Saturday, October 20, 2012

Blog Comments Challenge- MS Funday Sunday

Hey Middle School Math Community!

Julie from I Speak Math challenged us to read five blogs and comment to encourage the author. I found myself just reading and reading blogs. I found so many great ideas and links and I ended up on blogs and forgetting where I started. I loved it though. Here's a few I found and why I enjoy reading them.

So, of course, first, I Speak Math... Julie posts a lot and I love that. I can't find the time. I wish I could. She has great ideas and I love that she encourages the middle school community.  Julie has a huge list on her site of middle school blogs if you are searching.

Another favorite is thenumbertwentyone. Courtney also post often and they are short, quick and to the point. I tend to type on and on and on... I have incorporated a lot of her ideas in my classroom this year.

Another blog that I see on many blog rolls is Finding Ways to Nguyen Them Over by Fawn Nguyen. Her site is full of awesome ideas. I love here dialogue and she has a great way of helping kids understand higher level math. I wish I had her when I was in middle school. She is inspiring. Check her out!

I stumbled onto Math in the Middle. There weren't recent post, but I checked out some older posts and  stumbled upon these AWESOME review game ideas.  Reviewing is essential, but tends to be boring, here's a unique way to review and hopefully make an impact on learning. They are worth checking out!

Mr. Darby @ Change over Time I also read this blog and thought it was nicely done. It felt like I was just sitting with him drinking coffee and hearing about his thoughts.

I have followed Finding Joy in 6th Grade for a while now. I found it and thought the name was hysterical, because at the time, I hated teaching 6th grade. I wondered how anyone could be joyful in middle school.
She has been MIA for a while, but there are some awesome post and ideas on her site. Plus, she is back to blogging and trust me, she will inspire you!

Trust me, I read more and could write about them all day, but my own children won't allow that.
For me, the blogging community keeps me excited about teaching middle school. I enjoy getting ideas, but I also like having a place to share mine. Even if no one reads them. It's very therapeutic for me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Easy Math Stations from a Boring Worksheet

Saw this on I Speak Math and holy moly, she wasn't kidding, it was so easy to make!!!
 These were her stations.

I had this boring worksheet to the left.

I cut the questions apart, copied them on brightly colored paper, created an answer key and seriously, within 20 minutes I had a cooperative group/stations activity.

I didn't have the stand up holders yet. So I slid them into protective sleeves and they were ready. I love bright colors!

Today I used it and the students absolutely loved not having a worksheet to do and they didn't have to listen to my voice the whole class period droning on and on...

I swear these pictures are not staged. Do you see how intently they appear to be working? Well, THEY ARE!!!! I was so proud of them.

To end class, I asked them to tell me what they liked and didn't like about this activity. It was their exit ticket. I gave them the option to add their name or not. I told them I needed the reason why they liked or didn't like the activity. I loved reading the responses.

I have over a hundred, but let me share a few with you:
  • like the groups, didn't like the problems
  • I liked that I understood all the problems I didn't like that no one listened when I was right (I have a grouping issue here)
  • I liked to not do a worksheet what I didn't like was we didn't do a lot of easy questions
  • I liked the questions I didn't like that it was hard
  • I liked everything about this except my partners (I had several comments like this, good to know for next time)
  • I like that we didn't have worksheets. I didn't like that we couldn't use pictures (we have moved to symbolic, maybe next time they can still use them if they need to, why not?)
  • I like how it was like a game but we learned. I don't like how (name) was acting and trying to boss (lol, too many chiefs in that group)
  • I didn't like the page because it was too hard for me. I did like that you put us in a table (they normally sit in twos)
  • I like + I hate -  (lol subtracting fractions is hard, I know)
  • I liked everything, dislike nothing
  • I like groups, but too many boys (lol, I agree!)
My favorite: me gusto todao el travago del dia de hoy
I have two students who are brand new to America, they speak ZERO English. I speak ZERO Spanish, unless queso and guacamole count. But of course, I could read this and knew he liked what we did in class!!!! I may need to frame that one!

I have so many. The consensus is they like groups, but the problems are hard. Yes, I know that. That is the point. They needed practice. Plus, they did the back side of it for homework. They did tell me they disliked that part. yea, I figured that. 

I also had a few that really struggled and they told me so on the post it. They wrote their name too. Thank goodness. So, tomorrow I plan to pull them aside and work with them in a small group.

Today was a really good teaching day. I am having more and more of those this year and it is such a good thing for me. I can't believe I actually look forward to teaching 6th graders. Math can be fun, my students are proof.

Thanks to Julie for helping me make something boring and hard, more fun for them. Still hard, but I think they learned a lot from it as well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

You Can Take the Teacher Out of Elementary, but You Can't Take the Elementary Out of the Teacher

Wow, what a long title.

But so true!

This is my second year in middle school. I spent 17 in elementary and most of that in primary. So, this middle school gig is OUT OF THE BOX for me.

I can honestly so I am enjoying it this year.

So much is different in middle school. of course, the students, that goes without saying. But the teachers are different. It's just a different breed that teaches older kids.

One thing that is really different is bulletin boards and door decorations. It just doesn't happen in middle school.

I shared about our door contest earlier. Those decorations will stay up all year for most and when stuff gets ripped or falls off, it could possibly stay that way. I don't know why, it just does.

Well, my door got ripped big time. I knew it would. I had 3D boxes on it. It was a matter of time.

Good timing it was, so I changed my door decorations.

Our school colors are purple, heck our whole town is purple, and we didn't have green paper so my monster is purple.

My students LOVED it. Someone comments everyday! Even the other teachers say great things. My neighboring teachers said they may even change their doors. I hope so. I love Halloween!!

My monster makes me smile!

Oh, and yes, I saw him on Pinterest last year. I made this one on my front door. My own children loved it!

                                                                Happy Door Decorating!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Order, Please!

"I'll take a Mighty Kids, 6 piece chicken nuggets and a Happy Meal 4 piece chicken nugget..."

Oh wait, wrong kind of order.

We just wrapped up our unit on Order of Operations. I love, love, love this unit. I think it is fun to do. I think it makes sense and I think it is a blast to teach.

I was able to incorporate so many "hands-on" activities and games and cooperative grouping that kids enjoyed learning a new concept. I love that I will have some "go-to" activities when we have a free moment (kind of laughable, I know) or something for the unexpected substitute day.

 As I was planning, I found a worksheet from last year. It was pretty good, but I thought, "This is boring as a worksheet" So, as I was lying in bed working (yes, I do that much to my husband's displeasure). I created a hands on activity based on the worksheet.

Then, the night before we did the activity, I thought, wait, it will be even better for the kids to manipulate the numbers and symbols. So, I quickly wrote them out.

It was awesome! I heard such good remarks from my students. I heard,. "This is hard." I heard, "Oh, this way" "No, wait, this way." When they would find the order, they would be so excited. It was challenging. It was engaging. It made me happy, and in middle school you know that is a good thing.

I had 8 problems. I made two sets since my students work in pairs. Each set is colored so they don't get mixed up. I gave one problem to each pair and placed the extras on two separate tables. Students were able to work at their own pace. There was a lot of activity in my room, but it worked.

 And yes, students figured out various ways to make the answer! LOVE IT!!!

Here's the problems if you want to try this activity as well.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sub Plans- MS Sunday Funday

After teaching for 17 years in elementary, I feel I am pretty anal about sub plans. Back then, I felt I had to write every step out. And, I did. When to line up, when to sit on the carpet, when to go back to their seats, etc...
I got good notes back from subs, but it was exhausting.

Last year when I started middle school, I didn't know any other way. The difference was, I taught the same thing six different times. All I had to write was "same as". It was pretty cool.

I have the basics in a folder. It has class lists, seating charts, schedules, teachers that can help, behavior issues, my rewards program, stuff like that.

Before I am out, I write everything out. I leave examples, I am anal. Not sure that will ever change. I did try and do a "fun" activity the first time I was out and it was a disaster. Now, I do a worksheet. My students sit with partners so I still allow it to be "cooperative", but no  more cutting and gluing when I am gone.

I also had a HUGE talk with my classes about expectations when I am gone. The first time, they were AWFUL! The second time, I had a very few names left for me and I took care of those individually. But as a whole, they were FABULOUS!

I also know that sickness with my small children happens unexpectedly and writing everything out is impossible. Thankfully I live very close to my school. So, I can run up to school and get things prepared quickly if the unexpected happens.

My school also has a procedure for this. We are a small community and more than half our staff are commuters. We had to put together "Emergency Sub Plans". We each have a binder and we had to put our schedule, class lists, etc... in them along with an assignment for the sub to complete with the students. It is busy work, I admit that, but it keeps order and sometimes that is important as well. Our secretary keeps them and in case the sub has nothing left by the teacher, she or he will have work for the classes.

Another note about subs: When I find one I know can handle my classes, I request them whenever possible. I always feel so much better when I have to be out.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Order of Operation Puzzles- FREEBIE

I saw these puzzles on a site I stalk, follow. But, now I can't find it. I don't want to take the credit, so if it was you.... THANK YOU and you get all the credit, I promise.

I loved the idea, but had to make equations without exponents for my sixth graders.

I copied them on different colors, laminated and cut them up. This was a warm up for my students and they loved it!

Click here to get them FREE!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Made it- Happy October

 During the summer, I made these out of coffee cans. I knew what I was doing with two of them, but not so sure about the third one.

It became very apparent, very quickly when school started that my idea for positive coupon rewards was going to have to be per class.

I teach 6 classes. I needed 6 buckets. I had two (above) and finally have drank enough coffee for all classes to have their own decorated bucket.

I made a significant change last week in my classroom arrangement. I have always had students sitting in groups, always. Normally four students, but occasionally five, depending on class size.

Well, I have a really tough class this year. I am actually counting my blessings that out of six only one is challenging. Last year, it was the opposite for me. The first thing I did was ask for help from my principal. She arranged for me to have a male volunteer. Sometimes, just a mans presence for my age group is helpful (I teach 6th). Then, I decided I had to get them out of groups. I saw another teacher arrange hers in pairs. She bragged that it was working, so I tried it. My plan was to change it back for the other classes, because in those, it was still working. Well, after sixth period, seventh came in and liked the seating arrangement. They asked if they could keep it. I said sure and now, ALL my classes use this arrangement. It is awesome!!

I had to make a few adjustments, but it has been worth it. I have always had buckets on the table with glue, scissors, markers, etc... Now, I have boxes for each pair.
I also use these layouts for my sub plans. I have a copy on my desk and write them in pencil in case I need to make changes.

Okay, I know that's not a real "made it" but I had to share.

Something I have made that I am really proud of, is Math Notes for Parents.
At Open House, I had parents ask about tutoring, for them! They haven't done sixth grade Math in a long time and they want to help their child, but don't know how.

So, I added a link to my school web page called, Math Notes and with each new skill and homework assignment I am adding notes for them. Here are a few I have made. Click on each to download.

Looking forward to making more for the next Monday Made it!