Saturday, August 31, 2013

Week 1

We made it through week 1, and what a chaotic week it was! Between schedules being messed up school-wide (for the first two days I only had two classes and the other two were empty), switching to 60 minute blocks from 80 minute blocks to kids not knowing where they are supposed to be, the first half of the week was a little crazy, but we survived!

Day 1: We did the usual boring first day of school activities: went over the class description, rules, procedures, etc. etc. I am requiring parents to come conference with me after the holiday so I can try to establish those relationships now. I got almost every sheet back, so that is a good sign! Then we did a post-it activity where kids wrote their goal for the year, why they think math is important, qualities of a good leader, how I can help them, and what they want our class to be like every day on stickies and put them up on posters. I'll add pictures later. I totally forgot to do that.

Day 2: Die Hard with a Vengeance problem: You have two buckets, one is 3 gal and the other is 5 gal. A bomb is about to go off and needs exactly 4 gallons of water to keep it from going off. You may only pour the water back and forth between the two buckets, pour the water on the ground, or fill it back up. If you place the wrong amount of water on the bomb, it will explode. No marking the buckets, and estimating is too risky! How can you get exactly 4 gallons of water in the 5 gallon bucket?

This got us right into working as a team. They did really well with accepting each other's ideas and finding a solution. I was really impressed!!

Day 3: Saxon placement test just to make sure the 8th graders who should be in algebra are and the 7th graders who should be in 8th grade accelerated are. As I expected, we are really going to have to focus on word problems and how to translate them into equations. Fractions and decimals don't seem to be high on the list of skills we are fluent in either. For example, there was a question that asked how many quarter pound hamburgers could be made from 100lbs of beef. Almost every student saw "quarter" and thought "25," so they made 4 hamburgers. When I told them the next day that a 25lb hamburger would weigh as much as my friend's two-year-old, they realized they didn't check to make sure their answer made sense.

Day 4: Thursday was a little....chaotic. When I got to school, I was told that the 7th grade class I had taken on would be moving back to 7th grade because they were going on a schedule different from the rest of the building to lower class sizes after the weekend. I didn't want to do anything too intensive, so we did some personality and multiple intelligence tests. It was nice getting to know the kids in that way. Almost every student in that class is kinesthetic and an "orange" personality, meaning they need things to be upbeat and exciting. My second period, which is all 8th graders, we tried a PEMDAS sudoku, which turned out to be more challenging than I thought. For the second half of the day, we played Integer Insanity from Live Love Math. That went MUCH better. I guess that's the nice thing about having planning halfway through the day. If something isn't working, I can always regroup and do something more appropriate 3rd and 4th block.

Day 5: Friday went really well :) FINALLY! We played order of operations bingo. They are really struggling with integers, but I expected that since my 8th graders were still trying to wrap their heads around it when the EOG came along last year. They also think that Multiplication always comes before Division and Addition always before Subtraction because of PEMDAS. We will have to work on that next week.

My homeroom is all AVID kids, so we went outside and did a team building activity: radioactive swamp. I split my class into two teams of 9. One team ended up being all girls and one boy, and the other was mixed. Oops! I gave each team some newspaper, and they had to go approximately 30 yards without stepping in the grass. Their whole team had to get across. One person on their team couldn't use their legs, and if anyone touched the grass, that body part was unusable. That was some GREAT Friday entertainment! The 50/50 team did not work well together by any means. The boys took almost all of the newspaper, wrapped their shoes in it, and shuffled across the grass to the finish line. Once they were there, they thought they were done and didn't help the rest of their team across. The team that was mostly girls ripped the paper into strips and made a path with the last person picking up the last piece of paper then handing it to the front of the line (you can't throw the paper) to make it longer.

All-in-all, it was a good week and I think it will be MUCH better than last year for many, many reasons. Onward to week two!
Thursday, August 22, 2013

Classroom Tour

Alright, world! I'm going to take a shot at this blog thing! New school year, lots of new life changes, great time to start, no? I keep looking at how things were going this time last year (a year ago today I interviewed for my job), and can't figure out how I was able to get myself together for the school year. I was hired THE DAY BEFORE school started and only had about 3 hours tops in my classroom. I spent every day this week at school from at least 8-5, plus a full day last Thursday with my mom. I finally finished up without a moment to spare today as I inhaled a double cheeseburger as parents started walking in for open house, but I need to try to get a plan together for next week. My anxiety is a little high just because the schedules for the kids are pretty screwed up school-wide. I don't want to start teaching because things are going to get switched around, but I don't want to hold off either. Such a conundrum! My precious precious teaching time can't be wasted! 

Here are some photos of my classroom for this year. I am SO excited about it :D

From the door with the lights off--my room used to be a science room, and to me it feels like a hospital. I'm trying to do some alternative lighting, and I think with a few more lamps it will be doable.

Same view, but with one set of lights on. Still too harsh for me. I made some adjustments to the desks and turned the front two groups into 5's and got rid of the back middle group to create some more space. I was too lazy to take new pictures though. I also wasn't thinking when I ordered the binder holders and only ordered 3 sets. Waiting for the other 2 to come from Really Good Stuff so all of my bookcases will be uniform. I will do a closeup of the bookshelf and a description of how I manage materials once I know that it works the year is up and running.

From the other side of the room. The back whiteboard is a WhiteyBoard and I LOVE it. It was way too hard to peel and stick, so I used duct tape then put a border around it. My word wall is on the cabinets.

Homework board at the front of the room. I wanted to write the homework on each day so I the kids can keep track of what was assigned when, but the squares are smaller than I thought they would be when I ordered the calendar online.

Front of the room

This, I *think* I borrowed from Mrs. Hester, but I can't find the post again, so I may be wrong. We are focusing on collaborative groups with math workshop, so these are some questions I am going to train my kids to ask each other to guide their own discussions.

Classroom rules--took these from the Minds on Mathematics book I read this summer because I thought they were pretty all-encompassing. The M&M's of iPads is something that one of the 6th grade teachers came up with, I just made the poster with my wonderful Cricut.

Cabinets at the front of the room. I will put work in the absent folders as we do it. There are two folders per day of the week--one for this week and one for last. I have a binder that will keep track of who is absent when and exactly what was missed. They will have to get the binder then get the papers out of the folder. 

The skills side is for math workshop. Folders are labeled 1-12, and I will tell the kids on Monday what folder they need to pull skill practice from that week. I'm hoping this lets me differentiate better. My kids really struggle with basic skills like fractions, so this is my way of working that in.

I like to use Fist to 5 for quick formative assessments. Last year we did it, but I didn't have the meanings posted. I think this will help make it more clear.

My cozy corner. The two students who I think worked hardest each week will be allowed to sit back here on Fridays. That yellow eye-sore is an old decontamination shower, and my mom snuck the Flamingo in there. I can't come up with a good enough reason to get rid of it, so it will stay for now.

My math workshop board. It isn't going to be able to work exactly how I had planned because our schedule changed from 3 90min core blocks to 4 1hr core blocks, so I will post about this again when it is up and running. This design was slightly borrowed from Clutter Free Classroom, but I made it myself. I can't remember where I got the frames from in the designs, but I know it was somewhere on TpT for FREE!!

This is attached to my Whitey Board. I have the standards laminated and will post them and update the I can daily. I will also post the vocab here first before putting it on the word wall.

I'm burned out from this week, so I will blog again this weekend. I've just been dying to get these up as my first post, so I wanted to get it done! Until next time!