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Archive for the ‘first days’ Category

Tomorrow is the second Monday for this semester.  That means I made it through the first week.

Good stuff that happened…

Kick off was mostly successful in spite of the weather.  We took the kids to the Town Dock and split them in two groups.  One group went on a local fisherman’s boat and surveyed it for safety hazards (pre-test for marine studies) and the other group stuck one hand in 33 degree F water for a minute (if they could stand it) for the science teacher, then we used an infrared surface temp reader to compare wet hands and dry hands at regular intervals (for the science teacher).  DATA!  Then the groups switched places. The kids were miserable in the wet, but at least it wasn’t actively raining. And they weren’t in the classroom, hooray!

We used their data to work on graphing and analysis skills in the following days.  We also used the data sheet from the marine trades instruction about the rate of water flow when a boat has a hole below the waterline.  More data and more graphing. In the end, we had the chance to discuss units, scales, variability, quadrants in the coordinate plane, axis labels, domain, and range.

Tonight I read Gregory Taylor’s post on SBG, http://mathiex.blogspot.com/2014/02/my-grading-iep.html?spref=tw which  led me to Michael Pershan’s post on other things, http://rationalexpressions.blogspot.com/2012/06/4-things-more-important-than-sbg.html, which led me to believe I need to have an assessment. Soon. So I’m think I will give them a data set and a graph and ask them what’s wrong with the graph (formative).  Then I will just give them some data and ask them to graph it (summative).  When I have the assessments built, I will post them here.

For now, I need to take the time to sketch the upcoming week.  I use a simple table, write in just a word or two, and keep it on a clipboard (with bell schedule and school calendar, so I always have them even if the ‘net is down).  WeeklyPlan-12

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imageOn day 1, we had freshmen only.  I only have one class with freshman, Marine Studies 101.  It’s the introductory class to our new Marine Studies Pathway and will be primarily a science class with heightened focus on math.  The freshmen account for six of the twenty students.

I am co-teaching this class with Jessica.  She’s new to the area and we haven’t had a lot of time to work out all the details. And neither one of us has experience with co–teaching.   We did spend a week in early August planning the big picture, but we never had time to talk about the nitty gritty that makes a class work.

I’m talking about class routines and expectations, assessment structure, and daily lesson planning.   All we knew was that we both wanted to include foldables.  Thank goodness we had common prep 1st period!

Jessica pulled an activity out of her archives that we could do with just part of our class.  The activity had to do with optical illusions, but our focus was on the importance of measurement.  I didn’t think to ask if I could share, so I only offer a picture here of one of the spinning wheels.  I never knew that you could see colors on a spinning black and white disk!

We winged it, with an ed tech watching the show, then we debriefed afterwards.  It was patently obvious to both of us that we needed to work out those nitty gritty details, preferably before we met with the rest of the class tomorrow.  We agreed that an exit routine that required students to summarize the day/project/whatever was important.   For now, we won’t have a regular entry routine, since we will have a project based learning structure.  We agreed on group size for our first project and decided to use a random group generator that she has in her files.  We also decided on record keeping – binders + comp books for students, spreadsheet for us.

imageBut I just realized we didn’t firm up location!  Ha, ha.  The kids won’t know if they are coming or going.

We also decided to heavily weight the “academic integrity” category (25%) since a large part of what we want students to learn is how to work effectively in a project based learning environment.   Most of these kids have not had any project based learning for academics, only for shop or art.  Also, it is mixed grade levels (9-12), so they need to learn some group skills together.

Most of them are enrolled in the second semester Marine Studies course.  That one counts for a science credit, a math credit, and half an english credit, so they need to have the PBL stuff down pat by next semester.

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Happy New Year.  New school year, that is.  The beginning of  a new school year feels like New Year’s Day to me.  It is a time to reflect on the past year and to make resolutions for improvement in the new year.  Just like the calendar new year.

Over the years, I have learned a few things about making resolutions.  They should be specific and attainable.  The list should not be too long or it will be overwhelming.  Difficult tasks should be chunked into manageable steps.  So I have only made a few.

1.  Try using Interactive Notebooks.  I am actually pretty excited about doing this.  I hope the excitement continues and it doesn’t fizzle out.

2.  Improve the timeliness of paperwork.  This one isn’t as exciting, but still necessary.

3.  Call parents – Every year I have made this vow, and every year I have failed miserably.  I hate phones.  Can’t I just email parents?  No, it must be the call.  So to make it achievable (baby steps), I will make one parent call each week for four weeks, then step it up to two calls per week, and so on.  Thinking about it makes my stomach clench and my palms sweaty, even though school hasn’t even started yet.

Deep breath.  That’s not so bad.  I can do that.

And finally,

4. Find balance between work and home.  All work and no play is not a good thing and makes me a dull teacher.

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I have sooo many goals for this new year; maybe too many.  I need to start working on several of them the first week, no delaying or procrastination.  Like dealing with all the paper that teaching seems to generate.  But the most important goal that I have is to begin as I mean to go on.

I don’t want the first day to be all about rules and administrative tasks and (blech) paperwork.  I certainly don’t want those things to be the major theme of the year.  So I am going to start the very first day with a plan similar to how I want the rest of the year to go.  I am going to ask my students to think about things related to the content they will be covering.  I am going to ask them to do some investigation and analysis, then share their results.  And I am going to ask them to reflect on what they did.  And, yes, we will do that administrative stuff, like discussing rules and passing out the syllabus, but not until we do the important stuff.

In my life science class, the students will be describing what life is and building a word cloud for their first notebook document.  (Periodically during the course, they will revisit that theme to see how their vision has changed.)  They will find some other opinions on what life is and build word clouds based on those visions, then do a little comparative analysis.  After sharing their results, I will ask them to do a little reflecting on the results.  The whole shebang will become part of their portfolios as documentation of their starting point.   Next comes some “Animal, Mineral, Vegetable” to start them thinking about similarities and differences.  Since first day is freshman only (half of this class), they will have to be ready to share their results the next day with the other students.  And then finally we can deal with the administrative details.   At the end of the class, they will get their first exit ticket, a randomly drawn card that they have to identify as animal, vegetable, or mineral; whether it is alive or not; and how they know this.  That is how I want each day to go forward.  I know it will not always be like that; there may be lectures, labs, group activities, or some other thing.  But I absolutely don’t want it to be a follow the textbook and do worksheets kind of class.

Basic Math will start a little more prosaically.   With only two students, this will be more of a tutorial than a class; however, it is still important to begin as we mean to go on.  As they enter, I will give them a card with instructions on where to find their binders and their seats, and what to start on right away.  Once class begins, we will have an Act I activity.  I like the pennies pyramid (thank you @mrmeyer); it is flexible enough to accommodate many levels of entry.  Now that they are all warmed up, we can do the initial assessment.  I have to have that information as soon as possible so I know what interventions they will need.  From there, we will do some common reflection about the activity, the assessment, and how they feel about “doing” math.  We’ll take care of the administrative stuff, then do the exit ticket.  It will be a set of self-assessing questions on work habits.

In general, I want to start building the habit of greeting students at the door; this was something I struggled with last year, so I am really going to make an effort this year.  I also like beginning with an entry problem or task.  Last year, my Algebra class came in and started right away on the SAT Question of the Day that I had printed for them.  I was so pleased the day I realized they were finishing it before the second bell was ringing for class to start.  Yay, way to extend the class period!  I definitely want to continue this.  My biggest goal is to do the same at the end of class.  I really need to establish an exit ticket habit.  The only way to make sure it happens is to start with it right away, first week, and don’t let up.  It takes an average of two months to really establish a new habit, so I can’t waste any time!

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