Friday, July 15, 2016

5 Best Things from Last I Start Thinking about Next Year!

Well, it happened today.  My least favorite day of the summer.....the day my letter came.  You know the one that tells me all about reporting back to work.  That reminder that summer is drawing to a close...oh no!

But, now that I've had a little while to take it all in, I've decided the best thing to do is reflect back on the best things from last year to get me excited for next year.  So here is my top 5 discoveries last year.

1.  The "Train Problem" from the MidSchool Math conference.  This was the most amazing conference I've ever been to, and the train problem was my absolute favorite part!  It was your traditional train remember (perhaps with horror!) the kind....two trains are headed on the track....blech!  Anyway, same math, but presented in the best way.  We signed up as "spy teams", and we had to save the world.  From two trains.  Headed towards each other on the same track.  It was totally  your classic story problem, but if you change up the way it was presented, it was AMAZING!  

Unfortunately, my team did not save the world.  But this did help me realize that the key word in "story problem" is STORY.....take the math and put it in an interesting story that the kids can't resist.  

I tried one of my own math stories about a killer vine that was taken over a compound in the post-apocalyptic future, and the kids loved it.  The kids took on the role of groundskeepers that had to use a map with the growth pattern marked to determine how long it would take until the vine would bein to threaten the buildings.  Then they had to figure out the "combination" to the safe, and finally they had to find the right mix of chemicals to kill the vine.  That was definitely the most excited my kids were to figure slope all year long!  When the kids got the "safe" open, the directions told them where to find the next clue.  It also mentioned that they should be "low-key" and not tip off the other groups where to find the next clue.  This was the best part to watch...7th graders are so funny!  This was definitely one of my favorite days last year, and the kids loved it!  You can check out this math story and others that I have created.

2.  I discovered escape rooms....and Breakout EDU!  My family went to an escape room and had such a blast, I was excited to find out about Breakout EDU.    It's basically a box and a bunch of locks, and the students are trying to get in to the box, solving a series of puzzles.  I didn't get my breakout box until the very end of the year, so I only had time to do a couple of breakouts, but they were fun!  It was awesome to see some of my kids that are usually disengaged in class taking a role as leaders.  Looking forward to more of this next year!

3.  Desmos was a great discovery.  I used to absolutely dread having to teach anything with graphing calculators because I would spend the entire lesson running frantically around the room resetting calculators that were working at the beginning of the day!  This year I used Desmos, and it was the most stress free time teaching linear regression I've ever had.   It worked easily, no settings to redo, plus the added bonus of being able to easily use "real" data from the internet instead of the lame data in the book.  My kids would even think of using Desmos as a tool to solve problems without being prompted....that's what technology is supposed to do!

4.  Desmos....again (and that is not a typo!).  At the end of the year, I discovered the capability of creating lessons on Desmos and it was awesome!  Kids work through the lesson screen by screen, but the best part was I could go to one screen and see every single answer given to a certain question.  What a great way to give immediate feedback to students.

5.  And speaking of feedback, my final one is quia.  Trying to give kids useful feedback, not just a checkmark, has been a goal of mine for the last couple of year.  Quia is an excellent way to do this....this online platform allows you to create big deal.  The cool part is you can put in different feedback for if they get it right or wrong, and set it so that they get the feedback while they are working if that is what you want.  I really like this feature, plus it lightened my grading load.  A win-win!
Feedback for incorrect answers....that's the best part.  They learn while they're taking the quiz!

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