Friday, July 19, 2013

A Fresh Start

I've been meaning for a while now to start a blog. This year will be my third in the classroom, and on a block schedule, things change so quickly. I'm the type of person that has to have a place and a system for every little part of life, so I needed a place to record those changes. Over the past few years, my classroom has been in a constant state of change. I'm always finding new ideas for how to do things, but more than that, I really enjoy the fresh start each semester brings. It brings a new chance to find ways to make centers more efficient, or an opportunity to increase student accountability for truly learning what's expected of them.

I think that even though all of us are usually finding new ways to do things and always seeking new activities and such (I mean, just look at Pinterest for proof of that), as technology makes its way into schools that aspect of teaching will only become more common. Our ability to network with each other to share our ideas can only make us better, so I want to do my part to share.
I teach mostly 9th and 10th grade students - Algebra 1 and 2. Most of my students come into my classroom in August not knowing basic multiplication facts by heart, and the majority are only fuzzy on all the math they've learned up to this point in their lives. I do a LOT of remediation, and I'm trying to come up with a decent way to differentiate instruction to fill in some of those gaps without losing track of the algebra that they need. More on that system later. 

They're insecure about their own math ability, which makes them "hate" math. My approach to that is interactive notebooks, and cooperative learning groups. When I started using the notebooks last year, I saw an instant increase in homework completion, classroom participation, and just the number of students on task (without reminders!) in  general. I also started thinking about my lessons in a much different way. To plan foldables, you have to really break down a topic into its most basic pieces. To design games, you have to find and include every iteration of each type of problem (while still keeping it fun - no one likes "games" that are just worksheets). 

I use what I call the "kindergarten test." If a kindergartner would enjoy it, so would a high school kid. And if they're busy taping or coloring, sometimes they don't even realize how much they're learning along the way!

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