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