Monday, February 25, 2013

Getting into Graphing

Last year at the end of our graphing unit, I posted graphs from the news (so they were current and relevant information) around the room- a line graph, a bar graph, a circle graph, etc.  Instead of asking students questions about the graphs I put them in small groups, each positioned in front of one of the graphs.  The group was to write down everything they could read from the graph.  Then groups rotated.  They had time to read what the previous group wrote and then push themselves to add more (The easy stuff goes quick - The title is... the x-axis label is... then students have to think deeper to compare quantities or make summary statements).

This year I decided I spend too much time telling my kids what they need to know and not enough time letting them tell me what they know.  So as an introduction to graphing I adapted last years activity using chromebooks :)

I had students log in with their google accounts and go here:

Students had several minutes to study the graph, post a comment, and read the comments of others.  I told them if they repeated comments I would call them out and they would have to change their comment or add an original thought.  The kids helped with this-  they would shout out so-and-so and so-and-so wrote the same thing!!! :)   Then I had students cilck on the graph to block out the comments and focus only on the image itself and we discussed each graph as a class.

I was SO impressed with my students.  They were engaged and challenged and creative in their answers.  They really enjoyed the activity and had no idea how hard they were thinking :)  We got into conversations about reliable sources, accuracy of data, comparisons between graphs... completely exceeded my expectations.

The last thing we did was use to recreate graphs from a survey we took the previous day.  Students learned to screenshot on a chromebook, save the image, and share it with me through google drive or gmail.

Students then completed a ticket to leave called 3-2-1 in which they had to write down:
3- things they learned
2- questions they have about the lesson or graphing
1- thing they want to know more about

And the exciting part-  They filled the slip of paper I gave them.  They wrote in complete sentences (for the most part).  I constantly fight a battle when I ask them to write in the math classroom...but no one moaned or groaned when I described the 3-2-1 ticket to them.... they all put heads down and started writing.  It was awesome! :)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Teaching things they can't Google....

I'm currently in graduate school working towards a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with a minor in Mathematics.  Each semester I take an online curriculum course and a face-to-face mathematics course.  It isn't important that I drive an hour and a half there and back for that class every Monday night....   :)

I knew I wanted to further my education.  I knew now was a good time- no family and no real commitments outside of work.  This was a time in my life I could make school a I jumped in.  I do not know what I want to do once I receive the degree.  I like being in the classroom for now.  But eventually I may want to step into other roles, and hopefully this degree will open doors down the line.

Here is my frustration.  I'm not learning very much.  I learn way more from my google reader, twitter, my brother, my principal, the teachers on my team, MY STUDENTS.  My math class meets for 3 hours every Monday night-  this week we were talking about proportionality.  We spent three hours measuring body parts, looking for relationships between them, graphing this data, determining proportionality.  Okay... I did a very similar activity with my students last semester.  My sixth graders can do this.  I get the point-  we are all teachers and he is trying to share possible lessons...but of the three lessons he shared with us for teaching middle school proportionality....they were all things I could easily find using google.  By myself.  Without driving a total of 3 hours and sitting in this classroom for 3 hours and without paying tuition.

Why is education not teaching things that I cannot google?  This problem extends to my classroom...I realize this.  I'm currently teaching converting measurement....  Guess what?
Thanks Google.

I get it.  Its a skill they need.  Its in my standards.  I have to teach it.  But I refuse to let myself become a teacher that only teaches these things.  I have to be better than that.  I have to teach my kids things they cannot Google:   how to work with others, how to think, how to reason, how to problem solve, how to take risks, how to ask questions, how to create a product, how to communicate their ideas....etc.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Candy Hearts

The idea behind this entire thing is to take a traditional worksheet and trick my students into thinking it is a game :)

When I came into this position last year, I was presented with binders and binders of worksheets....they were even labeled WS 1-WS 149 or something like that.... not fun (for me or my kids).  So, I was constantly searching for ways to use these worksheets in a way that would keep my kids engaged.  

Today we took a typical worksheet.... and turned it into a game! 

My team uses this idea throughout the year and change it just a bit depending on the time of the year.  Since it is February... we played Candy Hearts for Valentines Day :)   We have also used Ghost in Graveyard, Needle in haystack, etc. 

When the kids came in-  5 red hearts were hanging around the room.  Cue excitement.  They knew a game was coming, and they know my rule: when we are playing a game-  3 strikes and you're out.  If I have to address your behavior as a class 3 times, no more game...boring, individual worksheet time.  

My students sit in groups and work in groups almost every day so they are familiar with group procedures.  First we picked candy groups, then each student received a worksheet.  Each student is responsible for his/her own understanding and work.  The students work on the assignment together and after every 2 questions (they must all agree, they must all be finished, it isn't a race), 1 student from the group brings me his or her paper.  If both answers are correct, the student was rewarded with a candy.  If either answer (or both) are incorrect I tell the student to return and re-think.  I do not say which are wrong or how many are wrong....they need to figure that part out.  

 Students then choose on which hearts to put their candies (I attach with paperclips)-  they can put all of the candies on one heart...or spread them throughout the room.  At the end of the class I reveal points...sometimes I already have it written and hidden on the back of the objects...other times I roll a dice or draw a card.  Point is-  one heart is worth 20 points, one heart is worth 5 points....and so on... the interesting part is that one of the hearts is always worth 0 points.  It's fun to watch which kids risk it and put all of the candies on one....and which kids play it safe.

Here are my favorite things about this activity-
  • Kids are discussing the problems.  Some argue and yes, there are disagreements at times.  But if I can get kids to care about math enough to argue about it....that is pretty cool. 
  • Kids are engaged.  I typically choose my active children to be the "representatives" of the group.  They bring me the paper to be checked and they attach candy to hearts... this gives those guys a chance to get up and move.
  • Behavior is awesome.  My kids have been pushing buttons lately...but today they were awesome.  They wanted to play the game- not have to complete the worksheet individually.
  • The "smartest" kids don't always win.  Because of the element of luck in the point system, sometimes my lower students end up with more points which really boosts their confidence.
  • It allows me to see where kids are stuck and what mistakes they are making throughout class...not at the end when they've turned the assignment in and its too late.