9.07.2014

What Makes a Good Resource Good?


Based on Dan's post, I want to reflect on how I choose and create resources. My first year of teaching I spent every night (literally) on google or twitter looking for resources because I (literally) had nothing but a text book. At that time I was desperate and would take (literally) anything I could find.

Over the past five years I now create almost everything rather than just taking something straight off the internet. Even when I find a great resource, I still change it in some way.

So what makes a good resource good?

This is my opinion, my personal framework, my theory for what makes a resource good for me and my students.

I create/choose a resource when it is:

  • One where I don't talk! Shelli's quote "The worst way to teach is to talk" has really stuck with me as an extension of my past "Be less talkative". I've done a lot of activities in the past couple weeks in Geometry, Algebra 2, and Trig that had made me realize how little I've done of that in Algebra I. I love giving students time to discuss and think and sort and work without my own voice interfering with their brain. 
  • One where instructions build and students are forced to read and follow them on their own. I firmly believe that this is a skill that must be taught year after year. Even when students have had me for three years in a row, they still struggle with this. Following directions is a life skill!
  • One where there is productive struggle. It can't be so easy that they fly through it and it can't be so hard that everyone has questions at the same time. I want them to be puzzled, to reread things, to scratch things out and try something else, to have a question or two. I do not want them to give up, to say they have no idea what they're doing, or to ask me a question on every part of the activity.
  • One where students are engaged. It needs to have parts that are easy enough for anyone to try and extend to parts that students wouldn't have thought of on their own. I wanted to say active but being active doesn't mean the brain is engaged.
  • One where students are actively thinking. I love sorting activities because students are doing so many things at once: comparing, contrasting, categorizing, looking for patterns or trends, noticing, and wondering. I like when students need to make decisions, estimate, problem solve, and answer questions.
  • One where students reflect. Students should have to make decisions and then think if those decisions make sense. Justify their thinking. They should be able to summarize what they've learned from the activity and apply it. 
  • One that accomplishes the intended goal. I used to just take any worksheet or activity that 'covered' a concept. Now I look for more specific goals. If it doesn't accomplish what I want, I look for ways I can alter or enhance it.
  • One that is well organized. It needs to make sense, to flow, and to be efficient. I hate when things are poorly designed and take up way too much space or are crammed together. A lot of the resources I find are great, they just need to be reformatted. Less is more.
  • One that is easily replicated. I blog about my favorite activities and that is so helpful the next year. I can go back and see how I set it up. If I can't easily take pictures of it or explain it to others, it's likely I won't use it that often or share it. And like Glenn says, if I can't share it, it never happened!

9.06.2014

Best Pencil Sharpener of All Time. Forever.



Introducing the best pencil sharpener of your life and the top 10 reasons why you should love it:



#10. It is super cute! I am not a pink kind of girl but they definitely did not have teal or lime green so I picked the next most fun color.

#9. The part that holds the shavings (does it have a name?) is clear so there is no mysterious guessing if it is full or not.


#8. It does not require electricity or batteries. It is operated by hand and therefore 10.7 times quieter than any other pencil sharpener in the world.

#7. It is mobile so it can be quietly passed around the classroom when needed. But it also comes with a mount so that you can attach it to a shelf if needed.

#6. It also works on colored pencils which is MAGNIFICAL for interactive notebooks.

#5. It is created and sold by an elementary teacher.

#4. It comes in 5 colors.


#3. They make one for larger pencils too.


#2. There is FREE shipping (and it's pretty quick shipping at that)!

And theeeeeeeeee #1 reason this is the best pencil sharpener of all time forever.......






#1. It sharpens EVERY pencil in the world to the sharpest point you've EVER seen EVERY time.


video


I am thoroughly impressed. 

Students stood in line to try it and come from other classrooms to use it. And I don't even care because I can talk OVER it. 

It's awesome. And you can get yours RIGHT NOW: http://www.classroomfriendlysupplies.com/

You can thank me later.

9.02.2014

Already?


I'm pretty frustrated right now. It's the second day of September and I feel like we are in March. The students are constantly complaining about doing work and trying to put in as little effort as possible. They hurry through activities in hopes that next we can do nothing. If they are working on problems within the last few minutes of the class period they stare at it, waiting for class to just be over.

After a three day weekend they were mad because "now Tuesday just feels like a regular Monday". Seriously?

I've been doing Talking Points on Tuesday and it is SUCH a disappointment. Because of the students, not the activity. I modeled it, explained it, and the directions are on the paper. It ultimately ends up with one student taking charge and asking if everyone agrees. They say yes or no and move on. It's like whatever group I am not standing next to does it like crap. I can't be standing by every group at the same time! Next week I am going to do it with the whole class as one big group and see if that helps.

Even students I've had for three years are acting like they don't know how I operate. They are really struggling with reading and following directions or just working independently. One of my best groups has me eighth hour this year and they just are NOT happy about it. They don't want to try, they don't want to think or discuss. And the absences! It's ridiculous how many students have been sick already. I think it will be a terrible winter if the first few weeks of school are annnnnyyyy indication.

I knew this year would be hard because I have twice the amount of students and preps but I did not expect this as well. It's exhausting. I am moving soooo slowly.

I don't want to end on such a negative note so I will share some positive things as well. The days go by super fast  and I've already established my cheerleading squad and student council for the year. Everyone loves my classroom decorations and the kids are in awe at the classroom ideas I've found on Pinterest. I'm using Engage NY for Algebra 1 and I'm really liking it so far. I feel like my INBs are going well.

That's all I got.

8.30.2014

#5Things My Career Bucket List



  1. I would love to be a math instructional coach, even just for my district with one elementary, one middle, and one high school math teacher. I see a lot of a value in noticing trends and implementing strategies district-wide.
  2. In the future I want to teach at the university level. I really hated my education program and left feeling very unprepared and it's supposed to be a good program. I only had two classes that I felt helped at all. I would love to basically take my blog to 4D and just help teachers learn how to teach and how to love teaching.
  3. I've always wanted to write a book and I sure don't know what else I would write about besides teaching. I imagine it as a book of stories with pictures included and downloadable activities and links to my blog.
  4. I want to be a National Board Certified Teacher. I would be the first teacher in the history of my school to accomplish it. Of course stupid Illinois had to take away the stipend. :( But the teachers I know through twitter and blogging that are NBCTs are some of the most reflective, thoughtful, thorough, and creative teachers I've ever seen.
  5. I want to be wealthy. I know it probably won't come through teaching but I just feel like it will happen some day, some way. I want to give back to my community and school. We are the poorest county in the entire state of Illinois. I would like to do things that other schools have, like 1:1 technology programs, new sports equipment/uniforms, a track and football field, pool, aerobics room, and senior class trips. I'd like to build a rec center in the community and have scholarships for students to go to college and for extras like dorm room supplies and a laptop. I just want to make life better for everyone around me.

What's on your bucket list?

8.27.2014

Geometry Game Play


Last year I found an activity from a sample textbook series that I really like for geometry terms.

I bought foam circles from the Dollar Tree and wrote letters on them with Sharppies. Then I used magnetic tape and 3M tape to post the circles around the classroom.

The textbook even shows how to set it up.



Here's what it looked like for me:




I included the game at the end of this worksheet done in class:



It goes with this powerpoint where students were given descriptions and had to draw a diagram, then looked at diagrams and had to labeled them.