first day

By Kristina

A little over a week behind on blogging, and in a 90 degree classroom (thanks Boston weather and no AC), but I want to keep up my blogging habits this year so here goes…

Greet and Seat – I had students sit where they liked rather than make a “find your seat fraction challenge again.” That saved me a lot of time–I’m working on simplifying my teaching life and not fussing so much over small details that whose impact is worth the fuss.I had intended to give them my computer/internet survey but didn’t realize that I forgot to copy 2-sided to 2-sided, so I scrapped it. I also had them give me their email addresses and notify me if they were on ASPEN and ManageBac.

Welcome Back – I introduced myself, and instead of reading the syllabus to them or doing the “fill in the blank” presentation I did two years ago, I focused on the 3 learning guidelines for the class. Instead of spending a ton of time making a PowerPoint, I drew a  big circle with the guidelines, and then have them come up with Ways to Interfere and Ways to Help Learning. In the second section of class, I had them read this list and decide with their table groups on the most important way to help learning and one strategy for solving an interference. Independent of this, some asked if they could suggest more ways to help, such as eating breakfast. 

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I gave an overview of the year (major units and projects, preparation for the IB Math Studies exam, the exam, and the end of the year) as well.

Summer Homework – Instead of grading the entire packet, I’m going to give them short quizzes that cover each section (with an opportunity to retake a la SBG). I’m going to focus on skills that I noticed last year’s seniors completely forgetting on the IB exam.

Weekly Seating Change – I started this when I noticed that students worked with the same students every single time we had small group work or a group project. Given that most of them have been together since kindergarten, I thought that we were due for some shaking up. I put the students in different tables each week so they would experience working with new people and different learning styles. They appreciated it (compared to what they may have felt had I simply decreed a completely new seating chart with no friends sitting next to one another and with no explanation), and some found new “school-friendships.” Though this year’s class is so small, I think they could benefit from a seating change. One class complained bitterly about it at first, and the other didn’t, but the complaints ceased after about 2 minutes.

Quiet Coyote – Introduce the Quiet Coyote: “his ears are open and his mouth is shut.” Put your middle and ring fingers on your thumb to create the coyote’s shut mouth, and stick your index and pinky fingers up to create the coyote’s ears. If you feel like adding a judging element to your coyote, push the ears forward to create “judging jaguar.” The reason for this is to maximize our time. Instead of waiting for the room to quiet down (one student sees the quiet coyote and then quiets down, and other students gradually notice), I changed it to saying “quiet coyote up here” verbally. I couldn’t do the “hands up, voices off, eyes on me” from last year–it doesn’t feel enough like me.

Math Challenge – Last year I used the 31 game on this group of seniors as an initial math challenge. I wanted to try Gumdrop Mania with them this year, but that game requires a ton of setup…I’ll save it for advisory. Instead I used a math boggle suggested by the fabulous @msrubinteach. I named it “Perfect 10” and used the observation questions below.

Draw 5 cards per group, and make 10 as many ways as possible. If the group uses 2 cards, they get 2 points. If they use 3 cards, they get 3 points, and so on. Face cards and 10s are taken out.

I had the kids take out the face cards and tens (to save me time–I’m learning how to let go of my perfectionist tendencies in little ways). We played a few rounds and talked about the importance of persevering vs. rage-quitting (growth vs fixed mindset).

1. Are all the students involved? Who is looking around the class or out the window (or whatever) instead of participating in the activity?
2. Who is very focused and studying the game intently?
3. Who simply HAS to talk with his or her neighbor as they process what to do or process how many he or she got correct?
4. Who has to check in with me to see if they’re doing it correctly?
5. Who seems to want to sit back and observe what everyone else is doing before they jump in?
6. Who calls out comments as they’re working?
7. Which students simply can’t concentrate for the short time period you give them to study the diagram? What are they doing? Getting up? Beginning conversations? Fiddling with their “stuff”?
8. As I walk by to see how the students are doing, who wants to talk with me or show me something? Who wants to simply work without interruption?
9. As we discuss our findings, who wants to share? Who seems to want to add their comments more than expected?
10. Which students try to steer the discussion off topic?
11. Which students don’t share at all?

I didn’t do the 3-2-1 exit slip that I wanted to do. Losing 6 minutes per class period. I sent home parent homework, explaining that it’s important that the parent email me (just easier than trying to type in and respond). However, most parents wrote their answers instead of emailing. I wonder how to make this process better. My end goal is to send parent newsletters home via ManageBac or ASPEN. The student homework was to read the syllabus and bring it back the next day for us to go over (practicing organizational skills). 


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