Friday, October 19, 2012

Lovin' My Stations!

I mentioned in an earlier post about how I love stations, and I am trying to use them more in my class this year instead of avoiding them like the plague last year.  You know why I love stations so much?  Because after the first time we used them this year (see my post on that here), my students have been asking when we are going to use them again - and today, when they walked in and saw that we were doing stations for the 2nd time this week, they actually said (out-loud), "Stations! Yes!"  Now, I don't know about most of you but when I get my students to exclaim in excitement about something they get to do with math - well... it's fabulous!

I am going to tell you about the first set of stations we did this week, and leave the second set until later.  We are working on integers right now, and I really wanted them to have some more practice with adding and subtraction before we moved on to multiplying and dividing.  I did not want to just use worksheets because they're so boring.  An entire class period of worksheets sounded miserable, and I'm the teacher!  Anyways, I planned out four stations for the students to cycle through.  I love that even though the last time we did stations was a month ago, my students still knew how the system worked.

This is how I organize my station rotations.  Cute? No. Simple and effective? Yes.
(Just ignore the poll in the top corner - that was for something else I was keeping track of)
These are not the stations I used for this post, but you can see how I organize them in this picture.

My first station was an adding and subtracting integers memory game.  I laid all the cards out on the table face down and ready to go for the first group.  Every group after that was responsible for putting the cards back in the same way they found them so the next group was ready to play the minute they started the station.  Students took turns flipping over two cards - they had to say what the answer was to every expression they flipped over.  If they found a match they kept the cards and went again.  If they didn't find a match, it was the next player's turn.  This game always starts a little slow, but once they can start remembering where the cards are it gets really fun as they can't find the match but the next person can.  I am selling this game on my TeachersPayTeachers store.

Memory Game all laid out and ready to play!

The second station was very similar to a station I did last time (algebraic expression posters) - but this time they were only practicing the order of operations.  This is something that we already covered, and students had a test on but it is so important that I like reviewing constantly throughout the year.  Students solved each of the expressions on the poster and moved post-it notes labeled 1-9 around to show the answer.  Each post-it note gets used exactly one time.  If they find they need the same number or that they haven't used a number then they know they've made a mistake.  After they are done, I quickly check them and have them get a new poster to complete.  I have them work on these in pairs, and I love hearing their conversations as they discuss the correct order to solve the problems.

One of the posters that they worked on!

The third station was also very similar to a station I did last time (self-correcting excel spreadsheet).  This time they were practicing adding and subtracting integers.  If you want a copy of this, just click on the image below.  It looks really funny on google drive, but downloads correctly.  Students solve each of the problems, and type the answer in the second column.  They then check the third column to see if they are right or not.  I was planning on having them go to (LOVE this site, especially since I still have students who don't know their facts!), but our Internet was down.  (Don't you hate when that happens?!?)  Instead I had them work on their homework - an adding and subtracting integer worksheet. It wasn't nearly as entertaining, but the kiddos all seemed to appreciate having time to do their homework in class. 

This is the Adding and Subtracting Integers spreadsheet they did - see how in the third column it tells them whether they are right or wrong?

The fourth station was my favorite.  My students have done some graphing before, but never with all four quadrants of the coordinate plane.  We did a coordinate graphing picture earlier in the unit to practice, but I wanted to do a little more with it so I created this game.  It's battleship with the coordinate plane!  And, I made it with a Pirates of the Caribbean theme!  All of the ships are named after ships from the movie series, and my students LOVED it!  They were either the pirates or the royal navy, and hid their respective ships on their coordinate plane.  Then they took turns trying to find their opponent's ships by calling out coordinate pairs and marking them on their board.  I originally made a version that can be printed out on paper where you would break everyone into pairs, and pass out a pirates sheet to one player and a royal navy sheet to the other player.  Then, realizing that this would be a lot more fun with dry erase markers, I made a more permanent version using manila folders and laminating them.  Then, because I was so excited about it, I decided to sell it in my TeachersPayTeachers store.

The front of the folders - are you going to be the Pirates, or the Royal Navy?

My brilliant students actually figured out that if you use a binder clip the board would stand up on its own.  They're geniuses. 

Playing the game!

My second time with stations went really well - I just need to remember to set the timer at the beginning of each station!  Also, this was a good reminder that I always need a back up in case the Internet is down and I've planned an activity using it - this is when having good 'go-to' games are awesome (which I will talk about in a later post, I swear)!

What are some activities you use to practice integers? Do you have any 'go-to' back up activities for when technology decides not to cooperate?


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Starting Integers

When I had my students write their goals at the beginning of the year, I had quite a few of them that said they wanted to learn how to add negative numbers (or something else to do with integers).  After reading those, I was really excited to start our unit on integers.

Our Foldable - Click Here for a Copy

In our standards, 7th grade is where students are introduced to integers for the first time, so I wanted to make sure we started with activities that would give students an understanding of integers.  I had the students make this foldable for their notebook where we looked at opposite versus absolute value.  Students are constantly mixing the two up, and always giving an opposite when they are look for absolute value.  We discussed that absolute value was the distance for zero, and as usually a lot of the students claim that absolute value just turns the number positive, so we had a really good discussion on why it became positive.  My students all know about Ferris Bueller's Day Off now - I really wanted to show them the clip of trying to turn the odometer backwards, but I'm not sure the language would be appropriate so we just talked about it.

I messed up the positive one, but didn't want to waste more masking tape
In addition to the foldable, I made a number line out of a piece of masking tape in the hallway and had students walk out the absolute value.  A classmate would give them an integer between -15 and 15, and they would walk the distance to zero on the number line.  I think they thought it was a little ridiculous, especially those that 'got it' but I had very few students who messed up absolute value on the practice sheet they did for homework, so I'm calling it a success. 

Practice Sheet - Click Here for a Copy

I also made a set of index cards with random numbers from -50 to 50 on them.  I first had students find their opposite in the classroom (which I think I'm going to use as a way to make random groups from now on) and then I had the students line up in order from least to greatest without talking.  This was really good practice for them to move around and practice ordering integers. 
We've continued to practice integer number sense in their warm ups and as we are discussing integer operations, but they seem to have a good grasp on the concept, which makes me really happy. 

We've moved on to integer operations, and I am thrilled with how those lessons are going, but I'll talk about that in another blog post!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Professional Development Day

We had our first professional development day this year, and I have to say I am very excited about how it went.  This year our school is piloting a one-to-one laptop initiative, and while I am super excited about getting those laptops into our student's hands, not everyone is.  We have a few teachers who are pretty anxious about the whole thing, but our ET (technology teacher) is AH-mazing, and got the ball rolling early.  The computers won't get here until January, so we have some time to get some PD in before the day arrives.

We spent the morning discussing in teams and departments logistical issues and curriculum issues.  There are a lot of schools that have implemented one-to-one laptop programs, but there is surprisingly little information on the how-to involved.  We often feel like we are making this up as we go.  There were a lot of good discussions in our teams and departments, which then translated into a good discussion as a faculty.  Almost all of the concerns we had were answered, and the few that weren't are going to be looked into. 

In the afternoon we had a variety of different sessions we could choose between, and they were awesome!  I think everyone I talked to learned something new and cool - and almost everything was presented by someone who teaches at our school!  I learned about a new software program called Netsupport where you can control all of your student's computers from your computer, or just monitor their work or basically whatever you want to do.  Can you imagine how awesome that is going to be when every student in your class is going to have their own laptop?  Now, I can look at everyone's screen at once and send messages to students who are off task or who need help.  I think that alone alleviated a LOT of concerns about classroom management. You can also turn off all the student's monitors just by clicking a button so they can't continue to work when you need to give directions, and about a hundred other awesome things.

Another session I went to was with the SmartBoard.  I used a SmartBoard in Virginia almost daily, but wasn't able to use mine here until this year.  I had seriously forgotten a LOT!  Another math teacher in our school was presenting on it, and she seriously knows her stuff!  It was awesome!  I relearned a few tricks, and learned some new ones that I'm excited to try out.  In fact, after this session I immediately went back to my room and reworked my lesson for tomorrow so that I'm using the SmartBoard to introduce adding integers.  It was also very entertaining listening to some of the teachers who had never used a SmartBoard get super excited about all of the cool things she was teaching us how to do.

I feel like too often professional development is a waste of time where we aren't learning anything that we can take back to our classrooms and implement.  A lot of times PD become discussions on theory and best practices - but without any ideas on how to implement those best practices.  I loved that today  I learned something that I can use tomorrow - this is how PD should be.