Saturday, September 10, 2016

My Students Want to Learn

I have taught all types of students and all different levels of high school math courses, all students want to learn.  They might not attend school every day or they may talk during instruction, these behaviors along with many others give the appearance that they do not want to learn, but they want to learn and I am responsible for figuring out the why behind the behavior and the how for fixing it.  My goal in my classroom is to create an environment where students like being there and they feel empowered to learn.

I ask for student feedback AND I use it to inform how I teach.  We just got new textbooks that came with an online homework option.  It provides awesome opportunities for the students to get immediate feedback and help with their homework and it grades it for me - awesome for me as the teacher, right?!  I am having my students submit their homework online for the first chapter.  Before we even did the first assignment I told them that we were going to try this and that they would have the opportunity to tell me what they think about it.  There thoughts will determine whether or not we continue to use it and they know that.  My students have a voice that matters in my classroom, and it means a lot to them!

I create an environment where failure is accepted and encouraged.  I often have my classes do a few practice problems at their table and then I call on students to share their answers.  Before calling on anyone, I give my students the opportunity to work it out with others and compare answers so that they feel confident when called on.  If they get the answer incorrect, I say "Not quite" or "Good try" to validate and congratulate them on their participation.  If a student ever gives another student a hard time about an incorrect answer I remind the class that we all make mistakes and it is important that we share those with others so we can learn from them and avoid those mistakes moving forward.  No one is perfect and no one will get every problem right in a given school year and we need to get over the fear of failure.  We need to embrace the fact that we need help and that we need each other in order to be successful!

Do less for them so that they do more.  I establish a culture of collaboration and resourcefulness in my classroom.  I rarely give my students answers to their math questions.  The response I usually give is a question that helps guide them towards coming up with the correct answer.  A question that helps them think about it and work it out on their own.  By teaching my students how to work well with others and how to be resourceful, I am helping them to become individuals that will contribute to society and that will go on to do great things in whatever field they choose!

Clear expectations and directions.  I have found that chatter in my classroom is often the result of unclear expectations.  If my directions are vague or unclear, students don't know what they are supposed to be doing so they do what they want to do, which is usually talk to a friend!  I do my best to be exact, detailed, specific, and intentional when giving my student's directions.  I always verbalize my instructions (making sure that the room is quiet, no one is talking!) and I try to write it down on the front board as well as often as possible so that students hear it and see it, and can reference it as needed.  It is amazing what students are capable of if they know what is expected!

I have found these four things to have a significant impact on all student's learning in my classroom.  What other tips/ideas would you add to this list?!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy pi day!

To celebrate this joyous occasion my AP Calculus class (my fellow math lovers) baked and brought in delicious pies.  We had a brown sugar pie, dutch apple pie, chicken pot pie, and a mango pie.  We also designed "picycle" t-shirts that we ordered and wore today.  See the awesomeness for yourself!

I hope you were able to enjoy pi day with your students as well.  What a fun and easy way to engage students in mathematics - even if they just want that piece of pie ;-)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Engaging Students in the Math Classroom

I am realizing more and more that my students need to actively engage with the content to really understand it and learn it.  If I don't have them doing something, writing something, or creating something, they are passively checking out during class.  I would guess, on average, I can keep their attention for about 5 minutes max if they aren't producing evidence of their learning and understanding.  It makes sense - they are so used to the fast paced lives they live full of technology and activity that they struggle to focus when they aren't required to participate and produce!  Here are a few strategies I have been using in my classroom to increase student engagement:

1.) CLEARBOARDS - I often ask students questions during class that I want them to answer but they almost never write their answers down on a scrap piece of paper near them.  I often have them discuss their thoughts/answers and then write their answer on a clearboard.  This is a great way to quickly assess learning and make sure all students are participating, plus it allows every student to have an answer ready to share with the class (bonus, no more "I don't know" as an answer when called on because it is right there in front of them!!).  Students like the appeal of a marker and something new to write on which results in more participation.

2.) INTERACTIVE NOTE PAGES - I don't know about you but my students that usually need to take notes don't like taking notes and they often refuse to do it.  I do my best to find different, fun ways to take notes and I try to keep it short.  It is so important for struggling students to hear it, see it, write it, and do it (to appeal to all their different senses/learning styles - auditory, visual, kinesthetic)  Interactive note pages keep it short and sweet, and allow for a visually appealing place to take their notes.  I found this strategy to be very helpful when we learned slope in Algebra 1.  I am finding that students are pulling this sheet out of their folders and they are putting it on their desk to refer to during work time - awesome!!

3.) PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES - By having students create or do something, like build a ramp and have a toy car race to see which car gets to the bottom of their ramp the fastest, I am able to constantly refer back to this activity as we look at graphs and discuss slope.  The more connections students can make between other experiences/things and math the better!!

What strategies are you using and finding to be successful in increasing student engagement in your classroom?  I would love to hear your ideas and successes!!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Flying Helicopters in AP Statistics

We created and tested helicopters in AP Stats to gather data to practice finding confidence intervals.  My students enjoyed creating the airplanes and gathering the data.  It's amazing what a meaningful, fun activity like this can do for a class (especially during 3rd quarter when it is cold and snowy outside).  Here is an awesome video of it edited by one of my students!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Happy Valentines Day From Teachers with Love!

Happy February!  To share the love we are having a Valentine's sale :-)  Download the picture from here and click on the links to get to each store.  My store will be having a sale February 12th - 15th.  Happy shopping!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Start Your Year Inspired TpT Sitewide Sale

Come check out the TpT sitewide sale that starts tomorrow!  

All products in my store will be 20% off with an additional 10% compliments of TpT.  I hope you find some great resources for your classroom :-)