Archive for July, 2010

I Missed It

July 29, 2010 12 comments

Now that summer is coming to a close for me, I am trying to get organized for school.  I find the most amazing lessons on the web from my fellow bloggers and I want to incorporate them into my class.  The problem is I often can’t find the lessons when it’s time to teach that topic.  I use delicious, but searching through the tags doesn’t seem to work for me.  I need one page where all of my standards are aligned to my text and End of Course practice along with activities; so I created one.

Under the curriculum tab at the top of this page, I’ve linked my Google Docs spreadsheet with all three classes I will be teaching first semester.  I am trying to hyperlink activities as I find them so I won’t have to search later for them or discover after the lesson that I missed it.  I hope it works!

Algebra I

Algebra II



On Board with Prezi

I made my first Prezi today.  Next week I am doing a presentation entitled, “Integrating Algebra into the 6th – 10th Grade Curriculum.”  My goal is to get middle school teachers thinking about incorporating projects and activities that lead to algebraic thinking.  After attending the Model Schools Conference in Florida this summer, I decided to incorporate some of their material.  They have some good lesson plans.  Fortunatly, my school purchased the hard copy lesson plans and an online subscription.   (By the way, this conference was my first exposure to Prezi.)

I’m not sure if my Prezi stands alone or if it needs me explaining each step.  I did ‘borrow’ material from the great Dan Meyer for my prezi (I gave him credit).  His “How I Met Your Mother” WCYDWT is my favorite.  I’m not sure how it’s going to go over with middle school teachers to admit that we talk about hot and crazy girls in class.  Oh well…

I have to say that I love Prezi.  Being a linear thinker, I wasn’t on board at first, but now that I’ve made one, I’ll go back to it.  It is super easy!  My only concern is that teacher’s are already bombarded with new mediums all of the time and trying to get my coworkers onboard with something new is a challenge.  I know what they are thinking, “First it was Powerpoint, then SmartBoard, and now Prezi.  What’s next?”  My only desire is to try and stay current.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Cost of a Free Education

July 22, 2010 4 comments

Be warned, this post is written by ‘Amber the Mom’ and not ‘Amber the Teacher’ but it is relevant to education.  I have two children entering the public school system this year.  One of my children will be in 4th grade and my youngest is entering kindergarten.  I received both of their class assignments today along with a supply list.  My supply list for my high school students looks like this:

  • Pencil or Pen (I don’t care)
  • Paper
  • Calculator (Graphing would be nice but if you can’t afford it, I will rent one to you for $10 for the entire semester.)

That’s it.  I realize I don’t have art and craft projects or anything of that nature.  Over the years I have obtained classroom sets of rulers, proctractors, and compasses along with colored pencils and scissors, so I’m good to go in my classroom.

My sons’ lists are two pages long.  After a $100 trip to Wal Mart I’m mad!  Not only did my oldest son need 6 plactic folders, but the colors were specified.  He needed purple, red, blue, green, yellow, and black.  I had to go to three stores to find all of the colors.  He needed earbuds for the computer lab and a mini white dry erase board.  He is required to bring a box of dry erase markers, a dry erase board eraser, 3 boxes of Kleenex, paper towels, hand sanitizer, bleach wipes…..and the list goes on! 

The worst is my youngest son’s list.  He had the same list as my older son along with a white t-shirt, a cream pillowcase, a $5 gift card to Wal-Mart.  Did I mention that I am required to pay a $30 school fee per student as well.  I’m rethinking my class supply list.  Do you think I can add a new car to my list?

Categories: General

Business Cards in Education

July 18, 2010 4 comments

For those of you who utilize SBG or are considering it, I would like to share my only frustration with it and my solution for it.  I allow the students to retest before school, after school and during our one hour lunch program.  (The one hour lunch program deserves its own post.)  This means that sometimes during lunch or after school, there are 20 students lined up in front of my desk waiting to retest different objectives.  Talk about stress!  Some problems are easy to come up with on the fly and others I struggle with creating.  I came up with this solution about half way through the final semester and it definitely helped me.  The students seemed to appreciate not standing in line as long either.

I was at Target one day (my favorite place on earth next to Disney), and found the self print business cards on clearance.  I bought all of them on the display rack.  I spent a couple of days this summer creating a ‘test bank’ of questions on business cards.  I labeled them by topic and objective.  Here are some samples:  Solving Equations, Linear Equations & Scatter Plots, Absolute Value Equations, Absolute Value Inequalities.   I plan on marking a small number on the back so I can keep track of which question is which.  I keep a notecards file in my desk and when a student wants to retest, I pull out a business card with a problem.  The students do the work on their own half sheet of paper, so I can reuse the card.  I do make a note in my gradebook as to which question the student retested so if they need to retest it, I do not give them the same problem. 

Ok, here is the best part.  After lunch, when 25- 30 kids have retested, my third block walks in the room and asks, “Do you have our retests graded?”  I want to respond, “Yes, during the 10 minute break I had I gave up going to the bathroom and grabbing my own lunch to grade your assessment,” but that seems harsh so I kindly respond with “No.”  I did create a master list of all of the problems and the answers and hand it with all of the restests to my trustworthy student worker and have her grade them.  I still look over them before handing them back, but this is a huge time saver.

Disclaimer:  I still make up problems on the fly when there is not a line in front of my desk or if a kid catches me in the hallway and wants to demonstrate knowledge (this brings a tear to my eye).  The business cards are a for when I’m stressed but want to allow a student every chance I can give them.

Building a Bridge

July 15, 2010 2 comments

I am tired of teachers playing the blame game.  I admit that I have done this in the past.  I am ashamed that I did and I am trying to reform.  If you teach math, you are familiar with the blame game.  For example, I teach Algebra II and some of my students can not solve a two step equation if their life depended on it.  I’m sure the Algebra I teacher is to blame.  If the student would have had me for Algebra I they would be master equation solvers.  NOT TRUE!

I know the Algebra I teachers personally and I know that they cover their standards in a relevant and rigorous manner.  So what’s the problem.  I’m not sure, but I can tell you after having my own child, I think I might be the problem (as a parent).  My son enters the 4th grade in three weeks and he does not know his multiplication facts.  I know his 3rd grade teacher taught them and I know he took timed tests but asking him 4 x 8 yields the same response as “What is the air speed of an African Swallow?”  I even did flash cards during the school year!  The solution is for me as a mom to sit down with him this summer and reteach him the math facts.  We will play multiplication games and every car trip will involve multiplication drill.  We have a daily math fact taped on his wall.  Most students don’t have the curse benefit of having a math teacher for a mom.

I met with the math department chair for our feeder middle school and it was amazing.  Guess what, they are teaching the standards.  They are covering the material in a relevant and rigorous manner.  So what’s the problem?  The elementary school teachers?  I think not.  We need to stop playing the blame game and start with the students at the level they arrive to us.  I can’t solve the student readiness problem, but I can build a bridge.  I felt that my meeting today did that.  A bridge has been built between our high school math department and the middle school.  The 9th grade teacher who has a 25% failure rate can no longer blame the middle school teachers just as the 6th grade teacher can’t blame the elementary teachers. 

I do have one suggestion for solving this problem:  SBG.  It changed my classroom.  I went from a 25% failure rate to 4%.

Categories: General Tags:

Racing Through My Heart

I am always on the hunt for cross curricular activities and the students love the chance to get out of the classroom and visit the gym.  I use this project in my Algebra I course and sometimes at the beginning of my Algebra 2 course for review.  This project is as relevant as I can get for solving and graphing linear equations.  This activity tends to also get my athletes involved, which is always a good thing.  It doesn’t hurt that Tennessee is one of the most obese states and my students need this knowledge.

I give the students this information:


I then give them a scenario that we work together. 
For example, Linda is 40 yrs old, has a resting heart rate of 75 and is just beginning her exercise program (her intensity level will be for a beginner).

220-age = Maximum heart rate (220-40=180 MHR)

MHR-RHR= 180-75 = 105

Linda’s minimum training heart rate:
(180 – 75) x .50 (Min. intensity) + 75 = 128 beats/minute

Linda’s maximum training heart rate:
(180 – 75) x .60 (Max. intensity) + 75 (RHR) = 138 beats/minute

Therefore, as a beginning exerciser, Linda’s target heart rate range is 128-138 beats/minute.

I then ask the students to find their own RHR and THR.  The students then create posters to hang in the gym and weight room that help people find their THR.  I ask the students to include a graph in the pamphlet where the RHR is the independent variable and the dependent variable is the THR.  I normally assign each group an age level appropriate for high school and ask them to produce a graph for each intensity level. 

When the groups finish the posters and the data is verified, we take a trip to the gym and weight room and hang them on the walls.

Categories: Algebra 1, Algebra 2 Tags: ,

Virtual Conference on Soft Skills

July 6, 2010 27 comments

Remediation After Assessment

“I’ll present how to graph quadratic equations tomorrow, Mrs. C.  I just nailed it on the assessment.”  This is music to my ears.  I used to dread the day after an assessment (or test for those of you who are not on the SBG bandwagon).  I would hand the assessment back to the students and would proceed to go over the most missed problems or any gaps in learning the assessments revealed.  I asked another teacher how she went over tests with her students and her reply was, “I don’t.  If the students didn’t get it, too bad; we are moving on.”  (Ok, maybe it wasn’t that negative, but it sounded like that to me.) 

My classroom was not much better.  While I stood at the front of the classroom working problems from the assessment, some of the students put their heads down totally discouraged that they failed or nearly failed several of the assessments. Those who performed perfectly, picked up a book (non math) and proceeded reading.  I felt like it was the most wasted 20 – 30 minutes of my week.

This year I implemented sessions.  The day after an assessment, I approach the students who mastered certain topics and ask him or her to present one of the sessions that day.  I arrange the classroom differently on session day, placing the desks in small groups or pods.  The groups are labeled with the topics from the previous day’s assessment.  For example, the groups might be labeled as follows:

  • Graphing Quadratic Equations
  • Factoring Trinomials
  • Solving Quadratic Equations Using the Quadratic Formula

I may even add in a topic from a previous assessment if several of the students still need to retest or display competency on it.  This alleviates the demand for tutoring outside of school for me and helps those students who can’t come in early or stay late.

As the students are walking into the classroom, I will hand their assessments back to them and tell them to join a session.  If a student did well on all of the topics, I ask them to join the group they can provide the most help in.  I often hand an assessment back to a student and say, “You need to attend the session on graphing.”  It is not a choice for them.  The students who did the best on the assessments are the presenters.  They go over the problems from the previous day’s assessment and another example I provide them with.  I prepare these on notecards ahead of time.  The students are required to pose all of their questions to the presenters.  I am only a facilitator and make sure all groups are on task and try not to get involved in any one session.  Students are free to move to another session once he or she has mastered that topic.  Sessions last a total of 15 minutes.  This means students must work together quickly. 

My students love session day.  They are so proud to be asked to be one of the presenters.  I have students who have never studied for a test prepare for the assessments so they can be a presenter.  It is interesting to see different methods to solve the same problems come out in the groups.  Students who are often shy or quiet in class will speak and share in a session. 

One of the things that shocked me most in teaching is that the students in my classroom do not always know each other.  They may go the entire year and never speak to the person sitting next to them.  These sessions alleviate that problem and force them to interact in a safe environment.