Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Share and share alike?

One of the math teachers at my school who teaches a couple of levels of geometry and a discrete class is taking several (she said maybe 4) weeks off to deal with a family issue out of town.  She was in school for the first 3 days and now will be gone for however long is necessary.  Our principal has been working to find a long-term sub for her but has struggled because of the discrete.  At my school it's an honors-level class of mostly juniors and seniors who are good kids and want to succeed.  I don't know about all of you other math teachers out there, but I've never taken a discrete class and would struggle big-time to teach it, especially without any time to prepare.  The kids are pretty much freaking out that no one was there to teach them (although the teacher left notes and such, but even I couldn't figure out what was going on while reading them).

Today, my principal approached me about someone who'd applied for the sub position - it just so happens that it's my student teacher from a couple of years ago.  We struggled through the semester and it was honestly a relief when he was done.  He ended up getting a job for last year but then was let go.  He's very smart and wants so hard to succeed and connect with the kids but struggles in explaining things.  It doesn't help that the kids weren't very comfortable with him.  My principal told me that she basically felt like she had no other choice and decided to offer him the position.

So now I come to the crux of my post.  I was talking to another friend in my department; she said that former student teacher approached her today and asked if he could have copies of everything she was going to do in geometry.  Basically, she refused that but told him that there were plenty of resources around and she pretty much just follows the book.  (To stick up for her for a second: the teacher who's gone most certainly left plans/notes/worksheets/etc.  And, knowing the sub, I'm thinking that he assumed he would be given all of my friend's stuff without question.)

I'm not sure what I would have done in the same position.  How is it that I have no problem putting my stuff out on the web for everyone to see/use?  Or uploading my documents to our teacher shared drive on the school network for other teachers in my department to see/use?  Maybe it's because I'm not being asked/told to deliver them.  Maybe it's because when I share things online it's for people who are actively searching for something to do.  Maybe it's because other people are so generous in sharing with me, too.

For all of you out there who have shared ideas and materials, thank you.  I hope that I can help you out just as you've helped me.

I'm exhausted.

My schedule changed this year so that I have to arrive at school for our starting time of 7:20 instead of a late arrival at 8:00.  What a major difference that hour makes (because I'm trying to be here by 7)!! I'm hoping that my body will adjust, but wow.  Painful.  And the 90+ degree heat (in my room) doesn't help either...

Anyway, we had our first foray into the world of trashketball yesterday.  It's really a nice way to review but do it in a fun way - at least most of the kids seem to enjoy it!  Last year I just arranged the kids into teams by having them choose a slip of paper with A - F on them and that was their team name.  Yesterday, though, I let them arrange themselves and pick their own team name.  They seemed to have a lot of fun with it, as you can see by the picture.  I will go back to randomly assigning groups, but the name thing was fun. :)

Of course, there were a few kids who didn't want to play, but that goes with the territory.  Those are probably the kids who won't like anything fun and would rather just sit by themselves and work on a worksheet or bookwork.  Whatever.

Quizzes today - nice and relaxing for me until I have to grade.  But sitting by my fan will totally make that worth it.

My plan is to use the CBR's in precalc on Friday to discuss piecewise functions.  I did it last year and the kids said it helped them to write/graph them - seems to be a topic that for whatever reason they struggle with. 

Open House tomorrow night... seriously the worst night of the year.  Well, ok, maybe not the worst, but it definitely makes for a super-long day!  And in this heat it's not going to be pleasant.  Last year I made a presentation for the parents... guess I'll have to see if I can find it and spice it up a little bit.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Prep time!

My first quizzes in Algebra 2 and Precalc are scheduled for Tuesday; I told the kids that they wouldn't have a new assignment tomorrow (Monday).  Instead I just want to give them time to ask questions and get things set so they're ready for Tuesday.  I have no idea what/how many questions they'll ask, so I'm preparing some slides for a trashketball game for extra review problems.  Hopefully they'll enjoy it as much as last year's classes!

One problem, though.  My tapeball has disappeared.  I tore my room apart looking for it to no avail.  Hopefully I have some masking tape here at the house!

Here are the Algebra 2 slides... haven't done the precalc ones yet, but they'll mostly be equations of lines and solving quadratics.  Fun.

Just a note on the slides.... they're actually set up so that the answers "fly" in on a click of the mouse.  They're not there when the kids first see the problem!

Oh, and my husband is currently at his fantasy football draft (I love me some sports, but this I really don't understand.).  He asked before he left if he could take my laptop with him and was disappointed when I said no.  School has started and I have work to do, so it's all mine!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One day down...

Phew.  Day 1 is over.  For whatever reason, it's the day I dread the most out of the whole year.  Maybe it's going back to work, maybe it's not knowing the kids, maybe it's not having a set plan.  For whatever reason, I'm always happy when it's over.  How about next year we go straight to day 2? :)

Everything went well, I think.  One of my 2 precalc classes was a bust because of a class meeting (I was left with 8/29 kids in class) so I just let them sit and relax and work on an assignment I'd given them to be due on Monday.  The other ones went as I was hoping; the plan I'd laid out went pretty smoothly.

Here's what I did:
1.  As the kids walked in the room, I had them grab a notecard and put their name and birthday on it.  I told them to make it pretty (had markers out).  Some did, some didn't.
2.  Showed the slide of the plan I'd made for today (names, feedback, quiz, homework problem).  Some freaked out when they saw that they had a quiz, some didn't.  I think many of the kids worried quietly about it.
3.  Names. (How do I pronounce it? What do you want to be called?)
4.  I tried to get them to talk to me about what they were expecting for the year and what they've heard.  Both precalc classes were pretty good about this; both had kids say that they heard I was good and explained things well.  Yay. :)  I had jolly ranchers to toss to the kids who offered suggestions.  Ended up throwing one out the back window.  (Oops.)
5.  Quiz about me.  Some kids didn't read the directions and were like "But my answers aren't on here" thinking it was about them.  Read the directions, people.  I don't like all the attention, but that was a fun thing to do.  I gave candy to the winners (10/14 right was the highest).  On the back of the quiz I asked them to give me 5 numbers that apply to them.  Lots of kids did stuff like their birthday or their age or their soccer number.  I just finished looking through two classes, though, and I've gotten some other info.  One kid gave a year that his parents got divorced, one gave a year that her mom beat cancer for the third time.  It's amazing what they want to share when you give them an opportunity!
6.  Logic problem.  I gave the same problem to Precalc and Algebra 2.  It might've been too tough for Algebra 2, but it got them thinking!  I tried to channel Dan Meyers and not help too much ("Be less helpful" is going to be my motto for the year.  I swear.) but I didn't want the Algebra 2 kids to not even try.  I helped understand the problem and get them started.  We'll see if anyone comes up with the right answer tomorrow!  In Algebra 1 I gave a fun problem about girls and backpacks and cats and how many legs.  It was driving them crazy!  One kid said he was really annoyed by the problem and was going to keep working on it until he got it.  Yes!
7.  End of class.

Tomorrow starts the real stuff.  Hopefully it'll go as well.

Now I get to go home and see how my little guy enjoyed his first day in first grade. :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to School

Tomorrow's the big day!  I think I'm ready, but I'd still like to copy a few things (and it seems that one of our two copiers is broken) and there was quite a line.  We'll see if that happens!

I'm sitting right now (and listening intently, of course) in a training session on how to use our new absence-reporting website.  I've discovered that I have big-time ADD at meetings now and can't just sit and listen, especially when I have my computer in front of me.... and we're supposed to be working on them!

I just received an e-mail from a guy named Tom Sallee from UC-Davis.  It came to my school e-mail and I thought at first that it was spam, but now I'm not so sure.  If any of you reading know anything about him/it please let me know!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Diigo Updates (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, August 9, 2010


I'm trying something out that @ehelfant suggested last night (this morning?  It was a late one) on twitter.  This is from a site called issuu - it's another way of presenting pdfs so they look like magazines.  Just thought I'd give it a shot!

First Day ... I think.

Just came up with this.   Any thoughts?

Also, can anyone tell me how to embed/share Smart Notebook files?  I ended up saving it as a pdf and uploading to scribd.  I'm sure there's a better way to do it!
Precalc First Day preso                                                            

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I decided against doing Problems of the Week this year after years of doing them, so I have a nice little stash of random problems stored up.  In thinking that I'll use them either as warm-ups or post-test activities, some organization might be helpful.  So in the last hour or so I went through each of the documents and copied the problem into a google spreadsheet (unless there was some sort of diagram involved... guess I'll have to figure out what to do with them!).

Here's the link to what I ended up with. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chipping Away

I feel like I'm very slowly becoming ready for the new school year to start.  Now if only the weather would cool off a bit I'd be a very happy girl!  (We have no a/c at school, so going back in August is often very painful.)

With all thanks to @jamierykse, here's my adaptation of his first day quiz.  I feel a little weird about having so much focus on me, but maybe it'll help break the ice a little bit. :)

First Day Quiz                                                                                                                                   

I think I'll also do the index card birthday idea and find a "good" problem for the kids to work on in pairs/triples.  That should do it!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

First Day Solutions?

I asked on twitter what other people do on the first day and got these replies...

from @JackieB:  Have kids do "about me" sheet, hand out syllabus (without going over), get started on a "good problem" in groups (such as this)  (I also like this problem that I have saved)

from @jreulbach: Do learning style survey (pages 18 - 23 ) and birth-order activity

from @MisterLemus:  Changes yearly. Has given math attitude survey, introduce themselves by picking a fraction that describes themselves, frequency table of birth month, name tag activity (good for homeroom?)

from @ecmorrell:  Complete get-to-know-you sheet, then teach lesson (in 90-minute block period)

Pretty good responses for a mid-Sunday afternoon query!

My evening update:
I had a few more responses this afternoon!  Some great ideas...

from @Stelladuma: Give this problem to Algebra 1 and discuss strategies

from @AmberDCaldwell: This numbers "quiz" about the teacher

from @park_star: A math bingo review sheet; students work with other students to get answers to squares

from @jamierykse: A pop quiz (again, about teacher) - looks fun!

First Day Blues

I was just reading Steven Anderson's post on what people do on the first day of school.

Have I told you how much I hate the first day?  Days 2 and 3 (and so on) are fine, but I absolutely detest the first day.  It's not even the physical aspects of it - I have to get up before the crack of dawn (instead of sleeping until 8:30 or so) and it's usually 90+ degrees in an un-airconditioned school.  My nightmares start in August (though they came early this year) and miraculously end after that dreaded first day.

I hate going into my classroom and having 12 - 30 unfamiliar kids stare at me.  By 7th period, they've heard the "spiel" 5 - 6 times already... what are your names? here's where you're going to sit.  here are my rules.  blah. blah. blah.  I usually go for 20 minutes or so (with the previously mentioned boring stuff) and then give them something mathy to work on.  For Algebra 2, a solving equations review.  For Precalc, a factoring/solving quadratics review.  (For Algebra 1 - who knows?)

I have a survey embedded on my class blogs that I'm going to get the computers in class for the kids to fill out (therefore showing them that there is a class blog, so someone isn't surprised by it in April (true story)), but I don't think I want to do that on Day 1.  I'm thinking more along the lines of Days 2 and 3 (depending on how many kids are in the class - our mobile carts only have 15 computers in them).

I want to get beyond the boring.  Does anyone out there do anything fun?  I want to keep the math in it, but how can I make this a class that after day 1 they're excited about coming to?