Monday, February 3, 2014

The Work of Teaching - Dr. Deborah Ball

I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Deborah Ball speak in person. She is a very fascinating lady and incredibly smart. I think what I liked most about her is her ability to say it like it is in a very understandable way. Here she shows a group of lawmakers that teaching isn't as easy as everyone would like to think it is.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Snooooow much snow!

If any of you have seen this particular article...I can say it is completely and totally true for my southern part of the country.

I especially like when it says: 

Clarification: The lightest green says "any snow" but also includes merely the prediction of snow.

The local school districts have called off school for the past four days. Here is a picture of my backyard today:

If it wasn't Friday, my money would be on no school tomorrow either.

Update -- What I'm doing now...

I don't live in fantasy land and imagine that lots of people follow this blog. However, I do know that I get traffic from time to time. The last time I posted was sometime last year and I think regularly about posting more. The truth of the matter is--I'm very busy. I know busy is a lame excuse, but I'll share a little about how my life has changed in the past year and maybe you will understand.

First, I am no longer a high school math teacher. Last Spring I took a job as a math intervention specialist. It was the first time I imagined my life working in a school but out of the regular classroom setting. I enjoyed that, but the position was temporary. During that time I started exploring my options. As much as I loved my students and loved teaching math, I just didn't see myself going back into the classroom full time right away. Through some serious self-reflection and the urging of some really great mentors, I decided to apply for graduate school. I was accepted and within a week turned in my resignation for the following school year.

Since August I have been working on my Ph.D. in math education. Through what I can only imagine is pure luck I was able to land a position as a Graduate Teaching Associate. The school district I worked for also hired me part time as a math coach for one of the middle schools.

I went from having one full time job to having two part-time (but really full time if you know what I mean) jobs and full time coursework.

I am certainly not complaining. I love everything I am doing right now. School is fantastic. Both jobs are fulfilling. I am really loving life. I am just busy. So, while I'd like to promise I'll post more, I know that isn't a realistic promise. I am not taking this blog down because I am sure this won't be my last posting. I just can't promise anything stable or reliable in terms of new content. Just know, that this is always a thought in my mind.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Vocabulary Card Sort

I am always looking for ways to make boring vocabulary a little less boring. Here's what my intern and I did last week. It turned out better than I expected and so I figured I would share. This took two 45 minute periods.

1.) The students worked with me to fill out a basic vocabulary sheet. I already had the definitions typed in the boxes. The students had to fill in the words and the pictures. I had 28 words total otherwise I probably would have had the students write the definitions, as well.

2.) I then typed up squares with only the vocabulary words in them--one word per square. The students were arranged in pairs and cut out all the words. When they were finished they had 28 individual word cards on their desks.

3.) The students were asked to complete a card sort. They had to take all 28 vocabulary words and put them into categories. They created the categories. They were allowed to use the vocabulary sheets from day #1 to help. I gave them the following guidelines: (a) must have at least three categories (b) at least two words per category (c) must be academic categories

4.) The students worked diligently to arrange their cards. I walked around and questioned/challenged some of their choices. They were made to justify the choices they made. When they were satisfied with their categories they made titles from blank squares. They arranged them neatly on their desks. I came by and took a picture with my iPad.

5.) They had to choose one of the categories and write a paragraph using all the words within that category. (This was a good idea but I probably needed better instructions for the students because not all of them produced quality paragraphs.)

6.) They taped their categories together and hung them on the wall. I plugged the iPad into the projector and the partners presented their categories to the class.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Quick Update

Wow! Long time, no post. Where has the time gone? It seems that my goal of blogging more often during the school year is simply not going to happen. Even posting during summer takes quite the effort. However, I have found some time and so here I am. There were so many changes at the end of the year that I have almost forgotten all of them. The biggest change is that I’ll be department chair next year. I wasn’t able to fully celebrate (or mourn as the case may very well be) my appointment. However, now I can say that I’m thankful for the opportunity. I have a lot of big ideas for how to best guide the department next year. I have already started working on a few of them. I’m nervous but excited. The pressure is higher than ever. We live in a world where test scores mean everything and in a low SES population you have to be really fantastic to produce good test scores instead of mediocre like you can be in many other places. I want to help my department be fantastic. I want our administrators to be completely “wow’ed” at the end of the year when the results roll in. Most of all I want the department to work as a team. I want us to laugh, and learn, and share data like it’s candy! Okay, maybe that’s a bit corny but I’ll take corny if it means we are working together to produce great young mathematicians. The days of locking the door and just "doing your own thing" are over. Anyway, I'm rambling at this point. Time to hit "publish"!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Let's Talk Math

Last semester I left off with graphing lines. By the time the semester was over, *most* of my students “got it”. However, by the time January rolls around most of them forget everything they learned before Christmas. So today I wanted to do an activity that reminded them about first semester but guided them towards second semester.

Of course, they were shocked that I was the only teacher in the entire building that was actually making them do work today. Apparently most teachers decided to spend this day as a free day discussing holiday events….riiiiiiiight. Anyway, my plan consisted of: bell ringer, multiple representations match-up activity, and then graphing practice.

1.       What is the slope-intercept form?
2.       What letter represents slope?
3.       What letter represents the y-intercept?
4.       In your own words, explain how you would graph a line that is in slope-intercept form.

I was pleased with the results from the bellringer. Most of the students could at least answer the first three questions. Quite a few were able to come up with something for the fourth question. We talked about it and then moved on to the activity.

My room is arranged into 6 groups of 4 desks each. I cut out 6 word problems with matching equations, tables, and graphs. I attached each separate part to an index card. When I was finished I had 24 index cards with either a table, a graph, an equation, or a word problem. I had the cards all shuffled up and I gave each student an index card. (Some of the students were absent so I had a community pot with the extra cards.)

The word problems were designated a specific group and seat number (each group has seats #1-4).  The rest of the cards had to stand up and then walk around and find the group they belonged to. If they were correct, the word problem, equation, table, and graph would all represent the same information. 

After about 10 minutes the groups were happy with their choices. At that time I told seat #1 that they were the reporter for the group. I gave the teams 7 minutes to talk about their choices and come up with a thought out explanation for why each piece belonged to the group. At the end of 7 minutes, I had the reporters from each group stand up and take turns sharing out. 
I really loved the share out portion of the activity because I was able to see which groups really understood things like "In the table the y-intercept is represented by...and you find that in the graph by....and the equation shows that...and the word problem says..." It was great!

I'll definitely use this type of group/team work again. The reporting out at the end is what truly made this activity shine...and it got the students talking MATH on day #1!!

Monday, January 2, 2012


I have spent a decent amount of my winter break this year reading books on leadership. For the past few years my district and the local University have paired together to "raise up aspiring new leaders." Basically they run a special program for only a few people that aspire to be educational leaders in the district. At the end of the program you either get your EdS or continue on to get your doctorate. I debated a long time about whether or not I would apply for this opportunity. The rumor is that approximately 800 people applied last year and only a handful were selected. That, alone, is daunting. In addition to that, I have only been an educator for four years. Am I really ready for this? Also, my ego is rather fragile. It would be much easier to say, "I didn't apply" instead of "I didn't get in."

So, I decided to at least start the application process. I may back out but for now, I'm filling in all the blanks. Today was the first time I started working on my essay response. I forgot how painful it was to write a paper. If I were able to write my essay like I write a blog entry, it would have already been done. The vast majority of my day was spent writing two paragraphs. Two. And I'm not sure I'm even satisfied with those.

The application is due on January 17th. I am not sure when I'll find out if I made it to the next round or not, but I'll be sure to post about it.