Out with the old, in with the new…

Posted on December 23, 2014


I’m reinventing the wheel next semester. Again, as in “every semester since I started teaching”…<mumble> years ago. Does anyone else do this besides me?

Fall semester has been interesting:

  • a new seven-period day
  • the end of Geometry (as a specific class, not a general subject), but I get to dust it off from seven years ago…one more time
  • the new CCSS Math classes starting
  • the start of very dedicated credit recovery classes that have to keep the students qualified for college, not simply graduate (OK, I have to live with he-who-must-be-doing-that…it isn’t me, specifically)
  • the district bringing in Linked Learning hovering overhead
  • a new Academy at my school dedicated to Public Service (as in civic planning and government…we already have an Academy dedicated to Public Safety)
  • a huge, very public push to our Dual Immersion program (if you are one of the DI teachers, count on getting two conference periods and only the best kiddos…if you aren’t, like me, the poo is all yours)
  • a really enthusiastic student-teacher who really isn’t a fan of Statistics…and who I haven’t seen since October…but his Ed school dictates when he is here and when he has to be there

I haven’t been all that happy with how I taught in the Fall. I was particularly unhappy with how much paper I hauled around.

I read Mr. Meyer’s blog and responses regarding “What would you do with a $1000 classroom grant?” The responses were, generally, whiteboard surfaces everywhere, markers, and a document camera.

I have a ton of whiteboards and markers. I now have a document camera.

I have 39 iPads and good Internet access.

So, for Spring, here’s what I want to try…

My kiddos will be given a specific task to deal with on any particular day.

They can then choose how to deal with it. Their choice can be different each day.

Their options:

  • Hang with me in a small group (6 or maybe 8 desks at most clustered together) with whiteboards. Everyone there must be dedicated to following along, or they can choose one of the other options. I will work specific examples with them, then have them work out some more similar problems, probably taken from old worksheets that are still around. They would use the document camera to take pictures of their whiteboards and get them to me (haven’t figured out if that will be email, ThreeRing, Google, something else) so I don’t have the paper problem.

The thing I’m trying to do most here is get the people who talk all the time into their own little world so they can talk and not disrupt the kiddos who really need a little direct instruction.

  • Use the iPads and headphones to watch a video explaining the same topic I’m doing direct instruction on, but more at their convenience, and as a group. James Tanton’s videos are awesome…cK12 may work…we shall see. But, afterwards, they get a GoogleDoc that they have to do individually but they can hash out with their friends.

That GoogleDoc hasn’t been invented yet. It’s in my head. Or my “noodle”, if I’m channeling the movie Amadeus on any given day. But.

The Doc would follow the general idea of what I have since seen in CueThink…they have to, in words, explain how they got there. Again, the whiteboards could be used and photographed.

But but…I didn’t see it for the first time in CueThink. I did something like this on paper with my Geometry students earlier this year. They hated it. They hated it because I made them write down the “How”. I loved it. But it wasn’t streamlined and it was paper-heavy.

Then I saw CueThink and what it could turn into. It is SO cool. I’m jealous, because I know my school won’t buy it and I can’t afford to buy it for all of my kiddos.

  • Go on KA and work on the same types of problems (all of which will be set up for them and they will have do those specific topics). When they feel ready, they can make me an Educreations-type explanation of how to do problems related to that day’s specific lesson.

I’m not thrilled with KA, but they do have different problems so not all of my kiddos would be copying the one problem that one of the other kiddos did without learning and trying something themselves.

Generally, the first is for the students who are comfortable in a regular classroom who hate the annoying chitchat from the other students; the second is for the students who are committed to their friends; and the third is for those who learn best completely independently.

I could be here forever discussing my classroom management (and I don’t have the Force: the Darth Vader “your lack of faith disturbs me” chokehold down quite yet), but I’m trying for the “get everyone to be comfortable so they can learn” thing down, 13 years in, all while trying to be more true to my non-confrontational, introverted self.

Opinions? Suggestions? Please!

Posted in: #MTBoS, School