Sunday, July 20, 2014

Miss, are we going to do fun stuff like we did yesterday?

Last week was the first week of term and we launched straight into work much to the students dismay.
In my Year 8 class I began by giving an overview of the term's units and then I taught the students the central tendency rhyme:

Hey diddle diddle the median's the middle,
You add then divide for the mean,
The mode is the one that you see the most,
and the range is the difference between.

Versions of this rhyme are all over the internet. It is simple to remember and easy to understand. I see some students repeating the rhyme in their minds, lips moving, when I ask them data questions in the daily quick quiz. The good part is that they are answering the questions correctly and feeling good about that!

Next I wrote the units spelling words up to familiar whining question of why do we have to have spelling in maths. The students copied the words into their books while I got the next activity ready.

'Raise your hand if you have done rotations in primary school and you know what they are?' Amazingly not every student raised their hand, but those that did had an expectant smile on their face, an almost incredulous look. I explained to the students that they'd be working in groups to complete activities (seen below) placed around the room.

The activities start hands on and build to abstract questions which they complete for homework.
I have never done rotations in a class before, however, I have seen them done in my children's primary school classes. The students followed the ground rules I set, they completed all of the activities in the given time frame, they completed their homework (even the perpetual non completer's), and most importantly they had fun while learning.
When the student's entered class the next day I was asked 'Miss, are we were going to do fun stuff like we did yesterday?'...I smiled and looked down at the bag with the maths mat in it :-)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Junior Maths

I have spent considerable time over the winter holiday planning for my year 8 Maths class. In the coming term they will study: central tendency, displaying data, rates, ratios, and gradient.
I was disappointed with their results last term, I felt that the class had really 'gotten' the topic we studied- algebra. I expected a higher pass rate. While I am aware that algebra can be notoriously hard for some to grasp, I was still disappointed, so...
I looked online for inspiration and I came across a Maths mat and other hands on activities. 

Maths Mat

Above is the Maths mat I made from 3x1.8m, 75% shade cloth, and 40m of waterproof fabric tape as per instructions found on Pinterest. Squares are approx. 30x30cm.
I then printed and laminated the cards that I will need, and cut out coloured card to 'colour' each box.
The idea is that students will 'be' the graph by standing in a position that represents them/ the pet the have etc. Secondly, the student can 'make' the graph by placing an icy pole stick as a tally mark instead of them having to stand there for a frequency table. Or perhaps colour in a square with the coloured card for a histogram to again represent their data. Finally the students can 'replicate' the graph by drawing a representation into their books before we move on to more abstract methods such a pure data.

I am incorporating Maths rotations such as I have seen in primary schools to help students understand by doing hands on activities and working in small groups. I have rotations for all topics next term, some to introduce, and some to consolidate knowledge.
I am hoping to get a more permanent grid painted on the school grounds so the students can make graphs outdoors with chalk to label axis etc. This could then be used by all of the Maths teachers, especially with the year 7's arriving at high school in 2015.

I also came across Dan Meyer's Three act Maths lessons on Pinterest and I will use the How much sugar? lesson for ratios as it includes an ugh! factor of sugar packets being eaten. Dan has provided an extensive list of resources designed to engage and get students thinking, well worth checking out.

To celebrate student success I have devised a merit badge system. First term, I had students colour a bar graph (1-10) representing how many answers were correct in the daily quick quiz. Very easy to do, not topic specific. Last term students graphed (1-4) on three to four explicit learning goals, with each value having specific qualities such as: 1. I recognize like terms, 2. I collect and simplify like terms, as found in the Art and Science of Teaching by Marzano. This term I'm trying a simplified graph (pictograph) that represents when the students have mastered a learning goal as so many struggled with the graphing last term and I found it took up too much class time making sure they were colouring the correct boxes, for the correct learning goal.

 Merit ribbon and stickers

I agree wholeheartedly that students should map their learning goals to help ignite intrinsic motivation, it just needs to be in a manner that matches the ability level of students. I will keep trying until I get it right!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Another year has gone by

17 months later...I am well into my second year of teaching at Gin Gin State High School and I'm still  loving every minute of it :-) I even had an article written for an Ed Qld website.

Last year...2013...That was a big year in which I was on a steep learning curve, regarding both teaching and technology.

My biggest achievement for the year was flipping my Year 12 Maths B classroom (infographic below). I had been creating edStudios for many of my classes, including this one for Year 11 Biology, but I found the formatting to be quite restrictive and clunky for classes that needed lesson by lesson blows online that were quite specific. So, in term 2 I decided to set up a virtual classroom using BlackBoard for my Year 12 Maths B class (Note: You will only be able to access the link if you are affiliated with Education Qld).

My reasoning for setting up the virtual classroom was the number of lessons that the students were missing due to other commitments. The typical student who completes Maths B, I have found, is a high flyer who participates in many extra curricular activities, school sports, Student Council, School Leader, and music. All of these extra activities mean days out of school and lessons missed. Also, I needed the students to come to class with some idea of what I was talking about so that we could move beyond the basic A, B, C's and onto modelling and problem solving where they were more likely to require greater assistance from me.
When the students missed class they were worried about falling behind, and I was continually trying to catch them up in class to the detriment of other students. So, I decided to put all of the information up online, including what they were expected to complete prior to class.

In the beginning the students weren't too sure about the whole 'flipped classroom' thing as the onus was placed back onto them to come to class prepared to continue working. I had a meeting with the parents and the students to explain what a flipped classroom was and what I was hopping to achieve for their sons and daughters that semester. As the students became more familiar with BlackBoard they logged on regularly and completed the pre reading and/or watched the short video clips explaining the topic they were to study. I also included digital learning objects (DLO's, Gizmo's), images, and links to further information on each topic.

Students came to class with a basic understanding of how to perform the required calculations and class time was spent working on the more in depth questions, and any problems the students had encountered at home. Students completed online quizzes that gave them instant feedback on how well they had performed and with text pages referenced if they answered a question incorrectly. Students were able to work ahead (or behind) at their own pace and I would teach what was needed, when needed.

As a teacher I was able to see who was logging on to complete their work prior to class. I could (and  did) send out reminders to those who hadn't logged on to the site each week. I was able to upload quizzes as needed, and see the results the students obtained on these quizzes, along with the amount of time each student spent on the site and on which pages. I surveyed the students to find out what they wanted to see in the virtual classroom, and I answered student questions posed in the discussion boards.
By the end of the year I had students singing the praises of virtual classrooms.

2014...Fast forward to term 2 this year. The teacher for Maths B this year became ill in term 1 and I was asked a couple of days before term began to take over the class in term 2. Having all of the resources already in BlackBoard I was able to transfer the existing material to a new classroom on short notice, enrol the students, and commence teaching. This year I have not called it a 'flipped classroom' as I found that many students and parents reacted to the term last year, I have however insisted that the students come to class having pre-read and/or having watched the short clips online. 

My pedagogy is the same; I complete examples on the board, focussing though on the more complex problems where the students are more likely to experience difficulties, and I address the queries that the students have from questions they have gotten stuck on when working at home. This format has allowed me to spend more time with the students, one on one, to help them with their particular issue, especially with the modelling and problem solving questions as some of these questions can take up 20 minutes of a lesson each.

         Flipped Classroom
Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Twelve months later....

Wow, I can hardly believe that it has been over a year since I last posted. The time has flown by as it invariably does when you are head down and tail up.

In the last twelve months I have completed my teaching internship and degree. I have a job starting at Gin Gin State High School this year teaching maths from Year 8 students to Year 12 Maths B students. I consider myself fortunate to have landed this permanent job as it is a great school with great staff and students.
Being a registered teacher I will now need to log my professional development hours. I have decided to keep this blog and use it for that purpose as the PD I complete will continue my learning journey.

Over these holidays I am setting up edStudios for each of my classes to use. An edStudio is a bit like a wiki but it is in a walled garden. I place the required resources and links that the students will need to complete the course in the studio. The idea is that if students miss a day or two of school they can catch up on the missed work prior to coming to class...that is my hope at any rate.

I am excited and nervous about the coming year. True to my personality I am trying to over prepare now to take some pressure off later in the term. Of course I can't prepare too much incase things change as I'm told they invariably do in education.

I am looking forward to my graduation ceremony in April. I believe we need to celebrate important occasions in our lives and this is my first degree (I am a late bloomer), so I will celebrate that piece of paper! I would still like to do my Masters in Educational Multimedia, but that can wait a year or two until I find my rhythm :-)

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Literacy Multiliteracy is becoming increasingly important as language, grammar and the spoken word continue to change and evolve (Winch et. al 2009; Mawer 1999). No longer does literacy pertain only to being able to read, and literacy means different things in different contexts. If a student is having problems with reading, they would require remedial reading help, not literacy instruction. I don't think that any one person could be literate in all contexts in this day and age, and neither do they need to be. We do however need to be literate in the areas that will affect the quality of our lives in society and in our careers (Mawer 1999).
I recall when I first came across text talk, I had no idea what all the abbreviations stood for. Someone enlightened me on the basic LOL and ROFL, and I was on my own from there. I had no idea if I was being sworn or laughed at! This deficiency prevented me from interacting in chat rooms as I literally could not understand what was being said. A university e-learning course soon enlightened me enough that I felt literate in this type of communication and skillful enough to participate in online chats. These days if there is something that I don't know or understand, I use my skills to find the required information. I consider this to mean that I am literate in this area.

How then do students go when they are required to read mathematical or scientific texts with wonderfully alien words like mitosis, eukaryotic and differentiation, if their basic reading and decoding skills are lacking? What literacy skills do these students need in order to be able to make sense of these texts?
Well, the required skills will depend on how that information is being disseminated to the students. Is the information linear or layered? Are animations of processes involved, or flow charts and ordered directions?
Students need to be multiliterate in order to interpret and understand information in these various forms as is delivered to them (Kalantzis et. al 2003). After all, we all know that information needs to be disseminated in a variety of ways to allow for the preferred individual learning modalities of each student (Snowman et. al 2009).

Kalantzis, M, Cope, B & Harvey, A March 2003, Assessment in Education: Assessing multiliteracies and the new basics, Vol 10, No 1. DOI 10.1080/0969594032000085721
Mawer, G 1999 Language and Literacy in Workplace Education: Learning at Work, Addison Wesley Longmand Limited, Essex.
Snowman, J, Dobozy, D, Scevak, J, Bryer, F, Bartlett, B, & Biehler 2009, Psychology applied to teaching, John Wiley & Sons Australia, Milton.
Winch, G, Ross Johnston, R, March, P, Ljungdahl, L & Holliday, M 2009, Literacy: reading, writing and children's literature, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Blog book

How timely! I was checking out Facebook today when I came across a posting by Richard Byrne of Free Technology for Teachers on how to preserve blogs when platforms are constantly changing format, ownership, becoming fee based rather than a free platform etc.  Apart from showing how to save a back up of various blogging platforms to your computer, Richard provides this link to BlogBooker.
Blogbooker creates a PDF of your blog in book form which can them be printed out if desired.
Richard also points out how handy this is for student blogs at the end of a school year if they would like a hardcopy version of their blog, perhaps to show their family.
Of course after my recent troubles, I have now created a Blog book of this blog so I know that I will always have access to the links and other information that I have saved on my blog over the past three years.
Thanks Richard!

Malaware = Digital Immigrant

Recently I came to my blog and received a malaware warning. This warning served to show me that I am definitely a digital immigrant!
The warning directed me to a page which told me some detail of the suspected malaware and a link to information on what I should do to clean up my site. Well, after perusing the information, I found the first step was to verify the ownership of my blog. I was stuck, I could see the html code but I couldn't alter it (not that I know too much about what to do there. The most I've done with html is changed the size of something!).Verification took me the good part of a day and was only successful after some help from a digital native (Thanks Peter! I am definitely NOT above asking for help in regards to all things digital).  Even with this help, the next stage of getting the tracking code on my blog home page for Google Analytics  took another couple of hours.
Finally, success!! My blog was verified. However, I now had to remove the malaware. I removed a gadget, which it turns out had nothing to do with the malaware, and it made no change to the warning. I didn't really need the gadget anyway, so no big loss there and I kept searching for answers. By this stage I was close to giving up, and no amount of trolling through the help forum was producing any suitable answers. My feelings of inadequacy were increasing.
I finally posted a cry for help to the Google Webmaster tools help forum and received a reply to check out a previously viewed page. So naturally, I decided that my blog was lost forever and thought of a name for a new one...other people then answered my plea and one kind soul even found the code that was causing the flag. I could have tried removing the code but hey, how much quicker to just chop the entire gadget?
Now my blog roll is gone but my blog is clean.

Why this post?
1 To show that a digital immigrant can get there eventually, with a lot of help from friends.
2 So I have a quick link to the help forum (sometimes I can't remember how I found sites \o/)
3 To celebrate my clean blog :-)

Now on to the final year of my BLM. What an exciting year this will be!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Free Technology for Teachers: A Gallery of Glogs

Free Technology for Teachers: A Gallery of glogs A great resource to show students for inspiration. There is a tutorial coming to the glogster sight soon too, so no need to make own.

Monday, August 22, 2011

How to add error bars to an excel chart

I know that I'll forget how to do this by the time I need it again. I recorded the procedure for someone who missed the lecture and decided that it would be wise to keep a copy for myself :D