Monday, November 21, 2016

Student engagement doesn't just happen

Student engagement doesn't just happen. You have to plan for it. You have to design your lessons for it. I used to do a lot of powerpoints and worksheets. I would spend whole periods having the students take notes, or make flipbooks. This is just mindless copying. Their brain is not engaged.  Then I would have them practice over and over the same thing. I wondered why a third of my students failed the test. This is not engagement, this is monotony and boredom. Math should be fun and interesting, not a chore. I knew I could do better.
     It wasn't until I got 20 computers in my classroom and did a collaborative project, that I realized what true engagement was. I got so excited,I wanted to learn everything there was about blended learning. I booked a tech coach once a week to learn a new skill. I went to ED camps and talked to other teachers about what they were doing in their classrooms. I joined Twitter and began reading math teachers blogs that inspired me.Next, I started creating my own assignments. There's nothing more empowering them this. Yes, I still use the same tests that I'm required to give for the IM1 class ,but my lessons are so very different than they were before.
     Now when I plan a lesson, I think about” is this engaging? What will the students learn by doing this? How can students create something, or add something of their own to the project or assignment? What are the DOK levels? “ Note taking is DOK 0.
I can do better. I have a different mindset.
     Making videos for the students to watch with their headphones has increased student engagement, and increased test scores. They are much more engaged watching me teach on a video, and working collaboratively with their own peers; than they ever were listening to me drone on at the front of the room.
    Creating lesson plans has become fun. Making the lessons engaging for the students is exciting and fun for me also. Devoting time to this has become a joy instead of a chore.I love creating things and so do the students! Isn't this what we all want as teachers. Students engaged and learning makes everyone happy. Happy teacher, happy students, happy administrators, happy parents!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

CMC math conference reflections

Wow what a memorable experience! Presenting is a very different experience than being a participant. So many things to worry about. To make sure that the Internet was working in the room, I went early and sat in someone else's session. I politely informed them that I wasn't going to be participating because I was just checking out the room and the Internet. They were very understanding and encouraging. Luckily I presented after lunch, so I was able to eat lunch in the room and even run through a little bit of the presentation.The microphone was set up for a panel. But there was NO WAY I was going to sit there and talk into the microphone the whole time.I asked the tech guy to set up a microphone and a stand for me.
     My presentation was very well prepared. John Stevens, and Paula Torres (my tech coaches) went over my presentation and made lots of suggestions. John warned me that he had bad luck with the Internet at the Hard Rock Hotel ,so I made a backup PowerPoint just in case. But by God’s grace, everything worked fine.
     The people started coming in early, and I was excited to see my colleague Rita in the room. My teaching partner Candace who's been on leave helped me greet people and get them logged into Nearpod. I was so thankful she was there because there were a lot of people that came late and needed the code to login. My session time and place had been changed from Saturday to Friday ,so there were some people that were expecting someone else. So I announced at the beginning the name of the session, and told them the other presenter had been changed to tomorrow. Many of them decided to stay anyways. That’s what happens when they change your time and venue.  But I'm not complaining. The ones that were there were enthusiastic!
     I was anxious at first , but as I went on I relaxed and started to have fun. The presentation in the next-door room was a “family feud “ game demonstration, so every once in awhile when the music was too loud, I had to walk up to the participants to hear their questions.I was able to go through all that I had planned, and was even able to add a few things at the end.The participants loved playing the Quizizz game.
     I was kind of nervous about the evaluation that the participants texted to poll everywhere. But I got a lot of positive comments, that were VERY encouraging.It validated to me that I'm doing the right things in my classroom.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Personalized learning

Personalized learning, what is it really? Seems like a no-brainer to me. Students all learning at their own pace, asking questions as they go along. Why haven't I tried this before? My experiment is working so far. My students are watching videos and taking notes on them on their own. They are learning without much direct instruction. I mostly walk around and help individuals. If I see a lot of students making the same mistake, I will stop to address it at the front of the class, but this is after they've already watch the videos and have begun the assignment. Many of them can do it on their own without any help. This has been a revelation to me. I also provide some type of PowerPoint or online written notes in case they don't get it from the video. They're  so much more engaged, and their test scores are much better than last year. One on one chromebooks makes personalized learning possible. Even though we have had a lot of Internet problems, starting out day one with this model has trained the students to do things on their own, and to ask their peers for help before asking the teacher. I have students asking to tutor other students during the class. This has worked amazingly well. When I changed the seating, I grouped those students who work together well. I've seen the test scores of the recipient of the peer tutoring go way up. Peer tutoring works! I hesitate to say it but, I think it works better than teacher tutoring( but not in all cases). My collab.class that has 9 special Ed. Students had the highest class percentage ( of all my classes) on the last quiz. My teaching partner is on leave. I love that the student with the highest percentage in that class is a special Ed student! A call out to Allen With a 97%. My first period class comes in early and starts the assignment before the bell rings. They are like busy Bees! Yes I still have the usual late students in first period, but when they come in, they just get to work and the late students aren't failing either. I don't make a big deal out of it like I used to. I speak to them privately to see what is going on.Yes! I have really changed my teaching, and my concept of school ! This is how school should be.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Reflecting on the week

  PERSONALIZED  Learning : What I've been doing has a name. Well, I corrected the second unit’s quiz on multi step equations. The class average was between 70 and 77%, not as good as the first test, but WAY better than last year. Unfortunately the Internet is not working now for the past week, so I'm not going to be able to continue my personalized videos until they resolve it. But I am showing videos in the front of the class and having kids come up to the board to do problems. The training they got working on their own seems to be continuing anyways.Thank God! But I am plagued by questions like “ are we using Chromebooks today? And when will the Internet be fixed? But I have no answer.
    I presented for the first time at the GAFE summit in Bloomington. I had a lot of anxiety, but it turned out fine. I learned sooo much. I'm already thinking about what I'm going to change for my CMC Math conference presentation . One thing I hadn't thought about was who would be my audience. I only had 2 math teachers in my group. The rest were English , History, Art, Science, and Foreign language . I ended up showing them some things that weren't planned because I wanted them to take away something more. The Art teacher stayed late after the session to discuss Art and math, and how she was having her student’s draw 3-dimensional cubes, prisms, and other math shapes. She was an amazing artist! I also made a new friend/colleague….Mr Bee! I asked him for some feedback on my presentation, and he made some great suggestions. It's good for someone to be honest ,so you can improve.
    Yesterday I went to EDCAMP Azusa 2016. My Tech.Coach Paula shanghaied me into helping. I had to be at her house at 6:30 am. It actually was fun helping and checking people in. In one of the sessions I got to demonstrate Quizizz. I also investigated Adobe Spark with another teacher I've never met before. My favorite session was on making videos. Paula had an amazing idea . She talked about how she had kids do test corrections by making a video on the problems they missed, having them explain how to do it on video. I'm definitely trying that. I love that idea! An added bonus, during the raffle I won the book “Instant Relevance”. Nice that I don't have to buy it now. I've been wanting to read it.
   Today I'm thinking about non digital lessons.I just can't go back to powerpoints and worksheets.I've come too far for that. I'm considering asking for my old portable whiteboards back from the Library.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

An amazing week

 What a week! Well it's official my unit tests averaged at 80% which has NEVER happened since I've been teaching the common core. I'm gonna keep going with the videos  and the hyperdocs  to see if it continues. Also just a few days ago someone I really respect @ alicekeeler  featured some of my blog posts on her blog. I pretty much learn something from her posts almost every day.  It's so wonderful  to have what I'm doing be validated. Being on Twitter has changed the way I teach.
       Now to gear up for the GAFE conference next weekend . My presentation is finished. I'll be talking about my digital assignment folders on Google slides, and the transformation project on Google slides.  I'm excited and a little nervous to be a first time presenter.  It seems amazing that I just attended my first GAFE conference this summer in July, and now I'm a presenter. What's even cooler is that my Tech. Coach Paula , and Estefania who I've been collaborating with this summer are also presenting.The Chaffey district will be well represented!
      I'm really excited to have my students use my two step equations Hyperdoc . It has my adapted Kasey Bell template for Magnetic equations. I hope the students enjoy dragging the stuff onto the fridge to make equations. I made 5 videos today , and need to make many more. I really LOVE using videos. It gives me time to walk around and help individual kids. Also one side benefit is that I have more energy in the classes because I'm not teaching the same thing on the document camera for 4 classes in a row like before. The videos teach it for me, so I can check for understanding.  The kids can watch the video over again while I get to another student. I don't feel as though I can't get to everyone like before.
     Here is a link to the guest blog feature @alicekeeler. What a week!…

Thursday, September 1, 2016

What is going on in my classroom?? Something is working!!!

My students test scores on the first two tests are higher than they have ever been in the last 3 years since we started the Common core. What's going on???? This summer I decided to make very short  2 minute videos on my iPad to teach the skills and concepts. My students come in, grab their computers and log into Google classroom where I've posted the videos and digital assignments. I've done very little direct instruction, and almost NO NOTES! I only had them take notes on a Nearpod presentation that was also interactive. They don't have a formal notebook either. I didn't make flip books like last year. But somehow they are learning, and much better than before. Today I gave a Unit test. I remember it taking two days last year. This year most of them finished it in 20 minutes, only five students per class need to finish tomorrow. I'll have the others move onto the next lesson while they finish. It's more  individualized. I mostly walk around and help individuals . I have them sitting in groups. There's more discussion. The class is noisier .They aren't doing much homework either. They only have homework if they don't finish in class. I've considered that maybe I have students with more ability, but I have 11 special Ed students in my 5th period, and a 1:1. My teaching partner is on leave, yet these students are also performing well. Yes it is only the 3rd week of school, and we have had our share of internet problems . It's been unpredictable, but we persist. I'm not sure why this is working. I’m wondering if there is any research on this. My class isn't flipped. They watch all the videos in class.WHAT’s Happening? Why is this working? I'm going to continue this. When the material gets harder will this stop? Will they be less engaged? Will I need to change and rethink it? Lots of questions, only time will tell. But I'm loving this!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Time for a change

I want to change the way I teach. I see a lot of students mindlessly memorizing patterns and procedures without any understanding the math I teach them. Technology into the classroom has forced me to do less lecturing and be more student centered and student driven. It is difficult though within the constraints of the calendar to make great changes. I'm expected to give tests and quizzes on the exact same day as everyone else.
      But I long to see more real understanding from my students, more discussion. I'm thinking about teaching equations in a different way next year. Maybe start with having students make up their own equations by writing word problem scenarios. I want to take Kasey Bell’s magnetic poetry, and change it to magnetic equations. Then they can drag expressions ( magnets) onto the refrigerator, write their own equations, solve them, and make them into a word problem. I think writing their own will give more meaning to it than just copying equations and learning the procedures to solve them. Once they write them I'll have them take a screenshot, and then post them on a Padlet so other students can see them. Its an experiment, but I just can't do things the same as last year. I used a lot of apps and experimented a lot last year within the constraints that I had. But I'm ready to bump things up to a new level, actually changing the tasks.
       I'm really excited to be getting a new room, and 1:1 Chromebooks next year. I'm thinking about how to use those tools and rearrange my classroom. I'm reading about Hyperdocs. I think they are a great way to create “student adventures “ in a creative and colorful way.
     I'm meeting with other teachers this summer to discuss ideas, share ideas, and collaborate. This is sooo Awesome! I love showing other teachers what I've been doing, and showing them how to do stuff. It's great to see what they have been doing and learn from them. They are so talented! It's good to get feedback on your own ideas to make them better.
     I'm going to my first GAFE conference in July. I'm curious and excited to see what goes on there. Also being part of the “Chromebook Cohort” is going to be amazing. We will attend a two day bootcamp, then have tech coaches in our classes next year observing and helping us. But the opportunity to help other teachers is what excites me the most! There is just something magical that happens when another teacher tries something new , and then sees how they can use it in their own classroom that is so satisfying to me.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Rodney King Verdict and a choir festival ( an unfortunate day to be on a field trip)

My most memorable field trip ever!!!
When I used to be a choral director, I went on MANY field trips;
In fact over my career I’ve counted more than 100 field trips. These were the days before “No child left behind “, before massive testing was the norm. The school was not concerned if kids missed class to go on field trips to expand their learning. We performed at senior centers, and homes for the mentally challenged. We performed at Disneyland, went to San Francisco, San Diego, and cruises down the coast of California stopping in Mexico.
We had just performed in a choir festival at a High school in Glendale….
and everything was going as planned. The students were on the bus and were very excited to go to Magic Mountain. I remember that many of the students had never been there before, and the ones who had been there were excitedly talking about all the roller coasters. As we neared the exit we saw something strange! There were people pulled to the side of the freeway standing outside of their car. What is going on? ( Remember this was 1992, and most people didn't have cell phones yet). The traffic slowed down and we saw the Wendy's restaurant ( that I had been to many times before when I worked at Magic Mountain), the windows were broken, in fact people were running around throwing things. What is going on??? We finally made it to the entrance of Magic Mountain. The attendant said” the Rodney King verdict came down today, there is civil unrest, so we aren't letting anyone else in. “ What do you mean, we can't come in? We fund raised all year to pay for these tickets, we have been looking forward to this all year!” After a few phone calls to the district, the bus turned around and headed home . The kids were screaming and crying. There was an outpouring of emotion like I'd never seen before. Such disappointment ! The discussions on the bus turned to whether or not we would get our money back, could we go on another day, “HOW COULD THEY DO THIS TO US?”Hardly any of the kids were interested in why this was happening. I tried to explain what was going on to the students, but it was too much of a “ hot button” issue. Everyone was too upset. I was relieved when the bus got very quiet and many of them slept from exhaustion , and their output of emotion. Needless to say it was the longest most difficult bus ride home I've ever experienced. After all the students were picked up and I went home , I was exhausted so I sat in front of the TV and watched the news. I saw the riots, the looting and the city burning! There had been a shooting at Magic Mountain! They had cancelled a concert by the Rap group TLC, and someone started shooting. I was so thankful that we had left Magic Mountain!  I was worried about the backlash I would get from parents on Monday, but none of that mattered now. We were out of harms way.We dodged a bullet! God had protected us. Looking back it was probably good that we didn't know the scope of what was going on. I will never forget this day!!!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Reflections of the last year

     Reflecting on this past year's events, my brain is swimming. I've tried so many things, so many firsts. I've taken a lot of risks. I worked with a Tech coach every week .( Thank you Paula!) I've tried: Glogster posters,Thinglink vocabulary posters,Construction videos recorded on Doceri posted on a Thinglink,Google forms answer sheets corrected by Floobaroo, Socrative, Would you Rather, Which one doesn't belong, Estimation 180, Digital homework folders on Google slides, Google slides projects, organizing units on Padlet, student blogs on Padlet, Dermandar panorama app,Google drawings posters,Formative interactive lessons,Desmos activity builder and Polygraph, Quizlet live, Quizizz, Kahoot, Quizalize, Geogebra tube ,Nearpod interactive lessons. 

      I presented to the special Ed Department and a small group on a Friday morning. I applied to present at two conferences, that I never would have if it wasn't for the encouragement of my tech coaches. Thank you  Paula Torres and John Stevens ! Now I've started this blog.
     I need to reflect on which things to do again, and which things to throw out.What can I do better? How can the students take more ownership of their learning ? I need to think about adding higher DOK levels.Have students present, post, and publish everything. I know I can do better!
How can I restructure my Tutorial class to be more effective? They are Freshmen who struggle in Math, double blocked, 6th period(end of the day). I'm thinking game based, made to strengthen their skills and understanding, interactive , challenging but fun, collaborative. 
                                                Tutorial class playing Quizlet live!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

An unlikely candidate

An unlikely candidate , ( my journey to becoming a math teacher )
I remember the Fine Arts department chairs reaction.”You want to teach what? Why? “ Another said  “I hate math!” and another teacher at my site said  “why would you want to teach math to these kids? “ Not too encouraging to say the least!

In  2003 a lot  of things happened . I got divorced, developed a gluten allergy , and became a Christian . I knew I didn't want to teach dance anymore, and my father's words echoed in the back of my mind from my senior year of high school. He looked at my SAT scores and said “you should be a math teacher.” At 18 that was the last thing I wanted to be. I wanted to be a musical theatre performer or choral director. But here I am 25 years later wanting to do exactly that!

My first year :Trial by fire.
My first year I taught three math classes in the choir room, and I had many observations from multiple administrators. I was so excited to teach math that I didn't care where I was, and didn't realize that I was teaching the math classes that the other more experienced teachers didn't want to teach,” the repeater classes.” These were students that had failed math over and over for many reasons, not all being math ability. It was quite a colorful cast of characters. The most memorable being a student who was on “house arrest” who wore an ankle bracelet and a Satan worshiper that dressed in black, wore a Pentagon necklace and read the Satanic bible for silent reading.We were doing Mastery Math at the time, so the students repeated and changed schedules every quarter. When I look back it was pretty nuts!

I tried to make learning math fun by playing games, doing card searches, and I even had them do a project in which they could; write a Math story, compose a math rap or song, or make a math poster. I developed a “heart” for these students. They just wanted someone who cared about them as people, not just math students. I got to know them, and many of them came back year after year to visit and to look at their “star” on the ceiling.( for passing the class)

Fast forward, I was allowed to teach a couple regular on track classes, and become part of the Algebra team. I was amazed at how easy it was to teach these classes, and fun. The students actually wanted to learn math, and I didn't have to “ convince them “ to do their work.

One of my favorite memories is the CMC Math conference. That first year I went alone, not knowing what to expect.I met a nice group of Christian ladies who taught math at a private school. They carted me around in their van, and invited me to lunches and dinners. I attended a session with Fulton and Lombard. At the end of the session he did this card trick where he asked us to pick numbers from our social security, birthday and other numbers .I ended up holding the Ace of spades,  and I got first choice on all their books for free! I knew then I was in the right place. This couldn't just be coincidence . I even started dating a math professor.