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:)