Week 6

Picture it- my classroom. Monday morning, 7:30. I'm at my desk getting things together. A substitute teacher walks in and tells me she is my sub for today and tomorrow. Ummm...I know it's Monday but I am actually here. I tell her I'm not going anywhere and she leaves to go check with the office. At 7:45 I leave to go do gym duty. I come back at 8:00 and there is another substitute in my room. Another one. At this point I decide to go check with the office my self. When I get there, the secretaries inform me that they don't know what's going on either. There was a bus issue and so the principal has not arrived at school yet. Hmm. I go back to my room and begin teaching, like normal. About 8:30 the principal comes in to inform me that I have a training today and here is my sub. Another one. He tells me to give him my plans and be quick about it. Um hi, my plans were to teach. So I make up an assignment out of the book and leave. In the hallway, the principal then informs me that I am the trainer! Apparently I have a two-day training for next month and the principal had the dates mixed up. So since we had all these extra substitutes to pay utilize, he decided I could train the teachers who weren't currently using our online grade book program.

I didn't do anything with my other classes besides go over their tests from Friday and do our daily warm up. Lame I know, but we're allowed to have bad days. I'm glad that I didn't allow it to be a bad week.

I had planned to do fun functions things on Monday so I regrouped and started again on Tuesday. I intro'd functions by showing pictures of a vending machine and having a discussion on what goes in, what comes out, how many come out, and how each of those can change. I transitioned vending machine into function machine and played the function machine game which was hard to explain but easy to figure out once you started playing. It was fun to watch the students work through the struggle and figure out the answer. If you play it, my advice is to resist the urge to tell the answer too soon! As Dan Meyer would say, be less helpful!

Wednesday. A very very kind twitter-er gave me a link to a pacing guide that had lessons, warm ups, homework, exit tickets, worksheets, and everything! I used the functions lesson and it served its purpose better than what anything I could have created. I think. But the real gem of this lesson was using my whiteboards. I have enough for each student and in this case, they used them to write the function. I modeled function notation first and they then tried to write the function based on the patterns they saw in the input-output tables. Then I had them create their own input output tables where the rest of the class had to guess the functions. The students really got into this and wanted to play again and again. It didn't take long for students to create functions that were 4 and 5 steps long and almost impossible to guess. Another lesson in itself.

Thursday we used the whiteboards again to review. I alternated between giving them tables and they wrote the function or I gave the function and they created the tables. The whiteboards are fun for them and they instantly show me who is understanding and who isn't. I can just shake my head and they try again. Embarrassment eliminated. I love that factor. I also intro'd graphing by having them graph the input/output tables and I wanted to go on with the vertical test concept but didn't. Should have, might still do it, but didn't. We talked about each input having the same output in order for it to be function and I related that back to the vending machine theory. If I put in D2 I get a Milky Way every time, no surprises.

Friday was quiz day. I incorporated celebrity baby trivia into my warm up. I showed a baby picture of Miley Cyrus and had them guess who it was. It was definitely fun to hear students guess boy names but a lot of them got it on the first try. My quizzes seemed to go over pretty well. They all struggled with determining the functions from the given table. But I enjoyed talking them through it and watching them figure out the pattern. Reminds me of a favorite teacher quote: True teachers show you where to look but not what to see. After the quiz I normally have students do a journal assignment. This week I decided to spice it up. I had them draw their own function machine. Anything could go in and anything could go out but they had to give me four examples of each. Note to self: I think this should have come earlier in the unit. Probably after the discussion about the vending machine and before the function game.

In our after school tutoring program, I only have one or two students each time. On the one hand I have a seventh grader who is in pre-algebra and is dying to be in my eight grade algebra class next year. She insists that she only learns if she is with me but she comes to me knowing all her material. But we practice and she feels more confident, which is the goal. My other student is in Algebra II. I asked him what chapter they're on and what they're doing. He didn't know. He continued on to tell me that he passed geometry by cheating his way through and I quickly figured out he doesn't even have Algebra I skills. How does this happen?

For the most part, I only talk about my Algebra classes. This is because I feel most confident teaching algebra and because I have 4 algebra classes compared to the 2 geometry classes. So to talk about my geometry classes...I taught vertical angles and linear pairs. I didn't come up with anything exciting or interesting to teach about these so not to much to say on that. But, on the interesting side, I taught conditional statements using song lyrics. I gave them song lyrics that they then had to rewrite and identify the hypothesis and conclusion. Then we went to negations. I wrote out statements I knew they would feel strongly about such as "Lil Wayne is ugly" and other things about our school, town, etc. It was easy for them to then create the negation of that song. I liked it, they liked it, and even better, I think they remembered it.

The thing I am still struggling with is that my 'applied' classes aren't really applied. My bff teacher friend says that a good teacher makes every class applied. Ouch. I feel like I'm not doing them any favors by this either. I just don't know how to make it applied. Or rather I don't know how to differentiate between the two. It takes me forever to plan for two classes already.

I really want to try problem based learning in my classes but don't really know where to start. I'm thinking about trying some webquests just to do something different. I really want the students to take some ownership of their learning and really have to search for the answer to things because they need it, not because I tell them too. That may be the key to everything.


  1. Nice writeup of your week. I think I should probably do that too...

    The only advice I can give you with regards to that other teacher is to tell your students, when they start badmouthing the teacher, that that is inappropriate to say -- especially in front of you. That not every teacher will appeal to every type of learner. And being new, for students and for teachers, can be hard and need to be given a break. That people can surprise you, if you give them a chance.

    If they come to you individually, I'd definitely sit them down and talk them through their experiences in their class, and give them advice on how to best navigate their waters, but only after having a talk about respect and understanding and not whining but being mature about expressing their thoughts. (That's what I've done with my advisees when we meet to talk about classes.)

    That being said, secretly, you can think what you want, and you can definitely talk with other teachers about it. This teacher sounds like they have a lot to learn. I mean, sharing the details of an admin meeting with students?! But yeah, I'd do exactly what you are doing (keeping your mouth shut). But FYI, I HIGHLY doubt anyone thinks badly about you.


  2. Ugg, that story about the other teacher really hit home for me. For some reason, it seems like a lot of teachers at my school don't feel the need to show any respect for their students, and the kids tell me about it all. the. time. It is awkward, because it's unprofessional to bad-mouth a colleague, but I also don't want the kids to suffer. But I also don't want to take it into my own hands. So I tell the kid which VP at the school is in charge of whatever department the offending teacher is in, and tell the student to come up with a very specific list of concerns, and present these concerns to the VP privately and in a mature manner. That way, I'm not involved and the kid has learned a valuable life skill: standing up for him or herself in a mature and appropriate fashion.

    Of course, if a teacher is being downright abusive, I tell a VP right away. That only happened once, thankfully, and hopefully it won't ever happen again.

    BTW, I love how you journal every week like this. I'm thinking maybe I'll do something similar, but on paper. Also, since first quarter interims are going out on Monday, I gave my students mid-quarter evals of me/the course and themselves on Friday. It's something I never thought of before, but the responses I got were really enlightening. Have you ever considered this?

  3. @TeacHer,
    That's a good idea and probably what I should have done.

    @samjshah Normally I would say all those things but it was something I agreed that needed to be reported and dealt with. I refuse to be a teacher who gossips and complains about everything so I take things to my mentor teacher and they stop there. No teacher needs extra reason to be discouraged.

    Thanks for liking my recap. Not sure if anyone else cares but it's very helpful for me, especially for the future.

    @TeacHer I love to evaluate myself and get feedback from the students as much as possible. I'm definitely going to do it at the end of each quarter. Should I do a survey type thing or more of a free-write? Combination of both? Also, I'm a big fan of writing on paper (lol) and I keep a notebook to write down more personal observations and issues. My blog is more where I talk about lesson planning and day-to-day issues I'm facing as a new teacher, hopefully things that are useful to others as well.

  4. I love your lessons and applications. The function in relation to the vending machine is brilliant.
    As for problem based learning, here is a website tester to try out, let us know if it is what you are looking for:
    Dr math: http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
    He always has samples, examples of how the math relates to the real world. Take the examples and slightly modify them to fit the kids interest areas. (He gives an example of building a pig pen using a function equation. Well unless your kids are farmers, this is not interesting. So how about changing it to building a greenhouse for your school, or ... The best is when your students can actually complete the entire project, ie the building or doing of the actual thing.
    One year I had my math students determine how much heating fuel was left in the heating fuel barrel (our school ran on oil for heating). The principal needed to budget the money accordingly for heating fuel, and so we needed to do a bit of math and problem solving and checking to see how accurate and correct we were. (Any extra money we could save by changing tank size was turned around to the students for a fun activity.)
    If you google your topic and problem/ project based learning I think you will find some interesting things. I like this example from Edutopia: http://www.edutopia.org/financial-literacy-curriculum

  5. Chum,
    Thanks for the links and the ideas. I wish I could plan a whole problem-based learning curriculum but I have no training in it and don't fully understand how to implement it. I am getting tired of notes and lecture though and I know the math would become so much more meaningful to actually do something with it and fulfill a real world purpose. I guess part of it is just keeping your eye out for things that can be used!

  6. I just wanted to say I love your blog. I don't usually comment because I read in my Google reader, but I read every post. I am a first year teacher too, and though my situation is very different I can also relate too. I love reading teacher blogs like your because they always make me think. Keep it up!

  7. LaurenandDan,
    Thanks so much for commenting! I'm glad to know you are reading. Are you on Twitter? If not, I would highly recommend that you use it. I've learned so much from reading and commenting on blogs and just asking questions to whoever will listen! Do you have a blog? If not you should definitely think about it. It's such a great way to reflect and problem solve and it will be wonderful for next year to look back on. Or at least write things down in a notebook. You'll want to remember this!!!