I am teaching math 1L and 2L in a work-internship program this semester (for those unfamiliar with the Ontario courses, these classes are for students planning to go straight into the workforce after high school; 1 = grade 9, 2 = grade 10).
Not only is this the first time I’ll be teaching these courses, it’s also the first semester that I won’t be sharing a room, so I get to decorate it and set it up how I like!
Here’s what the room looked like on Friday (most posters are from Math Equals Love):
What students see as they enter the room. There are 5 desk “pods”. Mostly there will be 3 students at each pod, so there is a spot for me or an EA to sit too.
A closer look at the front.
The side wall. Yay for so much board space! I see lots of VPNS use!
These symbol posters are between two very large banks of windows. I only used symbols that were relevant to this class.
Info board for both classes. I’m adding another expandable folder to each class, and they will be labelled “Hand In” and “Hand Out”. I brought those fans in from home because we’re on the third floor with no air conditioning – ack!
One of my favourite ideas that I’ve adapted from many others: a brain break corner. I’ve started with one puzzle, colouring, stress balls and fidget toys. Any other ideas?
Now that the summer is winding down, and I’ve had lots of time to reflect on my first full semester of teaching high school, I want to share some notes on my experience
Things I did well
- On the admin side:
- #1 is creating a positive relationship with students and creating a safe learning environment.
- I truly act as a caring parents with humour, empathy, having higher expectations and getting better with delivering consequences.
- I had great, regular contact with parents, which helped build more positive relationships. I think my parents felt we were on the same side right from the get-go, and many thanked me for my communication.
- I also connected and worked with other staff regularly: resource, guidance, learning support teachers, etc..
- 1-on-1 conferencing with students
- Lessons, activities, assessments, etc:
- The two truths & a lie summative project
- Barbie Drop (MFM2P)
- Floor Plan Assignment (MBF3C)
- The probability unit (3C)
- Daily warm-ups (WODB, Estimation180, Puzzles, Tile Patterns)
- MATHO! as review
- Trigonometry Career Assignment (2P)
Things I’d like to try or improve:
- Checking student understanding more frequently & using results to inform teaching
- My permissiveness (have even higher expectations of student behaviour & better follow-through with consequences)
- Formally evaluating using observations & conversations
- Creating assessments with more entry points/levels (more choices)
- Metacognition (learning how to learn)
- Modelling strategies more formally
- Scaffolding (eg. teach students how to make good cheatsheet)
- Let students struggle more!
- More reflection (myself and students)
- Continue to move away from marks and more toward rubrics/self-assessment/feedback
- Implimenting VPNS and VRGs regularly
- Theme days (Mindful Mondays? Wacky Wednesdays? Fun and/or Food Fridays?)
- Yoga @ Lunch
- Craft club
At a meeting of teachers who are currently teaching the MBF3C course in the board, one teacher shared a project she had used for the final/summative/culminating project and it really grabbed my attention: the students create flash cards for certain units as a review. Instead of typical question/answer flashcards, the student had to come up with a question/graph/equations and then state two truths and a lie about it.
Here is an example (was included in the original instructions):
Here are the full instructions along with a rubric (slightly modified from the original instructions I was given). In a nutshell, I had my students make one for each unit we covered.
Some examples from each unit (front & back):
The reasons I really liked this project was:
- It made the students review each unit long before our dedicated exam review periods
- There are multiple entry-points (students were not given instructions on how simple/hard questions had to be)
- It was not a “make work” or “booklet” project that can be typical for math final projects, and students found value in it.
- It was not difficult work, but it resulted in a lot of higher order thinking.
- We could use them as another tool for exam review.
- The students were engaged!
Things to do differently next time:
- Have students create cards at the end of each unit.
- Rewrite the rubric to clarify success criteria
In my most recent post, I went through all my notes from the book, videos, and chats from the #IMMOOC experience and basically did a brain dump of the things I highlighted.
Now, to further the reflection process, I have gone through that post again and have now honed in on the BIG IDEAS that really resonated with me and have inspired me.
- If your methods aren’t being questioned, you’re not pushing the envelope enough (innovators are often questioned).
- Always think “Would I want to be a learner in my classroom?”
- The 5 E lesson template mentioned by Alice Keeler
- Explain (notice that this is the THIRD step!)
- Relationships are KEY to success in innovation
- Reflection and creativity are huge parts of learning
- Empowerment: give students the knowledge to pursue their interests
- Depth, not Breadth; Less is More!
The main ideas I want to try in the classroom:
- Ditch that Homework!
- Going gradeless
- One-on-one conferencing
- Reflection time in class
- Sharing student learning with larger audience
Concluding thought: Innovation is what I CAN do within the system, not what I can’t!
This was the last week of #IMMOOC – and I feel sad that it’s over! It was so wonderful to connect with so many other like-minded educators from around the world. The good thing is we can all stay connected through Twitter and blogs!
Here are some things I highlighted from the readings, videos, and chats. (This will be a bit of a brain dump right now. I hope to have time to sort back through this to really hone in on the BIG IMPORTANT points for me!):
- If people aren’t disagreeing with you, you’re not pushing the envelope enough.
- Work with other people who are willing to change.
- Innovators are often questioned
- More synapses fire with mistakes
- We need to innovate inside the box
- We should understand failure but not be accepting of it! Grit and resiliency are key traits
- Ask yourself:
- “Would I want to be a student in my classroom?”
- “What is best for the learner?”
- “How did this work for the students?” (reflection is KEY!!)
- 8 characteristics of innovative mindset: empathy, problem finder/solver, risk takers, networked, observant, creators, resilient, reflective
- From Alice Keeler:
- Make room for what matters in the classroom
- Homework has been show to have very low effectiveness
- The 5 E lesson template: Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, Evaluate
- Let the students use previous knowledge to attempt solving a problem; let them struggle; then fill in gaps (things YOU can help them learn and show them something new)
- Choice is KEY
- RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS!!
- Need to connect with the person before connecting with the mind
- From Tara Martin ()
- Canonball in!!!!
- Find the people who’ll pour gasoline on your fire, not put it out.
- Sharing the process is just as important as seeing the end result
- Engagement is good; but also must empower
- Empowerment is giving students the knowledge to pursue their own passions and interests
- People need ownership and autonomy to be empowered
- We are not there to control students but to bring out the best in them (pg. 99)
- Our thinking must focus on what learning truly can be, not what is has been (Pg. 100)
- If we want our students to be innovative, we must be innovative
- 8 things to look for in today’s classroom: Voice, choice, time for reflection, opportunities for innovation, critical thinkers, problem solvers/finders, self-assessment, connected learning
- From Patrick Larkin:
- Grades are the lowest form of feedback you can give a student.
- We condition students to ask about grades (what kindergarten student asks about this??)
- Focusing on strengths does not mean ignoring weaknesses.
- Building on strengths ensures you get the most out of them
- Technology should be personalized, not standarized
- Learners are the drivers, technology is the accelerator
- We need to focus on depth, not breadth in education!
- Less is more means being intentional with our choices
- Much more important to move from literate, to adaptive, to transformative by spending more time with less options
- Learning happens when we take knowledge and create something from it.
- The more open we are with our learning, the more others and ourselves will get out of it!
- “Our world today is participatory; sharing should not be the exception in education but the norm.” (pg. 178)
- In PD, there should be time for sharing our voices, choices, reflection, opportunities for innovation, critical thinking, problem finders/solvers, self-assessment, connected learners
- Creating an innovative environment by:
- Focusing on strengths
- Learners driving our decisions
- More focus and deeper learning
- Embracing open culture
- Learning about things we want to see in our classrooms
- Innovation is a MINDSET, not a skill set
- Understanding the basics is imperative to innovation
- Need to help students find their gifts
- From Kayla Delzer (@TopDogTeaching)
- Flexible seating/environments are very beneficial for students!
- Doesn’t mean less structure, actually more!
- “True flexible seating leads to ownership and choice, which leads to more motivation, which leads to better learning: (via @brian_behrman)
- Lots of soft skills being learned!
- Need to teach Ss where they LEARN best not where their friends are or what’s most comfortable.
Here are some things I’d like to do/try as a result of participating in #IMMOOC:
- Read Ditch That Homework book by Alice Keeler
- More cross-collaboration with other subjects/departments
- Problem solving with industry partners
- Going gradeless
- Giving more choices, passion projects, etc..
- More thinking about tests…I’ll probably do a whole post on this one.
- LOVE the idea of shadowing a student for a couple of days to see school through their eyes!
- One-on-one student conferencing
- Weekly reflection time in class time.
- Learning portfolios
One of the chapters we read this week in #IMMOOC really hit on the fact that we are often doing too much as educators/schools/boards. In a time were we have access to so many cool, new, fun ideas, it can be really hard to focus on what’s really important.
This chapter made me reflect on my first time teaching in the classroom last year (two science lines, but 3 physics courses). Being a new teacher who already created an amazing online PLN – I had access to many resources and ideas.
So many, in fact, that it became overwhelming.
It felt like I was being tugged in a hundred different directions because all the resources I came across were all so different, but all so intriguing. So, I ended up feeling paralyzed and couldn’t make any decisions! I’d try to go with one, but then would find something different and try that instead, and around the black hole I went!
Ultimately, this combination of wealth of resources and connections and my anxiety about teaching for the first time caused much unnecessary stress.
Now that I’m able to reflect, I know going forward that I need to chose a handful of strategies/ideas to focus on and be more clear with my students what my motivation is!
When I started on my path in the public education world, I found out quickly that being on Twitter and reading blogs is an amazing way to access fantastic resources. Luckily I knew some incredibly innovative teachers through my previous academic life who helped point me in the right direction in creating my professional learning network (PLN).
At first it was about curriculum-related resources, but then I realized that it was even better to connect with the people BEHIND those resources!
I’ve done one-on-one chats with another physics teacher (Hi Heather!) from another school board in Ontario to learn more about how she implemented an electronic flipped classroom.
I’ve emailed another physics teacher, Chris Meyer, about the fantastic resources he created and he was open about sharing ideas with me!
I’ve also reconnected with a friend (Hi, Andrea) from graduate school days! We are now both Math and Physics teachers in different boards, and we connect frequently online to chat about everything from classroom management, to educational activity ideas, to books we’re reading, to struggles we’re facing in the classroom.
Sometimes being a Physics teacher especially can feel lonely and isolating because you’re often the only one in a school. So, having other teachers to learn from and connect with helped me feel supported and part of a larger community who share common goals and struggles.
These are just a few examples of how my PLN has not just helped me find good teaching resources, but have made me a better overall educator.