Monday, July 15, 2013

CAMT 2013 - Day 3

Supporting All Learners: Making it Real, Grade 6 - Crystal Munsinger, ESC 4

This session presented a ready to use lesson for sixth grade students on writing equations from problem situations.  It was something I could see myself using in the classroom but very similar to pieces of CSCOPE curriculum I'm currently already using.

Similar lessons could be purchased from Region 4 STAAR Resources.

Power of Personal Learning Networks - Eric Sheninger

Amazing session-  I could not tweet fast enough to keep up.  Thank goodness Todd Nesloney was in the room and tweeing away:

A PLN brings all the best resources from all over the world TO YOU.

PLN puts you in control of your learning... and that learning benefits students.

"My PLN has transformed the teaching and learning culture at my school" - Eric Sheninger

Link from session:

Unlocking Successful Math Apps for Teachers/Students - Kristen Kirby

Top 5 Manipulative Apps-

Algebra Concepts, Number Rods, Equivalence Tiles, Virtual Manipulatives, Hundreds Chart

Top 5 Game Apps-

BrainPop, King of Math, Slice it, Dirt Bike Pro, Pizza 3

Others shared by participants in session-

Lobster Dive, Pearl Diver, Digit Whiz

Flipped Classroom with Ninjas! - Todd Nesloney 

Oh my goodness, amazing presenter, such a fun session, so energizing, lots to think about...

My notes for this session were all over the place.  I didn't want to put my head down long enough to write anything down because I was scared I would miss something.  I cannot imagine the energy in Todd's classroom.

Check out for web 2.0 tools, apps, and more!

Check out for flipped classroom information, tech tools, and Todd's class blog.

Some questions that were in my head that were answered in this session:

  • How do I make flipped classroom work if students don't have computers or access to internet at home?  Allow kids to bring flash drives to store flipped videos if they have a computer but no internet, many students have PS3 or XBOX that allow them to play DVDS so burn flipped lessons onto re-writable DVDs, iPod nano and iTunesU enable students to take videos home without needing a computer or internet connection
  • What about parental support?  Some parents will fight it at first, because it is uncomfortable for them.  Let students train their parents- on both the math and how to use the technology!
  • How do I ensure they actually watched the video?  Todd's students complete WSQ - Watch, summary, question.  Tell me when/where you watched the lesson, summarize the lesson (probably the most difficult for students), write one question you have about the lesson
  • What about students who insist they don't have questions?  If you don't have a question, write down a question that you think someone else may have had- or create a word problem 
The next day in class students get in small groups to discuss WSQ.  They choose their favorite summary and that person stands.  Favorite summaries are shared and hopefully they sound extremely similar...driving points home to the class.  
  • What about students who didn't do it?  They don't participate in class the next day.  They get to watch the video while class is discussing and then spend the rest of class working on worksheets related to the video.  No excuses.  Students who chose not to do the assignment and students who had difficult circumstances that resulted in them missing the assignment have very different conversations with teacher, but both receive same consequence. 
Other things worth noting-
  • Include students in the planning process.  Giving students a voice will change your classroom
  • Leave mistakes in flipped classroom videos.  Encourages kids to take risks and learn from their mistakes.  
  • 3 places Todd goes for project ideas: pinterest, twitter, 
  • During projects, ask students why they did it that way?  Asking why does not mean students are wrong. 

CAMT 2013 - Day 2

Make math a hoot - Teach digital root! - Kathy Collins

A number's digital root is a single digit value obtained by adding the digits of a number repeatedly until you are left with a one digit sum.

Ex)  23 --> 2 + 3 = 5 so 23 has a digital root of 5
85 --> 8 + 5 = 13 --> 1 + 3 = 4 so 85 has a digital root of 4

Kathy Collins, a Kim Sutton Associate, discussed digital root as a way to check divisibility, determine factors of a number, and a method to check whole number computation:

I can see using the digital root when teaching divisibility rules but was not a huge fan of using it to check whole number computation (especially the subtraction).  The multiplication check would be my favorite because there was some fact practice incorporated.

Overall, neat concept, but probably not something that will have a huge place in my classroom.

Teaching Number Sense to iGeneration - Eric Milou

"This session will examine issues about whole numbers and rational numbers and the lack of students' sense making with such numbers.  Participants will be engaged in strategies and activities using technology that can lead to building better number and fraction sense and to consider issues around curricular coherence"

Really fun and engaging speaker.  Emphasized the use of technology.  He started off by stating "Technology = Motivation" which I completely disagree with.  Technology used effectively can absolutely be motivating to students, but simply using technology does not make something engaging.  He did provide ways to use technology in effective, motivating, authentic ways though:  <<  Lessons, Games, Etc.

Seriously- overwhelming amount of resources which I have not even begun to really dig into:

Dan Meyer's 3 Acts

Andrew Stadel 3-Act Math Tasks
Lessons by Kaplinsky

My plan is to organize these resources into the units and sequence I'm required to teach this summer so when I come to a unit, I already have a handful of ways to present problems to students and I don't have to spend tons of time searching.

The TEKS Process Standards: The Best TEKS of All - Robyn Silbey

To maximize student understanding of problems have them explain their plan for solving without using numbers.

Clueless- Unintended Consequences of Using Clues of Key Words - Cathy Seeley

  • The best way to formatively assess a student is to listen to their problem solving process.
  • There is a difference in solving word problems and solving mathematical problems posed with words.  
  • What students need for their future is as much about how they think as it is about what they know
  • Their futures are in our hands and ours are in theirs
  • Book recommendation: Mindset by Carol Dweck
  • Resource:

Building Powerful Numeracy: Fractions and Ratios - Pamela Harris 

Probably my favorite session of the day.  Such an energizing and engaging presenter! 

  • Math is figure-out-able!
    Not memorizable.  <<- When you sing cute songs and play cute games it supports this.  
  • Look to most ef´Čücient strategies and buildproportional reasoning at the same time
  • Teachers build own numeracy
  • It’s about relationships
    Among numbers to solve problems
    Between teachers and students to build young mathematicians
Harris took us through problem strings to build relationships among numbers to solve problems.  On this one...think about a clock: 

  • 30 minutes + 20 minutes = 50 minutes, 50/60, 6 equal sections of 10 minutes each, so 5/6 
  • students solve addition of fraction problems by understanding relationships in numbers, not by rushing to an algorithm that isn't built on conceptual understanding 
  • Develop relationships using naturally occurring denominators (think money /100 and clock /60) but continue to develop relationships- don't leave them here! 
Quote from Harris, "Oh, that's going to be hard, so let's reframe it!  No!  If it is going to be hard then they need to confront it.  Put the misconception in front of them!"

This session flew by and left my head spinning a little... definitely plan on purchasing this book though:

CAMT 2013 - Day 1

Capturing, Sharing, Resolving Perplexity - Dan Meyer

I was so incredibly excited to hear Dan speak.  And he did not disappoint.  I first came across Dan Meyer in this video:

I followed him on twitter and had looked into Teaching with 3 Act Tasks, but had not yet integrated any of these tasks or types of problems into my own classroom.  

What is perplexity?  Not confusion.  It is students asking questions and  wanting to know the answers.  This is not to be confused with engagement.  Use tasks that make it near impossible for students to not ask their own mathematical questions.  In watching videos in Act I, you are left asking a question, with an eagerness to jump in and solve, or engage in mathematics.  

Capture perplexity-  RSS reader (I'm currently using feedly with google reader gone), save and download youtube videos using keepvid, way to take notes, audio recorder, camera 

Share perplexity- computer with speakers and projector, document camera to display student work

Resolve perplexity- focus on standards, only use technology as a tool if it is being used to capture, share, or resolve perplexity 

**This year I will begin class not with "Today we are going to learn about...." but "Today we are going to ask about..." 

Not so Common Sense - Rachel Cruze
  • We can change the lives of students by teaching them about money NOW.
  • 7 out of 10 Americans live paycheck to paycheck.  This is our normal.  Challenge students and give them the knowledge and tools they need to be better than normal.
  • Break the cycle, give students the knowledge to make better financial decisions.  
  • Coming away from Dan's session... I thought-  why just tell and show students these statistics?  Certainly engaging, but not perplexing.  Instead ask students: what would happen if you put that car payment into a mutual fund earning 12% interest... let them find the answer.
  • Several links to resources: , ,

Math- Fun & Games for All, Part II

This session was presented by sixth grade math teachers in Huntsville ISD.  Documents here
  • Fraction War - compare fractions using dominoes- template for dominoes included
  • Board games-  Let's Fly, Game on!, Its All Yours! - The team presented multiple board games that could be used with essentially any topic.  Create game cards with questions for any topic (equivalent fractions, vocabulary, computation, etc)  Students draw a card, answer the question on that card, and if correct spin the spinner or roll the dice and move their token the allotted number of spaces.  An incorrect answer does not get to move their token.
    If you have worksheets already, instead of creating cards, you could have blank cards that indicate a problem number.  Students draw a card to tell them which problem they work.  
  • I See It In Threes- Using dominoes.  Players draw dominoes from a pile and write the fraction on the domino and then convert to decimal and a percent.  
  • Ad's Up!  With dominoes this game has multiple stages.  Students begin adding fractions and work up to adding mixed numbers (using a combination of a dice roll and dominoes).  
  • Convert My ? - Turn over a domino.  The left side is feet and the right side is inches.  Convert to inches.  Could work with any measurement conversions. 
  • Top Dog- Students use dominoes to form fractions and see who can add their dominoes together to form the largest number.  
  • You Can't See Me - Place Value, could use in compare/order decimals in sixth grade

Mathematical Processes in Action - Juli Dixion 

"Student engagement in the mathematical processes is widely supported, but what it looks like in the classroom remains elusive.  Explore classroom videos of the process in action and discuss their use as a tool for professional development" - from CAMT catalog 

Mathematical process standards. The student uses mathematical processes to acquire and demonstrate mathematical understanding. The student is expected to:
(A)  apply mathematics to problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace;
(B)  use a problem-solving model that incorporates analyzing given information, formulating a plan or strategy, determining a solution, justifying the solution, and evaluating the problem-solving process and the reasonableness of the solution;
(C)  select tools, including real objects, manipulatives, paper and pencil, and technology as appropriate, and techniques, including mental math, estimation, and number sense as appropriate, to solve problems;
(D)  communicate mathematical ideas, reasoning, and their implications using multiple representations, including symbols, diagrams, graphs, and language as appropriate;
(E)  create and use representations to organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas;
(F)  analyze mathematical relationships to connect and communicate mathematical ideas; and
(G)  display, explain, and justify mathematical ideas and arguments using precise mathematical language in written or oral communication.

     These were some things I tweeted during this presentation: 
  • If students can create word problems for numerical expressions, they have a greater grasp of numerical and operational concepts
  • Instead of giving students word problems and asking them to solve it, give them a numerical expression and ask them to write a problem.
  • If classroom feels neat and controlled, then the teacher is probably doing majority of thinking. Be okay with walking away from struggling students
  • When we expect students to use multiple representations then we need to be prepared to accept them
  • Instead of telling students the angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees, challenge them to draw a triangle in which that is not true
3 rules when working in cooperative groups:
  1. Provide an explanation and justification for your solutions and answers
  2. Make sense of classmates' solutions
  3. Communicate when you don't agree or don't understand

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Teacher Report Card

The last week of school I had my students complete a "Teacher Report Card" using a google form. I wish I could say I created this...but I stole/borrowed from Matt Vaudrey--> see here.

Some things I'm taking with a grain of salt because, well, I teach middle school.  So the student that gave me 1's across the board...well thanks.   But I do value my stduents' opinions and have spent time reflecting on each of these things and working on ways to improve for next year.

If you know me very well.... I was always an all A student.  My one B in high school was in PE....go ahead and laugh.  And my one B in college was in Calculus II.  So only two A's is not okay with me.  My focus this summer is going to my C's (and lower, ouch!) but I obviously have lots of work ahead of me :)

Seems to enjoy teaching- 4.52
Encourages me to be responsible- 4.54

Speaks clearly - 4.49
Uses language we can understand- 4.47
Grades fairly- 4.47
Has a great sense of humor- 4.41
Gives tests that reflect material in unit- 4.26
Leads good class discussions- 4.23
Tries new teaching methods- 4.19
Praises good work- 4.19
Provides time for review- 4.17
Encourages different opinions- 4.17
Listens to our ideas- 4.16
Gives good, fair assignments- 4.12
Dresses professionally- 4.12
Gives enough time for assignments- 4.12
Answers questions completely- 4.07

C's and below (which are just NOT ok with me)
Respects each student- 3.99
Explains topics clearly- 3.97
Treats me as an individual- 3.95
Has interesting lessons- 3.93
Tells us our learning goals- 3.86
Gives fair punishments- 3.84
Shows interest in student lives- 3.76
Has a good pace- 3.72
Makes me feel important- 3.71  (that one hurts)
Does a good job of treating all students the same- 3.69
Tries to see the students point of view- 3.69
But then I get comments like this, "We always have fun in her class, she always tries to see what the students point of view is instead of what hers is."
Keeps the class under control without being too tough- 3.47 (that is failing!)

Answers to other questions:

How can this class be improved?
"More reviewing before test so we make better grades or we stay on that topic a little longer."  - I agree...pressed with scope and sequence required by district though...
"if some of the people in class can stop being bad and listen.."  -Haha, I got a lot of responses like this... it was not the intention of the question but a lot of the students responded with ways their classmates could have improved the class.
"Ms.Stephens is more strict to the later classes than morning ones. I think she needs to loosen up just a bit." -  Ouch...maybe that is true.
"I think the class cam be improved by not getting the whole class in trouble when it is only one person." - Goal of mine...just always struggle to figure out ways to do this.
"By not having so many assignments and we need more technology" - More technology is at the top of my to do list! :)

Your friend tells you that they have Ms. Stephens next year.  What do you tell them?
"I would say sixth grade math is hard, but Ms.Stephens has you covered. She has different teaching methods than your teacher last year but I know she will get you used to it."
"I would honestly say she is an  AMAZING TEACHER but beware that you have to behave in her class because she can be strict but also fun and thats what makes her a great teacher."
"I tell them that's your fault you failed 6th grade"  Haha!

Anything else you want to tell me?
"I have loved this year I got awesome teachers and you  have been one of them you are an awesome teacher and have never enjoyed math , but this year was different this year math was actually not the most desirable class for me to go to that was P.E. Love ya  Ms.Stephens I hope my sister gets you in 2 years . "
"that i wasn't ever good at math until this year."

After reading through these one of the things that bothered me the most was the number of students that mentioned they should stay on "my good side".... I don't want to be seen as having a good or bad side.  I want to be seen as fair and consistent.  Embarrassing to admit...but maybe the first step in improving it.  My classroom management was much better than my first year...but I obviously have a ways to go in creating relationships with students but remaining firm, fair, and consistent.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Last days...

My principal at BMS shares important things with staff through a "Friday Focus" email at the end of each week.  In last Friday's she wrote:

"....I tell you all this only to remind you all that there is so much more than STAAR scores, stressful crazy schedules and disruptive classes. I know May pushes our patience, our understanding and our stress levels to the max.  It is so hard to avoid the negativity and the complaining, but I challenge you all to face these next two weeks with a positive outlook and a smile.  Many of our students are two weeks away from spending an entire summer in households with little to no love and very little parental guidance.  Even though our students may not be battling cancer like Saxton, many are fighting their own evil monsters.  We have two more weeks to possibly make a lasting impression on some of our most troubled students.   Each day set a goal to find five students and give them a compliment….
                “I love your outfit”
                “I have been so proud of you this year”
                “You have an awesome smile”
                “You are so smart”
You never know…that one compliment that takes you less than 5 seconds to say may be what that student holds on to for the entire summer. " 

Many teachers at my school are counting down the days until summer.  Last Monday! 2 more days of morning duty!  3 more full days and then 4 half days!  7 more days!  I don't blame them.  Our schedule is crazy and the kids have been a little wild to say the least.  I'll gladly welcome the break and the opportunity to sleep in...but after about 2 weeks, it will sink in and I will really miss my kids.  And I'm not sure what we are communicating to students when they hear teachers counting down the days until summer...So while others choose to count down in excitement...I'm not.  

I don't want this year to be over.  After last year I thought that I would never love a group of students as much as I did my first group...but my second group is just as special and it will be just as hard to say goodbye next week.  Mrs. Still's email reminded of the opportunity we have to make impacts on students and I feel like I'm running out of time to do so.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Trip Investigation- Announcing the winners!

Kali and Brian spent a few days watching videos of presentations and studying the displays students created and the winners have been selected!

It was nice to have the pressure off of me to select...there were too many excellent projects to choose from!

Yellow Block
Rylie P and Katherine S -

Red Block
Dixie M and Thayley T -

Green Block
Cesar C and Melisa M -

Blue Block
Mollie P and Bailee R -

Presenting Trip Investigation

We spent some class time discussing what a presentation should look like and make makes a successful presentation...but obviously not enough.

At first I was disappointed in some of the presentations giving by students.  So many just read from the screen and so many failed to make any eye contact at all.  There were groups that were barely audible and others that giggled the entire time.  In reflecting, I got over my initial disappointment.  My kids did AMAZING things with this project.  This was their (and my) first taste of PBL and they worked so hard and learned so much...I'll consider that a success.  I know adults that read presentations from slides in a, yes some of my twelve year olds that had never given a presentation did it...and that's okay.

At the same time, I do think speaking to an audience is an invaluable skill and something I thought deserved more class I uploaded videos of presentations to youtube and created playlists for each class.  Students had the chance to watch their own presentations and the presentations of classmates and review them using this checklist (it goes along with the powerpoint I shared earlier).