26 August 2014

Create Digital Manipulatives with PicCollage App

Searching for a fun way to enrich my students who had already watched and accounted for the videos for today's lesson, I decided to have them create and use manipulatives to model the addition and subtraction of integers that I had presented in my flipping videos.

My first decision was to just have them use paper, but with other kids in the room catching up on the videos on the class iPads, that almost seemed like a PUNISHMENT. "Good job doing your homework and getting ahead. Now give me back the technology - you can cut paper squares." Not exactly the engaging environment I was hoping to create. While rethinking it during my prep, I opened my iPad just to look through my apps to see which of them might give me some of the create-a-shape-and-then-move-it-around functionality I was seeking.

I settled on the app PicCollage (iOS | Android), which I previously used last year to have students construct a Frayer Model for our exponent rules.

Here are some student examples. Taco vs. Nachos was my favorite. :)
That was "-6 + 12 =" in the blue text, in case you're thinking this kid was as lost I was first thinking when I looked at it. :)
This was is also -6 + 12
7 + (-12)
The real winner was when the creator of smileys vs slushies above used HIS OWN MODEL to help out the kid next to him who was a little confused on how to use the model. Student win!

24 August 2014

Donorschoose.org for #Ferguson

Writing from his blog on Friday, +Bill Gates announced a HUGE match offer for this weekend on the popular philanthropy site Donors Choose.
Melinda and I are big fans of DonorsChoose.org, a program that makes it easy for teachers to connect with potential donors. Teachers can post projects that need funding, and donors can search for projects by school, subject, grade, and so on. You can give to your local school, or one across the country.

To make it easy for everyone to support teachers via DonorsChoose.org, our foundation will meet donors halfway. From August 22 through August 24, nearly every project on the site will be half off. For example, if a $500 project gets $250 in donations in that time, we will match that with another $250 and fully fund the project. (We will match up to a total of $1 million.) You can search for a project now—there are thousands to choose from.
I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the Donors Choose projects in and around my school district in Ferguson to see how many classrooms we could help get over that 50% mark.


22 August 2014

SMART Notebook Template for your #Flipclass Videos

One of the more common complaints I here from students in flipped classrooms are that they want their teacher to teach the class. This is usually in response to the model as a whole, but using other teachers' videos definitely exacerbates the complaint.

+Lodge McCammon's method suggests teachers K.I.S.S their approach and do their video with a simple whiteboard behind them in one take. The approach is certainly more luddite-friendly than editing an iMovie project or even screencasting on an iPad or other tablet, but it also passes on the opportunity we have to include multimedia in your lesson.

For the first time in the "studio" this year, my Algebra 1 co-teacher and I decided to put some slides together in SMART Notebook and present at the board as we would in class. Expecting that he and I will be doing this dozens of times throughout the year, I created a template to make our video sessions more efficient during our common planning period or PLC times once the school year begins.
flipped video template on Make A Gif
Here are our first efforts. I think we're still working on the lighting - putting the guy with dark skin on the dark side of the room was obviously a problem. :)

17 August 2014

Relationship or Rigor?

Does it have to be one or the other? Its hard to argue that both relationship and rigor are both necessary characteristics for a warm learning environment that breeds growth. I was talking to one of my colleagues last week who was debating how long she should hold off on doing "math" so she could start the year with better relationships. She was feeling a little stuck as far what to do on the second day of school after she had already introduced her procedures and met her students on the first day.

I told her to go ahead and begin "math" operations, but to engage the kids in a game or competition. She would still have time to get to know her students, but would also set a tone for class engagement.

I think her conundrum was part of a problem with which we sometimes see our role as teacher. We split our job into two separate roles as "instructor" and "mentor," so we view some of our work as drilling and filling kids with knowledge, and then other times as when we do "relationship." Relationship is only genuine if its an ongoing process. I think we've all had those students that during "work" time they drive us crazy, but during "relationship" time, you really enjoy. If you really value relationship building in your classroom, then everything you do should be an opportunity to build on those, not just at the "fun" times.

Here's a few posts I've written related to the subject:
“Never smile until 2nd quarter.” Ever heard this advice? You can be firm and set a good tone for the year without being cold and unemotional.

Understanding and accepting your students’ nature - http://mrcbaker.blogspot.com/2014/07/your-students-will-never-be-perfect-and.html

Goal-setting with your students allow you to get to know them better and share your own experiences.

Treat your students like “real” people by offering a mobile device charging station.

Have your students pace and lead your lesson - resist the temptation to get through a certain number of problems. Quality examples and practice over quantity.

Put your students in your word problems. Even fictional scenarios can gain a kernel of relevance if your students are part of the story.

Transparency in your grading is important for students and parents. Making your standards “kid-friendly” will help your students in goal-setting and reconceptualizing your standards for your students will help you understand them more, too.

05 August 2014

Mentoring: Know Thyself

As mentioned a couple of posts ago, I'm mentoring a teacher new to the district this year, so my self-reflection machine is probably going to be in hyper-drive as I reflect on my own practice and attempt to guide hers.

I had several conversations this summer about the importance of confidence and attitude in contributing to your capacity for professional growth and excellence. If you don't think you're exactly the teacher those kids in your room need, your students will have a harder time believing it themselves. At the same time, an ability to reflect and/or invite transparent relationships is weighted into the formula. Without knowing your weaknesses or areas of growth, you cannot know where to take risks to invite growth.

Representing the two components of my formula are two ways of viewing yourself that I call "Your Resume" and "Your Mirror." 

Your Resume flaunts your successes, unapologetically advertises your strengths, and paints a portrait of who you are and what your classroom looks like on the best of days. Your Resume is an idealist. Your Resume is the teacher all the kids think fondly of at graduation and reunions, the colleague everyone wants to collaborate with, and the shining star your boss mentions as an example of their leadership. ;) 

Your Mirror points out your weaknesses, reminds you of your insecurities, and always tells the truth. Your Mirror is a realist. Your Mirror is the teacher that knows sometimes lessons don't go well, every teacher cannot reach every student, and that if you're doing something in life really well, it's probably to the detriment of something else.

So who am I?