Monday, November 21, 2011

Algebra Tiles

I love them!

I had my Algebra kids color and cut their own set one day.  It took a full day (90 minutes!) in the classroom, and then some more at home for some kids. (1)

But, even with the loss of that teaching time, I think the benefits of Algebra Tiles are so worth it!

I like having something concrete to refer to when dealing with the abstracted-ness of algebra.  I like having something to point to when handing out rules (2) like "5h and -4 can't be added" and "5h and -4 can be multiplied, and the answer has an h in it" and "a number with parentheses next to it means multiply that number by everything inside the parentheses"

Most kids don't need but one or two examples with the tiles, and then they're good to go with the "symbol version" as we call it.  But, I like having them out, and having the kids know how to use them, so a) I can refer back to them when a kid is struggling and b) kids have a way of checking the correctness of their answers without me.

I spent a long time with these algebra kids doing some basic stuff, like integer operations.  When we started working with variables, I was a little worried.  But, the truth is, they've done extremely well with it, and we're moving along faster than I anticipated.  I love it.

(1) Mostly, I think kids were milking it, and taking advantage of the non-math time!
(2) I don't actually "hand out" these rules!  We spend time making sense of them, Algebra Tiles or not.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Teacher Standards Focus

My principal gave me a list of ten teacher standards.  She said she wanted every teacher to focus on standard #7 this year, and she also wanted me to read through them and pick two others that I personally would like to focus in on this year.

This is part of my annual teacher evaluation, BTW.  I really like this approach to evaluations, I'll have to write a post about that soon....

For this post, though, here are the standards I'll be focusing on this year:

#3: Learning Environments.  The teacher works with others to create environments that support individual and collaborative learning, and that encourage positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self motivation.

#5: Application of Content.  The teacher understands how to connect concepts and use differing perspectives to engage learners in critical thinking, creativity, and collaborative problem solving related to authentic local and global issues.

#7: Planning for Instruction.  The teacher plans instruction that supports every student in meeting rigorous learning goals by drawing upon knowledge of content areas, curriculum, cross-disciplinary skills, and pedagogy, as well as knowledge of learners and the community context.

More to follow, including a self-reflection on where I am now, and how I plan to move forward in these areas this year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I asked a student to stay after class the other day so we could discuss her behavior in my class.  I ended up getting so frustrated that I yelled at her.

Stuck with me all day, and I just wanted to confess it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Teach or Don't Teach?

If you ask me if I enjoy teaching, or if I'll stick with it for a while, the answer you'll get depends on the day (or sometimes the hour) you ask me.  It's that time of year when I'm tired and worn out, and I don't like my job some days.

I feel less competent as an educator.  My patience with kids is wearing thin.  I don't feel like putting in the extra work it takes to make my day successful.

I find myself asking "Do I really want to do this?" or, "Can I really do this?"

But, there are those moments and those interactions that make me remember why I ever became a teacher, anyway, and why I'm still doing it four years later.  They come.  Not often enough, recently.

How long until Christmas Break?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

On Parent Contact

I don't contact parents nearly enough.  I know by saying that I'm adding one more thing to my gargantuan to-do list, but I think I've minimized the importance and value of keeping in touch with parents.

 If I can't get a student to behave, or turn in work, parents need to know that so we can be battling the issue together.  If students are getting pressure from home as well as at school, that makes a difference.

Also, parents already know their kids.  They know what motivates them and what demotivates them.  They know their kids' habits, strengths, weaknesses, what's going on in their lives right now.  Parents have a wealth of information

One of my favorite phone calls to make is the positive one.  I like noticing something great a student did and being able to call home about it.  I like being sneaky and not telling the kid I'm planning on calling his mom.

I have a slight fear of calling home that I need to get over.