Favorited Tweets #1

Not sure about you, but I’m pretty glad March is over. Nothing terribly awful happened, but I, and most of my school, seemed to be in a funk. Our normal schedule was changed constantly due to MCAS tests and class scheduling meetings for next year, and we didn’t have a regular day of classes for most of the month. Everything just seemed to be harder than it should have been. Therefore, I wasn’t really tweeting, and definitely not blogging. When I lurk on Twitter, I favorite tweets and then immediately forget about them. I decided it would be worth it to see what hidden gems I have recently favorited. Here are a few standouts:

1) Graphtv: The site provides you with a graph of the ratings for your favorite tv shows based on episode ratings from IMDB. I think my students would love this site because they can choose any show that is interesting to them. This would be perfect during our Linear unit in Algebra 1, so I’ll have to wait until next October/November to put it to good use.

Here’s my favorite show, Homeland:
Homeland Graphtv

2) 3-Act Handout: This is definitely going to be handy when doing one of Dan Meyer’s Three Act Lessons, wish I had come across this form a long time ago!

3) Math Munch writes about 2048: My students and I are obsessed with the game 2048. We challenge each other to games during homeroom in the morning, and I just knew they would love to hear more about the game. Students who have already beaten 2048 were psyched to find new versions to play.

4) Why Am I Teaching This?: @Approx_normal started this site as a way for teachers to connect regarding those frustrating topics we teach but sometimes aren’t sure why. I hope educators keep contributing to it because it has the potential to be extremely valuable.

5) Robert Kaplinsky’s Problem Based Search Engine: The search engine allows you to quickly find awesome problem-based lessons and is a must to have bookmarked for all math teachers.

Junior Pinning Ceremony

The Boston University School of Education Junior Pinning Ceremony is my favorite tradition of my alma mater. Tonight, undergraduate juniors will stand amongst their peers and affirm their call to teach by reciting the Educator’s Affirmation:

BU SED Educator's Affirmation

While many educators make the decision to enter the field after pursuing other careers, these students have already made the commitment to the education profession. It’s beautiful to watch the students make this commitment together, knowing that many of them are standing next to their best friends and future colleagues. I have been asked to attend tonight’s ceremony to represent the alumni community by distributing the pins to each junior as they walk across the stage. I cannot wait to attend, meet this class of aspiring educators, and be inspired by the night’s speakers.

Each year, one student is selected to address the class and I was honored to have been selected as the student speaker my junior year. In honor of tonight’s event, I thought I would post the speech I gave on February 22, 2008. Full text below.

I have wanted to be a teacher for my entire life. Well, almost. For about one month during kindergarten I really wanted to be a hairdresser. Then my mom told me if I were a hairdresser I would have to stand all day, and that ended that. It turns out that teachers spend most of the day standing too. However, if we, as future educators, must stand all day to teach, to reach, to encourage, to love, and to inspire young minds, then that is a cause I am willing to stand for.

The Dean Emeritus of Marsh Chapel, Howard Thurman, passionately stated, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” The world is suffering from a severe shortage of qualified teachers. Politicians and world leaders tell us that everyday. But more importantly than just needing teachers, we need passionate individuals who are ready to care about their students and change the way they think about education.

That is why we are all here today. Somewhere along the road we decided that we want to be one of those individuals. For some, it may have been a gradual decision, determined after years of careful deliberation. For me, it was one day in kindergarten. With my pigtails bouncing and Spottie Dottie backpack, I knew I was destined to stand in front of a classroom one day. It does not matter how you came to sit here though, what matters is that our Junior class is united by the School of Education, and a dream to inspire.

Throughout the years, my childhood plan never wavered. My desire to teach has only grown stronger with each new teacher I have encountered. In first grade, I wanted to be a first grade teacher, second grade, a second grade teacher, third grade, a third grade teacher and, you get the idea. Finally, upon entering high school, I knew I had found my niche. I loved the academic subjects, the atmosphere, the community, the extracurricular activities, the athletics, and especially, the students. At the time, they were my peers, but I looked ahead and saw myself at the whiteboard fervently singing a song about the quadratic formula and debating proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem with them. I’m a math nerd, what can I say.

Regardless of what age group we have chosen, whether it is early childhood, elementary, or secondary, we each share a common goal: to be the best teacher we can possibly be. And we chose the Boston University School of Education to be our guide. This school is not just a teacher preparation program. SED is a welcoming community of supporting peers and professors who want to see us and our future students succeed. We share laughter on the bus rides during our Introduction to Education class, and relief upon completion of our first lesson plan. We listen to each other’s triumphs and experiences in the classroom and use them as ways to grow. My fellow students in the School of Education have become my best friends, my confidantes. We could not get through this journey alone, nor would we want to. The collaborations, class discussions, and stories we share about teaching, strategies, and learning opportunities are held more closely to the heart coming from those we care about, an education that not only a textbook could provide.

Life in the School of Education is a constant reminder that “We can do this!” We can create interdisciplinary units connecting the sciences and humanities. We can manage a classroom and discipline appropriately. We can implement the curriculum frameworks and individualized education plans. We can educate and find a way into the hearts and minds of our students. Last semester I tutored one student at The English High School who informed me that he does not believe teachers when they tell him they believe in him. What does it take to believe? How can you show students that you truly care about them? It is a topic we have covered numerous times throughout the past two and a half years. Believing starts with respecting, moves toward building relationships, and arrives at a mutual understanding that one is at the blackboard because one wants to be there. We set high standards for our students, know that we will do everything we can to help them, and expect both parties to come through for each other. Passionately teaching what you love and showing your students that you care about them as learners, will make them into believers.

Tonight, as we affirm our decision to become teachers, we believe we can be successful at educating and changing the lives of our students, making this the right place for us to be. One day in the near future, we will stand up in front of a classroom with 50 gazing eyes and 25 wondering hearts, eagerly waiting to see what lesson is in store for the day. In that moment, do you come alive? Excitement is contagious. Passion is unmistakable. Doing what you love makes all the difference in the world. Thank goodness we love teaching.”

Learning Targets and Success Criteria

I haven’t written a blog post since November and feel like I’ve been in a funk. I feel like I haven’t had anything to say or contribute, and the longer I stay away from posting, the harder I feel it is to get back into it. But this weekend, registration for Twitter Math Camp opened for individuals who have attended in the past (it will open for everyone else on 2/22!), and this was just the kick I needed to write again…

After winter break, our district had a half day of professional development, where each school heard a presentation from the principal on “Learning Targets and Success Criteria.” We were encouraged to read this chapter from “Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom” before the presentation. The presentation was followed by department break-out sessions to discuss the topic in more depth.

Our district leadership has requested that all teachers post and share with students the “Learning Targets” and “Success Criteria” for each day’s lesson. They may be posted on a white board for the entire class, or teachers can choose to project them sometime during the lesson. The key is that they are discussed with students and referred to throughout the lesson. “Learning Targets” are basically the same thing as objectives. “Success Criteria” provide the student with strategies for assessing their work. The goal is for students to be able to explain WHAT they are learning and HOW they know if they are being successful or not. The target does not have to change every day. In my Algebra 2 example below, I planned to keep that target up for two weeks while students learned how to solve quadratic equations by factoring, using the quadratic formula, and completing the square.

I have mixed feelings about this, as do many teachers at my school. Many feel that this is just another initiative that will disappear in a few years. And that it’s an awful lot of work to write each day. Myself, I really struggled with the language of the targets vs. the criteria.
Target & Critera 1

I originally posted mine as “I can…” followed by “I will…” But I saw other teachers posting it the reverse way: “I will be able to…” followed by “If I can…” and the wording really bothered me. If I have to do this every day, I need to be able to work with it. One of my colleagues suggested that I write ALL statements starting with “I can…” and this now really makes a lot of sense to me.
Target & Criteria 2

The target is the big picture; what can students do at the end of the lesson? The success criteria is the target broken down into manageable chunks so that students can see where they are in the process. It makes sense that both of these are written as “I can” lists for students to mentally (or physically because I hand out a target list at the beginning of each unit) check off.

So, we’ll see how this goes. Not sure if I’ll notice any changes in students’ understanding based on this required change, but it will definitely be a constant presence in my lesson planning now. If you have any experience with writing learning targets and/or success criteria, I’d love to hear from you!

Absolute Value Functions Characteristics

In our Absolute Value Functions unit, we spend quite a bit of time discussing the characteristics of functions. I think the characteristics discussion is more productive in this unit than in our Functions unit because we are examining one specific function in more depth. However, I wanted to find a way to give students the opportunity to practice, without just sitting in their seats. So I made this stations activity…

I printed these graphs and equations on colored 8.5 x 11 inch paper and put them around the walls of my classroom:

Then, I gave each student a packet with these blank link sheets:

Students were instructed to visit 6 of the 10 stations in any order they wished. I labeled the station link sheets as even or odd, so that students would have the appropriate place to sketch a graph or write the equation from a graph. Depending on the length of your period, you might have students solve 8 of the 10 stations, or all 10. I chose 6 because I wanted to have enough time at the end of class to give students an exit ticket. We also did a warm up problem and reviewed last night’s homework before starting (our periods are 48 minutes long).

I also solved all of the stations, and taped the solutions to a board like this:
Board1

I taped them upside down so the answers wouldn’t be visible, and directed students to come check their answers once they finished a station.
Board2

I set up a table next to the board of answers so that I could monitor the checking, but it wasn’t a problem at all. I thought students would be rushing over to look at them, but many never came over at all. I put Station #10 at my table and called specific students over to sit and work through that station with me. Some of these students had been absent the day before, and others I wanted to provide with some specific one-on-one help.

I use index cards to help students cover half the graph to identify where the function is increasing and decreasing. Overall, the activity went really well and some students asked if they could solve all 10 stations!

Day in the Life of Ms. Kohn Take 2

Last year I wrote about a day in my life for the #DITLife Challenge and I was psyched to read that this week’s Explore #MTBoS Week 7 Challenge was to do it again. So here goes…

5:11 am Real alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

5:15 am Hit snooze on phone alarm.

5:25 am Get out of bed and get ready. Drink orange juice and eat Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds (same breakfast every single day) while checking email/facebook/twitter.

6:16 am Drive to school.

6:24 am Arrive at school (8th car in parking lot). Stop by main office to pick up mail and write a morning announcement about the after school Student Council meeting. Put lunch in math department fridge.

6:32 am Arrive at my classroom. Smile because I stayed later than I usually do on Friday and set it up like this:
Classroom Set Up
Having my stations lab already set up for first period, and remembering that I had already updated the objectives/agenda for the day, made me so happy. It’s the little things :) I logged into my computer and chatted with a STEM team colleague about our weekends.

7:00 am Met with Principal regarding a class officer issue. Solution reached.

7:20 am Took homeroom attendance. Ran to 4 other homerooms to remind students going on a field trip tomorrow to bring in their permission slips and show up on time.

7:35 am Period A begins (Algebra 1). Today was a block day so we had class for 85 minutes, normally our periods are 48 minutes. We reviewed the homework assignment, a MCAS open response question, by having the students correct a partner’s paper. Then, we did this W-R-I-T-I-N-G Equations Stations Lab. It went really well, and many students finished it more quickly than I thought they would. So I directed them to Visual Patterns… Thanks, Fawn!

9:05 am Period C begins (Algebra 2). We started class with a mini quiz on Functions (domain, range, parent function transformations). Then, we took notes on the characteristics of absolute value functions and practiced with some links. Class went just OK. I don’t love starting with a quiz and then having students take notes, but I didn’t see a way around it today.

10:30 am Lunchtime. I eat with the math department, it’s a great time to catch up with everyone.

11:00 am Period E begins (STEM Common Planning Time). We review/choose dates for our Term 2 project and update our project guidelines document. We also plan tomorrow’s project work period and finalize details for an 8th grade visit to the high school.

11:50 am Back at my desk. I respond to a bunch of emails and make a few copies. I don’t think I used my prep time wisely today… I can’t really think of too much that I accomplished…

12:30 pm Period G begins (Algebra 1). Same lesson as Period A, but the lab takes longer and no one gets a chance to play with Visual Patterns.

1:55 pm School ends. Student Council meeting begins. We run through some normal agenda items and then write letters to soldiers (a school wide service project).

2:45 pm Back at my desk. Respond to a few more emails. Received 32 throughout the day and sent 15. Pack up stuff.

3:05 pm Drive to nearby school for Administrative Internship class. Today’s topic is “What to Expect When You Move Into Administration.” I don’t know when in my future I’ll move into administration, but I had an opportunity to be part of a licensure program this fall and took advantage of it. It was great to get the prospective from educators who had gone through the same process.

5:45 pm Leave class and drive to Burlington Coat Factory. I needed a new winter coat and I found just the perfect one! Black, knee-length, belted, and with a detachable hood.

6:30 pm Drive to gym for Zumba class. Zumba! Drive home.

8:30 pm Sit in favorite spot on couch. Prepare to watch the Patriots game. Write this blog post.

Writing Equations Stations Lab

I like to set up stations labs when students need additional practice on a topic. I usually sit at one of the stations and call up specific students who need some one-on-one help. I require all students to check in with me after every single station. This creates some organized chaos, but I do it so that I can constantly be assessing students’ progress, and address any concerns with the whole class if I notice that students keep getting the same problems wrong.

This W-R-I-T-I-N-G Equations Stations Lab includes having students write equations from: tables, situations, point and slope, two points, and graphs.

Graphing Calculator Intro

I fired off the above tweet to kick off the Explore #MTBoS Week 2 Challenge. It was great fun to discover some Swedish fish lovers I was already following, and some new #MTBoS tweeps who are also Patriots fans.

But for this week’s challenge, I am going to write about how my tweeps came through for me a few weeks ago! We use TI graphing calculators on an almost daily basis in my Honors Algebra 1 class. For most of my students, this is the first time they have used a graphing calculator. On September 9th, I decided that the perfect activity for my next lesson, would be to do a graphing calculator scavenger hunt. The thought of creating this from scratch seemed daunting with everything else I had going on that day, so I tweeted the following:

Here are some of the replies I received:

Rachel emailed me her document, which I edited and turned into a scavenger hunt introduction to the graphing calculators. I’ve used Jen’s resources to help students with additional graphing calculator tasks, and found so many great links from the MathForumBooth. I am so thankful for my twitter friends!

Here is the updated document. Please comment and let me know if there are any additional scavenger hunt tasks you think should be included in next year’s version!