Sunday, November 23, 2008

With 3 1/2 weeks left until Christmas break, I am trying to organize my brain around some active, fun, engaging GLCE driven math lessons to keep my kids on track. Part of the difficulty lies with the planned absences this time of year. So many parents schedule extended vacations around the holidays. While I believe in the value of travel, family time, and the premise that learning occurs naturally outside the classroom, these trips make lesson planning more complicated.

Many of the hands on things in my bag of tricks have no written work to substitute for absent students. Sure, I could in theory dig out some worksheets from our text to hand them, but does that truly replicate?

So..... I am going to plan forgetting students will be gone, knowing some will miss out.

This short Thanksgiving week is easy. We are going to draw Cartesian cartoons. My students always need practice graphing, for some reason. I don't see what they struggle so much with what appears to be a simple concept. However, thanks to my supervising teacher when I was student teaching oh so many years ago, I purchased 2 books of Cartesian cartoons - with only only positive coordinates and the other with points in all four quadrants. I also got a super simple one for those struggling students - this one has letters and numbers with direction to color squares different colors. It is cute but not challenging for most 7th graders. I want to require all students to complete the most difficult one but as usual, I wonder if I am setting myself up for a disaster. If time permitted, I would have them each do 2, or complete one and create one. Can you imagine how creative some of their own would be?

After turkey holiday time is done, we will head into our data unit. I have a great hands-on lesson to review mean, median, mode, as well as quartiles. I invited our special ed teacher to bring his kids in for the data stuff so things are going to be exciting 4th hour. This is my GREAT class though so I am not worried to much other than space. Suddenly I will have 32 kids instead of 21, but there will be an additional teacher. My only concern with them joining us is one student who has Asperger's Syndrome and does not adjust well to large, loud groups, or change.

In the past, I have used the tiny snack boxes of raisins to teach box & whisker plots ( you know.. those funny graphs you see **everywhere** ... OK, the only place I have ever seen the is a textbook and the MEAP). The raisins work great though. We create a double box and whisker comparing our estimates of how many raisins are in the box with our actual #'s. We also create a double stem and leaf plot with our data. While raisins are not students' favorite snack, it makes a relatively dull lesson more exciting.

Then we move on to circle graphs. When I was first teaching, I bought snack bags of M&M's but now that I am older and wiser with the funds I spend in my classroom, I use Tootie Frootie cereal, which works just as well. Those big bags are cheap and a paper cup of cereal is perfect for circle graph data. I have students create a small poster of their own individual data displayed in both a circle and bar graph, as well the class data. Great lesson for not just graphs, and why each is better for certain circumstances, but also, we hit relative and cumulative frequency, as well as translating those into fractions, decimals and percents. And at the end, I have all those cool posters to hang on the walls, which students LOVE.

SO back to lesson planning..... I think I will start out with a little book work to prep them first so their prior knowledge is activated. With the promise of cool food activities on the horizon, the book work will set them up perfectly.

Social studies: Monday we start their presentation project on Europe. I took the social studies GLCE's and sorted through what they needed to know, and created this. I hope it works OK. I have concerns about a couple of my students who do very little work. I struggle with the constant question of allowing students to choose their own partners, or assigning them. I hate sticking a good student with someone who will not do their share of the work.

I wish I had some cool idea for something other than a powerpoint - but here I am into powerpointless land again. This mode of presentation does lend itself well to this project but I would love to introduce students to a cool new tool. Alas, I don't have one in my back pocket so ..... and I do not want the time to be caught up in teaching how to use the tool either. That reminds me, though, I need to create a sample for them to critique! (YIKES!)

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