Monday, December 21, 2015

Great Ideas for 2nd Semester

Every 3rd Monday of the month, I host a math webinar for secondary math teachers in Oklahoma. It is a joint partnership by Oklahoma Council of Teachers of Mathematics and OK Math Teachers. Today, the webinar focused on great ideas for second semester. The ideas were focused on classroom routines, assessment and learning strategies. During the webinar, I shared some of my classroom resources. This post is an expansion of that discussion as well as links to many of the resources.

Classroom Routines
Our routines say a lot about what we believe as a teacher. In the summer, I always take time to think about my beliefs and what I want my students to accomplish. I then think about what I am doing or not doing to help achieve my goal. During holiday break, I think about how well I am doing towards my goals. I use this time to make adjustments and set a plan to change course 2nd semester. In the webinar, I shared some of my routines that support my educational philosophy and student goals.

Collective Wisdom: One of my goals for my students is for them to know how to self-manage. This means they must be given the opportunity to decide how to manage. For the last couple of years, I have implemented an activity called collective wisdom. I explain to students that I only have one rule for the class--Don't be a problem (I got this from Love and Logic). Although it is a simple rule, what constitutes a problem must be decided between us. The students then write on a 3 x 5 card a problem for them. I take the top 5 to 6 problems and students complete the collective wisdom protocol using the following form:
  • On the form, write one of the problems at the top and tape it on the wall. Example problem is classmate is disruptive during class. Repeat this for all of the problems making sure there is distance between each paper.
  • Students number off  based upon the number of posters. 
  • Students go and stand next to their assigned poster. 
  • Teacher gives each group a different colored marker
  • For 2 minutes, students write possible causes and solutions for the the given problem.
  • At the end of time, students rotate clockwise to the next poster adding possible causes and solutions for 3 or 4 minutes.
  • Students rotate until they are back at their poster. They star the best cause and solution and share it with the class.
  • The star will now be how the class will handle the given challenge. Copies will be made of all posters and placed in the class folders.
Contracts: In addition to being able to self-manage, I want students to know how to work with anyone. One of the ways I help students to work with people is for them to create a contract with their group members. Here is an example of a completed contract and here is a link to the contract form:
Tracking Progress: One of my greatest educational philosophies is that I must help my students be 21st century literate. According to Alvin Toffler this is the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn. A foundation to be able to acquire this skill is the ability to know how you are doing towards a learning goal as well as how to change course on your learning journey. I teach my students how to track and analyze their progress. Here is a picture and link to the form I use:

This is a power packed topic. I have spent over 5 years just studying the topic. I shared two resources to think about as you go into 2nd semester. The first resource was a technique I learned through the book Max Teaching with Reading and Writing: Classroom Activities for Helping Students Learn New Subject Matter While Acquiring Literacy Skills. It is called Math Translation. Here is a link to an example created by Tulsa Public Schools. 

The second resource was rubrics. The use of rubrics has changed my classroom. It enables me to have a different conversation with my students. Rather than talking about points and what can I do for extra credit. We talk about demonstration of learning based upon the rubric. Here is a link to one of my rubrics. 

Learning Strategies
The webinar ended with learning strategies. I did a brief discussion of number talks and complex tasks. I referred to webinars for both of the topics.  The link for the number talks webinar is The link for complex tasks is