Doing Less

I’ve been teaching for a while now and I make a lot of mistakes. The mistake I think I make most is trying to do too much.

Dan Meyer says be less helpful. I say don’t try to teach everything at once.

His advice is probably better for most of you.  (Ok that was just name dropping)

 

Seriously though. At the moment we are teaching students to write and solve two-step equations. If I were working on my own I would have basically jumped into the two-step equations and let the kids struggle for a while wondering why they weren’t getting it. Instead my coach has helped me write lesson plans (read that as doing most of the work), while I’ve been teaching. While the lessons are ending up being mostly me talking and guiding students through examples, and I would like to do less of that, they have been more focused.

 

Small steps, first spend a whole lesson just exploring the connections between words and operations. Second, spend a whole lesson with one step word problems, (Use an Andrew Stadel video for fun and excitement [yes it could also have been a two-step equation lesson]). Third, just model two-step equations (I tried to jump ahead and solve, but that didn’t work). Fourth, reboot from yesterday, but now we can solve. Fifth, review of the distributive property and guide students through writing a two-step equation with distributive property.

 

Five days to do something I might have attempted to do in one day.  Are the students better prepared? According to the exit slips everyone is keeping up just fine. What I do notice is in my word problem for the daily warm up, students are still jumping right to the answer.

On Monday, 324 students went on a trip to the zoo. All 8 buses were filled and 4 students had to travel in cars. How many students were in each bus ?

 

Everyone wants to say 40 (or 40 1/2 ). So I go back and ask how did you get that? We write something like (324-4) / 8 = 40. I ask is that what is written on the board or is that how to solve the problem? After some thinking time we discover that what is written on the board is 8s + 4 = 324. The word and is easily seen as a plus not a minus. Finding the multiplication is a bit harder, but, as almost half my students are bilingual, I can point out that translating isn’t always a word for word thing, sometimes you have to get the meaning.  (Would you really like to put were on your word wall and say every time you see this word think multiplication?)

 

I’m really pleased that by teaching slowly, doing less. we not only have a stronger understanding of writing equations, but we are also teaching how to solve equations within the same context. Actually, I can point to the ease with which my students get the right answer and say, the right answer is like a grade of C, getting the right equations is like a B, and then being able to do everything backwards (writing a good word problem) is like an A. This works because some of the word problems we have seen while practicing have been very difficult to understand.

 

Snowmagedden

Did you see this cool activity created by our own Mr. Foster? Of course not I haven’t shown it to you yet.

A simple excel file Students are to label points on a number line. Then move numbers around to make the columns equal zero. Great for practice in adding integers, but also great for building the concept of finding zeros,
I’m also thinking it can help build the concept of equations, but putting the zero block in the center and asking students to add or subtract from the ends.

Feel free to play with it.
We were also talking about setting up a way for students to access these files and turn them in on their own. We are thinking a separate google doc for each student. You can access the document here. When you share the link (a setting in google docs) your students don’t need an account to view the page.
There is also a company Zoho.com with many of the same features as google docs. I uploaded the document there also. I think the formatting looks a lot better than it did in google docs. In Zoho you can share the document with other Zoho users (free plan even) but you can’t share outside of Zoho unless you buy the premium plan. They also have an option of sharing to a group.
One idea we did have is to differentiate the lessons and give some students more challenging spreadsheets. This of course would mean sending each one to individual students negating the advantage of a group.
One final thought is that sharing the documents will mean a link somewhere. Either a hyperlink in a class blog (try to find a blog that isn’t blocked). The other option I can think of is a URL shortener.
A service like tinyurl.com will shorten the URL (the address of the web page) to something such as http://tinyurl.com/4amf5cc It is even possible to customize the last part of the link. Perhaps something like a name and a date. Then you can assign each student a different spreadsheet and they can remember the URL easily.
Enjoy your snowday, and share some of your favorite lessons.

Snowmagedden

Did you see this cool activity created by our own Mr. Foster? Of course not I haven’t shown it to you yet.

A simple excel file Students are to label points on a number line. Then move numbers around to make the columns equal zero. Great for practice in adding integers, but also great for building the concept of finding zeros,
I’m also thinking it can help build the concept of equations, but putting the zero block in the center and asking students to add or subtract from the ends.

Feel free to play with it.
We were also talking about setting up a way for students to access these files and turn them in on their own. We are thinking a separate google doc for each student. You can access the document here. When you share the link (a setting in google docs) your students don’t need an account to view the page.
There is also a company Zoho.com with many of the same features as google docs. I uploaded the document there also. I think the formatting looks a lot better than it did in google docs. In Zoho you can share the document with other Zoho users (free plan even) but you can’t share outside of Zoho unless you buy the premium plan. They also have an option of sharing to a group.
One idea we did have is to differentiate the lessons and give some students more challenging spreadsheets. This of course would mean sending each one to individual students negating the advantage of a group.
One final thought is that sharing the documents will mean a link somewhere. Either a hyperlink in a class blog (try to find a blog that isn’t blocked). The other option I can think of is a URL shortener.
A service like tinyurl.com will shorten the URL (the address of the web page) to something such as http://tinyurl.com/4amf5cc It is even possible to customize the last part of the link. Perhaps something like a name and a date. Then you can assign each student a different spreadsheet and they can remember the URL easily.
Enjoy your snowday, and share some of your favorite lessons.

The Poster Session

I’m already planning for my big summer presentation. How it is possible to use web 2.0 technologies, specifically a wiki, to help teachers and administrators across schools to collaborate on math curriculum.

As some of you may know I am currently taking a graduate certificate course through Johns Hopkins University and the International Society for Technology in Education.

One of the requirements for this program is to present at the annual ISTE conference (Formally the NECC conference). 18,000 people are expected to attend this conference.

I hope to present the best of Waukegan Public Schools. I will appreciate any and all help given. Actually, the entire project is about how administration and teachers can work together to get this done.

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The Poster Session

I’m already planning for my big summer presentation. How it is possible to use web 2.0 technologies, specifically a wiki, to help teachers and administrators across schools to collaborate on math curriculum.

As some of you may know I am currently taking a graduate certificate course through Johns Hopkins University and the International Society for Technology in Education.

One of the requirements for this program is to present at the annual ISTE conference (Formally the NECC conference). 18,000 people are expected to attend this conference.

I hope to present the best of Waukegan Public Schools. I will appreciate any and all help given. Actually, the entire project is about how administration and teachers can work together to get this done.

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Wearable Computer – Student Data – Using Technology

I started getting into computers around 1995. Back then I thought it would be pretty cool to carry my computer around with me. I wasn’t thinking about the early laptops, but literally rebuilding the desktop computer stuffing it into a backpack and carrying it around.

I thought I could break the keyboard into two pieces and strap them to my thighs. I would put teeny tiny projectors inside dark sunglasses and that could be the monitor. Way back then everything was dial up so I thought the portable modems of the day could be used as a mobile dial up. Then of course everything would have to be hooked to a giant car battery or something.
Obviously I never pursued this, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.
I-O Keyboard from http://nexus404.com/
There are small Bluetooth keyboards  Though I don’t see why they don’t make them so you can split them into two pieces.
3-D glasses from Zetronix http://www.zetronix.com/
There are wearable monitors. 
http://cdn.slashphone.com/sp/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/lg-ks-20-smartphone.jpg
And there are smart phones.
What does this have to do with math? (keep reading I’ll get there eventually)
Currently, I’m working on my type 75 and we are learning about walk-throughs, quick three- to five-minute observations. The non-threatening, non-evaluative walk-throughs give principals a quick snapshot of student learning. The data collected from these walkthroughs are then used to start on conversation on how to improve instruction in the school.
Following the lead of Science Leadership Academy in Philly and Van Meter Elementary in Iowa we created a Google form for our walk-through.
As I practiced using the form on my smart phone I realized this was very similar to something I tried to do way back when I was a student teacher.  Then I tried to carry around a clipboard to take notes on my students while they were working. It didn’t work because the students were more interested in what I was writing than what they were supposed to be doing.
Now I might not spend $300 dollars to get some fancy glasses, but I might spend $55 on a keyboard that I can wirelessly connect to my phone, or even my desktop computer as long as I am within 30 feet. I might then create a quick form for each lesson with checkboxes of skills I want my students to learn. I can even add a section for notes and type those in real quick using the keyboard. (That is of course if you can type without looking at the screen) I am now collecting tons of data everyday on my students. I won’t be guessing who will pass the next test, I’ll know.

Content Resources

Did everyone enjoy the professional development Tuesday? I know I heard some mixed reviews, but nothing out and out negative. Perhaps I’m too optimistic. I know some people in felt starting with addition was too basic for middle school teachers, but then again I heard some comments about how some students would make simple mistakes like answering twelve for:

4 + 8 = _ + 5

I think I remember helping to revising curriculum at a school last year and someone saying something to the effect of “if they don’t learn it in previous grades I don’t care if its a standard or not we need to include it.”
If our students are making addition and subtraction mistakes then a quick lesson, or differentiation, on strategies for addition is something we might consider doing. More importantly knowing what students are, or should be, thinking can help us identify misconceptions.

Inquiry based math.

I don’t make it a secret that I like the Connected Math Books. It isn’t because they have great example problems. Actually, since I started reading Dan Meyer’s blog I’ve kind of learned to dislike textbooks as a rule. What I like about the CMP books is the inquiry based format. I like the fact that everything is tied together from book to book. I like the fact that often parts of today’s lesson will be used in later lessons. Though if a previous teacher didn’t follow connected math it can be more difficult to make the connection.

If you don’t like a problem presented in the CMP book I highly encourage everyone to find a problem that you like better. For example this high school algebra lesson (Transparent Algebra blog) is very similar to the paper bridge problem in Thinking With Mathematical Models book. The point is not so much the actual lesson, or even the actual math, but getting students to think.

So the actual resource here today are some content web sites. Find out what CMP is trying to teach (I know sometimes it is difficult) take a minute to figure out some of the procedures they have used in the past or will likely use in the future so you can make connections past and future. then go pick your own content, a better content, something you will teach with passion.

Basic math content sites.