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 please...it 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. http://stephenlazar.com/blog/2012/03/reflection-on-school-year-goals-3/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+stephenlazar%2FfaZq+%28Outside+the+Cave%29 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) http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ivv/education/erc_index.html

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!