Friday, November 30, 2012

Favorite Find Friday: Bloom's Taxonomy and Technology Guide

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I love to get my geek on as I explore cool tech tools for the classroom.  This week, I am (as we say here in the South) in hog heaven.  I am just pulling in from a road trip to New Orleans where I met with some of the top technology using educators in Louisiana at this year's LACUE conference.  The Classroom Cafe' Gals, Kathleen and I, presented on projects our students have completed using iPhone apps.  We shared project descriptions, rubrics, and student samples in our #AppyHour presentation.  It was so much fun!  We even made a theme song:)
     While at the conference, we had a chance to reconnect with old friends, see new products in the vendor area, and hear fantastic presenters like Lisa Dick and Dr. Tammy Seneca!  Both Lisa's and Tammy's presentations were tied to curriculum changes resulting from the implementation of Common Core.   I learned so much from each of them and I am eager to revisit their presentations again to catch anything I might have missed.  Lisa maintains a Wiki filled with professional development resources, effective teaching strategies, and ideas for technology integration into various content areas and Tammy has posted numerous resources on West Baton Rouge Schools' website including information on content trailers, geocaching, Google Lit Trips, and #MyFavFriday, Bloom's Technology Taxonomy.  I choose it as #MyFavFriday out of all of the things I saw and heard at the two-day conference, because I love the concrete ideas provided in the Technology Taxonomy and think it will be especially helpful for planning future classroom activities.
Larger View

Friday, November 16, 2012

#MyFavFriday: Classroom Happies for Thanksgiving

 It is the last day before Thanksgiving break.  While the kids are excited about being out for a week, they have continued to focus on finishing the semester strong and I am so proud of their effort. We hosted a Thanksgiving celebration yesterday at school and it was wonderful seeing whole families of middle and high school students coming to feast on turkey and dressing and watch a program featuring many of our talented kids.  Maybe it is the cold snap we have had or the fact that "the baby" is headed home from college, but I have been eagerly anticipating the holidays for quite some weeks.
     Those who know me best, know I love classroom happies and the holidays are the perfect excuse to pull out the best ideas.  I honestly can't help myself.  I get so excited finding funny and colorful tiny gifts to give my students throughout the year.  During my first year of teaching after receiving one such gift, one of my 8th grade students respectfully asked, "Have you ever taught anyone as old as us?"  Hahaha! 13 years later and not much has changed.  I am partial to Thanksgiving treats, because this was actually the first thing my husband sent to me when we were seniors in high school.  Our school sold Turkey Grams way back when copies were made in purple ink and big hair was still in.  When I received the Turkey Gram adorned with a piece of candy and a note which read, "Happy Thanksgiving, Mike", I knew then... he loved me:D  We actually started dating one month later and the rest is history!  I share the story every year in my classroom as I help pedal Turkey Grams for our school's Student Council, but I can promise you, Turkey Grams have come a long way since I was in high school.  #MyFavFriday is a nod to the memory from years ago, a plethora of ideas for Thanksgiving classroom treats.  Enjoy!
From The Party Animal

From Inking Idaho

From Lucky Boy
From Studio Marcy
From Mama B
From Pebbles in my Pocket

Monday, November 12, 2012

Made 4 Math: Totally Awesome Prizes

This week's #Made4Math: Totally Awesome Prizes was made up on the spot...out of the the top of my head and it was oh, so much fun:)  One of my favorite ways to review for a test other than a Study Guide is to use dry erase boards.  Now, that doesn't mean I don't like to use student clickers or cell phones, but some days I just prefer the dry erase.  Too often, I tell the students that I am awarding make believe points with make believe prizes (lame, I know.)  This week, I thought it would be fun to award real points and have real prizes for the students to "buy" after the review.  But where to get the prizes for ALL of my students without spending tons?  This is where this week's #Made4Math came in...I simply asked the kids to bring in a "White Elephant" prize, something from their home, locker, or car that was cool, but that they didn't want anymore.
I had baskets with point values on them in which students could place their items.  Items were valued as the students wished with none of the prizes valued for more than the potential points available during the review session.  They brought in everything from a pink flamingo pen to a wooden nesting doll (which surprisingly someone wanted). I added in candy, items from local colleges, and hand sanitizer compliments from the school counselors.  We had plenty of items in each category and the students scouted out the prizes before class started.
Our tests typically have 25 questions that count 4 points each with partial credit awarded for work demonstrating a partly right answer.  I used tickets from Dollar Tree to represent the number of points their response might have been awarded had it been written on the test.  Red tickets represented full credit at 4 points, green tickets counted for 3 points, and yellow tickets were 2 points each.  I had questions (and answers) prepared for Review Day which i wrote on sticky notes and hung on the whiteboard and I placed strips of each of the colored tickets on the students' desks.  As the students showed their answers on the dry erase boards, they were awarded a point value.  The students pulled off the correct ticket from one of the strips on their desk.  The students pulled tickets with great integrity probably because they are juniors and seniors and the prizes were....well, let's just say the six pack of Reese's that cost a whopping $1 was considered a top win:)
     Several students stopped by the next day to tell me how much fun they had (working math problems) on the Review Day.  They weren't alone; I had fun, too.   We laughed alot on Review the prizes we brought and the prizes we picked...but with the laughter they relaxed about their second "College test" and they identified and corrected misconceptions.  The test grades were the proof...13 out of 20 made A's!!!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Favorite Find Friday:: IPad Case

One of my favorite bloggers, Dr. Wesley Fryer, wrote some months ago about #MyFavFriday, the Makyama iPad Case.  I knew then that if he recommended it, I had to have one.  I promptly pointed it out to hubby and marked it as a definite birthday wish (it still took precious son, Mr. 21, to remind him the day of that I had asked for it...ey yi yi) .  It arrived some weeks ago and I have not been disappointed.  The sturdy plastic molded case fits snugly on my iPad and screws securely onto a tripod.  There are slots and spaces on the case for lights, lenses, and microphones, but I am certainly not there yet as a videographer.
Original Image
So why order the pricey case?  I wanted a way for my students to confidently use my ( and only...the one I camped out to get) iPad in class to create our math movies.  By placing the iOS device in the case and on the tripod, students no longer have to hold the iPad while trying to operate the different apps.  It provides a secure, hands free way to take the shots they need for their original works.  I relax a bit too and the thought "I hope they don't drop it...I hope they don't drop it." is silenced for a while:)  When I say, I absolutely love this case, I mean I absolutely LOOOOOOVE this case.  In my opinion, it is a must have for the classroom implementing iPad projects involving pictures or video creations.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Made 4 Math: Geting Our Groove On

This week is Homecoming at our school which brings dress up days, senior activities, lots of enthusiasm and the unique challenge of keeping students moving forward academically in the midst of the week long celebration.  Our senior students are in class for only two days this week and their minds are on their community service/fun day, kings' and queens' presentation, and of course, the big dance - the inspiration for this week's #Made4Math project.  Tomorrow, we will GeT OUr GrOOvE oN in math with RM Easiteach's Dance to Advance and their Dance, Dance, Revolution-like mats.  I've used the RM Easiteach software to create a matching game focused on graphs and their equations.
The RM mats work as directional mouse pads and are controlled by students stepping on them to select a correct match to the problem displayed in the center of the screen.  I have 8 dance mats which I will connect to 4 computers.  Students will play two at a time to try to achieve the highest score by correctly matching the most functions to their corresponding graphs.  I plan to use a "dance-off" bracket to determine the winner in hopes of getting in some extra practice disguised as friendly competition.
 I was able to customize the game board quickly.  For the graph choices, I uploaded pics that were created in my Promethean ActivInspire software.  I inserted images of the functions as well, so that the equations would be clear and easy for the students to read in the fast pace game. (I didn't want funny syntax to slow them down.)

I love that before the game begins students can select the background and the music.  I know that it is silly, but somehow I would like to think I could  match graphs better if I were at the beach:)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Classroom Cafe Gals Headed to LACUE

A few months ago, my friend, Kathleen, and I teamed up to create The Classroom Cafe, a free website where we share ideas to take teaching and learning from worksheets to wonderful! It wasn't that we thought worksheets were terrible or that we thought that we were 'all that'; we actually wanted to challenge OuRSeLVes to grow professionally and find more engaging and creative ways to assess, reinforce, and deliver instruction.  We thought that by establishing The Classroom Cafe together, we would be accountable not only to each other, but also to those who stopped by to read our blog:) 
In June, Kathleen and I started also working together to plan and deliver professional development sessions for teachers at our school.  (It is actually part of my normal job, but Kathleen is just as passionate as I am about PD and volunteered to help.) More accountability!  The timing was perfect; our school had just made the switch to 4x4 block.  We were all looking for activities for the new 90 minute periods.  This gave us the perfect focus for this fall's monthly PD meetings and The Classroom Cafe's weekly video segments.  I never would have guessed how much fun it would be to dream up topics for the sessions with Kathleen and the rest of our teacher friends.  From black light to qr codes, we have touched on a bit of everything (complete with invitations, decorations, and costumes:).  Through this process, we have stretched ourselves, moved beyond our comfort zone, and looked for inspiration from many of you!
While Kathleen and I had blogged, tweeted, and presented independently prior to working together, we have found that it is so much more rewarding when we collaborate.  So, now what?  It's road trip time... our LACUE conference proposal was accepted!!! In 5 short weeks, we are headed to our state's technology conference to host #AppyHour where we are serving up our iMenu in true, southern CafeGal style.  I'm so excited!  What could be better than friends AND technology all in one place???

Friday, October 19, 2012

Favorite Find Friday: Black Light Math

I am so excited about this week's #MyFavFriday: Black Light Math!!!  Tuesday was the coolest day I have had in the classroom in a while.  Monday afternoon, my friends and I hosted a professional development session focused on Glowing Ideas for the Teaching and Learning. (Okay, the PD was really focused on activities for kinesthetic learners. We stumbled onto 'black light', because one of the activities used something like a Dance, Dance Revolution mat to practice or assess learning. Can you show off DDR without black lights and music thumping?  Umm...not and get the full effect.  So, as we were planning the PD, we thought it would be fun to share strategies using only things that would glow, but knowing the same strategies would be just as effective with the lights on. Really, it was a typical PD...just held in the dark:)
     Okay, back to #MyFavFriday...after the session with teachers, I sent a text to my students telling them that the room was still "decorated" from the PD event and asked, "Tomorrow: black light or white?"  It was unanimous, "Black Light!!!!"  With expectations running high, everyone arrived on time and ready to try whatever was planned.  Yay! for youthful exuberance. We have been graphing inequalilties and writing the solution sets in interval notation, so with black trash bags covering the windows and black lights placed strategically around the classroom, we dove into modelling the equations and their solutions with play-doh.  Guess what?  The bright colors  of play-doh glow (No, special play-doh or recipes needed.  Seriously, just use the 12 pack sold in the toy section)!!!  The kids, though not usually fans of graphing, never complained as we solved equation after equation until everyone caught on. 
Honestly, the pic doesn't do it justice.
   We wrote our solution sets using Sharpie fluorescent highlighters on regular copy paper.  It was amazing!  The highlighter really popped and the students were eager to share their answers whiteboard style.  (Note: In prepping for the PD session, we purchased several glow in the dark marker packs including Expo's Neon Dry Erase set and black plates on which we planned to have the participants write.  After trying all of the markers, we found that the fluorescent highlighters and plain white paper worked best.  The paper takes on an eery blue hue under black light.)
     After modelling and practicing, the students used their highlighters to complete Monday's #Made4Math, Walking Word Bank.  When the bell rang to end the 90 minute block, the kids' response was "Wow, this class passed so fast!" Black light math? Yes!!!  It was the first time I have tried this, but I highly recommend it!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Made 4 Math: Walking Word Bank

This week's #Made4Math project is the Walking Word Bank for Inequalities and Interval Notation; though itt may be a bit of a misnomer.  The the Walking Word Bank does not actually include words, but it does include walking!  My friend, Colleen, shared the idea with me this afternoon and I loved the idea of having the kids moving about the room and talking about math. So, I rushed home and was able to create this in a matter of minutes (literally, it is as quick as it takes to type the problems and answer sets). The up and out of the chair activity begins as the students are greeted by the instructor at the door and are tagged with either a problem or solution adhered to each of their backs.  
Each student is given a table with the names of those sporting the math "problems".  
Students copy the problems from classmates' tags and work to solve each equation.  The solution is recorded in the column next to the corresponding problem.  The students write the name of the classmate with the matching solution.  If a matching solution cannot be found, the students know to re-check their calculations. Super simple!  We try it tomorrow:)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Made 4 Math: QR Code Scavenger Hunt

Ok, you know I love my QR Codes.  I have used them for a little bit of everything, but this is my first QR Code Scavenger Hunt and I can't wait to see the students' reactions!  This #Made4Math activity was designed to get kids out of their chairs...way out!  We are going outside (which makes me a bit nervous) and we are using our BYOD cellphones in public (which makes me A LoT nervous).  Before the activity, I plan to send a quick email to my principals (2 campuses/2 principals) to let them know what we are doing and during the activity, each group of students will carry a hall pass (included in the project file) complete with a brief explanation of the task and necessary supplies (specifically, the cellphone!!!).
Planning the activity was quick and easy.  I started with 7 quadratic equations for solving ranging from pretty basic to completing the square with a leading coefficient other than "1".  I entered each problem into QRStuff to create the codes.
QRStuff was easy to use with the text elements (math problems).  I like the way the equations show up immediately on the students' phones when I select "embed text into code as is".
As always, I used Promethean's trusty ActivInspire to take screenshots of the QR codes and pasted the codes into a Publisher document for printing purposes.  I will tape the codes in various places on campus, though you could just as easily keep this hunt within the confines of the classroom. When students scan the code using a QR Reader like i-nigma and BeeTagg, they will immediately see this:
After working the problem, they will use the answer choice key to be directed to the next location. I made 6 variations of the key so that the groups will not be moving from location to location in a specific order.
If by chance a computational error occurs and the students end up at the wrong location, the code they find will advise them to check their work again.
A few codes were added that create a "twist" in the hunt (I am trying to re-connect with my inner sense of fun and adventure:).  One reads, "Oh no!  Into your plans, someone has thrown a wrench.  The real clue can be found beneath an outdoor bench."  (I think they will like it...)
Never one who likes to be confused on the "day of", I included the location on the codes so that I will know where to post them. We will try it this week and I'll let you know how it goes:)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pinning for Real: Game Pieces, Art, and More

This week, Pinterest was full of ideas for the classroom.  For the past few months, we have been Pinning for Real on an analog Pinterest board in our teacher workroom.  The exciting thing is that I have actually walked in and seen teachers looking at the pics and scanning the QR codes that take them to related blog posts!!!  Disclaimer: While I teach high school math, I work on a 7-12 campus; the ideas hit a variety of grade levels and subjects:), but can definitely be used as a springboard for activities in any classroom. In college one of my professors would bring in a common household items and ask us how we could use it.  The lists were lengthy and the idea was to get us to think beyond the obvious (a toothbrush to prop open the heavy wooden window).  That is how I looked at this week's pins.  When I saw the random ideas, I asked, "So, how can I use this in math?"
Making this week's board and my thoughts for math:
ABC's of Crazy's Game pieces made from students’ pictures. (This would be fun to make for family fun night too.)  How could I use this in the math classroom?  How about as game pieces for @Nutterbutter Smith's Games for Students by Students or my own students' board games for review.
aly mw's Onomatopoeia Art  
I love the bright colors and the sense of fun that these pieces seem to evoke.  My sweet friend, Kathleen, who teaches American History is having students create a graffiti wall inspired by the writers and artists of the Harlem Renaissance which reminds me of these colorful masterpieces.  Art in Math?  I love having Geometry students create art using specific shapes, angles and line lengths (I have had students create "stain glass windows" that contain required elements).  I also like Coordinate Grid pics like Math Aid's Pink Panther.  Maybe this year, I could have students create their own pics using piecewise functions for their friends to solve. (Future #Made4Math???)
School of Fisher's How-to for Printing on Sticky Notes Ummm...printing on sticky notes?  Any subject!  Anytime!  Most obvious, exit tickets:)
Westover's Librarian, Katherine's idea for "What's your status?" Could be used for fictional characters, historical figures, and science elements.  For math?  Famous mathematicians would be the easiest, but I also thought about assigning the students a type of function like linear or quadratic and have them post from that point of view.  If I took this route, it seems like a student would truly have to understand about the domain, range and graph to complete this extension activity.  Perhaps, it could be more of a riddle in which students have a function and they could write descriptive "clues" until classmates guess their equation...????...just thinking out loud...but, I am always looking for meaningful ways to keep my fab 4 (early finishers) working from bell to bell.

Want to create your own analog board?  This week's finds ready to print:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Math imPossible: Part Deux

I was so excited about last week's Math imPossible online scavenger hunt.  I worked hard.  I planned.  I included audio and video and still the result was... less than sizzling.  Not that it was bad, but it turned out that page after page of math problems didn't yield the same excitement I imagined (but honestly, I thought 5 pages with 2-3 problems per page packaged as an online scavenger hunt style was hardly unreasonable for a review practice).  So why write about it again?
Well, one, because I fixed it and two, because I think it is important to reflect.  Regardless of how long I've been teaching, everything doesn't always work out the first time.  It is important to remember, I can't give up.  I can't quit trying new things.  I must continue to push the envelope.  I must re-evaluate.  What worked?  What didn't?   Don't sweat what didn't work...just fix it.
So, where did I miss the mark?  The fun-ness factor fell sharply after the initial discovery that our class website had been hacked.  But for that one moment of discovery, emotion was high!  The kids faces when they saw our regular site bearing the symbol of the hacker was priceless.  They bought in. They were hooked.
After they began working through the math problems though, the activity became more like an online worksheet (NOT what I was going for!).  I could see the enthusiasm waning as they worked their way through the website, so I asked a few kids what they were hoping for when they started the Math imPossible adventure.  Some suggested QR codes. Some wanted to run around the school.  Some thought the clues should be presented differently (the clues were obtained by playing "Guess Who" with only 5 questions).  All great suggestions and all feedback was appreciated!  Why? Because I want to get better.  I want them to have a positive emotional reaction to math, so that they don't dread it or fear it, but actually look forward to it.
This week's #Made4Math project is Math imPossible: Part Deux.  Better and Improved.  I kept Page 1 featuring the Powtoon video and activity explanation.
The clues were changed from the "20 questions/Guess Who" format to photos displayed after each correctly worked problem set.  Now every year, the culprit will be a senior boy with brown hair who plays sports (sorry, future students).
I added two "get up and move" opportunities.  In one, they run to the flag pole to get a key code which will virtually "unlock" the next picture clue.
In the other "get moving", they head to the library to scan a QR code clue which will reveal the color of the culprit's hair. (The QR clue was created with QR Code Kaywa.)  I hope "running wildly through the school" will add the fun factor the activity initially lacked (and yet, not get me fired!)
On the last page, I changed the actual "guess" process from entering the suspect's name in Rafflecopter to a Google form with a digital feel.
The initial activity was academically sound; the content was spot-on, no typos, not too hard, not too easy.  But if I work hours on a project, I want it to sizzle, not fizzle.  By making a few tweaks, I think this might just do it.  I'll get feedback again from my students and make adjustments as needed.  If this works (fingers crossed), expect an Amazing Race in my near future:)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Favorite Find Friday: Algebra v The Cockroaches

We played one of #MyFavFriday games today, Algebra versus the Cockroaches by Hotmath!!! 
Disgusting? Yes!     Engaging? Uh-huh!     Appropriate level of difficulty? Yup!     Great for practice? Absolutely!  
This has been my go to activity for some years after discussing equations of lines.  The game features cockroaches (I said it was disgusting...) running across a coordinate plane.  Students determine the correct equation of the line formed by bugs running in a set path.  
Level 1 starts off easy, featuring only vertical and horizontal lines, but the seven levels that follow get progressively more difficult.
The crazy music and the celebratory dance when equations are correct adds an element of fun.
Students work in pairs to reach a goal of Level 7. 
Invariably, those who struggle initially master the concept by the game's end.
"Bug Free Zone" signs are hung around the room.
Candy sporting "Smashing Good Job" is awarded to students making it through Level 7.  It is amazing how hard kids will work for a Reese's cup:)