Moving directions

Dear Friends, 

In past days I have been reflecting on a change in direction in my blogging life, and have therefore, decided to shift to a new blogging platform with a new focus. I hope that you’ll follow me to:

mathmusicmiddleschool.blogspot.ca

You can also find me on Bloglovin

Melissa

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Okay, Where have I been?

So, it’s been a while since I have written. I have a good reason, I promise. I had a baby. That tends to take up a great deal of time initially. But now that things are settling down, I’m ready to start using my ‘Mrs. Dean’ brain a bit more. If I don’t, I fear that ‘Mommy’ brain will completely take over.

A project is in the works. As I have I written about in earlier posts, I plan to use Interactive Math notebooks when I return to work in the fall. In order to do this effectively, however, I need to have created one to work from. Therefore, I am about to embark on a re-design of my current math program to include the use of this tool. This will be entirely new to my students, so I must have ironed out the wrinkles and put it all together. At least in theory. 🙂

I plan to create and write about this on a weekly basis, in between nap time and story time and picking up my older child from preschool time.

Ah, the best laid plans…

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Cutting and Pasting

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So this is my  new project. I have toyed around with the idea of Interactive notebooks for a while, but have never really ‘taken the plunge’, feeling like it’s just too much work to do. I mean, who has the time to plan all of that in advance? Not me. But this year, I have decided that it’s time to just get into the designing, cutting and pasting business. In order to do this, I have been designing pages as we go through the units, and then putting them in my notebook. This year, my students are simply putting them in their regular math binders, and next year I will (hopefully after designing all the pages in advance) have them use composition notebooks to set up their own interactive notebooks that we can use throughout the year, in place of writing notes just in our binders. 

I have started this cutting and pasting activity in my class already, using our math journals, having students create foldables and gluing rubrics in. I can’t believe that I have overlooked this simple organization tool for so long. Why wouldn’t I have students glue rubrics in their notebooks with their work!? 

I feel like interactive notebooks are going to become a way of life in my classes–both math and music. I better make sure I have a decent supply of white glue when I place my consumables order next year!! 

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#Mathis….

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As part of my first week activities, I ‘borrowed’ an idea from a blog that I follow that I have recently found (and that I LOVE) as an exit ticket. ( If you’re looking for a great math blog,  check out Math = Love at http://mathequalslove.blogspot.ca.) I am attempting to use Exit Tickets on a regular basis with my students as way to gather information about their understanding of the material, as well as a way to help them reflect on their goals and progress. On the first day, I gave them a grid paper with the #Mathis hashtag on it (I love the Twitter, by the way), and asked them to write up to 140 characters finishing the ‘sentence’. One of my students came up with the following: #mathis a subject where logic likes to make it’s nest in the world and thrive in the human mind.

How about #mindblown.

Handing it in

Okay, so one of my pet peeves about Grade 7 and 8 students is that *sometimes* (cough, cough), they don’t hand stuff in. And sometimes, they don’t tell you that they haven’t handed it in. They wait until you go through the pile to mark it and realize that their’s is missing. I’m not sure what bothers me more about this scenario, the fact that they didn’t do the work, or the fact that they tried to cover it up.  Anyway, this year, I’m taking a page from my Biology Teacher at Teacher’s College and trying something new.

 

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So, the first thing is the ‘mailbox’. Inside the box, each student has their own numbered file. When they have work to submit for assessment, instead of making a pile on my desk or me collecting it, they will put their work in the correct file. (Similar to their math portfolio.) Then, in addition to that, they will check their name off on the clipboard indicating that they have submitted their work.  If they are not submitting their work on the due date, they will fill in their corresponding page in the “I didn’t do my homework” binder—which, I must say is an idea that I have ‘borrowed’ from another brilliant educator. Inside the binder is a page for each student where they will indicate what they aren’t handing in, why it’s not done and then a final column for indicating when they actually submitted the work.  I must confess, this is a system that I hope my LTO uses when they take over for me. (They can change the cover of the binder, if they want. 🙂

So, why? What am I hoping for from this?  Well, a few things.  Number one, I’m hoping for less work for me chasing students around.  Number two, I’m hoping for a paper trail for those students who are chronically bad at handing things in.  And Number three: I’m hoping for greater accountability and student ownership.

I’ll let you know how it works. 🙂

Happy Teaching.

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At Loose Ends

I’ve been into school the last few days to try to get things ready for my students. It has been a slow process this year, mostly because my three year old daughter has to accompany me. Anyone with kids will know that work only happens in between answering myriad questions, finding shoes, helping colour and bathroom trips. It’s also a slow process this year because most of the time, my heart is just not into it.

This year, I will teach during September and October, and then will be off on Maternity Leave starting in early November. I am excited about this, but at the same time, I’m struggling with finding my place professionally. I love my job. I love my family. I think the hardest part is the giving up of control. I’m going to set up my classroom, and establish routines and talk to my students about assessment and learning goals and exit tickets and culminating tasks, all the while knowing that I won’t be there for most of it. And in all likelihood, the person who takes over for me, won’t ‘do it’ the way I would.

When I was an LTO, I took over for someone in January, much farther along in the school year, and I tried to do things the way the previous teacher had done it. In this case, however, someone is taking over for me in November. Routines will just have been established. My classroom will become someone else’s. My students will identify more with that person than me as their Grade 8 teacher. My colleagues will spend more time with that person than with me this year. This is hard for me. Thanks, Type A personality.

It has been hard for me to set up my classroom. I love teaching. I look forward to this week all summer. And now it’s here and it’s bittersweet. While I’m off I plan to read, to write, to blog and to continue to, as much as possible as one can with a three year old and a newborn, grow professionally. But I know, in the back of my mind I’ll be thinking about ‘my’ students and wondering what is happening in ‘my’ room.

Letting go is hard.

Happy Teaching.

It’s Not a Secret: Learning Goals and Success Criteria

This summer, I took an AQ course to about mathematics education to start down the road to becoming a math specialist. One of the areas of focus for this course was on the use of Learning Targets and Success Criteria. Confession: I have always thought that learning targets were a  good idea, and always had good intentions, but never really got off the ground with using them on a regular basis in my classroom. I didn’t think that it was a big deal though…I figured that they (aka my brilliant student mathematicians) knew what I wanted. (Mind reading, perhaps?)

It’s not a secret……

Our goal is to enable all students to be “independent, self-monitoring learners”.

How do I go about this? Learning Goals, Success Criteria and Self-Reflection. These are three components that I now see must be a part of my program. They are no longer ‘optional’.  It will be time consuming. It will be challenging. It will take time away from other things. But, just as I am convinced of the value of Independent Reading and Independent Writing each and every day in my literacy program, I must be as committed to these things in my math program. How will students know what we are looking for if we don’t show them?

In a discussion board posting for the class I was taking I wrote the following:

I was struck by the statement, “Students can hit any target that stands still for them.” This is true, but as we have talked about in previous modules, perhaps not at the same time and in the same way. And so it comes back to the question that I am always faced with in my mathematics program. If all of my students are meeting the learning targets in different ways and at different times, how I do I keep the cycle going?

I am still struggling with this, and I think I will for a great period of time. This is where things like guided math come into focus for me once again. Each of my students needs to be given the opportunity to be successful. If this means that I must return to learning goals over and over with some of my students, helping them move forward, then I must do it.

One of my goals for the upcoming year is to sit down and truly develop clear, concise learning targets for my lessons. I do this vaguely right now, and frankly, didn’t put a lot of importance on it as I was planning. However, as I revisit my lessons and my unit plans, I will strive to set incremental and scaffolded learning targets that each of my students can ‘hit’, in whatever way makes the most sense to them.  Then, as a group, we will co-create success criteria, ensuring that we have arrived at a common understanding together.

As the school year starts, I’m going to sit down with my unit plans and create unit-long learning goals for my students. These will be given to them at the start of the unit, and as the unit progresses, they will reflect on them and whether or not they have met them. Then, they will write their own individual learning goals.  This sounds like a lofty goal. I admit, it is. It’s going to be tough slogging at the start. But I’m convinced it will be worth it.

And now, to put words into action.

Happy Teaching

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Organizing the Chaos 1: Math Portfolios

Okay, so it’s August and I’ve been sort of lazily passing my days without really thinking about school. Today, however, I went to Staples to get some things for my classroom and it’s really ‘started the fire’ for me. Even though I’m going off on Maternity Leave in a few short months, I’m still excited for the start of school, and am starting to feel a little bit sad that I won’t be there the entire year. I worry that all the hard work that I’m going to do in September will be undone by whoever takes over for me. What if they don’t have the same passion for mathematics as I do? But…I digress. This is a post for another time.

Anyway, as I’ve been pondering my first day of school in a few weeks, I’ve been thinking about different ways to organize student work. I’m a big fan of having my kiddos keep all of their work that is assessment based, but find that they just sort of look at it, and, if I’m lucky, put it in their binder. (More often than not, they shove it inside their binder and it falls out later…..sigh. Grade 8s.) So, this year, my attempt to organize student work is going to consist of math portfolios.

Here’s how it’s going to work:

1. Each student will have a numbered file folder. (Students are given numbers as an organizational tool, like a student number.) This means that I can re-use the folders in years to come.

2. This folder will be placed in a portable hanging file box in a convenient location in the classroom.

3. As students receive their work back, they will read the feedback (and possibly record) and then file their work under their respective number. Work will be placed in their folders chronologically. This will require monitoring, obviously, for those less organizationally-minded kiddios.

4. At the end of each unit, students will go through their portfolios and reflect on the learning goals, both the collective class goals and their own individual goals that they set throughout the unit.  I might have them write a reflection, here as well. These will then be shared with parents.

So that’s the idea, anyway. I’ll post pics after I have them set up, and then again after they start using them in a few weeks.

Until then,

Happy Teaching.

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Wait, It’s July?!?

Okay, I’m not sure how this happened entirely. All of a sudden I realized that I haven’t written in a long time. I guess when you go through those times when you feel like you have nothing to say, it’s easier to say nothing than to say something that is really nothing. Anyway, I’m back, and it’s time for an update. A renewal, of sorts. 

It’s summer holidays, and I’m not super good at just, you know, being on holidays. So, in the midst of chasing my three year old around, and growing another tiny human being in my body, I’m taking a course. Math, Part 1.  I felt that it was time to get some official credentials in a subject that I have become extremely passionate about.  I’m loving it. I love time for professional dialogue with others, even if I never see them face to face. I love that I’m reading and learning and being challenged in my own teaching practice.  

Over next while, it is my plan to reflect on what I’m learning and thinking about, and sharing it here.  Of course, we all know what happens to the best laid plans.

May Blues

So, it’s May. I don’t like May. I’m not sure why really. It’s nothing personal, I don’t think. It’s just that every year at this time, I look around my classroom and I feel….discontent. I feel like I am letting my students down. I feel like I am going through the motions, that I am a teacher in name, but not in heart.  Every May, I wonder if I need a change.  I’m sure that my students notice it. All the things I’m passionate about seem to be sucked out of me. I think I need September. 

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