Wednesday, November 14, 2018

First Stab at Stand and Talk: Thanks, Sara!

Last night, Sara VanDerWerf was the Global Math Department's presenter.  Sara shared how she does her version of turn and talk:  she calls it Stand and Talk.  If you didn't get to hear her, go NOW and listen.  It will be the best hour you ever spent, and if you want more, go read her blog post about Stand and Talk.

I read her blog post a while back and it kept niggling at me that I needed to do this.  I already try to get students up to the vertical non-permanent surfaces (white boards posted all over the room) each day, but I wanted to make sure students were doing more talking to each other.

Sara's stand and talk strategy is great because students who normally wouldn't get together must get together (she has detailed strategies and directions for this.  I mean it: go listen!).

After listening to Sara last night, I was convicted that I could do this, I just needed to find a prompt that would work for what we were studying.  I thought it would take me a couple of days to come up with a prompt, but then it hit me.

My Algebra 1 kiddos are working on percent of increase and decrease.  Yesterday they were doing a scavenger hunt, and student after student got stuck on the same type of problem.  It was more complicated than a simple "do the subtraction, put the difference in the numerator, the original amount in the denominator, and solve for the percent."

In this type of problem, the percent was given, as was the new amount.  They needed to find the original amount.  And they couldn't.  They were just grabbing numbers and plunking them will-nilly.

Today, once they were partnered, I told them I was giving them a prompt which they were to talk about with their partner for ONE minute.  Both partners were to have an opportunity to say, notice, and/or ask questions to one another.

Here is the prompt:

As I wandered and listened (and it was hard not to laugh out loud when I began hearing arguments about gloobs and blarbs), it was interesting to hear them talk process rather than numbers.  

If a partnership were really stuck, I would ask them "What are 3 things you notice? What else? What are you wondering about? What else?"  (again, thanks to Annie Fetter and Sara VanDerWerf, two great Wonder Women) and then I would walk away (does anyone else find this REALLY hard to do?).  

For other partnerships, I asked what quantities are you noticing?  What relationships are you noticing? (thanks to Grace Kelemanik and Amy Lucenta's Routines for Reasoning).

Most students ended up wandering to white boards and creating a percent proportion as they discussed what they would do first, then, next, after that, and finally.

We wrapped up by letting the proportions stay up and looking around at what people had written: agree/disagree?  "Defend your position."  

Finally, I put up a problem from yesterday.  I asked them to consider the process they had just discovered and the work on the boards.  Every. Student. Got. The. Answer. (and, yes, they included a unit of measure!)

My administrator walked through just before we did this.  At first I was glad, since this was the first time doing something new.  Then I was sad, because the kiddos did such a great job!  

Sunday, September 23, 2018


At our first Faculty meeting on the day before school began, our Administration asked us (strongly suggested) that we have some sort of positive contact with each of our students' parents, some sort of personal contact.

This request was on the heels of the same Administration asking us (strongly suggesting) that we become as paperless as possible.

"How on earth can I write 97 personal notes or emails?  How long would that take me???"

So like the good little educator that I am, I put it out of my mind.  It seemed impossible, so if I ignored  it, maybe it would just go away?

It didn't.

At our monthly Faculty meeting, our Administration showed what one of our teachers did:  made a video introducing himself to his students' parents.

Hmmm.  That brought to mind one of the My Favorites from the first Twitter Math Camp I attended (Oklahoma 2014?).  John Mahlstedt ( @jdmahlstedt ) showed a slide show he made called "32 Things You May or May Not Know About Mr. Mahlstedt".   It was FANTASTIC.

John encouraged us to do the same in order to make us more human to our students.  I did this as soon as I got home (but only 15 things)!  I used it for several years until some of the slides became out dated and I just never got around to updating it.

Hmmm.  Perhaps this slide show would fit the bill.  I pulled it up, brushed it off, updated it with parents in mind, got  input and then the thumbs up from my Administration, and sent it off.

Wow.  I got so MANY responses from so MANY parents.  They had many positive comments, and in turn, they shared many bits of information about their children, and sometimes about themselves.

If you are interested, here is my slide show.  Make sure to hit Present and just keep on clicking!!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

New Year, Fresh Start

This summer I did something VERY new for me: 

I took the summer off.

Really, I did minimal work related to school.  I worked on my Google Level 1 certification and I read Routines for Reasoning by Kelemanik, Lucenta, and Creighton (GREAT read, btw). 

I am somewhere between 4 to 6 years from retiring, but I don't want to stop learning and I don't want to stop helping my students become better life long learners.  However, at the end of the school year, I was truly burnt out.  I realized that all the wonderfulness of Twitter Math Camp, all the blogs written by my inspiring MTBoS colleagues, all the meetings with my fellow teachers ....none of this was going to restore me.  I needed a true "sabbatical", and so I gave myself the wonderful present of mental REST.

Instead of writing curriculum, I cleaned out closets.  Instead of coming up with new lesson plans, I emptied out my home office.  Instead of diving more deeply into Geogebra and all the new Desmos awesomeness, I read novels and took naps.  Instead of travelling to TMC, I spent a long weekend travelling with my 4 remaining siblings to visit our 96 year old uncle!

Jo Boaler posted this today and I couldn't agree with her more:

While I feel like I may have failed some of my students last year,  I am rested and ready to jump back in, throwing caution to the wind.  My students and I are going to do some more and better thinking this year.  (Go read Elizabeth's (@cheesemonkeySF) blog post NOW)

Maybe we won't be the best at routines for reasoning, or with Geogebra or Desmos, or with openers and closers, but we will be thinking and living.