Saturday, August 20, 2016

Team Supply Stations

During a typical day, our 90-minutes class period consists of a Warm-Up assignment, the lesson lecture, a student-centered activity to practice what they learned, then the closing.  Almost all the time, these activities require that students use supplies that they themselves don't bring to class.
To decrease the commotion and amount of time that students spend picking up supplies like glue, scissors, markers, etc., I have set up team "stations" in the center of the team desks.

On the corner of each desk is a tag with a number/letter combination: 1A, 2B, 3A, 4B.   I use the numbers 1 to 4 to call on a student from each team for different reasons. For example, I may say: "Student number 4 starts the discussion." or "Student number 2 will be the team recorder for this activity."  The A and B are used to pair students.  For example, I may say:  "Students 1 and 2 are a pair, students 3 and 4 are a pair; if you are student A, you will be the presenter."  Using this system, I can make sure that all students are held accountable for participating in activities and such.

But back to the stations!  ----  The team stations consist of a plastic 3-drawer storage unit on wheels (which makes them so easy to move around when I'm re-arranging desks), and a "team bin" sitting on top of the storage unit.  These are the contents of each part of the team stations:


The bin contains supplies that are used on a daily basis.  This includes 4 of each of the following: glue bottles, rulers, protractors, scissors.  It also contains a stapler, a box of colored pencils, a box of crayons, and 8 fine-tip markers (which students often use to color-code their notes), and a hand-held pencil sharpener.      Having this bin accessible to every student in the team at any given time is a great benefit to them and to me, as well!

In the first drawer are four white boards and a plastic box with 4 markers and erasers to use with the boards.  When we use them, I usually ask student number 1 or 4 from each team to take them out from the drawer and hand one of each to their teammates.

In the second drawer are four clipboards.  We use there when we do activities in which students have to write while they are standing.  Some of these activities include "Around the World,"  "Walk-about," and "Scavenger Hunt" activities, which are all basically the same activity. Students work on a problem posted on a paper on a wall of the room and search for the answer on another paper, which will tell them which problem to do next.  Another activity we do where students must write while standing is a "Gallery Walk." In this activity, each team works on poster paper at their desks, posts their work on the wall, then all teams walk around observing, writing notes on their own paper/notebook, and commenting on each other's work.  These clipboards are so helpful!

In the third drawer are our Algebra 1 EOC practice workbooks.  We use these workbooks in class throughout the year to practice answering EOC test questions.  Each Algebra 1 student has a workbook of their own and they keep them in the 3rd drawer of their team station to take out when they need to use them in class.

This system of storing student supplies that are used on a daily basis is very beneficial to my students because they don't need to go very far at all to get what they need!  They don't waste a lot of time gather and putting away supplies and the beginning and end of each period, and that makes me happy! :)


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Our Interactive Notebook has a name: MathSpace.

Before there was Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, there was My Space. (Remember?)   I'd like to think that it was not too long ago (because it doesn't feel like it was too long ago), but now that I think about it, it was about 10 years ago!   :)      

I've required that my students keep an interactive notebook for several years now.  I don't think that I knew it was called "interactive notebook" when I started requiring students to keep one, so I gave it a name.  This made it easy for me to refer to it when I needed to.  Teenagers back then were using My Space as their social media, so I liked the name "MathSpace" for their notebook.  They used their notebook for all things Algebra, or all things Geometry, or all things Pre-Cal, so I thought the name fit their notebook perfectly!

I kept using "MathSpace" as the name of the interactive notebook because I am so used to calling it that.  I refer to it often during class, as it is their "textbook."  I say things like, "you should have your MathSpace with you when you come in for tutoring," "take out your MathSpace and start working on the Warm Up,"  and "locate your Solving Quadratic Equations Foldable in your MathSpace."  It's just like second nature to me and my students now.

During the first week of the school year, I give students an information sheet that tells them the what? why? and how? of their MathSpace notebook.  I change a few minor things on it here and there each year, but I have found that giving them this information is very beneficial.  This is the sheet I gave them this year:

Download the editable file here.

I started off doing notebook checks once every and made sure that they were all keeping up with all the notes, that it was organized well, etc.  This practice was mainly put into effect to "force" them to keep a notebook and bring it to class every day.  I realized after a few years, though, that they were all keeping up with it fairly well, and that I didn't really need to be checking up on them.  So, I stopped checking them.   I can say that in the past four or five years, every student has maintained a MathSpace notebook.  All of the notes they write in class, including foldables, and MathSpace Notes (sheets with "skeleton" notes that I create, and students glue them in their MathSpace and fill in the notes), are glued to or written in their MathSpace, so students know they must have it and keep up with it every day!

I require my students to decorate their MathSpace sometime at the beginning of the school year.  They are allowed to decorate it with anything theme or in any way they'd like, as long as it completely covered and decorated.  Their decorations don't have to be "mathy," but sometimes they do decorate it "mathy"---that makes me so happy!  I tell them they should get it done within the first month of the school year, but I have found that many of them decorate it right away.  I do have a few students who take a while to decorate their MathSpace, but I keep reminding them to get it done, and they do, eventually.  I think decorating it makes them feel pride when they take it out in class and use it!

These are examples of MathSpace notebooks from this school year.  These students have started decorating their MathSpace, they're just missing a few things on the cover (like their name!):
(Dividers: courtesy of Sarah Carter at mathequalslove.)

Did you give your interactive notebook a name or title?  I'd like to hear about it if you do!

Thank you for reading!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

First Day of School Fun

The first week of school has already gone by and it was an awesome start to this school year! It is always difficult to get back in the swing of things after the summer break, but I feel that I was ready to go back.  The one week of PD before the school year begins, which our district requires, was surely beneficial, as it got me used to getting up early and getting ready for work again.

My school, an early college high school, operates on an A/B/C-block schedule, which means that students attend 4 classes on Monday/Wednesday (90-minute periods), 4 other classes on Tuesday/Thursday (90-minute periods), and all 8 classes on Fridays (45-minute periods).  For this reason, I saw my seven classes three times this week. 

I have four sections of Algebra 1 and three sections of Geometry this school year.  The activities for both subjects were pretty much the same this week, as we got ready for the new school year.  On the first day, I had them go through basic first-day of school procedures and a short math activity.  Here is a recap of the day's activities:

Ice-Breaker Activity
I set up student desks in groups of four.  I like to call groups "Teams" so that I can remind students that they are "working as a team."  I placed a sticky note on the corner of each desk to temporarily number them from 1 to 24.  I don't assign teams until I have had a chance to get to know them and their behaviors a little bit.  Thus, for the first week, I used this seating challenge. (Thank you, Mrs. Dooms!)

The seating challenge worked out great! Students started talking to one another right away, and they were forced to find a way to solve the problem of "Where do I sit?"  Plus, I quickly found out who the natural leaders are!  Every period, there was at least one student who took the initiative and quickly thought a way to get everyone to help solve the problem.  It was interesting and very fun to watch!

Teacher and Student Introductions
Once they were all seated, and while I submitted attendance, I had students introduce themselves to their teammates.  Then, I introduced my self via the "Quiz: Mrs. Bonilla, by the number." (Definitely not my original idea, I took this idea from someone, I just don't remember from who or where?!) The students took the quiz on paper. I then showed them the answers using pictures on a power point presentation.  I think they really enjoyed watching the presentation of answers with pictures!  The one they liked the most, I think, was the my selfie with Chewbacca:

After that, they had to write about themselves in five sentences, using numbers as well.  This allowed me to find out more about them! It worked out great!  This is the editable file I created for the activity.

"Housekeeping" Procedures 
I really didn't want to spend too much time going over the syllabus, class procedures, etc. I handed out the sheets with the information and barely touched on a few things.  I handed them the syllabus and explained that it was something they and their parents needed to be read and understood it, and it was to be done for homework.  I handed them a sheet with a shopping list of supplies as well.  This is my syllabus:

"Teamwork" Discussion 

Because I have them sitting in groups from Day 1, I made sure I explained the expectations for working in teams.  This is what I used for the discussion:

I also taped copies of the Teamwork Expectations on the team bins that are at each team's station because teenagers need all the reminders we can give them! 

"Mathy" Activity
I used the second half of the period to have the kids do something math-related.

In Geometry, students used task cards to review solving linear equations.  I gave each team a task card, which they had to solve as a team.  A designated student from the team brought the card and his/her paper with work shown for that problem to me.  If the solution was correct, I gave them a new card to take back to the team.  If the solution was incorrect, we looked for the mistake, identified it, and the he/she took the card and the explanation back to the team.  The team then had to correct their work together and bring their corrected solution to me in exchange for a new card.
There were 12 task cards total, but I stressed that speed was not as important as it was for them to work together to remember how to solve linear equations! 

In Algebra 1, students used a card sort to learn that real numbers can be grouped into different sets of numbers.  I gave each team a plastic baggie with vocabulary cards, definition cards, and number cards.  They started by working as a team to pair a "vocabulary word" card with its matching "definition card."  I reminded them to use context clues and root words to figure out which definition matched each vocab word. 

After a few minutes, I presented the correct definitions for each vocab word, as well as a brief explanation with examples.  Students recorded it in their notes sheet.
After the discussion, I gave them a graphic organizer and gave them a few examples of how to figure out where to place different numbers. 
Then, they took the number cards out of their baggie and worked with their team to figure out where to correctly place each of the numbers on the cards. 

When teams finished placing the numbers in their graphing organizer, we discussed as a class.

We closed up the day by discussing end-of-class procedures: cleaning up after themselves, returning materials to the team bins, checking that all teammates are ready to go, and making sure they have all their belongings. 

Here are the files of the Numbers Systems Activity.

Whew!!! We did a lot on the first day of school! It was a great start to what already feels like an excellent and successful school year!

How was your first day of school? :)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

My First Blog Post

So........ here I go!

I've been thinking about starting a blog about teaching for a few years now.  I've been teaching for many years, but I am always looking for new ideas and ways to make learning math easy and fun!  I have followed other math-teacher bloggers for years and have always thought about sharing ideas and experiences in my own blog.  I have finally decided to take the plunge and just do it already!

I am sitting at my desk at home thinking about finally "launching" my blog, and, at the same time, getting ready to go back to work after this short summer break.  My district runs on sort of a year-round schedule, so our school year begins earlier than most.  Tomorrow is the start of the week-long professional development week for teachers, and the following week (Monday, August 1st, to be exact) is the first day of the school year.

I am pretty excited about starting the new school year, but right now, all I can think of is how I hope to have enough time to get my classroom ready (isn't that what we all worry about right before the school year begins?).  I was able to go to my classroom last week for a few hours and move things around, but it's nowhere near ready, as you can see below.

I am looking forward to this week, as well as next week, when we welcome a brand new set of 9th-graders to our school.  Whether they take my Algebra 1 or Geometry class this year, I hope to help them reach their full potential.  Maybe I will even help them love math almost as much as I do!