Thursday, May 26, 2011

Get 'em to think the second they step foot in the door

Part of my new role as CARC's Mathematics Teacher Facilitator is creating and locating resources for teachers to use in their classroom.  I will be focusing on different units of study for different grades, sifting through online resources, collecting and sharing those resources.  If at any point in time, I put an all call out to my readers, please, please, PLEASE share what you have created or found!  It won't be for my benefit alone.  Many people will benefit!  Don't even worry about the date of the post.  I don't care if you find a post 2 years after it's written.  Share anyways!

Ok.  Enough of a spiel.  On to today's thought.

I want my students thinking mathematically from the second they step in the door until they are out my door and beyond the classroom.  Let's start small and work with "stepping in the door." 

Last year while I was prepping for Math 10C, I was introduced to two Alberta teachers who were teaching Math 10C and posting all of their resources online as part of a project.  One of the first things that caught my attention was an activity that Bonnie Layton posted.  It is one that I quickly adopted in my classroom.  Although it takes a bit of time to prep, it is something I can use year after year, especially if I laminate the cards.

The Reasoning:
Let me give you a bit of my reasoning first.  I find that students tend to sit with the same people every day.  Sometimes this is a good thing.  Other times it can be detrimental.  However, I believe that it's imperative that students learn to work with many different types of people.  We will not always have the opportunity to work with our best friends, right?  So, I needed an activity that would force students to work with different people each day and engage their math brain at the same time.  This fit the bill perfectly.

How it works:
When students walk into my classroom, they reach into a little basket and pull out a card.  That card will help them find their partner for that class.  That is the key.  Students are only paired up for one class.  Everybody can work with someone for 84 minutes and survive.

On that card, students will find information that will help them figure out who their partner is.  For example:  one card might say (x^2)(x^3) and the other card might say (x^7)/(x^2).  Both students would have to figure out their answer of x^5, find each other and come to me to check their answer.  Each card has a number.  For example, if (x^2)(x^3) had 3 and (x^7)/(x^2) had 10, they would say "3 and 10".  I would check my answer key (which I just wrote on the outside of the envelope that I stored each set in.  If it said 3, 10 then I could tell them they were correct.  If not, I would just say "nope" and send them on their way.  In the beginning, I didn't have an answer key and would have to figure each answer out every time.  Pretty easy when it's simple exponent laws but get more complicated and talk about a lot of wasted time.

What I Would Change:
I've considered making a Smart Notebook file that would allow them to check their answers themselves. There's two main reasons why I haven't done that yet. 
  1. When students find their partners, there's an activity displayed on the SmartBoard for them to get started on right away with their partner.  There'd be a lot of flipping back and forth while students checked their answers and worked on the question.  Could get very annoying.
  2. I like having the students check with me.  I know right away if there's misunderstandings and can offer feedback as needed.
What I Still Need To Do:
  1. I still need to attach all of the curricular outcomes to the pairing activities I have already created.  I made these activities for Pure Math 20.  Since the curriculum is changing next year, I thought it was silly to waste my time assigning it to the old curriculum but I didn't have time to focus on the new one yet.  I just made each set up after my lesson for the day.  This way it would be focused on the lesson from the previous class.
  2. Finish making pairing activities for the lessons I didn't have time to do.
Where Can I Find These Resources?
I will be creating a moodle website for all the resources I find/create.  As soon as I have that created, I will post a link.  I have attached a sample one  so you can see what I'm talking about.  Students had to find someone with the matching leading coefficient or degree (depending on the statement on the card).

Degrees of a Polynomial

Where do WE go from here?
Create your own pairing activity and share!  Indicate Course name and outcomes covered so we can adapt as necessary.  Share a link in the comments.  Can't wait to see what you share.  Remember, it doesn't matter if you see this post 2 years from now.  Share anyways!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Times Have Changed...

I started this blog last fall as part of my PLP group.  As you can see, I haven't updated it in forever.  However, I have made it a new goal in my life to update this every few days from now on.  Why the change of heart, you may ask?  A couple of reasons.  One is that several people have told me it's important for more women to share their voice and their message.  I believe that's true.  For many years, I have allowed my voice to remain a whisper but no longer will I hide.  I'm throwing myself at the mercy of whomever chooses to immerse themselves in my thoughts.

However, there is a second reason.  Several weeks ago, it was strongly suggested that I apply for CARC's Mathematics Teacher Facilitator position.  Nervously, I did so and anxiously awaited a response to my application.  It finally arrived with the news that I would have to prepare a presentation for my interview to occur in just a few days.  Wow!  I was so excited but absolutely terrified at the same time!  What format would I use?  They mentioned PowerPoint in the email.  I considered it.  I know PowerPoint inside and out.  It wouldn't be much of a challenge.  All I'd have to think about was my content.  I started gathering information that I wanted to share.  Found photos that I had already taken.  Told my students I was preparing for a presentation focusing on me as a math teacher and they agreed to be videoed and photographed.  I decided to use Prezi, although I hadn't used it before so I spent my time inputting the information while I was learning the program.  I sat down with my Vice-Principal the night before the interview (only 1 day after finding out about the interview) and shared my beginning presentation with him.  He made suggestions.  I made changes.  I went home and put the changes in effect but still felt something was missing.  So the next day, I gave each of my students in my math class a piece of paper and asked them to finish the sentence..."One thing Mrs. Berg does well is..."  The comments they wrote down almost made me cry.  I was truly honored!  I also spoke with a teacher, telling her the same story.  (I wasn't advertising that I was applying for the position yet).  She wrote up a fabulous quote as well.  So at lunch time, you could find me hunched over my computer entering these comments and fine tuning the presentation.  No pressure.  Interview wasn't until 4:30.  Oh wait.  They moved it up till 3:00 or as soon as I could get there.  Yikes!  Good thing I had a prep last block!  Race home.  Change.  Race off to the interview.  Darn.  Forgot that road didn't go all the way through.  Back track a couple of times until I got myself on the right road.  Whew!  I made it there shortly after 3.

I think the interview goes ok but I'm definitely nervous.  The next day, I get home after work and my husband tells me that someone has been trying to call me.  They had tried me at work but I was gone.  They tried me on my cell but there was no answer.  (I don't get reception in my classroom).  She announces to him that she has done her due diligence and now I have to call her.  To me, this means that I did not get it.  She leaves her home number as she is leaving work.  I call.  Machine picks up.  Leave a message.  I call 45 minutes later.  Husband answers.  She's not home yet.  I call 30 minutes later.  Still note home.  I'm dying here!  I ask him to give her my cell number...just in case.  We're going out to dinner.  I don't know if it's a congratulatory dinner or a consolation one.  Can't let go of my cell phone.  Dinner's over but no phone call.  Now I am very sad.  It's obvious.  I didn't get it or she would have called me back.  We arrive home and are just unlocking the door when I hear the phone ringing inside.  I pretty much shove my poor husband out of the way to race up the stairs and answer it.  It's her!  My saviour!  She's about to put me out of my misery.  But guess what!  I GOT IT!!!  I'm so excited that I can barely contain myself.  First, I tell my husband.  Then I call my mom.  Then I call my principal and vice-principal but the stinkers tell me they knew first thing that morning!  Aw man!

So, as of August 22, 2011, I will working for CARC as the Mathematics Teacher Facilitator.  It's a one year position possibly leading into two years.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with teachers focusing on math.

Now, how does this lead to me returning to my blog?  This blog will follow my journey within this position.  I'm not sure what my topics will focus on...basically whatever comes to mind that day:  a response to a reading I have done, sharing a lesson or activity I have created or found, a request for ideas, wherever my journey takes me.

I hope that you will join me on this journey.

Below is the prezi that I used in my interview.  Maybe one day I'll get around to adding a voiceover.