Monday, October 31, 2016

Using Trash to teach Proportional Relationships

      What good is a bunch of empty boxes?  Last week, it was great to teach proportional relationships.  I had my students all bring an empty box or bottle that had unit conversion information on them.  The first thing that I asked my students to do was to enter the conversion information onto a table on Desmos table.  As you can see below, the student started by entering the information from the package:  10 oz. and 283 grams.
The next thing that I had the kids do was to enter at least 2 more points that would be true based on the conversion information that we had.  Most of my students cut the amount on the package in half, or divided it by 10.  At this point, we stopped to talk about the fact that the points the students were graphing were forming a straight line.
Next, I had students put (0, 0) on the table, and see if it fell on the line.  Then we talked about why this point would be on everyone's line, even though they had different conversions.
Finally, I had students trace along the line, and find the point where the x-value was 1.  We talked about what this point represented.
This simple activity was a great way to introduce proportional relationships, and some of their important characteristics.

Monday, October 24, 2016

New Things I've Found This Year: EdPuzzle!

So, I am totally excited about EdPuzzle!  It is such a cool tool, and really gives me one more way to make the best use of Chromebooks in the classroom.

EdPuzzle is a free site that lets you take videos (from YouTube, Khan Academy, etc....) and add stuff to them for your class.


 The feature that I use the most is the ability to add questions in to the middle of the video.  So as students watch, you can have them pause the video, and answer multiple choice or open ended questions about the video.  If you give multiple choice questions, students even get feedback right away!  To make that feature even better, you can type in different feedback depending on which answer students chose.

Another helpful feature of EdPuzzle is the ability to crop a video.   So if you find a video that you like, but the intro is too long, or the concept gets too difficult, you can simply crop it out.  The only thing I didn't like about this feature is that you can only crop off the beginning or the end....I don't think you can crop a section out of the middle.

EdPuzzle also has some cool audio features.  You can add your own audio track to an existing video...basically narrating the entire thing!  Or you have the ability to add an audio note, so that you can just add your own audio comment here or there within the video.

EdPuzzle has helped me so much to have better avenues for differentiation.  It really allows me to feel like I can be in a couple of places at once.  If I need to do reteaching over multiple skills, I can assign different EdPuzzles for the skills.  My kids are engaged in something, and it frees me up to work with a small group without constantly being asked questions....AMAZING!!

Also, I signed up with Google, and it was so easy....it automatically created my classes for me.  I literally think I just had to hit one button, and I was ready to go.

Next great thing about EdPuzzle....super information about your students.  You have the ability to view the results by student, or by question.
Here is the question view.

Here is the whole class view.


When looking by student, you can see not only what they got right and wrong, but even which sections of the video the student watched multiple times.
Look at all the information you can get about individual students....which questions right, which are wrong, which part they watched over, overall percent correct....great info!


I feel like EdPuzzle is just the tool I've needed to be more effective at differentiating.  Often, I feel like I give my high kids a project and expect them to sort of figure it out on their own, while I work with my struggling students.  I think that EdPuzzle will give me a way to do a better job with the kids that I won't be working with directly when I differentiate....like I really can be in two places at once!!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Where is Space Camp Taking Me?

           Space camp was such an amazing experience....one that I know will never be duplicated.  I can (and have) gone on and on about all of the awesome experiences I had at Space Camp, but as amazing as it was, I have to come back and make changes that my students can see for it to make a difference for anyone but me.  It can't just be a cool experience that I recount for them.  In some way I have to find my own way to bring that excitement to my math classroom.  
     Obviously this is not something that is accomplished overnight.  Almost three weeks into school, I want to pause and take a minute to think...how am I bringing Space Camp back to my classroom?  From day one, I have definitely shared my excitement with kids.....telling them about it, showing them pictures. 

 I wore my flight suit and talked about my newfound passion for space.  I showed them a video clip of Kennedy, talking about the going to the moon, "not because it is easy, but because it is hard".  We talked about setting goals worthy of being hard, and we've talked about where the US space program is now.
      But what else.....because that is not enough. I came away from Space Camp realizing I needed to help my kids see all the cool pathways that math and science could open up for them, rather than just teaching them math and hoping the inspiration comes from somewhere else.  
        So for the first time, I collaborated with the science teacher on my team to do a STEM challenge.  Last week, kids built pipe cleaner towers in science, and recorded the height. This week, kids repeated this activity in my class and recorded their tower height from science versus the second attempt in my class.  It took all of 20 minutes, and next week I have real data that the kids collected and that they care about available to use to talk about measures of center and measures of variability.
Kids hard at work.
Love this pic....shows that big smile while working!
   
We are also going to talk about percent change as we compare their trials.  For just 20 minutes of fun (and problem solving and collaboration), I have a great intro to teach all this stuff I needed to teach anyways.  Plus, I hope that activities like this will help bring in some of my kids that don't love math and don't think they're good at math....maybe things like this will crack the door open for a few students to find some enjoyment in math and science, that didn't have that before.  Because my winning groups weren't necessarily the kids that usually excel in math...but yesterday they did.  And they had fun at the same time!   
This simple design was one of the tallest towers, at 53 cm.  The winning tower was 53.5 cm.

         This  STEM challenge is also a good time to introduce the kids to the new "teams" they will be working with for the rest of the quarter.  Instead of table 1,  table 2, and so on, I now have teams Harmony, Unity, Tranquility, Kibo, Zarya,and Columbus (Space Camp team names, after parts of the International Space Station).  One of the ambassadors at camp gave us this idea....make teams that cross over hours to build up the idea of teamwork.    Teams collected points for how their team placed in our pipe cleaner challenge. Who knows.....maybe there will even be a Commander's Cup to award the winning team (this is the award my team, team Columbus, won at camp).    
    
Team Columbus, with our Commander's Cup patches!

      Another awesome thing is that after doing this STEM challenge together, the science teacher and I already have several more things planned together.....investigating claims on GrowBeasts and Double Stuff Oreos, planning a Martian Day as our team day for the last day before winter break.  Plus more collaborative STEM challenges for us in future quarters!  I can't tell you how excited I am about all of these things, and I just know the kids will love it too!
     So this is where Space Camp has taken me so far, with high hopes for many more changes to come!

FYI:  My fantastic Space Camp adventure was possible because of my new favorite company, Honeywell, as I was part of Honeywell Educators Space Academy.  This amazing program paid my way to Space Camp, and applications are open now for next year!  If you teach middle school math or science, you should apply!!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Whole Class Participation Techniques

         As this school year begins, I've been excited about how my classes have been taking shape so far.  The kids are great, and the classroom is starting to feel like community.  We're all starting to get to know each other a bit, and the kids are starting to understand my expectations.
          I read a book over the summer about total participation techniques.  I was really excited about this idea of getting every kid to answer questions, rather than just one kid.  So as I started planning for building my classroom climate, this was one of my major considerations.  I really wanted to utilize technology in a way to increase whole class participation whenever possible.  These have been the things that I've been really pleased with in the first two weeks when it comes to increasing class participation.

1. Go Formative--I was introduced to GoFormative as one of the sessions at Space Camp this summer and thought it had potential.  I tried it last week and loved it!  I have used online quizzes on Google forms or quia, but what is different about Go Formative is that you are seeing data real-time (not just when kids finish).  And not only can you see it real-time, you can send kids individual feedback, and they can make corrections based on the feedback you sent them.  So here was a sample question:
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The answer I was wanting was that students disagreed, because the numbers were not in order.

Here is an example interaction between one student and myself.

The student's initial response (which you can't see because he fixed it) was "agree", so I sent him the first message about "What do you do first?"  This helped him realize the numbers weren't ordered, and he then changed his answer simple to "disagree".  However, I also wanted students to justify their answer, so I sent the second message about "Why do you disagree?", leading to his final response.
            I was impressed with how powerful these interactions were, and look forward to using this tool more in my classroom!

2.  Desmos--I have written before about being a big fan of Desmos, but this week as I used it as a way to encourage whole class participation and formative assessment.  We were doing one of my favorite lessons, one about students who are going into business together.  My class has to analyze the business plans in terms of how much money each partner initially has, and how much they save each week.  It's a great activity to teach distributive property, combining like terms,  and the appearance of linear functions with positive/negative slope.  I have always loved this lesson, but Desmos added something to it.  We did most of the lesson on paper, and then I used just a few Desmos questions for real-time formative assessment.
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You can see here the responses of just a few of my students to a question that asked them to look at a graph and identify which person it represented.  I loved being able to quickly show several different strategies for determining whose graph it was, while highlighting student work.  It was fantastic!

3.  Response Cards--This was my low-tech whole class participation technique...but still effective.  We were having a debate about a question I had on the board, so I had students take out the "agree, disgree, or not sure" cards. I was able to get a quick feel for the mood of the class, as well as who might present arguments for each side to further our discussion.  Quick, easy method for formative assessment!  (You can get these response cards free at Teachers Pay Teacher, by the way)

4.  Google Questions on classroom--I really enjoyed using the question function on Google Classroom.  I played a video which showed a visual representation of mean, and then asked students to respond as a Google Question whether they thought the video represented mean, median or mode.  Again, quick, easy formative assessment.  Some classes got it right away, and that was great.  Other classes were split down the middle at first, but after viewing the responses in the question, every class quickly concluded that is was mean.
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The whole interaction probably only took 10 minutes, and it was extremely effective!

5.  Kahoot--This is certainly not a new one to me, as I used Kahoot frequently last year as well.  This year, I'm trying to refine a few things about Kahoot.  A couple of things I'm planning to incorporate in my Kahoots this year are spiraling review and trivia. I want to add just a couple of spiral review questions to every Kahoot, just to keep skills sharp.  And the trivia is just for fun...the kids love knowing that every now and then I'll throw in something random just for fun!
       I also love to use Kahoot to teach error analysis, and trying to get the kids to figure out what error had to be made to get the incorrect answers.