Thursday, April 24, 2008

Is it just me, or do each group of students who come through seem less willing to think on their own? We've been working on slope, y-intercepts, linear equations, for forever now it seems. Yesterday, I gave them a problem comparing 2 yearbook companies, one which charged $10 per book, the other, a $50 setup fee plus $8 a book. Pretty basic problem - needed to create table for given amounts of books, graph the 2 lines, and make some conclusions such as which place is better deal, explain what the slope and y-intercepts mean in context of problem, etc. I thought it would be super easy.

No way... most of them couldn't even make the table for the values!! come on... give me a break already. So after getting them started on that, then, they can't graph the lines. Then they couldn't write equations.

grrr.....grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr....................... they DO know how to do all that. Why won't they? Why is it sooooo much easier to feign inability, soooo much more appealing to be helpless, than the actually do it on your own and take a risk at being wrong??

Outside today for shadow rendering? think they can do that... please.... let them be able to do that!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Is there such a thing as a typical day in 7th grade? If so, I guess that is how today could be described. We started with a 6-12 math department meeting which was simply frustrating. I do NOT understand why high school staff are so reluctant to simply use the State of Michigan's version of an exit exam for Algebra 1, Geometry, etc... When I look at the state's curriculum assessment expectations, I can understand how overwhelming it must be to try to cover all those. But truly, is it any different for them than it is for me? It may actually be somewhat easier at that level because inevitably some students drop out or go to alternative school. It was validating to hear that middle school scores are up and the ensuing recognition of our efforts at that level.

Then off to social studies. We watched a couple of newscasts from Jim Lehr NewsHour about the Sudan. I want students to really understand how deplorable conditions in the refugee camps are. They then started their research on diseases that are prevalent in the camps. They were all working quietly, engrossed (or grossed out... ) in their individual pursuits online so I ran to the 8th grade math teacher's classroom to ask about our earlier department meeting. She was just as frustrated as I so we talked longer than I should have been gone. On the way back to my room, I bumped into the principal and he and I chatted a minute or so. All together, I might have been gone 5 minutes. However, on returning to my room, they were off-task, jabbering away and goofing off. I gave my little "you don't need me here to know what you should be doing" speech to deaf ears.

The rest of the morning was quiet, relatively. Math and pre-algebra classes, I quickly reviewed one last time on slope, y-intercepts and linear equations. Then I passed out the quiz. WOW.. some of them ROCKED, some that I never thought would "get it"! and then, some of my normal 'A' kids, bombed it. **sigh** One young man stayed after to see what he missed - why he had gotten a 10%. Without fail, he could answer each question. When I asked him what happened, he said he was just confused earlier. I don't understand at all.... I just do not!!

But we are moving on, writing and solving 2 step equations in math and working on percents/fractions/proportions in pre-algebra.

another day in 7th grade....

Monday, April 14, 2008

We played the board games the kids made about Life in the Sahara. It was so cute to see them trying to decipher each other's rules and understand exactly what they were supposed to do. They had to fill out evaluations of the games they played and they were very honest and helpful in their comments. I was impressed!

One partnership made a very cool Monopoly Sahara Edition but somehow forgot to make property cards! Otherwise, it was an amazing game.

Overall, most of the games were fun and educational, really turned out to be a worthwhile activity though it seemed like it took forever!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

At school on Sunday, getting ready for the week is always a time of reflection and panic, especially as the end of the year nears. It always seems there is so much I want to do with these 7th graders, so many things to teach them, so many activities to share, but time, time, time is always pressing in on me.

We have 7 more weeks of school left, with one of those spent at camp. So I have 6 weeks left to cover everything the state says I must, and make sure I have covered it well enough they actually retain it until next fall on their MEAP test. I have so many concerns about that when they seem unable to retain info from day to day!

We've been working on balancing 2 step equations in math class this past week. They, for the most part, seem to understand the process but what bogs them down is the lack of knowledge of basic math facts and their inability to remember how to deal with negative integers. It seemed last fall when we covered that, they were doing well and we've used it on multiple occasions since then, but now, too many of them, when asked what -11 - 19 is, cannot come up with the correct answer. It is frustrating to be unable to move on because they have not made those skills their own yet.

It has been fun using the graphing calculators though. By forcing students, especially my pre-algebra kids, to think and work on their own, I have seen so much growth in them. They are always so reluctant to try for fear of being wrong, and these activities have tremendously pushed them outside their comfort zones. I love seeing them THINK!

Tomorrow, we finally get to play the board games they have been making in social studies on Life in the Sahara. It seemed like the day would never come with extension after extension of time to work because they were so engrossed and engaged in their creations. I can't wait for them to share with each other tomorrow.

I cancelled my math curriculum meeting tomorrow, as well as Michigan Mathematics Program Improvement Project meeting on Wednesday. I just do not feel like I can be gone anymore this year. I know all that work is important but my classroom and my kids are my #1 priority.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

My social studies class is making games about Life in the Sahara as one of the project choices from the lesson plan I found at NewsHour Extra. (There were other project choices, but all but one student chose to make a game.) They are so amazingly creative in their game boards. I can't wait for them to get to play with each other's games.

My struggle with 2 of the boys though, seems to shadow everything else. They refuse to do anything productive. Both of them are the kind who are frequently suspended and failing all or most of their classes. I was excited to see them draw a game board and actually get started. But of course, they lost interest after that, and have nothing else to go along with the board. They cut up a few pieces of paper but didn't get questions written. I tried to offer help and suggestions and resources, but of course, it was all for naught. It doesn't seem to matter at all what we do in class, easy book worksheets, fun projects, games, computer activities, movies, nothing grabs their attention. I feel at a loss to help them....

If you have never checked out the lessons offered by this website, I suggest you look at them. Many great resources, as well as complete lesson plans with online articles and in some cases, newscasts to supplement the activities.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wow.. it's nice to be back to school today after a snow day yesterday. Who wouldn't love the irony of April Fool's Day being a snow day!!

We started the school day with a staff meeting, scheduling concerns for next year. On the one hand, I appreciate being asked what our thoughts and concerns and wants are as far as next year goes. But on the other hand, do we really have ANY say? The budget constraints really decide what happens. The contract decides how many hours we will teach. Our certifications decide where/what we will be teaching. It seems almost as if asking makes it worse. So many staff members make requests from their own perspective, without regard or consideration for the school as a whole, what is reasonable, or what is even best for kids.

I know.. I sound down... maybe just a little. I long for the days when we had enough staff to creatively schedule, do things "outside the box" and experiment. Now, with decreasing enrollment and staff, we are so locked into the only possibilities that it seems overwhelming to even try and think about the what might work better ideas....