Monday, March 31, 2008

YEEEHHHHAAAWWW!!!! What a cool day it was in math! The kids loved the calculators and were so intrigued by the ease of making graphs on the calculators, they kind of got lost in the fact they were writing linear equations, looking at inversely proportional relationships, learning about y-intercepts, and thinking about math in a totally new way. I love my job, I love my job, I love my job :-) I can't wait until tomorrow to do MORE!! We have a few more activities to do together and then I have some copies of things they can try on their own. It will be interesting to see how many of them are willing to push to accomplish all the tasks offered!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I should title this post You Might be a Geek..... 6th hour yesterday, one of the secretaries from Central Office called to say I had a huge package, something like a suitcase, waiting for me, so I sent a couple of girls to fetch it.

I had totally forgotten requesting a set of calculators from Texas Instruments. When I opened the black crate and saw those shiny TI 84 Plus Silver Editions, I was soooo excited! I brought one home to play with and spent about a couple of hours last night familiarizing myself with the calculator and its functions. I simply cannot wait for Monday to share this with the kids!

In all actuality, I should wait a few days to use them, but I am so totally geeked up I know we are going to use them Monday in all 3 classes. My two math classes have some experience with slope, y-intercepts and linear equations, but not really enough to do much on the calculators but I think just using the graphing function to see how slope and y-intercepts change the graph, looking at non-linear equations, and playing with exponents will be enough to hook them.

My prealgebra kids however, don't have much experience even in slope so they really are not ready to do many of those things. But this is such a bright group of kids, I know they will pick up on the concepts quickly.

The coolest thing.. we just spent Thursday and Friday on Building a Garden Gate where they looked at how a fixed perimeter changes areas and side lengths. Students graphed all the possible side lenght combos for a 60 ft perimeter fence two ways, one comparing side lenght 1 to side length 2, which is actually a simple linear equation, as well as graphed length of side lenght one compared to the area. I am hoping to use this actitivty as a springboard for writing equations and using the graphing calculator. I think since they just made their own graphs, using the calculators will be more meaningful.

My husband is a math phobe as well as a technology phobe. When I was able to have him write the equations as well as use the calculator to make the graphs, seeing the excitement on his face, I KNEW my 7th graders were going to be totally geeked about this.

My biggest concern for Monday is those SLOW laggers who are always a couple of steps behind. This will be a whole class activity, with me walking them step by step through the process, but I can already predict which of my little lovelies will fall behind. I am not sure how to deal with them, other than type out step by step instructions, which most likely they wouldn't follow anyway... and that would give some others a license to forge forward without understanding what we are doing, so I refuse to do that, at least for this intial exposure to the calculators.

TI has so many cool activites posted on their website, I am sure I can find followup activities to use as well. I only have the calculators for a month so I want to make sure I use them as much as possible.

So yes, call me a geek... I love trying something new!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

This morning was another camp meeting for adults involved in camp. We took care of odds and ends, trying to finalize classes, etc. That is the easy part. The tough part is who do we take to camp and who do we leave behind.
Sometimes, it is obvious a student should not go. Fighting, swearing, insubordination, etc... when they happen persistently and consistently across the board, repeatedly, it makes our decision easy. However, it always seems there are those gray area kids we debate about. The one who stole the teacher's edition of the math book to copy answers, the one who misses at least a day a week, the girls who are so exclusionary with their behaviors it borders on bullying. These are the kids we struggle to make decisions about.
My problem is I want to take them all, each and every one of them... OK, maybe not EVERY one of them ;-) Guess that's why we get paid the BIG $$$, eh?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The house plan projects are done for another year. Unlike the best scenario, where we go outside to build full scale models, like described in this Education World article, this year we stayed in and out of the deep snow to make to scale drawings/blueprints or to scale models of our houses.
A drawing was required. A model was extra credit. About a third of students chose to make a model. Two of the better ones are shown here. I was amazed, as I always am, at the creativity and dedication to excellence some of my students showed in their projects. Wooden decks, staircases, furniture... wow... How cool these models are!
I wish there were more projects like this that address the Grade Level Content Expectations I am expected to meet, and are fun, engaging and meaningful for students.!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Just a quick Happy Spring post with a couple of pics out my classroom window. This is what spring looks like in Newberry!

Sorry they are a bit blurry - I did actually take them through the screen of the window :-)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I am part of the Red Cedar Writing Project from Michigan State University. Recently a controversial topic sparked my interest on the listserve. Here is my reply to one post:
Part of Marcus's list.....
"Short Term:
1) Teach all Black boys to read at grade level by the third grade and to embrace education
2) Provide positive role models for Black boys
3) Create a stable home environment for Black boys that includes contact with their fathers>>>
4) Ensure that Black boys have a strong spiritual base
5) Control the negative media influences on Black boys
6) Teach Black boys to respect all girls and women
Long Term
1) Invest as much money in educating Black boys as in locking up Black men
2) Help connect Black boys to a positive vision of themselves in the future
3) Create high expectations and help Black boys live into those high expectations
4) Build a positive peer culture for Black boys
5) Teach Black boys self-discipline, culture and history
6) Teach Black boys and the communities in which they live to embrace education and life-long learning"

Another perspective:My question is why do we need to set those goals ONLY for black boys? Whynot for Native American males? Why not for the girls in our schools? Whynot for white boys caught in a hopeless foster care system? Why not forHispanic children?

I am not denying the statistics for black males as being dire, however,society is also allowing all our children to fall through the cracks. Wespend more on prisons, war, unemployment and politics than we do oneducation and health care for EVERYONE in this country. Children are no longer taught to respect authority, appreciate education,or even a basic dedication to excellence and a work ethic. It seems everyone and every group is out for themselves, without regard for whatbenefits the larger picture.

The list in the begining of this post should be rewritten and become the MISSION STATEMENT of our country, and every school therein:
Short Term
1) Teach ALL CHILDREN to read at grade level by the third grade and to embrace education
2) Provide positive role models for ALL CHILDREN
3) Create a stable home environment for ALL CHILDREN that includes contactwith their fathers
4) Ensure that ALL CHILDREN have a strong spiritual base
5) Control the negative media influences on Black boys
6) Teach ALL CHILDREN to respect all girls and women
Long Term
1) Invest as much money in educating ALL CHILDREN as in locking up PEOPLE
2) Help connect ALL CHILDREN to a positive vision of themselves in thefuture
3) Create high expectations and help ALL CHILDREN live into those highexpectations
4) Build a positive peer culture for ALL CHILDREN
5) Teach ALL CHILDREN self-discipline, culture and history
6) Teach ALL CHILDREN and the communities in which they live to embrace education and life-long learning

I live in a small rural community with few blacks (This is my 13th year teaching here and I have my first 2 black students this year), a fair number of Native Americans, and an overwhelming sense of despair,unemployment and "there's no reason to get an education because it won't help me anyway" attitude. By refocusing our political and financial priorities in this country to promote the above ideals, wouldn't ALL CHILDREN benefit?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Meme:Passion Quilt

I was recently tagged by Nancy Flanagan to be a part of the ever growing Passion Quilt.

My image to the left shows what I am passionate about: kids DOING math. Not worksheets, not rote memorization, but actually making their own meaning of math.

I want students to leave my room with a feeling that math may be, no, make that math IS hard, but they CAN do it. I try to make math meaningful, fun and active.

I hereby tag the following and ask them to submit their posts to the Passion Quilt:

Erica Roberts

Rebecca Lawson

Sara Van Abel

Beverly Maddox

Tena Linsbeck-Perron

Here are the rules
Passion Quilt Meme Rules:

1. Think about what you are passionate about teaching your students.

2. Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.

3. Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.

4. Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.
And here's a link to the Original Rock-On Boy, The Tempered Radical, Bill Ferriter.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The flu, hacking coughs, cold, etc... have been rampant lately. For some reason, the powers that be at our school decided the way to slow the spread of germs was to not allow students access to the water fountains. In theory, students are to bring their own water bottle, but in reality, many forget, or it is warm, or they drink it all before day's end. It is so pointless to me. Most of these viruses are airborne, and unless we quarantine sick students and staff, we are unlikely to slow the spread until spring break.

In math and prealgebra, we are drawing to-scale models of student homes. Most are working, digging in, enjoying the challenge. However, 5th hour, the majority of students still have not brought in their measurements at all. It is frustrating and I am not sure what to do. Many students in the other 2 classes have chosen to build a model instead of simply drawing the floor plan. Many are using cardboard, but others are building with toothpicks and popsicles sticks. I can't wait to see their final products!

Two more days until break... thank goodness.. we are all sick, tired and in great need of a break.