Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 35: Napping At My Desk

I'm tired.  I have been staying up too late and getting up too early.  I'm getting run down and I think I've pulled a muscle in my lower back.

So I'm not "teaching" today!  And you can't make me!

I began geometry with a warm-up and another question and picture like yesterday.

I got some pretty cool answers too.

As I said yesterday, I'm a bit behind where I want to be in geometry, so I'm making decisions about what to cover with what depth.  I decided that the less I talk, the less likely I am to get distracted and off track.  As a result, I had the students work in their small groups today on the guided notes and practice problems for the section on deductive reasoning.  We then went over it as a group.

It's really difficult to explain to a student the subtle differences that we expect them to be able to conclude.  I love symbolic logic, but they want things explained in sentences.  I think the laws of detachment and syllogism make a bit more sense when you connect the sentences to symbols.

I'm thinking that I may skip much of this chapter because I would rather teach logical thought and the use of puzzles and games.  I have a pretty rocking Promethean presentation where students have to choose between doors, behind which is either a princess or a tiger.  I love the lesson because I'll get to show a clip from Labyrinth!
"Do your homework, or I will wear this codpiece!"

For pre-algebra, I downloaded Tarsia software, which is awesome for making matching puzzles.  Instead of just having kids do drill problems, I make a triangle puzzle that the kids put together in groups.  Several groups got done early and finished their homework.

Even as I'm writing this and thinking about how successful it was, I'm suddenly struck about how disappointed I am with myself.  Yes, they are putting a puzzle together, but they are just doing drill problems.  It suddenly strikes me as a trick to get them to do math.  It's not authentic and it's not really interesting.  They were engaged, but I'm not satisfied.

BAH!  Next time!


Dear Elementary Teachers,
PLEASE stop teaching cross-multiplication! It messes kids up forever!
Middle School Math Teachers

What I REALLY need to do is make a chronological list of all of the topics that are to be covered and then try to find activities for each.  If the list exists, then when I find an activity that I love, I can slot it in and not worry about losing it.

"This is an awesome project! What a shame I won't need it until April."
"Damn! I wish I had an awesome project for this topic!"

Planning ahead is a skill that I need to develop.  Especially if I want my classes not to suck.

I've been given a basic timeline of topics for geometry from the high school and I'll see if I can match it up to projects and authentic problems.  For pre-algebra, I'll have to make one up myself since there isn't one that I've been able to find.  Maybe I'll email our curriculum coordinator and see if he has a list of concepts that the board wants to cover in this class that I've been teaching for the last three years...

In my last class, two girls were passing notes, being VERY uncharitable to two other girls ("fatty pants" and "tally pants"), who got a hold of it, and they all stormed out.  I don't understand the student (human) thinking that says it's totally cool to say nasty things about someone else, but as soon as they say anything about you, IT'S ON!  All of our bullying prevention programs are failures.

In our team meeting today, we discussed a student who does very well in my class, but comes off as sneaky and sly in her others.  This is a girl whom I really like and see great things for.  She is bright, inquisitive and a natural leader.  I don't want her to turn into the mean girl and I fear she has that potential.  I know this is the pot calling the kettle black, but she needs some humility and she'll be golden.

I pulled her aside before her lunch to talk to her about her behavior in other classes.  I told her that above all, teachers hate to be lied to.  If you don't have your homework, own up to it and take responsibility.  Don't lie about it and say you forgot it at home or that you turned it in and it must have gotten lost.

She claimed she was going to sneeze, but her eyes were watering for another reason.  I didn't have the heart to call her on her lie.  I did, however, tell her how much I adore her and how badly I want her to succeed.


  1. I cannot even start teaching unless I have a rough idea of where I am planning on going. If its any help, here is my pacing guide:

    There is also great lists of PrBL tasks here:

    1. My problem is that I've always been able to teach well by the seat of my pants.
      **yawn** "Good morning! What am I teaching today? No clue!"

      In reality, it probably DIDN'T go well, but I thought it did.

      As I've said, I need to get MUCH better at planning ahead. Thank you so much for the guide and the tasks! :-)

  2. I don't think it's wrong to trick your students into doing math-I'm sure the puzzle was much more interesting than regular drills and by the way, not everything can be authentic, satisfying or really interesting. If your students were engaged, that's more than you can say about when they're doing drills.
    And lucky girl who has a teacher who adores her and wants her succeed. As you know, one teacher can make the difference between success and failure for a student.

    1. As usual, I need to remember that interesting/engaging for me is not always the same as interesting/engaging for them.

      This is the same girl who sent me an e-mail with a link to a story about the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode. How could I NOT adore her?

  3. There's no shame in needing to practice, and making practice fun! If the kids could solve the Tarsia puzzle (is that its name?) then they were probably doing their own sense-making as they worked. To my mind the super-sense-makey lessons are for when you don't know enough to practice on your own, and the super application-y lessons are for when you've practiced enough that doing the calculations don't get in the way of the awesome. And the rest of the time (which can be a decent chunk) there's using any trick in the book to get kids to focus and practice and check their thinking. OH -- and because it's a puzzle, it forces the kids to check their thinking, and it lets them do it authentically. They don't rely on you or the back of the book, they rely on their own confidence in their answer vs. making the puzzle come out right. That's a BIG DEAL. So take that, Mr. "My Lesson Wasn't Awesome Enough"

    1. If I haven't mentioned it this week, you rock! Thank you for your perspective and I agree with you. I may have gotten swept up the in MTBoS wave of all awesome all the time.

    2. I totally agree with Max. I know for sure I couldn't have said it any better. I'm checking out your posts and appreciate your honesty. Keep up the great reflections and thanks for sharing. By the way, love the question about Mathman's Powers.


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