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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Math Homework

Jon Orr ( wrote this in his post and it is 'bang on'.  We need to continue to search for creative ways to get to the same result while maintaining the focus and engagement level of all learners.  

On Homework:

In the past I’ve given out homework in a very traditional way, “Tonight, complete page ___ Questions #__ to ___. Tomorrow we’ll take them up.” And what did homework take-up look like in a grade 12 course? Well, for me, it was always “What problems did you have trouble with? Number 8b? Ok, does anyone have that one completed? Kearra can you put that solution up on the board?” If no one had that question right, then I would put up a solution. And everyone watched, twiddling their thumbs (or more realistically — texted) while I put that solution up….or we all watched Kearra put the solution up. Not a great use our of time.
I’ve changed that process over the last year or so. For me, giving out homework comes in a homework set. I got the idea from Al Overwijk and Mary Bourassa. The sets not only have practice problems from the ideas from that day, but also practice problems from other areas of the course. Each night of homework they are practicing most strands of the course. It keeps concepts fresh in their minds and keeps practice going all semester.
When students come to class they get a playing card that randomly assigns them a partner. Instead of asking which question we should put up, I choose two or three from the set and the pair has to put them up on the vertical whiteboards/blackboards around the room. They are only allowed one piece of chalk or marker between them. I circulate around the room to give feedback and check for understanding/thinking. I’ll routinely yell out to “switch the marker” which forces students to communicate, error check, and defend their work. A better use of our 10 minute homework take-up time. After, students hand in their homework which allows me to check their understanding and gives me insight on what skills we need to improve on (I choose one or two questions to focus on). Gone are the days where I give out homework and I don’t find out what they really know until test time. Now, I know daily. Is it more work for me? Yes it is. But it’s worth it.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Parent Communication - A Key to Student Success

Bridget Stegman does a very nice job in pointing out some very easy ways in which we can keep our parents 'in the loop' by utilizing the various forms of technology available to us.

November 2015 | Volume 57 | Number 11
Seeing Beyond the Glass Half-Full

Road Tested / Supercharge Parent Communication

Bridget Stegman
Throughout my doctoral studies and work as an instructional coach, my observations have exposed me to a variety of best practices. One key to student success is the partnership between schools and families. Technology, I've observed, is a quick and often easy way to strengthen this connection. From apps that allow teachers to provide parents with reminders to blogs where students share projects and schoolwork with parents, the potential for engagement is limitless.
Keep parents up-to-date on homework and events. Websites like Remind, a free and secure messaging tool, let teachers create an account, set up a class, and send text messages to parents and students about school and classroom information. For example, a teacher might send parents a reminder that a project is due on Friday and then send another reminder that there is an art night at the school on Wednesday evening.
Give parents a window into the classroom. Elementary teachers can provide parents with a glimpse of what's going on in class by having students share what they are learning through electronic family message journals. In the 2014 anthology Using Technology to Enhance Writing: Innovative Approaches to Literacy Instruction, Victoria Seeger and Robin Johnson wrote a chapter explaining how it works: Students compose the first e-mail, and then parents respond and ask questions to help expand on the student's writing and to learn more about the student's day. This creates a dialogue that also promotes family literacy.
Seeger and Johnson recommend that teachers first discuss the process with students and their families. This includes modeling sample journal entries and outlining expectations. If parents do not speak English, use Google Translate to write an e-mail in the parent's native language. If a family lacks Internet access at home, take the low-tech approach by using notebooks that travel back and forth between the school and home.
Share student progress. Classroom websites and blogs not only enhance communication with parents but also provide an easy way to share student work. Edublogs is one of many platforms where teachers can post content ranging from pictures of projects that students are working on to videos of student presentations. Students can take an active role by commenting on teacher websites or creating their own blogs. Letting students be the reporters is an authentic way to promote the connection between the school and home. Platforms such as Kidblog allow teachers to moderate student blogs and comments.
Help tame the homework beast. Many times, when parents help children with homework at night, they hear the dreaded, "That's not how my teacher did it!" To alleviate this issue, teachers can use technology to record their teaching. They might simply use a mobile phone to record a lesson and post it to a YouTube channel that parents can access, or they can use screencasting apps like Educreations or whiteboard apps like ShowMe and Explain Everything to record their lessons and create video tutorials. Parents can watch these videos at their convenience, and students can use them to review lessons.
Communication is key for establishing the partnership between schools and families, but it has grown far beyond newsletters and written notes sent home. Teachers can embrace technology to give families new insight into their child's school day and help them feel like they are a welcome part of the classroom. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Man Who Will Save Math

Dan Meyer, the most famous math teacher in America, wants to radically change the way we learn math.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Making Math Children Will Love

Making Math Children Will Love:  Building Positive Mathitudes to Improve Student Achievement in Mathematics

Loving the Math!

“Instead of trying to make children love the math they hate, make a math they’ll love.”

Seymour Papert

Make no mistake...math is math.  However, our individual approach to teaching math is sometimes not math.  I think this is what Seymour Papert means with the above quote.  The curriculum is something we all share but how we 'bring it to life' is very much up to the individual.  

"We know that learning often begins with play." 

Experiential learning via curiosity is at the core of student engagement. Kids do this naturally with their play every day. In 'bringing the curriculum to life' it is the talented teacher who can do this with all students each and every day. Initially this might seem a relatively easy task, however, once you begin to immerse yourself you will find the opposite true. The good news is that it does become easier as you begin to practice and change the way you think about planning/organizing your math program. 

Have Fun with Math! ...

“... games and play have more positive effect on motivation and retention of knowledge than conventional instruction.”

Jonnavitula and Kinshuk

The key to planning/organizing is simply to 'have fun with math' as Jonnavitula & Kinshuk stated. One way to approach this is through 'macro' (yearly/monthly) planning.  Macro planning allows for 'big picture' planning.  You are able to set the pace, monitor the pace and thus effectively 'drive' the curriculum road. This 'drive' allows for periodic stops/breaks to delve deeper into the natural student inquiry as it arises without the pressure of feeling the need to 'plow' through textbook pages.  

Another key to capturing that natural curiosity is to utilized innovative ways to engage.  In today age of technology this is a relatively easy undertaking.  The hardest part would be to choose from the vast possibilities (e.g.. educational TV, Youtube, vivid texts, the internet, etc…).  

The Prime Radicals Shows

The Prime Radicals Pentomino App
(from App Store)

Mathemagic: Number Tricks

Furthermore, kids need to be 'freed' of the responsibility of the 'right answer'.  The mathematical process (or how we get there) matters more than whether or not they produce the correct answer.  It is the 'thinking' that needs the praise.  Thus, designing activities that allow this to occur is key.  Present a problem to solve (i.e. Dan Meyer style) and then let them spend time working through it.  

"Before children can learn mathematics, they must become interested in it."

Overall, I believe making math 'come to life' is a realistic expectation for all classrooms.  It requires a hard-working, caring and nurturing adult to plan, organize, preserve and provide an environment to allow students to be 'free' to take risks, inquiry and solve open-ended mathematical problems.