Tag Archives: Algebra I

[SundayFunday] First Day of School

Blogging always tremendously helps my reflection and helps me grow as a teacher. However, I struggle to be motivated to do it, which is why I’m so glad that Julie (@jreulbach) is great at starting these initiatives.

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This week’s topic is “First Day/Week of School”

In the Past

In the past I’ve done everything from hand out and read the syllabus (and hope the bell rings by the time I get to the end) to ignoring the syllabus entirely. If every teacher shares the syllabus on the first day, the students just hear “blah blah blah”. But if you do something different, you can always hand out the syllabus later in the first week. Or never[1].

I often have them fill out a “get to know you” form, either online if I know I have access to a Chromebook cart, or on paper. Last year I kept the papers in a binder and used them throughout the year, both studying students’ likes and dislikes, as well as keeping a record of contact home, and I was really glad for that. This year with fewer students at one time (3 block classes each semester instead of 5 non-block classes all year long), I should be able to focus and learn students’ better than in the past.

My father-in-law offered this wise advice: Make sure you do math on the first day to set the tone and the idea that “we do math in this classroom every day.” I think he even recommended starting with math before doing any sort of icebreaker or survey.

This Year

I’m going back to High School, and I’m sure that my Precalculus class will look very different from my year-long Algebra class, both in academic and social maturity.

This is also the first time that I’ll be teaching a block class on the first day.

One thing that Mary Bourassa mentions that she’s done on her first day was to show students a bunch of functions/lines/curves on Desmos without the equations. Students then work out how to graph them on Desmos. I’m going to do this in Precalculus and I’ll throw in some moving parts and some that are very difficult for the “reach” so that everyone is challenged. Here’s her Desmos Activity that she created based on the graph (I kind of like how the original activity was open-ended and students could pick which graph they want to try to create first!)

I’d like to do something like this in Algebra I, but I need to be careful not to throw too much over their heads because I think I lost a lot of students last year that way.

I’ve been reading others “First Day/Week Back” blog posts and here are some that caught my eye (in no particular order).

  • Feedback Name Tents, from Sara Vanderwerf.  I first saw “Name Tents” and thought “oh, Middle School. I taught that last year, I don’t need that”, but I know I DO need to build relationships with the students and her idea of giving individualized feedback every day for the first week is incredible!
  • What is Math and What do Mathematicians Do, from Sara Venderwerf. This post is great. I definitely want to get all my classes to consider what Math is and what a Mathematician is. I’m used to using “I notice, I wonder”, though it’s a good reminder that I need to be intentional about planning this into my lessons, daily if possible. I may spend more time with Algebra I because there will likely be more students in those classes who think “I can’t do math”.

Hmm, I thought I had more resources to put here, but just #PushSend.

[1] I do think I forgot to hand out the syllabus one year. They sat in a stack in the corner of my room until I used them for scrap paper halfway through the year.

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[DITL] The Last Day Before Thankgiving

6:00 I wake up to my watch alarm and get ready for school. I turn my phone alarm off before it goes off and notice Glenn Waddell’s reminder email to blog a DITL today. I brush my teeth before eating breakfast because I’m not quite awake. I’m surprised I don’t do that more often.

While showering I debate the ethics and usefulness of doing a warm-up on the Pythagorean Theorem very similar to one of the county-mandated Benchmark tests. I decide to do the warm-up for Merit but not for Honors.

7:05 When I get to school, a fellow teacher comes in to get the Chromebook cart back. I had taken it out of her room since I signed up for it today, but I didn’t notice that she had it signed out for ELT (homeroom). I apologize and later she even brought the cart back to me.

Last night I had the idea to post the agenda to Google Classroom each day. It took 15 seconds and has the HW on there as well as our “essential question” and what we did for the day. I think I’ll do that more often as a resource for absent students.

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I make copies for the day: test correction forms for ELT, quizzes for Algebra I, and Mathcounts materials for after school.

7:52 Students start coming in for ELT–the 10 minutes when they hear the announcements and see which classes they’re going to (sometimes students are pulled for tutoring). I always have to quiet down one pocket of boys. I patiently “shush” the same student over and over during the morning announcements.

8:05 My 7th period comes in (it’s their turn in the ELT rotation) and we start working on test corrections. They took the test over a week ago, but this was the first time I was able to work with them during ELT, and it took a long time to grade online, so I decided to wait until now. I would write the work up around the room and they copied down the right answer onto their test corrections. I wonder how much they’re getting out of it just copying down what I write, but when I ask them to figure it out on their own, I end up helping them all out and saying the same thing 18 times. On the sheet they have to answer summary questions such as “how do you find the slope from an equation”, so hopefully that helps.

8:38 I have 1st and 2nd period planning. I talk with the other 8th grade teacher about what we’re doing next week and finish what I didn’t get printed earlier. I make keys for Algebra I so they can grade themselves after they take the quiz.

10:17 My 3rd period students start trickling in and I try to direct their attention to the problem on the board that is so similar to the benchmark question that it makes me queasy thinking about it. I’m optimistic but I fear that at least 1/3 of the students in the room won’t understand it even though I go right over it and another third will forget how to do it 15 minutes later when they see in on the test.

The students start out by finishing their test they started yesterday on paper. When they finish the paper, they’re to get a Chromebook and put their benchmark answers into the computer test (setup on Google Classroom). One of the problems is tricky to type in so I ask every student to show me #7. Yes, it’s faster to do that than for me to go back afterwards and change every student’s answer.

Once they finish with the test, they’re to check their grades online and look for missing assignments/missing quiz corrections.

After they do all of that, they’re allowed to play Prodigy.

Algebra is the only class that’s not taking a benchmark rigth now. I try a different warm-up today: Warm-up by checking your HW answers with the other students at your table. It works okay. We quickly go over the HW. Then I show them “my favorite mistakes” from the tickets out, the day before, encouraging them not to make the same mistakes on the quiz.

After the Algebra students take their quiz, they check their work and get a TenMarks username and password to start some practice problems on TenMarks.

12:10 At lunch I offer to tutor a student who was really struggling with 2-step equations. I like to avoid the (often) negative atmosphere of the teacher’s lounge, so this is a double bonus for me.

After lunch, we repeat with my last two classes.

3:00 Mathcounts has a small showing today (only 5 of the 12 members) because the morning announcements sounded like “afternoon activities are cancelled” when it really said “afternoon activity buses are cancelled”. It’s fun doing the math with them and seeing the expressions on their faces. This time one student had 2 riddles for his fellow students, so I printed them off and let them go at it the last 10 minutes.

4:15 I start to tackle this “end of the day to-do list”. It only takes about an hour. I use Google Keep for this, so I can “uncheck all boxes” when I’m done to reuse the list the next day.

  • Take attendance
  • Send Remind.com message
  • Write the next day’s Daily Agenda on the Wall
  • Get Tickets Out
  • Make One Positive Phone Call (remember that parents CARE about their kids and you enjoy this!)
  • Enter Tutoring List
  • Steps? (this is for behavior)
  • Email *****’s parents (student)
  • Email $$$$$’s parents (student)
  • Email %%%%’s parents (student)

I have three trouble students who I’ve found that a daily email home is the best strategy to keep them focused as much as possible. Also those three parents really appreciate the emails.

5:15ish I start to tackle my “end of week” checklist, again on Google Keep.

  • Print New Attendance Sheets
  • Get All the Turned in Work
  • Write next week’s Birthdays on the wall
  • Plug in HW grades for the week
  • Put Warm-ups on Google Classroom
  • Mentor Log?
  • Clean Up
  • Put times next to anything on the to-do list for the weekend

Most of these are faster because it was a 2-day week.

I get to go home around 5:30pm. There’s just a tiny bit of light from the sun which set a while ago when I step outside. I notice that my car is the only one in the lot and briefly wonder if I’m doing something wrong. I’m working full-time after school to get all those things above that NEED to be done: so why am I last to leave? I’m a fairly fast worker.

I play with Benji (2 and a half years old yesterday) and Daniel (4 months) in the evening and type up this blog post at 11pm, when I should be sleeping. We’re driving to Roanoke, VA tomorrow to visit family for Thanksgiving and I need the sleep for the drive. At least I have 5 days off before the next day of school.

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