Saturday, December 28, 2013

Vacation Bliss...

I think we can all relate to that time when we finally can have some much needed rest to recharge our creative batteries.  Let's face it, teaching can drain you!  Beyond the politics, the standards, the classroom diversions, there is this need to be the most innovative teacher you can be.  I know I'm always looking for more creative ways to teach the same old boring lessons. 

This week my goal is to post some of the cool things that happened in my class prior to Christmas break.  I'm going to review an app I used as a teaching aid, post some pictures about a project we did, take a walk through NearPod (which I'd like to use permanently in my classroom), and revisit Mathletics.  I'd also like to get some feedback on a project I'm working out in my head.  I want to do a project with Legos, statistics, data gathering, functions and modeling... an all in one project.  I have a couple of classes that I'd like to experiment with, just to see how they do. 

Believe it or not, even though it is "relaxation" time, I've actually set work goals for my vacation.  I MUST make an EOY Algebra I proficiency exam.  That has to be sent of to the state for approval.  I MUST actually transfer my lessons from my planner to a digital format (so I can check out at the end of the year for summer vacation), I WANT to plan all my classes out to the end of the year.  I WANT to cross-reference everything I've done with CCSS, and I WANT to plan some REALLY cool lessons.

What are your plans and goals?  I hope you are enjoying your vacation!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Week 4 Already!

It amazes me to know  we are rolling into our 4th week of school and already so much has been done!  I promise I will not complain about a school year flying by!  The first part of the year in math is always spent reviewing concepts from the previous year and adding a level of complexity to that.  For instance, my students who are reviewing decimal operations now have to work with those same operations, but they will need to round, deal with repeating numbers, or positive and negative signs with their work.

One thing I've incorporated into my lessons this year is the use of Interactive Notebooks.  There are TONS of free resources on the web for doing this thanks to so many awesome educators.   I research all types of graphic organizers and foldables and incorporate them into my units so that my students are essentially creating their own study guides for quizzes and tests.  One of my new favorite finds is used to solve equations whether they are one step, two step, or multi-step.  I was looking for this resource for my Algebra I class, but I am going to incorporate it with my other classes as well.  While those classes won't hit multi-step equations just yet, this gives them a look ahead.

You can find this foldable HERE!

This is my second year to teach and one lesson I learned the first year is that the biggest transition that takes place are for my students who leave the 5th grade and step into honors level 6th grade math.  The current curriculum is to essentially teach these new 6th graders to do 7th grade math.  This is my second year to take a little stumble as well.  My first year I had a crop of students who hadn't mastered their 5th grade concepts.  Due to this frustrated students = frustrated teacher!  This year, I know about the instruction those students had last year and I decided to pick up the pace.  The students can't handle it right off the bat, so we are slowing it down again.  One of the most valuable things I was taught last year was don't be afraid to back track!  If they don't fully understand the concept and they NEED to fully understand the concept, then reteach!

There will be so much going on this year that my head is spinning trying to organize it all.  I eat, breathe, and sleep teaching during the school year!  I pray that everyone's year goes well this year!

How many weeks into the school year are you?  Are you rocking and rolling or hanging on for the ride? 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The night before school and all through the house....

Everyone in my house is going about their normal business and I am preparing for the first day of school.  Don't be alarmed!  I've actually been preparing for this day all summer, now I'm running over everything in my head.  Things I hope I don't forget, things that I want to add, and things that I'm hoping will help my day be easier.

This year I am incorporating new apps in my room.  First up for classroom management is Class Dojo:

You can click on the Dojo icon to take you to their webpage, but in a nutshell it is a way for you to document student behavior that the students can view daily as well as the parents.  Students are rewarded with points for good behavior and negative behavior takes away points.  Students who reach a particular amount of points each nine weeks will have the chance to earn homework passes.

Next up is Doceri:

Doceri is an app for my iPad that will allow me to link to my classroom computer, therefore linking me to my Smart Board.  Last year I had a hard time with classroom management.  The principal offered to come in and observe, but of course they are all golden children when this happens.  Instead I set up my iPad and secretly recorded one of my more out of control classes.  This was to be viewed by me and only the principal so she could critique me and point out my weak areas for improvement.  Lo and behold on the video each time I turned around to work a math problem on the board, the students began to act crazy.  Little things like hitting each other with pencils, smirks, comments, but I even had two students who stood up and did a little dance.  Just as I would start to turn around, they would hurry and sit back down.  Enter Doceri.  Doceri will allow me to work those problems on my iPad so that I never have to turn my back, but what I do will be visible on my Smart Board for my students.  I won't need eyes in the back of my head anymore! 

For those that don't know, I work in a private Catholic school.  I really was blessed and felt God was putting me right where I needed to be however, my first year of school I did everything I could just to survive.  I really thought it was cool that we prayed in school, before every class, and we can talk about God whenever we want.  I really wanted to integrate God and the Catholic faith into my classroom.  I didn't do so well the first year, but this year I want to do much better.  I've always read that those who write down their goals have a higher percentage rate of success, so the night before the new school year starts, I want to write down my goals for this school year:

1.  Better classroom management.  Start the year strong and remain consistent throughout the year.

2.  Incorporate new Common Core Standards throughout my lessons. 

3.  Involve student participation in finding a patron Saint for our classroom.  Learn about this Saint and incorporate this learning into our room.

4.  Integrate the Bible into my lesson plans. 

5.  Be more organized. 

6.  Write more often in my blog.

7.  Bring less work home and spend more time with my own children this school year.

Those are the big seven, and you know seven is a lucky number!  I'm making an event on my calendar to reevaluate how I'm doing with my goals mid year and at the end of the year.

To all of those starting back to school tomorrow or in the new future best of luck to you!  God has blessed us with another day, so let's make the most of it!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Back to School... OH SO SOON!

     I hope everyone has been enjoying their summer as much as I have.  Well aside from that silly surgery I had!  Right now I'm getting prepared to go back to work.  I only have a week and a half before teacher in-service begins and two and a half weeks before I'll be standing in my classroom in front of my students. Every teacher knows what this means; the classroom must be prepared, and the lesson plans must be ready to go!  This year I have added a new class to teach, so I can't rely on what worked great last year to supplement my new stuff, I am starting from scratch for this class.  I will be teaching 6th and 7th grade math, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra I.  I'm really excited about adding Algebra to my line up.  It was my FAVORITE class in high school. 

     This summer I have been revamping my lesson plans to include more activities and more student involvement.  I want them to discover and learn more and I want there to be less of my lectures up in front of them.  I've been reading two really great books this summer (click on the book covers to see them an Barnes and Noble):

     Flip your Classroom is by Jonathon Bergmann.  I'm sure everyone has heard of this teaching model.  I read an article in a publication about this approach and was really interested in learning more.  I will be flipping my classroom 3 or more days a week this year.  It isn't the exact model they did in their classroom, but it will work perfect in mine.  I recommend this book for anyone who wants to know how these two teachers made the journey.   They help you out by giving not only their successes, but their setbacks as well!

     Learning to Love Math is by Dr. Judy Willis, former teacher and current neurologist.  This book gives great insight into learning from a neurological standpoint.  Learn what happens in the brain when learning is happening!  I'm not quite finished with this book but I will say I am learning so much and I am surprised by what I have learned that is in concert with the flipped classroom approach.

     My other addiction this summer has been Pinterest and following other middle school educators' blogs.  I have learned SO MUCH.  As an added bonus I've gotten lots of freebies to use in my own classroom.  Everything from organizational materials, lesson plan ideas, and foldables.  Oh how I love foldables for math.  We will be working on an interactive notebook this year because I am going to incorporate writing into the lessons to prepare my students for the new Common Core tests. 

     I think it is safe to say I am excited about this school year.  I really hope to start a classroom blog, but we will see how I do with keeping up with this one first! 

     What are you doing to prepare for the new year?  What are you trying that is new? 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Adobe Creative Cloud

Summer is in full gear and I am in slow motion here lately.  I had surgery earlier this month and am still doing recovery so I'm spending a lot of time in the house.  One of the things I wanted to do was make my lessons more discovery based this year, find creative uses for our technology, and get out of the textbook.  I've been scouring blogs, websites, twitter, and everywhere for inspiration and I've found some pretty cool things that I'm going to incorporate into class this year. 

One thing I want to do is make my own pdf's that I can download into my Good Reader account for students to use in class so that they can email me work instead of the LOADS of paper I ended up with last year.  But they can't just be normal Word documents converted to pdf because that would be too easy, and I want something with a bit of pizazz.  So I started scouring more websites, viewing YouTube tutorials to create the elements of things I've seen that I like and during this long meandering journey I found Adobe Creative Cloud. (CC)

CC essentially offers a huge amount of adobe software that usually costs hundreds of dollars a piece for a subscription fee a month.  Of course when I find out about it I see they have a student and teacher addition for an introductory rate of $19.99 a month that expires tomorrow, so not a lot of time to make my decision.  Out of all the crazy Adobe Applications they have to offer, I was really interested in PhotoShop and Acrobat XI Pro, but then I realized there were a bunch of other cool things that you get that I'm going to play with$19.99 a month.   Con:  It is a 1 year contract, so if I decide 3 months from now to cancel, I have to pay a 50% penalty fee.  (In other words I have to pay for 50% of my remaining contract).  I went ahead and made that 1 year commitment so I'm hoping that I will be a quick learner for my lesson plans and on the flip-side I get Adobe Photo Shop for my personal use as well!  I rationalized it this way:  Acrobat XI Pro starts at $499 plus you have to pay for the upgrades.  I get tons of applications for $240 and the updates are free. 

I'll post some of the things I make and learn along the way.  Are you enjoying learning new things for your summer?  What type of professional development are you doing?  I'm looking for some good reading material ;)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ah, Summer Time!

I'm a bit late posting this since I've been out of school since the 24th of May, but what can I say, I've been enjoying myself!  I have officially survived my first year teaching middle school and have come away with a wealth of information.

Here is a shortlist of what is needed:

1) Great classroom management skills.

2) A sense of humor

3) the ability to adapt to LOTS of changes

4) Organization!

5) Lots of Pre-Planning

Changes for next year:

1) Start with my end of the year classroom management at the beginning of the year.

2) Units instead of textbook utilization

3) Biblical emphasis within the curriculum

4) More hands on projects and activities

5) Standards Based Tracking and Dare I say grading?!

6) Common Core Implementation

7) Writing

For Now:

I'm revamping my lessons this summer.  I'm implementing more hands on projects and discovery based lessons and I'm even looking at working a flipped classroom.  I noticed one thing I did this year was get in a comfortable routine of how my classes ran.  Warm-up, lesson power point, workbook exercises, homework... rinse, repeat, quiz, test... rinse, repeat... BORING!

What I did get to do the last 9 weeks was more projects.  We did a cross-curricular literacy project. A cross-curricular music project, we threw in some history lessons of mathematicians, but I want to spread this out throughout the year. 

Congratulations to all the first year teachers who made it through the year!  I hope that you get much needed rest this summer, and of course lots of pre-planning done!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

iPad in the classroom

There are a lot of resources out there for teachers using iPads in the classroom whether the teacher is the only one with the iPad or if you are like me and teach in a school that is on a one to one iPad ratio.  I'm always scouring the Internet and of course Pinterest looking for fresh new ideas for my kids.  I've noticed that no matter how awesome something is I have to keep it mixed up because my students are always eager for something new and different.

This week I have focused on learning about "flipped" classrooms and what I could do in my classes to integrate this method.  In my searches I ran across a great info-graphic for iPad users that gives great app resources for teachers and how those apps can be used.  It is important to note that some apps are free while others may have a cost.  Just click on the graphic below,  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spring Break... Explorations!

It is that wonderful time of the year when teachers and students alike get to take a HUGE break from school and relax.  For us, its time to sweep out the cobwebs, shove in some creativity, and of course get some much deserved R&R.

I look all over for inspiration because lets face it... sometimes my brain is fried!  All the classroom management, grading, test making, lesson planning, I get excited when I'm on target and look all over the internet to find great ideas for making it even better.  There is no shame in this!  Ok... I have no shame about doing this! HA!

Today, I'm going to share my awesome resources :)

Teachers Pay Teachers is a great resource for finding all types of lesson plans, activities, power points, tests, Common Core Resources, and so much more.  The cool thing is this stuff is MADE BY TEACHERS, and tested out in their classrooms.  Prices for your favorite selections range from FREE on up.  You can earn credits for free products by leaving feedback of your purchases.  TPT has been a great resource for me, giving me ideas, and introducing me to some great educators that have some pretty awesome blogs.

Here area  few of those awesome blogs:

Lessons from the middle is an awe inspiring blog giving out great resources, ideas, and this educator also has some great stuff to purchase on TPT.  My newest resource from her is Educational Menus.  I'm making Math Menus to help in differentiating my instruction, offering choice to my students, and put the discovery in their hands as well.  There are lots of giveaways and great advice and it isn't just math related content either.  Check it out!
Yes, I think everyone has figured out I'm a math dork, but this is the original "Miss Math Dork".  I began following this blog when I read about it on Lessons from the Middle.  Needless to say I also had to follow on Facebook and I love all the cute nerdy math ecards posted throughout the day.  This is where I also find out about great deals in TPT and free resources.  This blog is very easy going and I like the personal stuff added in with the professional.  It's definitely a go to blog.
I met THE "Mathy Kathy" at the NCTM conference in Dallas, TX this past year.  We were both browsing books in the NCTM store and we struck up friendly conversation about what books we thought we'd might like to get.  In our conversation we discovered that we both teach on campus' that have a 1:1 iPad ratio.  I knew right then I'd have to get this educators opinions and she generously gave me her card.  She said she was working on starting a "little blog" and was trying to get her information out there.  IMAGINE my surprise when I found so much awesome stuff to read about.  GREAT resources and technology to boot!  And for those that are creatively stifled like me, Mathy Cathy also sells great resources on TPT.

Technology for the Week:

I'm getting together some really cool resources and I can't help but share that my students always get a kick out of what Crazy Mrs. Ryan has come up with for the week.  In my classroom this upcoming week we will be doing:

Math Menus (Idea courtesy of Lessons From The Middle)

QR codes withing my Math Menus (Courtesy of my IT tech)

Glogs filled with information (Courtesy of our History Teacher)

Prezi's to break up the power point monotony ( Courtesy of an awesome professor while getting my Master's degree)

Do you like how I'm siting my sources?  Like I said from the beginning "I ain't too proud to beg"... for great ideas and incorporate them into my lessons.... of course :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy 4th 9 Weeks!

Yes, I'm talking about the beginning of the 4th 9 weeks.  A time that every teacher and student treasure!  They aren't quite done, but they know it is coming faster than ever.  My first teaching position for a solid year, and it's almost done.  What I wanted to touch on today is something I'm hearing from a lot of the veteran teachers... "Get as much done as you can by the end of the 3rd 9 weeks, they won't learn much the 4th 9 weeks because of all the activities that go on."

WHAT!?  You mean I have to basically babysit for 9 weeks?  I think NOT!

I happen to have a really awesome tech teacher on campus that is always giving me really cool ideas to try and a faculty who always shares cool new things that they find, so I'm hitting this up with a plan in mind!

1.  I'm going to throw in so many cool projects and tech activities that everyday will be an adventure in math.  Yes... I know.. I should have been doing this ALL year.. I was getting my feet wet though and teaching those fundamentals... over and over and hammering those things in... but I digress...

2.  We are going to change the dynamics of the room this 9 weeks from textbook and workbook to discovery activities and multimedia work.


And thus I do pledge to teach them during the 4th 9 weeks, not just count the days until spring break, Testing week, field day, volleyball day, grandparents day, and all the cool field trips coming up.

This week we are starting out with QR codes that will lead them to their notes, or to a really cool Glog about something we are learning.  This will enable them to flip through the media and resources to learn about the topic instead of listening to Mrs. Ryan go "WAAA WAA WAA WA WA WA"  (I secretly think that is what they really hear half the time)  Then we are going to take that information and pair it with things from the Bible (PS... I love teaching at a school where we can talk about God!

Oh, and if you want to see what we did on Pi Day, check out my glog!

Have a great day!  And Happy 4th 9 Weeks!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hitting Roadblocks

Well I knew it was bound to happen at some point.  I know that every teacher experiences it.  How to overcome it, will be the biggest victory I've had so far in my career as a teacher.  The roadblock I'm talking about is when you teach a concept, reteach that concept, and teach it again.. and the students still don't get it.

What then?

Right now, my roadblock is equations.  Equations!  My FAVORITE part of math.  I love all the cute jokes about finding x.  But for real.. I LOVE finding x.  My students.... not so much.  But we are getting there!

I tried teaching about equations "the old fashioned way".  I followed the textbook, I taught them how to solve using concrete manipulatives.. (and they looked at me like I was crazy).  On the last quiz we took, I had 1 student pass, and 2 that didn't get a single problem right.  We went through EVERY problem together, and then I had them correct their work, and write about their mistakes.  I had them look at the correct method, look at what they did and write sentences about the mistakes they made.  I was hoping to teach them something, but my students taught me something as well.

1)  My students lack basic math skills.

2) My students lack confidence in math.

3) My students are somewhat lazy!

4) My students DO NOT check their work

On Monday I will be back in the classroom teaching this concept to my students again.  But we are going to have a new tool at our disposal.  My next plan is practice, practice, practice mixed with a flippable rule book they can use that is devoted to the mathematical basics such as integers, fractions, and formulas.  Something they can use to help them work their way to gaining confidence in getting their problems correct. 

In all the research I've done, one thing has stood out above all else.  Students who lack fundamental math skills WILL NOT be successful in math, and it impacts their college readiness and their ability to finish college successfully.

I am on a mission.  I will post my flip chart as soon as I'm finished.  Time to put all those crafting supplies to use!