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Mrs. K in the Middle

My life as a middle school math teacher.

The Hour of Code

Hey there! I hope all of my teacher-friends had an awesome and relaxing Winter Break, and of course, for those of you who follow along and aren’t teachers (wow, thanks for following!), I hope you all had a great holiday season with your families.

I’ll be blunt: I’m terrible with New Year’s Resolutions! I do the usual “resolution slide.”¬†You know, that thing where you’re like,

Aw yeah, resolution, day 1, check!

Day 2, two days in a row, check!

Day 3… okay, check…

Day 4… shoot! I’ll get it tomorrow…

Day 5, what resolution? ūüėČ

With that being said, I’m going to make a real effort to blog more about what’s happening in my classroom this year. And while¬†there’s no question that I haven’t been taking time out of my week to blog
about my school days, my teaching philosophy, or my tech discoveries, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something awesome happening every day!

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Nope, not turning around for a picture. We’re busy.

So, I’ll catch you up. Before Winter Break, my students and I participated in the Hour of Code. I’m fairly tech-savvy and was surprised that I personally hadn’t coded before, so I took some time to play with the site myself for an hour. I really learned a ton, and got super excited to let my kids have a crack at it! My kids brought headphones, and after watching¬†the videos on the site (while I passed out computers — check out that great use of time!), they got started.

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Enthralled.

They had a BLAST and want to code every Friday! I’d love to have them do that (if I had the curriculum time, of course), because they were so engaged and spent time teaching each other how to code when there were errors and sounds of frustration, and they were eager to show me what they were making their computers do! I loved it, they loved it, and we’ll definitely be signing up again next year!

Mrs. K

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Sharing a Tiny Victory

Today, our district has a SNOW DAY!!! And, I’m very pleased that I decided not to bring any work home last night. A fellow math teacher and I finished up our Math League competition season with our district meet, and we left school after 7 o’clock yesterday evening, and there was¬†no way that I was going to be doing any work when I got home! I love that I left work at school, because it allowed me to enjoy a relaxing day at home.

I realized that I’m a terrible blogger today, because I was doing the afore-mentioned relaxing and writing this post in my head, and it didn’t occur to me to actually write the post. I have the time, because we have a snow day. What. The. Heck!? Why not just WRITE?

Anyway, I have a tiny victory to share. This is data I collected from the last test that my students took, last week. I’ll let the photos¬†speak for themselves.

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Two Fs in the 91 tests and this many As and Bs? I couldn’t be prouder of this group of kiddos.

Mrs. K

Sorting Key Words and Symbols

I’m baaaack… ūüėČ After a long hiatus, I’m ready to begin blogging again. Last year was incredibly difficult and I couldn’t bring myself to write about school when it was so tough. I was, however, incredibly fortunate to be honored as one of my school’s two Teachers of the Year (!!!) last year, and, after the year I had, I really feel like I earned it! More about that later…

At the end of the 2014-15 school year, my principal gifted all of us teachers with the book¬†Learning in the Fast Lane, by Suzy Pepper Rollins, with the expectation that we’d read the book over the summer. As an added bonus, my school offered a professional development course on the book, for which we could obtain advancement credit. I’m typically super lazy over the summer, and in the interest of full disclosure — I read about a third of the book that we were “assigned” last year, so I knew that the only way I’d actually read this¬†book was to sign up for the course. I’m SO glad that I did! I loved the book, and it gave me additional¬†motivation and ideas that I needed to try to help more kids love math — or at least math class.

One of the activities that Rollins mentions time and again is a “sort.” Many of us teachers know what these are: you have a number of different items in a baggie, you give students one of the baggies, and they can work individually or in groups to sort out the items into categories. For struggling students, you can give them the categories, or, do as I prefer to do, and just see what kids do with what’s given to them. I think these are so fun, and as long as I’m not making them over and over again each year, I love them. Certainly, they can be tedious to create, but when you can actually¬†see students’ thinking right in front of you, they are an awesome tool. Rollins recommends using them as a way to start class off on an engaging foot, but I also like to use them at the end of a lesson so that you can see how students’ thinking evolves throughout the lesson.

I created this sort to help my kids distinguish between operation symbols and key words. I also created a handout that we will glue/tape into our notebooks. If you’re interested in the sort, please head on over to my Teachers Pay Teachers page! I have the item on sale until further notice. ūüôā

sort 1 sort 2

sort 3
The handout for inside the kids’ notebooks.

We are back in school (we started August 13th) and so far, I am LOVING my new group! I am trying this with my (new-ish) kiddos on Tuesday, and I can’t wait!

Mrs. K

ShowMe — Creating Video Tutorials

At the beginning of the year, I always talk to my 6th graders about what to do when things are “hard.” I make jokes about what other kids have done in the past, and try to evoke memories of previous “hard” activities and what kids did then. And I tell kids that my number one pet peeve is when kids stop trying. (I mean, I get why they do, but seriously? Grr.)

So, you can imagine my frustration when I hear, “Um… Miss… I didn’t do my homework… I mean, I didn’t get it.”

And then:

Me: Okay, show me what you didn’t understand on the homework.

Student: I… uh… well, I didn’t get any of it. (Shows me a blank paper.)

Me: So… you didn’t try anything at all?

Student: But you didn’t help me, so…

(Cut to me, in my head: Why don’t you tell me about that. Tell me about how you “didn’t get it” so you WOULDN’T EVEN TRY. I’d love to know more about that. There — I bet you could’ve done that part, because it’s ADDING. Yup, ADDING. So, there’s that. You’re BETTER THAN THIS.)

Me, aloud: You know, I would have loved to help. Did you look at your notes? Did you send me a message? Did you ask your parents?

Student: …

O.M.G.

So, in an effort to stop the madness, I’ve been on the hunt to find a way to be there for my kids when I can’t actually be there. And, it’s easier that I thought it was going to be. The ShowMe app (or http://www.showme.com) makes it really easy.

The app is a virtual whiteboard that allows you to not only write and record your voice, but also take pictures of assignments and write on them! Yes,¬†write on them! Amazing! The videos are housed on their site, and ¬†can be shared via embed code or a link, and they can be downloaded from the site. I’ve started putting them on my class webpage and sending the links home to parents so that they can help too. I’ve been using the app for about a week now, and the positive feedback from kids is wonderful!

Here’s my first video. I am encouraging every teacher to jump on this bandwagon — it’s definitely a game-changer!

C-37 ShowMe Video

Mrs. K

Hard.

Today is Sunday. In general, I try to post lighthearted, fun, happy things about teaching on Sundays. Sunday is the end of the weekend, many people are not looking forward to Monday… sometimes we just need a little pick-me-up on Sundays. In general, I look forward to Monday (I hate waking up and I hate leaving my husband for hours at a time but that’s nothing new), because I have an awesome job that challenges me and makes me smile each day.

Unfortunately, today, I just can’t do it. I can’t post something silly. I am sad and discouraged today. Today, I am frighteningly aware of my own limitations. Today, I am at a loss, because my kids have been finding equivalent fractions, reducing fractions, and changing mixed fractions into improper fractions (and vice versa) like champs — and then today, I graded their quizzes.

So… many… Fs. Today, I’m heartbroken.

I don’t understand what happened. I’ve seen A+ work on those three topics from 80% or more of my students — the ones who aren’t earning A+s are correcting mistakes and earning them the second or third time around. I’ve given specific feedback, watched students make corrections using said feedback, and seen SO MANY smiles when students earn my A+ stickers and show them to me. But the quiz? I just can’t figure out what happened…

I know that this year, my students are having a hard time with individual work time, so I’ve been working on that with them. (I’ll do 8-9 minutes of individual work time, and then a 2 minute break, and then repeat that process, trying to slowly help them adjust to that quietness that can make us all crazy).

I know that this year, my kiddos are dying to know where exactly they messed up, so I’m taking every opportunity to give very specific feedback — highlighting mistakes, writing the same long comments over and over again, and then addressing the common mistakes the next day in class.

I’m grouping my kids by ability level — a couple of SPED homogenous groups so that I can hover around them, and then heterogeneous groups so that there’s aways someone who can help when I can’t.

I’m assigning online practice at the students’ grade level so that they can fill any holes in their learning with a parent or an older sibling close by.

I’m showing fun movie clips, singing little songs, and making up ridiculously silly memory tricks to help kids remember the steps necessary to complete a problem.

I’m going painfully slowly through my curriculum. We’re taking several days to practice one single (5th grade) skill.

I’m sending home letters to parents asking for help, asking for advice, and asking for what they would like from me (tutorials at lunch? staying after school? more assigned online practice?). When (or should I say, “If”?) the letters come back, I’m creating little groups, I’m writing long responses and emailing/calling parents left and right to do what I can to help my students be successful. I’m staying at work until 7, neglecting my own family and friends, and losing sleep in the process.

The letters are also revealing angry parents (“Um, why aren’t you helping my kid? Clearly, he or she needs help!”), supportive parents (“We had no idea — we’re taking away video games until ___ can add decimals.”) and confused parents (“What does ‘unsatisfactory’ mean?”). I’m trying to explain what I can — “I know your student needs help, but every pass I’ve written for him/her to see me at lunch for extra help is ignored,” and “Thank you so much – let me know what else I can do to help your student learn how to add decimals,” and “Unsatisfactory means your student is not performing at a 6th grade level in math.”

But today, I feel like all that I’m doing is for naught because of these quizzes. I feel like I’ve failed, like I’ve let my administrators, my students’ parents, and (most importantly) my kiddos down, because clearly, what I’m doing isn’t working.

I know I can’t give up, because my kids need me. But today, I’m in need of some inspiration and guidance.

Mrs. K

“I can’t math.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, cracks me up and depresses me all at once. Kudos to Tanya Chen at Buzzfeed for this gem.

The responses to this test are hilarious and shameful, but I enjoyed this post all the same. Definitely worth clicking the link above to see how people did.

5th Grade Math Test
Yes, this is what I teach. Image credit: http://www.buzzfeed.com/tanyachen/heres-what-happens-when-a-bunch-of-adults-try-to-do-5th-grad

 

100% for me!

Mrs. K

Getting to Know You

I HAD to share this — I haven’t been this excited to blog about school in a while!

Every year, I give kids a “Getting to Know You” assignment. It has the minions from Despicable Me on the front of it and says that I love minions (which I do — they’re absurd and adorable. No shame.) Kids have to fill in the blanks in a bunch of sentences, and it gives me some insight into who they are. Bonus: it gives me a chance to look at their handwriting, and I also get a glimpse of their number sense.¬†

Some of the questions are:

If I had $100 to spend, I would buy…

If I had $1,000,000 to spend, I would buy…

My favorite movies are…

One thing my teacher can do to support me this year is…

When I grow up, I want to be a…

One thing I am looking forward to in 6th grade is…

My favorite family memory is…

If I could go anywhere on vacation, I’d go to… because…

 

Some of the answers are so adorable! Kids say they’d give their money to charity, others are afraid of opening a locker, and some students say things that break your heart, like how their ideal vacation would be to visit their father who is locked away. (I had the last one a few years ago — I still ache for that little girl.)

 

At the end of the assignment, I have parents fill out their student’s strengths and weaknesses, and one additional thing that they think I should know about their student or family. I have great success with the assignment — kids love sharing and parents are happy that I take the time to ask them about their child. I keep all of the papers in a binder and re-read them from time to time (usually if I’m frustrated with my day or if I’m trying to reconnect with a student).¬†

 

As always, the answers I got were too cute, so I had to share just a few! 

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I don’t remember when I was born.
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Me too!
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So sweet.
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Nailed it.
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Bahahahaha — I guess siblings take some getting used to?
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Geez — I hope I’m one of the ones he likes.
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Another sweetie pie.
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Cute! This response was surprising from this little one.
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Okay… There’s got to be something I don’t know about here.

 

I think it’s going to be a great year.¬†

Mrs. K

 

An Open Letter to Whoopi Goldberg and The View Regarding Teacher Tenure¬†|¬†M. Shannon Hernandez

An Open Letter to Whoopi Goldberg and The View Regarding Teacher Tenure | M. Shannon Hernandez.

Get ’em.

Thank you to my friend Sharon for sharing this on Facebook, and to the Huffington Post for publishing it.

Mrs. K

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Non-Teaching Time | Edutopia

 

 

Image Credit: Thinkstock & EduTopia
Image Credit: Thinkstock & Edutopia

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Non-Teaching Time | Edutopia.

I feel like one of my goals for every school year is to make better use of my time. (I’m certain that my husband and coworkers would tell you that I still need to work on this…)¬†Throughout the school-week, I have a schedule that I’m pretty good about sticking with, but there are still little, menial tasks that creep up and try to derail my plans, not to mention the exhaustion that manages to eat me alive around 3:30 each afternoon.

I love articles that provide¬†real tips¬†for fixing my “issues” that I can apply right away; this article in particular has some really smart ideas that I’ll definitely be using to help me be more efficient and less stressed out this year. My favorite tip from this article? Planning/mapping out the next week on FRIDAY. Yes, FRIDAY. In the past, I’ve planned my Monday on Friday, and then my Tuesday-Friday on Monday afternoon. But, I sponsor our 6th Grade Math League on Monday afternoons, so planning on Monday is a recipe for disaster for both me and the students in Math League that don’t always get my full attention. I’m excited to try planning on Fridays to alleviate this problem!

By the way, I already make my lunches for the week on Sundays. Jar-salads FTW. ūüėČ

If you liked the linked article, written by Maia Heyck-Merlin for Edutopia, check out her blog HERE.

Mrs. K

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