Saturday, October 13, 2012

Muscle Man

The muscle man has become the daily phrase utilized in my classroom.  I have to say, I was getting a little tired of the whole balance spiel.  It felt like it was time for a change...and a change it was!  While introducing solving equations to my pre-algebra class, I showed the following video from YouTube.

I then had all of the students stand up and pretend to be the "muscle man".  We then pretended to lift the weights and then drop them.  Next, I told them that someone put on too much weight on the left side of the bar.  They had to show me what would happen to the "muscle man".  They all tipped right over!  We continued with a few other scenarios until I could see that they all understood the balancing aspect of a muscle man.

From there, I had them paste the "muscle man" into their ISN (interactive student notebook).  Students were given the equation x+2=4  This matched up with the number of weights on the bar that our man was lifting.
The middle of the muscle man, or his core (yep, I threw in a PE reference!), was the balance.  If his balance was off, there went his championship in front of the whole world!  We discussed what would happen if we had to add addition weight to both sides.  The muscle man would have to be balanced and that weight would have to be added to both sides.  Whatever we did to one side, we did to the other.  Now the students are always saying to me, "Oh yeah, we do the muscle man!"  It worked out much better than I anticipated, but still need something else with a few students that do not understand equations involving integers.....but no fear, bingo daubers are near!!!  To Be Continued....

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Homework Super Bowl - Sunday Funday

Let me preface this with a famous little quote from my favorite team...


We will get back to that later...

I am probably one of Rick Wormeli's biggest fans.  I have seen him numerous times and believe in his philosophy of education.  He, in my opinion, is pure genius!  His book, Fair Isn't Always Equal, fully changed my view on how homework and grading should be done in a classroom to benefit all students.  If you haven't read it, ORDER IT!!!!  (I am not paid to endorse his works nor do I know him personally!)

From reading his books and listening to him speak, I have changed every aspect of homework in my classroom.  I use to grade all of my students daily work, record their grade and then hand it back once I finally got through the pile.  The students then immediately threw it in the trash.  It could not have been a worse system!  I slowly changed over the next few years and had students grade their own work.  I would then collect, record and hand back.  Still, not a good system.  The students were just seeing how many problems they solved incorrectly and then that was it.  Better, but not good.  Then I went to the National Conference on Differentiated Instruction in Las Vegas given by Staff Development for Educators.  It was a life changing experience!  This is where I first saw Rick Wormeli speak.  I was in awe.  So much so that I purchased all of his books, read them and changed everything!

This year is the full implementation of what I believe is the best way that I can deal with homework in my classroom.  The students are assigned homework, not every night, and definitely not on Fridays.  When they come in the next day, I put the answers on the overhead and they check their own work as I walk around.  They record their number correct and percent at the top.  I then allow 4-5 minutes for students to redo these problems.  They do them in a different color and I walk around and make notes and such on my labels (this is my next blog!).  The students that received a 100% or finish correcting quickly will work on the challenge problems on the board.  After the 4-5 minutes, I go over the challenge problems with all of the students so everyone can benefit from it.  They then turn in their homework so I can record it.

Now here comes the Super Bowl reference...wait for it....wait for it.....

When they are turning in their first homework assignment, I break out into this random story to take them by surprise.  I ask them what would happen if we were to form a team and go straight to the Super Bowl.  Of course there are the answers:
we would lose!
we would win!
I don't know?
I make a big deal of it and explain how these big men would chase us and pummel us to the ground.  We would look like idiots out there without plays and running wild on the field.  They would destroy us, we would leave with broken bones, bloody noses and some would even be left laying there waiting for the ambulances.  If we were lucky enough, some of us "benchers" would leave without a broken bone.

I ask them what we could do to perhaps survive this traumatic experience.  We come up with the answer of practice.  I explain how we could devise plans to have us run through these large men, perhaps leaving without as many injuries.  This is where the importance of homework comes in.  I explain how a football team must practice in order to make it to the Super Bowl.  They must work and work in order to get there.  The homework is like practice.  It truly doesn't count in my gradebook.  However, I am the coach and must make sure that all students are learning and doing their best.  I record their score in my gradebook, however, they do get 5 points for completing the assignment.  Even if they have their worst day and get sacked, they still were there and get the 5 points.  I keep track of their percents for coaching purposes, but they get the points for completion.  In our district, homework is only 10% of their overall quarterly grade, which makes this work.  I still collect, make notes and give feedback.

It was amazing how this went.  They truly worked on their corrections, asked questions and even asked me if they could call me Coach K!  8th graders....I was shocked, they were awesome!

So from there, I explained how homework is like practice, which leads to quizzes.  These are the formative assessments that help me to make sure that they are truly on track.  Quizzes are equivalent to the games that the football team play in order to make it to the Super Bowl.  Games count, they provide rankings for the teams and in the classroom they help me to form flexible groups, provide further assistance and help me to create meaningful, differentiated activities and assignments.  The Super Bowl is the equivalent of the final concept test.  They are prepared, have done the practice, played in the games that have gotten them to the big game successfully!  THEY ARE READY!!!!  DA BEARS WIN THE SUPER BOWL!

I will see how this year goes with this fully in place.  I have also started using ISN's and they will be recording in there what their grade was and why they did how they did.  I am excited to see how this will improve student learning.  It seems like this is effective for all of my level of learners and I am excited to see progress.  If there are any bumps in the road, or our quarterback dislocates his shoulder, I will let you know!

SIDE NOTE:  Now, this is not always the case.  For some of the homework assignments, especially with the lengthier algebraic equations, I will give them the answers at the bottom of the page.  They will then utilize it to check their answers at home.  I require them to show their work.  I know the students that can do them in their head, you pick up on that automatically.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Yakking Tracker

Every year I always say the same thing...I am going to work more on my classroom management plan.  However, once I jump into the curriculum and start focusing on that, I lose my ideas!  This year, things are going to be different!  I have been brainstorming and searching Pinterest to find ideas to utilize.  However, when unpacking my room, I happened to find some old lights and paint that I had purchased after attending a conference.  It was a while ago and unfortunately I cannot give the proper person credit for it, I forgot which conference it was!  Here is what I found, plus a few of my kiddo's paint brushes.
So I started to paint....well actually my four small children decided that they were the ones to paint!  It was quite a site and there ended up being a pretty big mess on my deck.  But, as Randy Pausch said in his last speech, "Let the kids paint on the walls!"
After I made some fixes and scrappped a great deal of paint off of the light portion, I ended up with this!

Now, I know that there are stop light devices made for teachers and apps and such that are used for maintaining the volume of the classroom.  However, I like to be able to control the volume on my own.  Certain activities require a different volume and level of "yakking".  I plan to always begin with the green light.  If the volume starts to get a little too loud, I will light up the yellow, or instruct a student to do so.  From there, there is one final caution before we go back to silent, individual work...which I hope I NEVER have to get too. 

The lights I purchased, along with the paint, at Menards.  They were inexpensive and have a nice tape adhesive on the back.  Once I am in my room I am going to put them in the upper right corner of my front white board.  I love how they ended up...even more so with the smudges and the paint on the lights!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Primary Color Bins....NOPE!

This year I had to move rooms.  I decide to go out with the old and come in with the new, which meant new decor!  I pitched all of my old bins and get new ones.  However, before I actually threw out the old before getting the new...might have been a mistake.  Everywhere I looked, all I saw were primary colors.  I was frustrated, primary this, primary that!  I TEACH 8TH GRADERS!!!!  Primary is not their idea of decor, nor is it mine.  So, I purchased this...
This Lakeshore Learning product looked really functional for me.  I am going to use this for myself to store the items that I...
1.  Need to Copy
2.  Need to File
3.  Need to Complete
4.  Need to Correspond
However, the primary colors were a total drawback.  I thought and thought about it and then just entered my credit card number.  Yep....I hit the purchase button.  So I awaited its arrival, and a few other things that I am jazzing up!  Look for my next posts :).  While in the local Ace Hardware, I noticed they were having a sale on Duct Tape, not the silver kind, but the fancy schmancy kind!  I bought 3 rolls at $3 each...and still have leftovers.  I also bought some black spray paint.

So, I spray painted the primary blue holder (not sure what to call it) and the inside bottom of the primary colored bins black.  I am going for the black and pink look this year.  Thought it would be fun to jazz up my spirits a little!

One note of advice, do this in a well ventilated room, you can see the fumes in my picture!  After spray painting and letting them dry for 2 days, it was time to duct tape these bad boys.  I taped the bottom of the bins with the black duct tape.  The pink and zebra were used only on the outside and then the inside lining of the bins.  These were cardboard before, but I bet they are going to last a lot longer with the duct tape around them.  They are much sturdier and are now a lot heavier.  Perfect for my middle school classroom!  So, here it is..........the final product of my duct tape bonanza!!!!
Notice the little hand in the corner....that's my kiddo, always wanting to be in pictures!

This is my first official post and I have lots more to come...decorating my room is pretty darn exciting when you are starting from scratch!  Wait until you see my next Pinterest inspired creation!
I would love to know what people think about this little recreation!   What would you do with it?  Does it look tacky?  What else could I have a duct tape bonanza with???  Thanks!!!:)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Algebra isn't just a bunch of letters! I say that often to my students. It's not learning about solving complex equations, but rather a way of thinking. This school year I am devoting myself to make each and every lesson awesome! I will be posting all of the Algebra Awesomeness that I come up with. I hope you enjoy!