Refrigerator Worthy

One particular geometry student of mine, who has struggled a bit this year, received a perfect score on his trigonometry ratios quiz this week. As I passed back his quiz, I said to him, “You should be really proud, this is refrigerator worthy!” His response, “Wow, thanks!” And I continued around the classroom and didn’t really think anything else of it…

Until two days later when this student’s parents were at school for a team meeting. The mother said to me, “You know, he came home from school the other day and said we had to clear room on the fridge to hang up his perfect geometry quiz. Thanks for saying that to him and really boosting his confidence!”

In the crazy weeks between midterms and February break, this was definitely One Good Thing.

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STEM ECHS Overview

Since starting to blog over the summer, writing about my school’s STEM Early College High School has seemed like a daunting task. However, I think it’s time to explain a little bit about this exciting program I get to be a part of!

Our STEM program currently consists of 6th and 7th graders at the middle school, and 9th and 10th graders at the high school. We will continue to add two new grades until we are officially grades 6-12. Juniors and Seniors will have the ability to take courses at a local university to earn college credit early. Since I’m the 9th grade STEM math teacher, I’m going to focus on the high school aspects of the program. The biggest difference between our program and the regular high school is that all STEM students must take engineering and they receive a laptop to use during the school year. The students also complete four term-long, interdisciplinary, group projects that count for 20% of the term grade in each of their STEM classes. Along with teaching skills and concepts, we are teaching the students how to collaborate and work with students they might not get along with. On some days, students do not attend math, science, English, or history class, but they stay in an assigned classroom for most of the day to work on their projects.

The biggest difference for the teachers is that we are a team comprised of one math, one science, one English, one history, and two engineering teachers, and we have one 48-minute common planning period. Every. Single. Day! We use this time to plan our projects, meet with parents, meet with the Special Education and ELL teachers, discuss student issues, and plan interventions. I truly believe the success of this program lies in having this common planning time every day and having the opportunity to work so closely with a group of teachers invested in one cohort of students.

The biggest difference in my classroom specifically is how I try to integrate the physics and engineering concepts in my lessons. For example, when teaching slope, I use some of the graphs that the physics teacher uses in his classroom. He uses a distance/time graph to have students calculate velocity. I can use the same graph and ask them to calculate the slope of the line. Then we talk about how they are calculating the same thing and they don’t really have to memorize the formula for velocity. This is surprising to students at first, but they get used to seeing the same data in our classes. And the physics teacher and I strive to use the same terminology so that we don’t confuse our students.

I teach two STEM Honors Algebra 1 classes, two STEM Honors Geometry classes, and one Senior Topics class outside of STEM. All of the STEM students take an honors class even though they might not have been placed in an honors class outside of STEM. Although it’s definitely a challenge and I spend more time planning than I did when the program didn’t exist, I absolutely love being a part of it and I think my students really benefit from this school within a school.

This is just a brief overview, as I could go on forever about the program, so let me know if you have any questions! If your school has tried anything like this too, I would love to hear about it!

Day in the Life of Ms. Kohn

Here’s my #DITLife Challenge from Tina C. and Sam Shah

5:21 am Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

5:30 am Alarm goes off again. Get out of bed and get ready for the day.

6:03 am Drive to school.

6:12 am Arrive at school (7th car in parking lot). Walk in with a teacher I’ve never met before, we introduce ourselves and chat about tonight’s parent/teacher conferences. Check mail in office and walk to my classroom. Pick up 2 pencils on the hallway floor on my way…. I brake for pencils… does anyone else do that?!

6:16 am Log onto computer. Put lunch in math department fridge. Make copies for Algebra 1 lesson and place a copy order for next day’s lesson. Finish writing guidelines sheet for Geometry Buried Treasure project and place a copy order. Chat with a STEM team colleague about our Term 2 project and make/copy the group selection sheets we are going to distribute during homeroom.

7:00 am Students enter the building and some of my homeroom students are in my room within a minute. They chat and play on their laptops while I finish setting up for my A period class. One student asks for help on last night’s homework and a student from last year brings me her Mythbusters video that I asked her for the day before. Math colleague swings by to say hi.

7:20 am Homeroom starts. Listen to pledge and daily announcements. Pass out and explain Mythbusters project group selection.

7:25 am Homeroom ends. Students leave for Period A. Chat with world language colleagues about conferences while supervising hallways.

7:29 am Period A begins (Algebra 1). I check off last night’s Piecewise Functions homework and students get ready to play “Writing Equations MATHO” by setting up their grids (I let them choose where to place all the numbers). They write 14 equations (from standard form, slope and y-int, slope and one point, two points) throughout the class period and there are 7 MATHO winners awarded a homework pass. When I try to wrap up class with 5 min remaining to assign homework, half the class begs me to “Please please please put up one more equation!” Love this. So I do.

8:21 am Period B begins (Algebra 1). Same lesson as last period but we only get through 13 equations and there are only 4 MATHO winners. Two students from last year come in and ask if they can come for extra help during Period D, OK.

9:12 am Period C begins (Prep). Input attendance from first two periods. Eat granola bar. Refill water. Empty recycling. Waste 10 minutes trying to hide Roy (fisherman statue the math department plays a “hot potato” style game with) but fail because all of them are alert in their classrooms. Chat with math colleague in her classroom about Algebra 1. Attempt to respond to emails and plan for next day’s lessons but computer decides it doesn’t want to work right then. Give up and go bother another math teacher on her prep.

10:03 am Period D begins (Senior Topics). Meet students in library computer lab to create tables and scatter plots of “Texting Olympics” and “Pass the Books” collected data. Students follow printed directions and I run around and help. Students from last year show up and I also help them on a geometry assignment. Last 5 minutes are semi chaos as we attempt to save and/or print everyone’s work.

10:51 am Lunch! I eat with the math department (plus one health teacher) and we have a great time. Sometimes we chat about students and curriculum. Most days we don’t. Today’s conversation ranged from Movember to The Bacon Underground to the upcoming school rally to book clubs to shingles….

11:21 am Period E begins (STEM Common Planning Time). We compare conference schedules and assign each other specific parents to discuss the Term 1 rubrics with. We finalize our plan to introduce the Term 2 Mythbusters Science Project the next day and start choosing groups to have in our homebases.

12:17 pm Period F begins (Geometry). We review last night’s Geometer’s Sketchpad assignment on Triangle Congruency Shortcuts and take some notes on flowchart proofs. I give students an exit slip at the end of class and correct some before they leave.

1:04 pm Brief meeting with 2 other STEM teachers regarding the selection of the Term 2 groups…. one student has expressed great concern over selecting a team and we brainstorm a few other student names we could partner him with. Crisis averted.

1:08 pm Period G begins (Geometry). Same lesson as before but it takes us longer. This class is chatty today.

1:55 pm End of school day. Math colleague comes to chat about Geometry curriculum and  since I’m ahead I give her my most recent activities. Also chat about conferences and catch up on our lives.

2:10 pm NEASC Committee Meeting. We discuss the brainstormed student academic, social, and civic expectations and attempt to combine all ideas into one document. Also discuss recommendations for our 2 year report.

3:00 pm Back in classroom. Create a NEASC survey monkey survey (in English and Spanish) about the student expectations. Link will be distributed to parents at conferences.

3:45 pm Meet with STEM team to finish dividing students into Term 2 groups. Disagree a few times but finish placing all students in teams and homebases we think will work well.

4:05 pm Student appears in classroom to tell me she missed the late bus and doesn’t know how she can get home. We call an uncle who comes to pick her up. 2nd crisis averted.

4:15 pm Run out to grab some baked potato soup and bread from Panera! Pick up two more pencils on my way back into the building.

4:45 pm Eat at desk. Respond to emails. Receive 39 throughout the day and send 14. Write sub plans for next morning (math department is being given time to write curriculum) and set up W-R-I-T-I-N-G Equations Stations Lab.

5:50 pm Parent/Teacher Conferences begin! I have 16 appointments scheduled and they last 10 minutes each. Time actually flies by.

8:35 pm Last parent leaves. Shut off computer. Pack belongings. Another impromptu STEM teacher meeting in the hallway. We all walk out together.

9:00 pm Drive to bar. There is usually a very large teacher turnout after conference night at our favorite local establishment but tonight only 9 teachers show up. We chat about so many things I can’t even keep track. But we do eat nachos and ice cream.

10:37 pm Drive home.

11:00 pm Asleep.