First Day 2017 – #teach180

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Today was the first day with students for the new school year at a new school.

Some changes for this year:

1. I’ve distilled my various incarnations of class rules over the years into a single classroom goal, with a single rule to follow. (This is a barely modified version of an “ah-ha” moment of a class rule that was shared recently, by… someone… that I don’t remember, of course, but thanks for the inspiration!)

Goal: That every person in the classroom would (a) feel safe & (b) learn (myself included).

Rule: Don’t get in the way of any person accomplishing the goal (yourself included).

I love this because it’s ambiguous and infinitely applicable. One thing to remember, covers every situation.

2. I’ve fully gotten rid of any sort of teacher area for good. I want to avoid status issues as much as possible and want the students to feel ownership over the space.

3. The new school is not 1-to-1, so back to paper everything.


Here’s what we did today:

As students came in, I passed out seating cards for the first day of visibly random grouping. This will continue almost every day for at least the next three quarters.

Students filled out an information card with full name, preferred name, preferred pronouns, phone number so I can make intro phone calls (hopefully this year!), “Math makes me feel ___,” and a drawing or story on the back. As they did this, I took first day attendance, as I always do by going around and asking each student their name individually, so I can get preferred names and pronunciations right and have at least talked to every student once (!).

After this, we got into a circle for our first comfort-creating restorative justice session. Just a silly question today – “If you were any item in a grocery store, what would you be and why?” Thanked every one for sharing individually and as a group. Lots of talk about fear, embarrassment and safe sharing here.

Back to the tables for our first-day math activity… (drumroll)… newspaper tube structures! I’ve made it a pedagogical goal of mine this year to focus on building spatial reasoning skills and as part of that, I’m introducing body-scale explorations. This one is from Malke Rosenfeld (@mathinyourfeet) and our conversations at #TMC17. Students had about 15 minutes to “create a free-standing 3D structure.” The goals of this activity were mainly to do some spatial reasoning & let us talk about group work success strategies, which we did in the debrief (“What shapes do you see?” / “What is something interesting another group did that your group did not?” / “What strategies helped your group be successful?”)  It was really interesting to me watching the process and seeing that pyramids were more popular than cubes (the one above is the only one that was free standing) and the topology of the ones that collapsed.

During this, we of course also covered a bunch of routines and procedures as they became necessary.

One admin came in during circles and said, “Oh, they’re already having group therapy in here” before turning and walking back out. Another came in during the activity and was loudly talking to his partner about how much he loved it.

Below is a picture of how to roll the newspaper sheets (just pull the pencil out once it’s started), and what they look like up close, in case you’re interested.

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New Learning Targets – 2016

We just finished the 8th day of school this year, & I’ve already justified not writing a blog post (on my list for #1TMCthing) for about 3 weeks now.

This summer I rewrote the Learning Targets for Algebra I, Geometry, & Algebra II and wanted to post them in case other were thinking through the same thing. (Our school uses Standards-Based Grading and has school-wide Learning Targets for each class.)

First, here are the Tennessee State Standards (aka, the Common Core State Standards with a different title): TN Algebra I | TN Geometry | TN Algebra II

Previously, the Learning Targets we were using were just the “Clusters” (the A, B, C, etc. in the CCSS) from the above documents minus any that were colored yellow (what the state of Tennessee considered “Additional Content”). This made it so each class had important material that wasn’t being tracked or assessed except for on the end of the year state assessments. It also made it so there was a lot of redundancy in the Learning Targets where two clusters could include closely related topics, or Learning Targets that seemed to have a bunch of topics with little connection.

Here is what I came up with: ALGEBRA I LTs 16-17 | GEOMETRY LTs 16-17 | ALGEBRA II LTs 16-17

Algebra I and Algebra II are meant to mirror each other so students will go through the same basic “units” in each class. For Algebra II, I had been thinking all last year about how to better organize the course, which is why I went through the trouble of putting things into units, as well (something I did not do with either of the other courses). I don’t actually teach Algebra I anymore, so I left that up to the Algebra I teacher if she wanted to. The Learning Targets in Geometry basically act as units, themselves.

And, lastly, here are the simple syllabi I use to show what order I plan to do everything in: Geometry Syllabus BC 16-17 |  Algebra2 Syllabus BC 16-17

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