About this blog

Daily photos and short posts from my 8th grade math classroom. I teach 8th grade math, Algebra I CC (called Advanced Algebra), and French 1.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Day 24: Linear Programming with K'Nex

We had a little K'Nex factory churning out "quarks" and "bots" today in Advanced Algebra.  I used this activity to introduce linear programming in a non-threatening way.  It also turned out to be perfect because we had a modified schedule (which I'd forgotten about over the weekend), so our class periods were much shorter than usual and this took up the perfect amount of time. 

I was surprised just how few of my students had ever seen or used K'Nex before.  One student asked me if I'd made a typo on the handout and had meant to write "Kleenex" instead of "K'Nex." 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 23- Visual Patterns

Looking at www.visualpatterns.org, I thought it was pretty simple and I worried that my students would find it too easy to continue the patterns.  Boy, did I underestimate how difficult some of my student would find completing a table for a linear pattern!  I'm so glad I started this exploration with some unifix cubes and pattern #2 because we had some great conversations!  We'll use a few more patterns next week and use this to segue into writing function rules. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day 22- Quizzes

Just a quick post to say that this was a serious boring day of teaching because my quizzes for all classes aligned and I didn't get to spend much time with the kiddos.

The French map quiz really stumped some of my French students!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Day 21- Gallery Walk

We made some posters for a gallery walk on systems.  Each group chose a word problem to present and made up a second similar problem dubbed a "you try" for their classmates to try to solve.  Their solution to the "you try" was recorded behind a hidden flap.  After students completed the posters, we hung them around the room and did a gallery walk.  They spent 5 minutes per poster answering the "you try" and leaving comments on post-its. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Day 20- How to find slope

We worked on these slope cards today and will finish them tomorrow.  The cards were a mixture of representations of slope and they had to find each one. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Day 19- Thanks, Santa!

Sometime in the summer, I read about Redditgift's teacher gift exchange.  Essentially, teachers could sign up to receive a gift from a randomly assigned donor.  Teachers were asked to make a short wish list valued around $20 and they would be matched up with a donor who signed up to send a gift. 

I tried to honor the $20 limit, so I asked for colored pencils, dry erase markers, glue sticks, and card stock.  I explained that my students were using interactive notebooks for the first time and that these materials would help us keep that going throughout the year.  Well over half of my students are economically disadvantaged, so it's rare for supplies to be replenished mid-year.

My "Santa" was so generous and went well beyond the suggested donation.  Santa sent 12 boxes of colored pencils, 18 glue sticks, and 20 dry erase markers.  According to the site, there's a second box on the way and I can't even imagine what might be in there!    Thank you so much, Santa!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Day 18- French skits

For anyone here just for math posts, sorry.  This one's all about French class.

We did our first skits today in French class.  We've learned basic vocabulary for greetings, asking someone's name, inquiring as to how someone is, and for saying goodbye.  They put this together into a skit. 

I had a semi-rough first few weeks with these kids because a) there are 27 in a beginning language class (eep!) and b) several of the boys in particular want to ask SO many questions (usually relevant) that it's incredibly easy to divert from the lesson plan for a "teachable moment."  I'm new at teaching a language, so I'm not sure exactly how many of these cultural tidbits we need to discuss as soon as they're brought up!  Sometimes in answering their questions, I end up giving them something to laugh about.  After all, what American middle school student wouldn't snicker at the thought of air kisses on the cheeks or eating snails?

Anyway, in the middle of last week, I basically laid out to my class in clear terms that French I is an elective.  We had over 60 students apply to be in the class and 27 slots, so there are 30-some students who want to be in the class but aren't.  I let them know that the course earns a high school credit and for most of these students, French I is the only high school credit they'll have prior to 9th grade.  So, we have serious academic work to be done and done well.  And I told them that if they didn't want to be in the class, we could have a little conversation with the guidance counselor and change their schedules so a student who truly wanted the course could be there.  The whole notion of changing schedules four weeks into the year is really unlikely, but the conversation seems to have worked.  I've noticed a much better work ethic the past few classes and I'm proud! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day 17- In which my students discover slope

We've been building up to this for a week.  My students "discovered" how to find the slope of a line given two points.

Back up to early last week.  We used Fawn's steepness worksheet to start exploring slope via a discussion of steepness of staircases.  Initially, a lot of my students wanted to count the number of steps.  This created some bizarre conclusions like "F is steeper than E."  Given the opportunity to  measure, the diagonal seemed to be the length of choice.  With a little prodding, a few at least started measuring the angle of elevation.  I brought the class together and asked how reasonable it seemed to say that F was the steepest (since it had the longest diagonal).  Most kids agreed that this didn't make sense and I asked what else they could measure.  The steps and risers were suggested, and they were off again.  I had to troubleshoot measuring at this point (no, there are no fifths on any customary ruler I've ever seen), and we tied this back into 7th grade ratios.  I asked students how we can compare two numbers and they remembered ratios.  We set up the ratios for slope and reduced each one until we could compare them.  Realizing how many different denominators we had, someone suggested dividing and comparing the decimals.  We did so and came up with our final ranking.

In all of that discussion, the gem that emerged was a student's comment, "Couldn't we graph these?"  Bingo!  That was my in.  The following day, we evaluated some functions and plotted the points.  We connected the lines.  I asked, "Can you tell which one is most steep?  Least steep?" They chose their answers.  I wondered aloud, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could compare these numerically?"  They agreed.  "Let's draw some steps on this line."  The kids instinctively knew how to draw the slope triangles (something that's not always been super easy for my students in the past) and we were off and running in no time.  We did a few examples of finding slope on graphs, they did a few themselves, and they were telling me how easy it was.

I honestly forget how I made this next segue, so forgive the gap.  I showed students a graph where the lattice points weren't marked.  When I asked about finding its slope, they were a bit lost.  I asked them to tell me everything they knew about the graph.  They told me it was "a function, a diagonal line, in the first and fourth quadrants, and negative."  Out of ideas, they stopped.  I drew a line that met their criteria but wasn't the same as the given line.  "Does my line work?" They told me it didn't and I prodded them to give more criteria.   A student told me an ordered pair that fell on the line. I drew a line intersecting through that point.  Another student suggested a second ordered pair and I redrew my line on top of the given line.

Then we considered our criteria.  We decided that it was important that we indicate the graph was a line and that it crossed through the two points we'd listed.  The other criteria were redundant.  I challenged them to find a way to calculate the slope of the line without counting.  "How could you find out how long this part of the step is?"  They decided to subtract the coordinates.  "What should we do then?"  Divide and simplify. 

"What if I gave you points that didn't fit so nicely on the graph paper?  You wouldn't want to count all these squares, I'm sure."  I tossed an ordered pair on the board, something like (40, 125) and (100, 65).  They told me to subtract the y's, subtract the x's, then write them as a fraction and reduce. Enter Mr. Sweeney's song.  The best part of this song is that Mr. Sweeney's doppelganger is my school's math specialist and the kids can't help but exclaim, "That's Mr. A!" as soon as the video starts. 

Anyway, it was an exciting morning in my classroom and I thought I'd share. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Day 16- The pictures are optional, right?

So, it's not surprising at all to me that I've struggled to get pictures every day.  I just don't think to take pictures during the day. 

I used these problems on writing and solving systems of linear equations for stations today.  My classes are big, so I ran stations with half the kids doing stations and the other half doing some independent work then we traded spots halfway through the time.  It worked pretty well, but it took much longer than I expected.  Four minutes per problem wasn't enough.  Problem 3 was definitely the trickiest for the students. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day 15- Accents and punctuation marks posters

These posters are now up in my classroom to help students with their accents and punctuation in French.
 Today's big excitement was in Math class, not French.  We were doing a web-based assessment that identifies students' needs in math and our entire district's internet went down.  Not knowing how long the outage would be, I kept my students at the computers and had them work on their notebooks.  Now instead of having just a handful of kids who needed to finish, I have 3/4 of my class in need of extra time.  It wasn't an amazing day, but it could have been worse!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Day 14- Notebook Checks on the Horizon

This week, I'm starting to grade my students' Interactive Notebooks for the first time.  Today, we reviewed the rubric that I gave them during the first week of school.  We flipped through a student's notebook and gave it a mock grade as an example.  Tomrorow through Thursday, I'll take 25-27 notebooks each day and on Friday I will take any stragglers from earlier in the week.  This sign reminds students of impending notebook checks and alerts them to which pages I'll check. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Day 13- Systems foldable

The students are loving the foldables.  As one boy put it today, "They keep me focused."  I'm enjoying them too, because I feel like I'm making choices to condense notes and hopefully make them more readable for the students. 

Here's a little booklet we made today on solving systems of equations.  The students made their own, but I wanted a digital version for the future and just hadn't got it done earlier this week in time to get copies made.  (We have a wonderful staff member who runs our copy room.  We are expected to give a day's notice on everything we need copied, barring an instructional emergency.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day 12- Please leave the building

We're having a heat wave here in Maryland today and it's been in the mid-90s which is strange for September.  We found out around 2:15 that we had to clear out the building and unplug all electronics no later than 3pm.  The kids only leave at 2:40, so that made for an interesting scramble.  Therefore, I don't have a picture to share today.  Just darkness! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day 11- Something Unexpected

When I created my list of left-side assignments this summer, I assumed that some would be more popular than others because kids would assume that they were "easy."  I did not expect that the first time I assigned a choice of left side assignment that I would get items of as high a quality as I did.

Here's a song about Standard Form, to the tune of Justin's Bieber's "Baby."
I was also impressed by a couple of comic strips, a set of flashcards, and by the student who typed his page-long assignment with one hand since no one was home to help him and he is in a giant splint following a sports injury. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Day 10- Integer Rules

We've been reviewing our integer rules in Math 8 lately.  The students have had some trouble remembering them since the summer and I'm going to give each set of rules a few days on our warm up to try to get everything refreshed.  This went into our notebook last week and today we reviewed subtraction, so we filled out that flap. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Day 9- ISNs Galore

Just a few of the composition books I covered in clear vinyl from Flexcon this week.  My kids' ISNs are going to be awesome!  Thank you Flexcon for your support!  (If you're in or around central MA, check out Flexcon's free School Stock program.)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Day 8- soda machines

Just a quick note to self: I am so glad I introduced functions and relations with soda machines and gumball machines.  My kids can analyze whether something is or isn't a function with much more clarity than I remember students having in the past. 

Yeah, my picture is clip art.  Maybe I didn't actually remember to take one today...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day 7- Card sort

We sorted cards with graphs and equivalent forms of linear equations today in Advanced Algebra.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Day 6- Problem of the Week

Thanks to Jessica, I had an idea for today's photo! 

This is my Problem of the Week board.  It's on the end of one of my bookcases.  Right now, it's pretty plain because my students haven't had any lengthy independent work where they're finishing at drastically different times.  So, we still have week 1 up waiting for attention.