Classroom Website

Check out my classroom website!!

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I’ve always used this site, but I dropped it for a bit last year. My previous school district had each teacher have a website and I chose to create my own because that is who I am. I love making my life harder as well as learning new things.

Currently, I use Google Classroom and Google Drive to hold most of my school stuff for the kids, but for some reason I just like using this site. I think because coding is really interesting to me. Perhaps it is becoming a little obsolete and unnecessary though…

I’ve also been linking my important google docs together to create some seamlessness for the kids to click back and forth through – and it is almost like a website… hmmm

Helpful Links: tinyurl.com/BurtonMathHelp

What do you use?

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The Blog is COMING BACK

I’ve been awfully silent here on somebecomepearls.com … so silent that I accidentally let my domain expire, and now I am back to somebecomepearls.wordpress.com until I figure out what to do… But after a 1 1/2 year hiatus I AM COMING BCK.

In the time since I last posted:

  • I moved to a new city
  • I started teaching at a new middle school
  • I am still teaching 7th grade math, but…
  • I started teaching Math 7 full time (versus Algebra 1 & Adv Math 7)
  • I see my students HALF as much as I saw my previous students
  • I also teach the 7th grade ELL/ESL students math (within my regular classroom)
  • I have a little less on my plate because I’m not on any instructional committees… so that is good, but feels a little strange to be disconnected
  • I still do Standard Based Grading, and am the only one at my school who does it but I’m trying…
  • And this year (year #2 at new school) we are changing our schedule where we see our kids 3 times @ 45 minutes, and 1 time for ~ 90 mins

What you can expect from Some Become Pearls NOW:

  • How I’m modifying SBG to work with my current population
  • How I modify my pacing/plan for our new schedule (HOW DO YOU TEACH IN 45 MINUTE BLOCKS I FORGET!!)
  • More of my Interactive Notebook Materials
  • How I teach my ELL kids

Why I am coming back:

  • I loved & missed the blogging community
  • I loved & missed getting feedback
  • I think it held me accountable
  • I am hoping it will help me regain my identity as a teacher
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Verbal Expressions Mobile

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TheAssignment

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TheDetails

What we needed: colored paper, white paper, string, single hole punch, string/yarn/fishing wire, wire hanger, paperclip (to connect to ceiling)

Another option for hanging is to use straws, connect them to form a circle, and hang items from them. Not the sturdiest option, but if you have a lot of straws and no hangers, it works.

When I did it: I do this activity after we talked about the many ways to refer to different operations and practice translating verbal & algebraic expressions.

How it went: This is a fun activity to get them to think more about what the operations mean and to get them to write about them. I like getting kids to write whenever possible, and this is one opportunity. It’s not necessarily the most “math heavy” work we do, but it does become clear who really “gets” what each mean.

How I used it: I counted it as a small project grade. Here is my rubric:

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How you can use it: Use at any levels as a way to review operations and vocab associated with the operations

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21st Century Teaching & Learning

In the Spring of 2013 I was fortunate enough to be a member of the 21st Century Teaching Leads to 21st Century Learning Grant Project.  This was a project between  UVA’s School of Continuing & Professional Outreach and Virginia DOE Mathematics & Science Partnership with the goal of working with Virginia high school math teachers to learn the 5E lesson planning model and PBL unit planning process.

Description of the  Grant Project

Description of the Grant Project

I was familiar with what a lot of the course covered, and used pieces of it in my instruction of Algebra & Pre-Algebra, but having this instruction and experience was invaluable.  Much of what was covered I recalled from my classes in college: the 5E lesson planning model from my methods course in science and Inquiry Based Learning from my math methods courses in college.

Having 5E, Inquiry Based, and PBL combined, reinforced, and applied to higher levels of math inspired me.   It also made me feel like I had been teaching at such a lower level than I was capable of.  I was in my 2nd year of teaching and thought I was doing a pretty good job teaching and was proud of what I had accomplished, but this was a wake up call to me- there was so much more I could be doing with my students to challenge them.  I spent most of the sessions listening intensely and taking notes of what I wanted to adjust from my curriculum.  My brain was flooded with ideas and inspiration.  I would catch myself feeling like I was the worst teacher, not pushing my kids, not doing this, not doing that, until realizing that all of the other teachers at the conference were in the same position I was in.  We were there because we wanted to learn, we wanted to do more, and we already were doing a great job.  A lot of what we learned and talked about reinforced what I was already doing or trying to do.

If you want to check out the work that was done, check out the Mathematics Capstone Course. There are task based lessons, project based learning, and problem based learning examples- most are targeted at high school math, but could be adapted for lower level maths with some work.

Simultaneously I was taking a course, Returning Creativity to the Classroom, through Walden University (online) and working on a grant project for my school, developing a new learning space.  All 3 of these projects were working the same goals for students which made me feel so educated and prepared, but it also overwhelmed my brain.  I felt like all I thought about, all day and night, was students, challenging students, getting my students to be more creative, pushing my students to apply what they are learning.  Needless to say, the summer could not have come soon enough.

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Classroom Tour 2013-2014

Welcome to my classroom! Here is a peak into my classroom.  I haven’t taken photos of everything in here so there are some KEY THINGS missing!  I didn’t take a picture of my front board & Promethean OR my desk!

Door & Classroom

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front door & view from the door

Tables:

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student help/work/supply table & table that students work under

“The Big Air Unit” aka Turn In/Absent Work/Display Area:

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area above the radiator becomes useful

Entrance Pick Up Area:

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pouches, lost & found, and calculators when entering the room

  “Big Blue” aka Where Everything is Organized:

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everything is here, including an area for students to refill their “pouches”

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Tower Building Activity

I decided to do this because this year I am focusing on incorporating more 21st Century Skills into activities and assignments.  EdLeader21 has been a great resource for ideas.  To assess my students abilities with the 4Cs, I used a “Tower Building” task as a pre-assessment.   I had seen it at a 21st Century Learning & Teaching Workshop and done it with some fellow math teachers, and couldn’t wait to finally do it.

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During the activity, I wandered around hearing conversations, and learning a lot about how my kids were going to handle a task that didn’t have a right answer or directions.

I saw who takes charge of an activity and who sits back
I learn who could be a distracting member of the group
I learn who is going to do the minimum and who is going to do more than I ask
I also learn who is going to follow directions

… and this is another task where there isn’t math- so what’s left is a student’s ability.

TheAssignment

Goal: Students will be placed in groups of 4-6 and build a tower.  The students were given limited information to begin with and needed to decide what they needed to know to complete the task.

Grouping: Group them prior to beginning in whatever way you see fit.  You can hold off having them sit in their groups so they don’t start thinking about who they are with.

Set Up: I put all the items the students would use in a paper bag before class.

Directions: Once students are grouped, explain:

Your goal is to build the best tower in the class with your group.

TheDetails

What we needed: the pre-assessment packet I created so that the students could document their thinking and I could easily assess it after (this was instead of diligently monitoring the students or video taping them), and the building supplies (brown bag, spaghetti, popsicle sticks, marshmallows, dixie cup, rubber band, 1 inch sponge, 18 inches tape)

Packet the kids filled out as they worked (so I could see their thoughts)

When I did it: during the school year (1st quarter) as a pre-assessment of student’s 4C abilities

How it went: Really well.  The groups were somewhat random (I picked and attempted fair grouping), but could be picked as part of a “team” or with some planning of student abilities.  We chose to have the students build the tallest tower that could ALSO support 1 kg (needed to come up with strict rules as to what meant “support”)

How I used it: I used it as a pre-assessment of the 4Cs so that I know what I need to work on with my kids, as well as to get more information about grouping my students.

How you can use it: First day(s) activity for your class or homeroom.  Group teamwork/bonding activity at the start of a new project or when you assign new groups/teams in your class.  Collaboration lesson for students who are struggling or learning how to collaborate and work with others.

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I can’t find my pictures of the final products!

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SBG: Tips & Tricks

Disclaimers: I did not invent Standards Based Grading, I did not come up with this system 100% on my own, I was/am a huge advocate for it in classrooms, and I do love Dan Meyers. Also, this is all my opinion. I will site things when necessary so you know I am not just making things up. Check my other posts!

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Have a personal reason for SBG so you are more invested.  My favorite part of SBG is that I have a better clue of what my class as a whole is understanding as well as how individual students are doing.  Grading is more meaningful for me.  I can focus on the meaning of the grades because I have time to.  Some ways to get organized and save time:

create a template for quizzes & requizzes [how to on mac & pc]

have a system for turning in quizzes/requizzes

have a system for picking up/taking requizzes

have a system for getting help (on own or with teacher)

Create a system so that you don’t have to do secretarial work. Having systems and procedures in place, especially if the student can be responsible, will make your life easier.  Posters explaining the procedures will help (I had to have one), and hopefully remove the 10 questions you would have to answer 1,000 times a week.  Whatever you do, try to find things that would be a tedious aspect, and see if you can find ways to make it happen without you.  Not having to manage who was coming in for requizzes, what requizzes they wanted, and getting them the requizzes, meant that I could spend more time either planning things or helping kids. Whatever you do, modify it if isn’t working- the kids can adapt!

There can easily be more papers, so find a way to organize. For the requizzes, figure out a way to organize them so that it is easy for you and your kids to deal with.  Don’t only think of the hard copies and where you will put them, but think of the electronic copies you will be making.  Come up with a naming system or folders to keep things easily accessible.  With the kids turning things in, maybe you want a separate turn in location for requizzes.  Maybe you want the quizzes to be done online through a service or website.  Avoid headaches whenever possible!

Find a time to set up to work with kids that works for you. What I did worked for me, my students, and the schedule of our school day.  We start at 9am, so there is time (and it isn’t offensively early) before school and the 1st 3o minutes of the day is homeroom/remediation time.  This time for us is built in, but having time set up, that the kids (& parents) know about, will make life easier than having to create time on a student by student basis.

Cut back on the number of requizzes by having requirements.  If you want to make sure students are prepared for their requiz, require proof of some type of remediation, work or practice before they take it. Having a system in place for them to follow, instead of needing your guidance will make this an easier process and allow you to spend more time helping the student instead of preparing or managing the work. Think about what you have been doing that you can reuse.  Again, you can always change your mind or set up a new system.  Some options I have thought of:

Assign remediation work for them to do (and turn in)

Require quiz corrections (and turn in or go over)

Create a form for students to complete explaining what they have done to prepare.

Create Khan Academy accounts and require them to watch the video and do the exercise (you can track this) before requizzing.

Have students track their progress on their own. My kids had a sheet where they kept track of their scores.  This allowed them to stay on top of their grade, regardless of their computer access, and allowed them to explain to their parents how they were doing.  As students track, they get competitive with themselves and each other, and I think a little of that is ok. They may compare the number of 4s or 5s they get in comparison to each other.  They will be excited when they receive 5s on their 1st attempt.

Explain the system CLEARLY to parents from the start to hopefully avoid too many questions throughout.  Just like students have access to progress, parents can also more easily see their kids progress, so they stay on top of their child.  Helicopter parents can become even more helicopter-ish in this scenario.  I took time to explain the system and idea of SBG at the beginning of the year, but didn’t explain how the gradebook would work.  This was mainly because I wasn’t sure how I would have to “rig it” to make it work.  Over the school year, this led to many questions about what things meant.  Having an explanation of what it will look like in the gradebook (from their view) will help.  Having answers to FAQ (like, “what can my child do to bring up their grade” or “why is my kid struggling”) may also limit that.  Give them answers to questions they may have, before they email you.  I imagine the more they know, and the more their children know, will cut back on disagreements or misunderstandings at home.  Have your students explain it to parents as part of homework one night.  Let your students be the experts so their parents trust them.

Kids may need some help coming in for requizzes.  If you are realizing it is becoming a hassle to get (all, or some, or specific) kids to come in for requizzes you can do somethings to get them to come in.  As you decide what to implement, think about if the kids are not coming in because they are struggling from an academic perspective or if they are struggling from a logistic perspective.  Also think about if the problem is a class wide issue or if it a specific student(s).  If it is logistics, consider class time, lunch time, after school sessions, take home options, or something else.  This could be set up on a student by student basis, coming up with a plan that works for the kids.  If it is an academic issue, the kids are struggling and maybe getting overwhelmed, this is where having a conversation with the kid(s) to help them figure out what to do to get back on track may help. I created an, AlgebraSuccessPlan that I had some kids fill out to help them manage their time and the help they may need.

Posting scores can boost some in class competition.  Having a way to track a student’s progress in mastering concepts can visually have some kids make sure they are keeping up. I would recommend if you started this, offer a lot of support at the beginning to keep kids from being the last kid to master a concept, and then eventually offer less so that they become the ones responsible for keeping up.  Posting the number of concepts each class has mastered, or each class’s average score, etc… can create some fun competition, as well as let you see the differences in classes.

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