#TMC16 – My Favorite

Get out your calendars and mark them now! Twitter Math Camp 2017 is being held from July 27th-30th at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Atlanta, Georgia.

Having just returned from my 4th Twitter Math Camp (TMC) experience in Minneapolis, I feel the need even more to book my entire summer plans around this camp. I like to spend time in the summer with my family and friends; go to the beach; read a book for fun; nap; go to the drive-in, etc. But I also NEED to spend four days in person with my MTBoS family. The people and sessions at TMC invigorate my passions and spirit and convince me that I can conquer anything in the upcoming school year.

I can’t possibly recap everything I took away from TMC16, but here are some of my favorite takeaways. I hope they become some of your favorites too! Grab a drink, there are a lot 🙂

Favorite Pre-TMC Outing: After arrival, I adventured to the Minnehaha Falls with a small group. The weather wasn’t the best, but we had a fabulous time exploring the falls and walking to the confluence of the Mississippi River and Minnehaha Creek.

Favorite New Desmos Calculator Feature: Desmos now has audio capabilities for visually impaired and blind students. Use Command F5 for the voice option, and Option + T for the audio trace. Desmos will read the expression being typed, and then play a graph used a pitched audio representation. Kudos to Desmos for striving to be fully accessible to all users!

Favorite New Desmos Activity Builder Feature: Card sorts! Ask Desmos and you shall receive! By turning on the “Labs” option once you’re logged into Desmos, you now have the option to build card sorts within the activity builder platform. I made a cart sort for Quadratic Equations, and I can’t wait to make more and then also steal from the crowdsourced list. My group loved that we can input card sorts already created; ask students to sort in more than one way; narrow responses by asking for a specific number of cards in a pile; and ask students to analyze why someone else sorted the cards a different way. The possibilities are truly endless, and you can check out the card sort bank here.

card sort3

Favorite Passionate Educator Title: Chief Evangelist. In her keynote speech, Sara VanDerWerf challenged us to become “Chief Evangelists” for our passions in math education. Sara said, “Sharing your best with others who can benefit is a responsibility and opportunity that falls to everyone” and “To be good at evangelizing, you’re gonna have to practice.” You also need to prepare mini-elevator speeches for each of your passions so you’re ready to share, and tweak them depending on your audience (students, parents, teachers, leaders). I’m going to spend some time this summer narrowing down my list of math education passions to figure out what I want to advocate for.

Favorite Dorm Life: While not all aspects of Dorm Life at Augsberg College were glamorous (looking at you, shower stalls), I had a complete ball living with some TMC-ers for four days. Waking up and having morning bathroom chats about math ed, doing the wobble in common areas late at night, and watching the bachelorette with a huge crew were all completely memorable TMC experiences.

Favorite ELL Strategy: The snowball activity is a great way to get students writing, reading, and speaking in math class. Have students answer a prompt on paper, crumple up the paper, and throw it somewhere in the room. Each student then finds a new paper,IMG_0528
reads the response, and either 1) Adds a new idea 2) Contributes 3) Corrects something
written. After going through the cycle three times, ask students to share ideas out loud
from whatever paper is in front of them. It’s anonymous, non-threatening, and fun for students. And again, it provides them with an outlet for individual think time, following by writing, reading, and speaking. Priceless.

Favorite PD Strategy: To assess participant’s understanding during professional development, I highly recommend using the “Filling in Circles” strategy modeled by Michelle. Start by identifying the key concepts of the session, or in our case, the barriers to implementing responsive stations. Then, have participants continually reflect on the topics and fill in the circles as their learning and understanding grows. Facilitator is able to see what topics need to be discussed more, and participants are able to ask better questions about what they want/need to know. Very easy and very powerful.

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Favorite Mapping Tool: Popplet. Use it as a mind-mapping tool or to help students think/learn visually. We used it to map skills and identify gaps.
popplet

Favorite Restaurant: Pizza Luce! I had Baked Potato pizza both times we went there because it was just SO GOOD. They were also very accommodating of our large groups.

Favorite Shared Experience: Jonathan talked about how he created a shared
experience in his school by creating “Varsity Math” for his calculus and statistics

I'm on the team!

I’m on the team!

students. He branded them with shirts, stickers, and inspirational speeches; and the kids just LOVED it. They bought in. They felt like they were part of a special community… because they were. Jonathan even graciously invited all of TMC16 to join the team. How can we create shared experiences for the students in our own communities?

Favorite JLV Reminder: In Jose Vilson‘s keynote speech on “TMC16, Race, and What We’re Not Talking About,” he challenged us to lead hard conversations and be okay with feeling uncomfortable. He also reminded us that we have students who are much more capable of talking about this stuff than we are; often because they have less filters. He told us to “get out of their way” but provide an outlet to let it happen. This was a much needed reminder for me, because I often feel like I should/need to have all the answers, so when I don’t, I avoid the conversation. I know I need to work on this, and my students can probably help me. Watch Jose’s keynote here.

Favorite “Getting Triggy With It” Activity: Kristen led an excellent session on how to make trig and the unit circle not a mystery. Grab all her resources here! My favorite activity was using one triangle drawn on patty paper to construct the unit circle. Simple approach but nicely shows how all the key points are determined.

See Rachel’s tweet for pictures of activity in action:

Favorite Verb: Edmund Harris and Chris Shore reminded us that modeling is a verb. It’s something kids should be doing, not something given to them. Modeling is a: Creative. Active. Process.

Favorite Physical Activity: Sara graciously brought her Backwards Bike to camp, and let me ride it as much as I wanted. If you’re not familiar with backwards bikes, watch this video. Even though I came home with several bike battle wounds, I had an absolute blast trying to ride this thing. Even after just a few times, I felt like I was making progress and coming up with new strategies to try out. Now I’m off to find someone to make one for me.

Favorite Project: Sam shared a project he does with students called “Explore Math” so they can explore math outside of school and see its beauty. He wrote about the project on his blog and shared the website he asked students to explore. It’s a “low stakes, high reward” activity. Some kids will do the bare minimum, but others will take it to levels that Sam wasn’t even expecting. His recommendation is to keep it open, keep the mini explorations mini, and don’t compare projects.

Favorite Pre-Assessment: Don’t have one yet, need to make them! Michelle led us through an eye-opening morning session about identifying the gaps in students’ understanding and then usingtrifold responsive stations to address those gaps using differentiation. I’m excited to follow Michelle’s instructions to create appropriate pre-assessments. There should only be one skill per question and as short as possible. Focus on what pre-skills students need to know in order to be successful with new content, don’t worry about the would-be-nice-to-know. The goal of the pre-assessment is so you can figure out where students are at, and provide them with learning opportunities if they don’t know, and learning opportunities if they do know (enrichment). Elissa wrote a great recap of the entire three days.

Favorite Call to Action: Tracy Zager‘s keynote speech titled “What do we have to learn from each other?” was inspiring and community-driven. She stressed that we need to stop pitting content and pedagogy against each other; we need to stop pitting elementary and high school teachers against each other. Neither of these things is productive for our community. We all have an important role in building our students’ conceptual understanding, and we need to work together to get it done. Tracy’s call to action is to analyze whom you are following on Twitter, and make sure you have a variety of contacts you can reach out to for support and to ask questions. Watch Tracy’s keynote here.

Favorite Fraction Problems: After Tracy’s talk, I pushed myself to attend Brian Bushart‘s session on fractions: a place I knew I would feel out of my comfort zone as a high school teacher. One of the reasons Brian said fractions are so hard for students, is due to practices that simplify or mask the meaning of fractions.

By finding a common denominator, you aren’t comparing fractions anymore. You’re now only comparing the whole number numerators. Cross multiplying is an example of masking; you’re getting rid of the fractions and comparing whole numbers. This masks the fact that you’re still comparing two fractions. Neither of these strategies takes into account the size of the fractions and therefore rob students of sense making. Brian then shared a bunch of strategies for how to deal with this, and I will lead you directly to his documents to learn more.

Favorite Fraction Big Idea: Another huge idea that Brian threw at us is the difference in how whole numbers and fractions are treated as adjectives and nouns. Look at the slides below for comparison.

Whole Numbers:

Fractions:

I’ve never really thought about it this way before, so this was a *mind blown* moment for me, and others at my table. Many students don’t actually gain enough understanding about fractions to realize that fractions are actually numbers and can be represented on a number line. They get stuck at adjectives (1/2 a cake) instead of moving onto nouns. This is where we need to get!

Favorite “Make It Stick” Strategy: In her session, Anna talked about the various ways she uses strategies from Make It Stick in her classroom. My favorite strategy she discussed was Calibration. The goal is to “replace a subjective experience or feeling with an objective gauge outside ourselves.” It stems from the “Illusion of Knowing” in that we think we know something, but really we only have a familiarity with it. The book recommends providing more opportunities for students to test themselves, review again, and test again. Quizzes need to be low stakes. I chose this as my favorite, because it ties in nicely with my morning session theme of helping students to fill in gaps.

Favorite Dylan Kane Confession: Dylan Kane‘s keynote speech titled “More than Resources” was one of the most honest and open talks I’ve ever heard. Dylan’s confession that he thought he was doing a good job when he started, but then realized he could be doing much better, really stuck with me. His big lesson learned was: “My intuition isn’t very good, because we see what we want to see.” Dylan was stealing all the great resources from the MTBoS, but realized that great resources do not equal great teaching. He challenged us to think about what will specifically work with our own students; and deliberately practice what we want to get better at. I haven’t come across a video of Dylan’s keynote yet, but you can access his resources here.

Favorite Upcoming Books to Read:
Tracy Zager: Becoming The Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had [Expected: December 2016]
Denis Sheeran: Instant Relevance, Using Today’s Experiences in Tomorrow’s Lesson [Expected: August 2016]

Favorite Song: Greg answered a call from the twitterverse to write a song about the cubic formula. He answered with the most epic sister act version ever… enjoy:

Favorite Student Quote: I know what you’re thinking, there were no students at TMC16 mathematicianso how can I have a favorite student quote? Well, in Annie‘s flex session on “Mathematicians: More than just white dudes” she shared this student quote: “Are there any mathematicians like me?” This question led to her creation of the Mathematician’s Project, where she showcases one mathematician every Friday (as long as they aren’t an old, white, rich, dead man) in order to show her students that anyone can be a mathematician. She includes their name, date of birth, ethnicity, background biography, major accomplishments, and math specialty. She even polled her students to see the types of people they wanted to learn about, and had students write their own mathematician bios. The shift in her classroom culture was unmeasurable.

Favorite Icebreaker: Amy taught us an amazing new icebreaker that I can’t way to play with my students when school starts called “Go Ahead – Break the Ice.” Break students into small groups, and give them three minutes to collectively come up with a favorite book, movie and game. Then, have students list all the ways they came to the decisions they did. This leads into a great discussion on group norms and how to work with other people. Some of the decision-making strategies were: “strong arming, time pressure, majority rules, brainstorm, survey, throw out ideas until they stick, pickiest gets the choice, narrow the choices, help those who aren’t speaking up, make sure everyone has a voice, etc…” It was a really fun activity to get to know your group, and have time to talk about group dynamics.

Favorite Day of the Year: Hannah loves celebrating birthdays and she shared some great ideas for celebrating in the classroom. She does birthday shoutouts on the board and buys cheap birthday seat covers. She sees increased positivity in her classroom culture and her students love it. She also uses birthdays to talk about what is and is not a function:
birthdays

Favorite My Favorite: I can’t really put into words out much Glenn means to me in this community. Watch his talk here, and be as thankful as I am that he didn’t turn around.

Thank you to everyone who helped make my experience at TMC16 an amazing one! Much MTBoS love ❤

And of course, the end of camp song and dance:

A Better Question

Week 3 of the MTBoS Blogging Initiative corresponds with midterm week at my school. Reviewing for midterms is not a task that I particularly like.

betterquestions

It’s tough to find the balance between refreshing minds or reteaching skills. Based on my review of our last unit test, I wasn’t convinced that my students truly understand the differences between systems of equations and systems of inequalities and their solutions. So I created this basic comparison:

systems comparison

At this point, we had never placed two similar systems graphs side by side in this manner. We reviewed writing the equations and inequalities together, and then I asked students to make a list of all the similarities and differences they noticed. Students were given 2-3 minutes to write this on their own. Here are some of their responses:

I then asked students to share aloud: “What similarities and differences do you notice?” This question was okay. The responses were okay. But something just didn’t feel right. I didn’t want to put these graphs in a specific context; I wanted students to go back to the basics and see the similarities and differences for what they are; but the discussion was flat, and I wanted more energy…

First period ended and I had some time to think about how I would fix this before I taught the lesson again. I remembered the blogging prompt to write about questioning, and specifically, asking better questions. And then I remembered what Chris Luzniak taught us in his Twitter Math Camp session: “Make the question debatable.” It was my own a-ha moment!

I did everything the same the next period, except for one key point. After giving my students individual writing time, I asked:

“What is the BIGGEST similarity you noticed?
What is the BIGGEST difference you noticed?”

That slight change in questioning is all it took to completely change the dynamic between class periods. All of the sudden, I had at least half the class waving hands in the air to share their opinions. The gist of what students were saying was the same between the different periods, but this time the students were more convincing and provided more evidence for their statements. I wondered if this reaction would continue throughout the day, and it did. All of my other classes had the same level of enthusiasm when I asked them for the biggest similarities and biggest differences.

Today’s experience reminded me that one easy way to ask a better question is to make it more debatable. Check out Chris’ Global Math Department Webinar for more strategies on how to do this!

Day in the Life of Ms. Kohn Take 3

For Week 1 of the Exploring MTBoS blogging initiative I decided to document one day of my life. Although I’m just posting about it right now, this day occurred last Thursday (1/14/16).

adayinthelife

5:11 am Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

5:20 am More snoozing.

5:29 am Get up and get ready. Orange juice is my morning power beverage. Check email/facebook/twitter while eating my cereal. Forgot to pick out an outfit the night before so I waste a good ten minutes staring at my closet. No food in fridge for lunch, that means I’m buying today.

6:20 am Put out trash and leave for work.

6:28 am Arrive at school. Check mailbox and help a substitute teacher find her way.

6:32 am Arrive in classroom. I am amped up for today! We are doing one of my favorite lessons and following it up with a Desmos Activity Builder lesson that I can’t wait to try. I make some last minute edits to the activity, and queue up all the browser tabs I’m going to need for the day.

6:50 am Students start entering the building and my classroom. I immediately get bombarded with demands to know how many jelly beans are in the container. I refuse to tell them.
IMG_0324
They know the winner is going to be announced today, but not until 7:25 am I say. Last minute guesses are welcome. Students hang out in homeroom, play board games, and experiment with my Eno board which is now up and running.

7:20 am Homeroom officially begins. Take attendance. Two students absent. They’re going to be sorry they miss today’s lesson.

7:25 am The bell rings to go to first period, and without speaking, I simply go up to the white board and write down the correct number of jelly beans: 1472. Students from the other two homerooms next door come in to see the answer. There is yelling; they are excited! They still don’t know why we are playing guessing games.

7:29 am This is the 1st of 5 times I am going to do this lesson today. I teach five sections of STEM Honors Algebra 1 to 9th graders. It will get better as the day goes on, as I observe and adapt to how my early students respond to it. Today is the first day of our unit on Absolute Value Functions. The beginning of the lesson can be found here, minus the project part (they’ll get this later). After we dissect the jelly bean situation, I show them this Estimation 180 problem, and we guess again. I take predictions for the shape of the graph and this time they think they have it all figured it out. The shape will be a V, but skinnier! No, wider! No, a check mark! Because there are fewer under-guessing options! We are on to something:
sweetheart graph

At this point, they are ready to explore and play around in Desmos on their own/with a partner. This was my first attempt at duplicating someone else’s Activity Builder and using it in my room. Overall, I was pleased with how it went, but would definitely make adjustments for the future. Some students finished early. I wish there were more challenges, such as what happens when you throw in negative signs. I tried to throw this question in as the day went on, but it didn’t work because I had already made a class code. I also wish I had a question about the absolute value vertex form equation with h and k. So that students could be more specific when they described how the function transforms. Here are some of their descriptions:

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We ran out of time at the end of class to debrief (my fault), and we don’t have class again until Wednesday (1/20), so to be continued!

8:17 am Period A ends. 4 minutes passing time. Run to bathroom. Head to STEM colleague’s room for our common planning period. Our big Winter STEM Expo is tomorrow, so we are doing last minute prep work. Edit presentation rubrics and chat with 10th grade team about last minute details.

9:12 am Period C begins. Algebra 1 take 2.

10:05 am Period D begins. Algebra 1 take 3. Four students actually leap out of their seats when the number of sweethearts in revealed.

10:53 am Lunch! Rush to teacher’s cafeteria and order my turkey wrap. Ask for cookies too. Get a slight look of disapproval when I reject the offers for pickles, apples or carrots as an additional side. No, just cookies please. I already have lettuce and tomato in my wrap. Eat lunch with math colleagues. Discuss our losing the powerball last night.

11:22 am Period E begins. Algebra 1 take 4. By this time of the day, we have some cheaters. Students from earlier have given away the answer, but I weasle out some confessions and we move on with the activity.

12:21 pm Period F begins. Algebra 1 take 5.

1:08 pm Period G begins. My prep. Finally. It’s been a great day but I’m exhausted. Today’s lesson was a high energy one. I always try to show the same enthusiasm with my last class as the first, but sometimes it can be difficult. Check personal email. Finish editing STEM rubrics. Take care of emails. Chat with STEM Director.

1:55 pm School day ends. Go to advisor meeting about upcoming school-wide dance. Return to classroom. Approximately 40 students have elected to stay after school to make trifold posters and last-minute changes to their STEM projects. My coworker has been supervising all of them while I was at the meeting. Spend afternoon giving advice on projects and printing, printing, printing for them.

3:55 pm Write passes for the late bus and start kicking kids out. They are nervous but ready for tomorrow. Here’s a video released after the Expo!

4:15 pm Say good-bye to final students. Clean classroom.

4:30 pm Pack up and head out. Run errands. Sit on couch. Breathe. Check email/facebook/twitter. Make dinner. Have plenty of time to write this blog post… but don’t do it. Take the night off. Watch an episode of the Blacklist (okay, okay, three episodes).

10:00 pm Bedtime.

If you want to read about other past days, check out these posts:
Take 1 – November 15th, 2012
Take 2 – November 18th, 2013

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!

Excel Lesson Planner

My first year teaching I used a regular planbook given to me by the school. Then, one of my colleagues shared this excel document with me and it changed my life: Algebra 2 Curriculum by the Month 2013-2014. I’ve included one blank page in it and one page filled out with my October lesson plans for Algebra 1 from last year:

October Plans

The rows within a week breakdown like this:
Row 1: Type of Day at school
Row 2: Unit Title
Row 3: Warm Up Activity
Rows 4-6: Main Lesson Activities
Row 7: Homework

Each day isn’t extremely detailed but I know what I mean when I give each activity a title. This works so well for me because I like to map things out pretty far in advance and see a grand overview of the month. At the same time, it grants me the flexibility to easily move activities and lessons around as needed. It’s also very convenient if you teach the same course year after year. I’m in the process of creating a new blank one because I don’t have one for Algebra 2 yet.