Friday, January 11, 2008

:) We all need good days that follow bad ones... Today was a GOOD one. Yesterday, I did some butt chewing about the chapter test the day before, laying it on thick about how disappointed I was. I gave several examples of "bad answers", the ones that showed me the students did not even BOTHER to try to get the correct answer.

I spent about 20 minutes reviewing the highpoints of the chapter, gave back the tests with instructions to REDO. Amazingly enough, the scores soared. I felt a huge sigh of relief and a weight being lifted.

Today I brought in my cool new tech toy, a CPS Chalkboard, similar to a tablet computer but on a cheaper scale. All 3 of my math classes used it to sketch graphs. It was SOOOOOO much fun. We learned a lot about graphs, slopes, variables, independent and dependent variables, etc... but even more, we learned that we CAN laugh together and have fun learning.

The using the chalkboard is inherently laughter filled. It is tough to write with this stylus on a surface which does not show your marks. The projector image on the whiteboard seems to create itself as laughter from the drawer and the audience fills the classroom.

The highpoint of the day was when one of my better regular math kids decided to take the first try at the chalkboard. His line took on a mind of its own, right when I was taking a huge slug of my diet Mt. Dew. Frustrated, he yelled, "POOP!" which made everyone giggle including me with my mouthful of soda, which only spewed a little bit :-) It was just such a natural normal reaction and not a typical reaction for this usually quiet young man, it struck me off guard.

It was wonderful to end the week on a high note. I feel better.....

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Sometimes, teaching seventh grade is like trying make a snowman in July or fish for ocean perch in your aquarium.

Such it seems is the case with my 2 math classes lately. We just finished the chapter on fractions. Now, please keep in mind that MOST of the chapter should have been review from about 4th grade on..... HOWEVER, MOST of my kids FAILED the test miserably.

I don't know what else to do. I really do not. They do not want to try, they do not want to practice, they do not want to do fractions. Repeatedly they tell me they have never done them before, they do not get them, they hate fractions, etc.....

It is a self-fullfilling prophecy with them, it really truly is. They cannot even take 3/4 and write it as a decimal! And, yes, I have shown them visuals, they have drawn them... we have talked about money... I have done everything I know to try to help them...

Do I force retakes like I usually do for less than 70%?? That would mean all but about 10 of the 40 would be retaking.

Do I let the train leave the station without them all onboard? Do I take more class time even when I think it will NOT make a difference at all???

Someone... please, tell me the answer!!

In the meantime, we are doing something else tomorrow.. totally unrelated..... please let them be more receptive and grant me patience..............

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Back to school :-) Yesterday was our first day back and I will admit I was a bit reluctant to return after only a week and half off but now that I am here, wow, did I miss the kids!!

Social studies - we are starting research papers. I am quite sure I am in over my head with this project but I think my kids need to experience research from print sources. They will not be allowed to use the internet at all for this paper. They are so ingrained in the google, askjeeves, cut and paste world and I want them to really dig, learn, think, and reflect as they write. Our librarian will work with them Monday to teach them research skills. They each choose 3 countries in Europe they would like to research and gave reasons for their choices. From there, I assigned countries. Almost every student got his/her first choice.

I have tried to design the project with scaffolded parts to make it likely most will experience success. I do have some concerns with a couple of my students. I have 3 special ed kids and one major behavior problem in my class. I also have 3 who have chronic attendance problems. These will be the most challenging for me.

First -- notecards, then outline, then rough drafts... then, voila.. a final research paper!!

Part of me wanted to let them choose some topic, let this really be their own design, but I was worried with not being able to use the internet, sources might be difficult to find. Our small library is somewhat limited in its resources and I don't want that to be an issue.

Later in the year, we will do another paper, where they can choose their topic. Hopefully, this will set the stage for that experience.

My math class is finishing up the fractions chapter. YUCK!! I am as tired of it as the kids are. We are reviewing today and tomorrow with a short chapter test Monday. Their grades are overall low right now... partly due to the before break lazies, partly due to them hating fractions, and partly due to simple lack of effort on their part. They had one project before Christmas - to find a recipe, half it, and triple it.. half of my kids did not do it! they had 2 weeks to complete it but just did not bother! It is frustrating... it was a relatively easy assignment, fun... but so many of them just do not do something that must be done outside of class.

PreAlgebra is cruising right along. We are factoring monomials and they are doing GREAT. I love having a high group that just GETS IT!! I feel like we move at the speed of light in there compared to my other classes. I do feel badly sometimes that I don't take enough time to do "fun" things with them. That is my goal for this second semester. To find more activities to enrich their lessons which will be engaging and motivating.

Snow, snow, snow... we are in the mid winter gloomy days where I come to work in the dark, and often times, it is dark when I get home....