Friday, December 28, 2012

Paperless Classroom

I am going to embark on a new journey.  I plan to turn my Algebra III course into a paperless classroom.  This journey is inspired by two huge factors --

1) I see no resolution in sight to the fixing of our copier.
2) All students taking this particular course are assigned a school laptop.

We have constant pressure to utilize these machines, and so I plan to take this challenge head on!
Here is the plan.

Develop a class wiki where students can go to access assignments and post work.  The site will also have a student edited section where they will work on a semester long project.

What do you think?

Anyone out there try something like this?

If so, of what should I be aware?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Goals Revised

Goal 1: Use a real gradebook.

Okay let me explain.  I got a new ipad and our school started using a new service called @engrade.  Engrade actually has an app for the ipad so it makes my life SOOOOOO much easier and less stressful.  For me, less stress = better teaching.

Goal 2: Have all Geometry students at 65% or better.

They did it!  (Not me.)  When I wrote this goal, it was more for me than the kids.  Well, I didn't have much to do with it.  I have a great group of children that worked really really hard!  Only a week to go, and I am sure that this will stay the case.

Goal 3: Revisit goals once a month.

Okay so I've never really met this goal except once.  I think I need to change this goal.  My new goal is to post on my blog once a week.  (Let's see how this goes...)

Summarize your fall semester in one sentence.

Fall semester is almost over and it was the scariest and most rewarding yet!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Long time, no see!

My goodness!  It sure has been a long time since I've posted anything.

I just wanted to reflect on something I tried in my Algebra III class yesterday and today.  I was reading one of my many emails from Dan Meyer when I stumbled onto a comment by a Daniel Schaben.  Daniel talked about the problem of cutting squares out of paper to make a box.  I was intrigued, so I gave it a shot.

I had some very different boxes, but overall the students seemed to get the idea.  After they made all of the boxes, I just posed the question, "Now that we have all of these boxes, what math can we do with them?"  To my shock and awe, they said things like find the area and volume.  This launched into a conversation on what makes a box a "good" box.  Eventually, with a little tooth pulling, we were able to get the function for volume and discussed maximum volume and domain and range of our function.

Now the question I pose, which I really hope someone reads and and replies is this.

I've learned so much about good teaching strategies over the past four years.  What I really need now are good assessment strategies!  HELP!!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How @engrade saved my life and other goals

We are now a week into school. Things are going great so I think it's time for a goal update!

Goal 1:  Use a real grade book.

I thought I was going to actually do it... I really did. I made it through the first half of the first week and then I gave.  I do have a good reason though.  Our department purchased iPads for us.  Now last may this would not have made a difference, but since then one thing has changed.  Our school district moved to a new data collection tool called Engrade.  It turns out that Engrade is fully compatible with it, and the old program that we used was not.  Now I can check homework at the beginning of class and it is already in the system.  It takes about two minutes to finish checking the whole class and have grades posted.  Also, with Engrade I can take attendance and make notes on behavior on the fly.  My next goals post will have an update on whether or not this was a good move.

Goal 2: Have all of my Geometry students at 65% or above at midterm.

My last update mentioned that I was working on some very engaging lessons.  I am proud to say that they are working out just as planned.  My regular geometry class is actually keeping pace with my honors class!

Goal 3: Make a contract for technology use in my classroom.

So the students have to fill out something called an AUP.  This document let's the students know what is expected of them with technology at school.  In the next week or so, my juniors and seniors should be getting their school issued laptops, and they are as excited as I am!  I think this goal is accomplished for me.

Goal 4: Reflect and revisit my goals once a month.

It is about time! I have finally met this goal.  Good luck next month!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Goal Time

So it's almost time to start school.  There is a little more than two weeks before it all starts.  I'm working on lessons for my new class, Algebra III; as well as working on the Geometry portion of Math I.  I am pretty excited about the transition!  Anyways, it's time to reflect on my goals for this school year:

Goal 1:  Use a real grade book.

I still feel strongly about achieving this goal.  I don't have much of an update on this one. UPDATE: I have the paper grade book, and it is ready to go!

Goal 2: Have all of my Geometry students at 65% or above at midterm.

I am preparing some very engaging lessons and I hope that this will help with my goal.  I plan on using some lessons geared towards the new integrated math model we are moving too the following school year.  This may or may not help... we shall see and I will keep you updated!

Goal 3: Make a contract for technology use in my classroom.

Well I haven't really started on it.  Now that I have my classroom together, I think I will be able get this goal accomplished! (Writing down on my notepad...)

Goal 4: Reflect and revisit my goals once a month.

This is the second time I was late, but it seems like two months is doable.  I will try really really really hard to make it on time next month.  Promise! :)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How West Virginia Does Common Core

I haven't written in a while!  I have been so busy learning about our new state standards for mathematics, and I have to say that I am really excited!  I love the integration of Algebra and Geometry, and I really think that it will make an impact on students.  Here is a link to the new state standards if you are interested: WV NxG CSOs.

As a part of this shift, the state was nice enough to employ some very qualified teachers to develop units for us to teach.  Check them out here: Math 1 Unit Plan Search.

These unit plans are very good, and I have started creating PowerPoint lessons for them.  I will start to post those as I get them finished.  Since I am only teaching Geometry and Algebra 3 this coming school year, I am focusing on Units 5 and 6 as they are the Geometry units for Math 1.  As I get them finished, I will post them here.  Wish me luck, and I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Revisiting my Goals

Almost two months, I posted about my goals for the next school year.  I thought today would be a good day to review my goals and see if I have made any progress to achieving them.

Goal 1:  Use a real grade book.

I still feel strongly about achieving this goal.  I don't have much of an update on this one.

Goal 2: Have ALL of my Algebra 1 students at 65% or above at midyear.

This goal I must update because I have found out that I will not be teaching Algebra 1 this coming year.  Instead, I will change this goal to having all of my geometry students at 65% or above at midterm.

Goal 3: Develop a recover day plan.

This goal will also need to be updated as I won't be teaching Algebra 1 next year.  I have decided that I really want to make a contract for technology use in my classroom.  I hope to have this plan developed by the beginning of the school year.

Goal 4: Reflect and revisit my goals once a month.

This being almost two months later, I was very close to meeting this goal.  I will try better next time!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Going to the Clay Center ... and the West Virginia History Museum

UPDATE: I was in the middle of prepping this blog post and my blackberry glitched out and cleared ALL of my pictures and videos, so sorry but you'll only get what I already had finished.

It feels like eons since my last post, and I have been promising my students that I would post about the field trip. I was very fortunate to be asked to help supervise on the Art Society field trip to Charleston, WV by my very good friend Alison Siewny @asiewny. We went to the West Virginia History Museum and the Clay Center. It was my very first field trip and it was a great time. I took lots of pictures and videos so I will let them tell the story.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

I just had this feeling that tonight would be a good night to reflect on recent ideas. I had previously wrote about setting up a powerpoint with my notes and problems that I would like to discuss during each class. Up to now, I was the type of teacher that often thought I knew what my plan was for the day, and I just attacked the day. It has been nearly ten weeks since I started this new form of lesson planning, so I thought it was probably a good time to tell how it is working.

The verdict is in and... Drum roll is the single most important thing that I have ever done professionally. I no longer waste time writing notes in my illegible hand while trying to keep the eyes in the back of my head on certain students. My classes are more efficient and effective. My students have become more engaged. I just really think that this has been for the best.

What's the catch? It does take a bit more time on the planning side than what most teachers are willing to spend. Personally, it allows me to become even more familiar with what I plan to accomplish, but it is not for everyone. Over all, I would say that the positives far outweigh this one negative.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My four goals for next school year.

An educator that I like to follow on Twitter blogged a few weeks ago about his goals for this school year. You can read about it here. Thank you Stephen.  This post has inspired me to set my own goals for this coming school year.  Here they are:

Goal 1:  Use a real grade book.

This goal at first seemed to completely oppose my love for technology, but over the past three years I have found that just posting grades straight to edline causes me a few hindrances. The first is that I must key in grades as soon as I grade papers, which has its own logistical challenges.  During marking period change, I cannot take any grades until I know for certain that report cards have been printed.  I have recently started printing a spreadsheet of student names and keeping track on grades on this sheet, and I do like it.  The second challenge that I face by not keeping a hard copy of a grade book is my attendance.  I take attendance on a daily basis as is policy, but it is not at the front of my mind.  I would like to take a more proactive role in getting my students to attend class and having access to these records without having to log in every time I want to see them (I think) will help me do this.  Lastly, keeping track of makeup work has been one of my biggest oversights.  I think I can keep track better of how long a student has to do their makeup work if I'm tracking in a hard copy grade book.

Goal 2: Have ALL of my Algebra 1 students at 65% or above at midyear.

At our school, if a student is failing Algebra 1 at midyear, they are removed from the course in order to allow them to take another class and get credit.  If they stay in the class, odds are that they will loose two credits, which is a bad idea.  I usually have three or four students that I place in other classes at midyear, and then they take the class over again the next fall.  My goal is to really work at making sure all of my students get to stay in the class all year.  I really want all of my students to succeed, and every year I feel more confident as a teacher.  I have been working a few ideas that I think will accomplish this goal.  I'll post separately about those in the next goal.

Goal 3: Develop a recover day plan.

As this year is coming to a close, I have started to find a groove that is really working with my freshmen. I usually start the week with some introductory conceptual lessons.  The middle of the week is more of a skill building type of structure were the students just work on practice of skills.  Fridays tend to be the day that I assess their learning, and then the rest of the class is spent reviewing missed concepts.  What I would really like to turn this part of class into is a way for the students to practice skills not yet mastered, and then once mastered can receive credit for it.  I am not sure at this moment how I am going to accomplish this goal, but I think that once I do, it will have big impact on goal #2.

Goal 4: Reflect and revisit my goals once a month.

This is my final and most important goal.  I own this one completely to Stephen Lazar.  In my college course work, reflection was always stressed, but I never really understood what that meant.  Since I have started blogging, I have really started reflecting.  Now I think I need to specifically reflect on these goals at a regular interval.  I have arbitrarily chosen once a month, so we shall see how this goes!  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Student Success!

A+ on polynomial addition quiz!

Midterm Success!

These two (three because one is not pictured) deserve much praise!  These students were the only ones that made an A on their midterm test.  Awesome job!

Icosahedrons in Chemistry Class

The other day, one of my students brought in this funky looking contraption and said, "Hey Mr. Revels!  Look what we made in chemistry!  An icosahedron!)  First, I was proud that she knew the name.  Second, I just thought it was really cool, so here it is.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My trip to the NASA IV&V ERC

I would like to start off by saying that I am very blessed to have a brother and intelligent as mine.  I went home this weekend to spend some time with my family, and he offered to take me to his work place.  Little does he know, I have been dying to go ever since Todd Ensign came to our school this past summer to do a training on the Lego Robots.  I'll  be honest, I have a short term memory loss and am aware that they are a more special name than Lego Robots, but I think you get the picture.  Todd's lesson this past summer was very thrilling for me.  I have a small background in computer programming, and programming the robots really made me feel at home.  I would really like to work on developing a lesson utilizing them because I know my students would be as enthralled as I was.

Back to the more immediate future, my brother brought me to the NASA IV&V ERC this evening.  For those of you unfamiliar, all of those letters stand for National Aeronautics Space Administration Independent Verification & Validation Educational Resource Center; hence the acronyms.  I have to say that this place is really amazing.  The ERC is very well put together and inviting.  Todd, the program director, does a really nice job!  I'm glad my brother brought me here, because now I want to come back every chance I get.

My Top 5 Things in the ERC

  1. There are a ton of educational resources here! I would love to come to training here because it just seems to well put together!
  2. Ceiling Mounted Projector! I would love to have one of these in my classroom.
  3. Extra Widescreen SMART Board. I run out of space on mine all of the time.
  4. The Desks have built-in computers. I would love to have desks like these. Actually, I would really just like to have desks similar to these where I could have students run laptop cords, and they would remain out of the way.
  5. Final and best, the coffee/snack buffet looks really good. I did not partake in the eating of snacks or drinking of coffee, but if I had, I'm sure it would be good!


Below are some pictures that I was given permission to post.As for the facility, you just have to make the trip to go see for yourself.  1-304-367-8251 (Joshua Revels)

Joshua Revels (My Brother)
Todd Ensign (ERC Program Director)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Justin Tarte - Life of an Educator...: My thoughts on cell phones in school...

Justin Tarte - Life of an Educator...: My thoughts on cell phones in school...

This is a really good article about cell phone use in the classroom. I have to say that I completely agree with Dr. Tarte! What are your thoughts?

Tweet and Retweet...

...were sitting on a fence.  Tweet fell off.  Who was left?

So, after having the blocking filter fixed at our school, I was finally able to try Tweeting with my students.  I attempted it with my smallest class, Geometry.  I had a few students that said they preferred to not tweet, and I informed them that I respected their choice.  Out of (now) 15 students, I had 6 actively engaged in the tweeting activity.  I found out shortly after that a few students were only pretending to tweet along with me, and three others spent this time just setting up a twitter account.

On a very slightly related note, yesterday I had my 9th Graders develop their own behavior rules and consequences for computer lab days, and they were the most on task they have ever been.  Thank you LeAnn Nutter for that idea!

Before I try tweeting with my Geometry class, I will probably have this same discussion with them about rules and see if that helps.  If any reader has a suggestion, please let me know!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Update on tweeting in the classroom

Today I mentioned twitter to one of my classes and they got really excited about it. We gave it a try and we were quick to find out that technology does not always work. After some conversation with our county level technology coordinator, we got it all sorted out and I will be trying it again tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tweet your heart out.

This evening I have been playing with an idea that has me intrigued. Recently I have noticed more and more of my students getting involved with twitter. I am all for getting education to be relevant to them. I have been reading a lot if tweets about using twitter in the classroom, and I found a really interesting article titled, 50 ways to use twitter in the classroom" by Samantha Miller.

One of the ideas that is mentioned in the article states to have students tweet about what they learned for the day and questions that they might still have after the lesson.  I think I think I will try it.   Remember that you can follow me @ifoundinfinity on twitter.   I'll keep you posted on how things go.

Student Acheivement

This post is a collection of recent student success on various quizzes and tests.  They were all relatively close together, so I opted for one post.  I'm very proud of them.  Some students found success but chose not to have a picture taken, so I also want to congratulate those students as well.  Keep up the good work all.