presented with the opportunity I fled. Today each time I turn on the news or open the paper I am bombarded with thoughts on Governor Bevin’s plan to begin charter schools in our state to fix Kentucky’s “failing school problem” and I can’t help but think we are missing the boat. I felt like it was time to share my story as the teacher that sold out on the dream of teaching in a failing school and what is keeping me from going back.

My Own Reasons for Leaving

You’ll hear many people point to behavior issues as the reason teachers flee these failing schools. I can tell you that wasn’t even on the radar for me. I loved those kids. I taught five classes a day and four of them were amongst the “lowest level” math classes in the building but those kids learned EVERY DAY. They wanted to learn, they wanted to participate, and they wanted to be loved and cared for. I am telling you right now you put a loving, energetic and positive teacher in those rooms and those kids will learn. I guarantee it.

Did they do their homework? Rarely.

Were they angels every day? Not even close.

Was it exhausting? Beyond it.

Did they learn? Absolutely.

I remember when K-Prep test scores came out the following year I was desperate to find out how my kids did. Finally when the scores became public I got the validation I needed. Those lowest four classes had knocked their previous scores out of the park. Were they the highest in the state? Hardly, but those kids GREW and in my mind it was all that mattered. In my mind I had proven that those perpetually “failing kids” and “failing classrooms” weren’t hopeless but at the same time it was too late for me to help them I had already sold out and gone somewhere “better”.

A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

The first issue for “failing schools” is that label of failing. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy; you label something as failing it is sure going to fail. Why can’t we implement a growth mind set approach just like we do in our classrooms with these schools. It is time to stop calling them “failing schools” and start calling them growing schools, yet schools, schools of the future, anything but failing. Kids aren’t stupid and take a great amount of ownership in their schools, they aren’t going to work hard at a school that we carelessly judge and label as failing, that’s a fact.

If we want to fix these failing schools the solution isn’t charters as Governor Bevin suggests, it isn’t overhauling the Kentucky education system, it isn’t repealing Common Core, it simply comes down to believing that all students can learn at a high level and deserve a quality education. Districts need to put their best administrators and teachers in their neediest schools and give them the freedom to make change. Too often we take the best faculty out of these schools and put them in “better schools” because that is seen as a step up or a promotion. When I taught in the “failing school” I frequently felt looked down upon as if I was a better teacher I would be teaching at a better school and to be quite honest now that I am in one of the better schools I feel that my ideas and philosophies are given way more merit than when I was at failing school.

Time to Invest

There are some amazing teachers showing up at “failing schools” every day. They are there early and stay late. They are giving those kids everything they have. They don’t look at their kids or schools as failing they look at them as growing but they need support. It is time for Governor Bevin, the legislature, and district leadership to gather around these failing schools. Bashing these failing schools and calling for their replacement in the media isn’t the answer. Throwing money at the problem isn’t going to address the issue either. Instead investing time in believing the kids in these schools deserve the best teachers and administrators will. A charter school with poor leadership and support will fail just as quickly as a public school with the same issue. It is time to invest in the future of our most struggling learners.

Classroom Happenings 1/18

I have decided to try (notice I said try) something new for a few weeks and share what is going on in my classroom.  I know teachers are always looking for resources to put to use so I thought I would try and make it a bit easier to find some of my go to things this way!

We are currently wrapping up 7.RP.3 in the ratio and proportions unit.  Last week we focused on mentally finding percents and estimating tips.  We did lots of silent teaching which I promise to blog about soon and a lot of mental math.

 

One of the things I have started doing is giving the kids a weekly cover sheet for keeping track of vocabulary, tracking goals, etc.  You can find this weeks here:

Weekly Math Coversheet 1.18

We are going to be doing a lot of real world problem solving and you can find lots of the activities linked below:

Jock Tax

Dueling Discounts

Homework Assignments:

Double Discounts

Tax & Tip

25% sale

 

I have one last activity I am still working out in my head that I will share when I decide if it is brilliant or terrible!

Have a great week!

 

 

Core Advocates

A big thanks to the Student Achievement Partners for including me in their Core Advocates weekend and for featuring me in their newsletter this month!

Until last Saturday, I thought I was pretty successful at teaching the Common Core Math Standards. I have written numerous blog posts about how Common Core has transformed my classroom into a stronger learning environment for all learners, praised its effects on learning to parents, and have been a champion in my district for its implementation. After having the opportunity to attend the Core Advocates weekend put on by the Student Achievement Partners, it is safe to say that I now realize I have just begun to tap the potential of the Common Core’s power.

 

In many ways, it is humbling to walk into a room with some of the most inspiring teachers in Kentucky and national Achieve the Core leaders; however, there wasn’t much time to stand in awe of their power as we had our learning cut out for us over the course of the next two days.  The big idea of the weekend was examining the shifts in the Common Core Standards, specifically focus, coherence, and rigor. Each of these pieces provided me with another lens through which to view the Standards that would enable me to be a better and more effective teacher leader.

 

Without a doubt the focus aspect blew me away. I have read the focus standards repeatedly yes but somehow never connected the fact that 75-80% of teacher time was supposed to be spent on these specific standards. For example, in Kentucky’s 7th grade math unit, we only dedicate 60% of the time to these focus standards as we have divided the time up equally among the five domains. Furthermore, our state test is modeled in the same manner with 40% of our assessment covering the content standards we are only supposed to spend 20% of the time covering.

 

I have been as guilty as the next person of pointing my finger at prior grade levels and lamenting that “if only they had done a better job teaching Common Core I could be more successful”. The Core Advocates convening showed me that beauty of the Core comes in the coherence it achieves. No matter what happened previously the Standards always give teachers a chance to wrap that content and bring it right back around to where you need students to be. We had the opportunity to work with teachers from numerous grade levels to see the innumerable connections that were woven into Common Core. From as early as Kindergarten children are on the pathway to success in Algebra and it is our job as teachers to keep weaving those connections in for student success.

 

As a seventh grade teacher I have complained for four years about how disjointed the 7th grade math standards are. I felt like a complete Common Core novice after working through the coherence piece with my state colleagues. Absolutely every standard K-8 is intentional, is linked, and is necessary exactly where it is placed. Those disjointed 7th grade standards I once complained about are actually perfectly aligned. The geometry standards link right back into all three focus units while the probability standards can be directly related to the number system standards. It would be impossible for me to ever look at the standards the same way again after seeing the intentionality that was placed in writing each one.

 

The rigor piece is definitely where I was in my comfort zone since rigor has been my passion since I implemented Common Core in my classroom. It was still so very valuable to have meaningful conversations with other teachers about the true meaning of rigor. No it isn’t harder worksheets or more work but instead equal focus on concepts, skills, and application. No one piece of the three is any more valuable than the other and all three must be present to truly achieve any of the Common Core standards.

 

Here’s my big takeaway from the weekend; it is time to start working with each other to put the Common Core back together. We have spent four years deconstructing, replacing, clarifying and blaming; now, we have to go back, reconstruct, and start looking at the big picture. It is time to stop pointing our fingers and blaming the Core or the content that came before us and start seeing the beauty in the coherence of the Core and the ability to constantly wrap the content around for learners. It is time to stop looking at Common Core as about politics, money, schools or teachers and start realizing it is about learners. Our students deserve better. Our students deserve the Common Core how it was intended in its entirety, not just as a deconstructed check list of skills.

The One That Will Get Me In Trouble

*Did you get the Friends reference in the title?

I’ve got to be honest about some things that have really been on my mind educationally. It is no secret that my heart lies with helping struggling students succeed mathematically. However lately I have figured out that in order to really help these students my focus has to be so much broader than helping MY students succeed in math.

It Takes a Village

I know that subtitle is cliché but I don’t think there has ever been a time when that statement is more true educationally than it is today.   If we are going to truly make a difference not in math education or literacy but a difference in making ALL students successful then it has to stop being about MY kids and YOUR kids and THEIR kids and it has to start being about OUR kids.

It bothers me tremendously that when we talk about struggling or at risk learners we only look at them as a math and language arts problem. First and foremost as a building if we are really going to move these kids it has to be an all of us problem. Every novice student is the responsibility of not only the math and language arts teacher they have but of all the teacher and staff in the building regardless of if they ever walk in their classroom.

Larger Level

On a larger level I think I districts have to look at all novice students as a district problem not just a school level problem. I literally just heard 2 teachers from the same district talking and blatantly admitting they wouldn’t tell the other what initiatives they were doing with their students building wide because they didn’t want their “ideas” stolen. Am I the only one that sees a huge issue there? As teachers I know we do that (sometimes myself included) because we want o do whatever we can to give ourselves a leg up scores wise. But if our heart is really with these kids, if we really want to raise these kids up, shouldn’t we be offer everything we have to everyone who needs it?

And again it is larger than Districts. As schools, districts, states, and a nation we should want to do everything we can to raise every kid in America up. It isn’t about which state ranks where, who can be the first to do something, or being the best. It is about doing everything we can to make EVERY child in the United States College and Career Ready.

Every Child Needs Access to High Quality Materials

What I am going to say here won’t be popular but as educators we have to stop making education about making a dollar. Every child needs EQUAL access to high quality materials. I get that making activities, games, and card sorts takes time but when you get that really great activity and you know it works, why wouldn’t you want every child to have access to that? Why are we selling it on Teachers Pay Teachers, putting it behind lock and key, or hiding it in our room to make sure no one “steals it”?

I am not just talking about teachers either. If some of our big education companies really cared about seeing students succeed why would they make their materials so financially unattainable for our neediest schools and students?

I applaud what people like Fawn Nguyen, Andrew Stadel, Julie Reulbach, and so many others who put everything they have out there for the taking. Then there are companies like Desmos, MathShell and Illustrative Math that want to create and give resources and lessons to teachers that are rigorous and address all three components of the Common Core.

I am telling you right now though teachers and students need more. Every child in America needs access to Mathalicious lessons, Buzz Math, DreamBox, and other high quality lessons every day.

Your Challenge

So here is my challenge to you today. Start with your building today. How can you in your building help every teacher take ownership of every student in your building, especially the struggling ones. How can your art teacher support struggling students, how can your custodian help, how can your bookkeeper help, how can every person in your building help the kids that need it the most.

My second challenge is this, what do you have right now in your classroom that you could share? What great idea do you have? What awesome activity helped your kids? What are you doing that is making it a difference? You all have something to share, let’s get it out there and use it to lift all students up.

I’m Baaaack!!

Phew what a school year it has been so far.  I am not ashamed to say that I took a 2 month hiatus from the MtBos to focus on my kids at home and the 120 kids at school.  This single working mom deal is no joke!  So many interesting things have been happening in 406 both good and bad and I am looking forward to taking some time over Thanksgiving break to share those with you all.  I am making a promise to myself to blog each day over break to share something that has been going on for the last two months.

We have a new after school Math and Reading Clinic I can’t wait to share about, some truly life changing words from my students after their daily motivation videos, reflections on some of my favorite Mathalicious lessons we have done, some awesome games we have done in class and some of the struggles we are having as a team.

 

Post 1 coming up Wednesday!