Wednesday, June 5, 2013

More Laptop Fun

I was really worried a few weeks ago about how I was going to integrate the laptops into my classroom.  Don't get me wrong - I was excited as all get out - but still anxious.  My school  administration has been very good about not putting a ton of pressure on us to use them daily (or even weekly for that matter).   The overall feeling has been, use them when you can and for lessons where it works - in other words, don't force it or stress over it.  I was trying to figure out how I could use the laptops in ways that I already teach - and I was coming up with very few examples - it was stressful!  Once they had the laptops though, I realized now I can do the lessons I wanted to do before, but couldn't because I didn't have the resources.  For example, now I can have everyone complete an online activity at the same time instead of as a station.  This is great because a lot of online activities require more time to complete than one station rotation.

Students working on their laptops - I had to rearrange my classroom for my pretty new SmartBoard (see it on the wall?!)

I already shared this website, but is just awesome.  The more and more I go through it, the more pleased I am.  I found the website I used for my lesson a few weeks ago on percents with discounts, interest and tips on here.

I had students visit  The website calls this a game, but I would describe it more as an activity.  Anyways, the students select their character and visit different stores in a virtual mall where they solve all kinds of percent problems.  They have to calculate tip at a cafe, interest at the bank, and discounts at the toy store and gym. Even better is the students get to make decisions that create the problems - they chose what to order at the cafe, how much money to deposit at the bank and what toys to buy at the toy store. The activity breaks the problems up into parts (and my only complaint is that they never really give them a chance to solve the problem from beginning to end without breaking it up for them), but I really liked it as an introduction to how to solve these types of percent problems.  I followed up this activity with some additional practice that offered less guidance.

The Home Screen for the game - students can choose where to go from here.
The Cafe in the game - students can select what they order here - I put out a few options of my own as an example.

What are some websites you've found that are just great?


End of Year Reflection

As the end of the year approaches, I like to look back and reflect on things that have gone really well this year and some things that, well, haven't.  I started the year with three big goals that I wanted to accomplish: using math notebooks, learning stations, and math bucks (you can read my post about them here.)  Overall, I was really pleased with how I accomplished those goals.

1) Math Notebooks

I am THRILLED with how my math notebooks turned out!  I loved how they required students to keep everything in one place, and because everything was glued in it meant that they weren't losing the notes we had taken throughout the year.  I am able to tell students to look up something we've already covered that they might have forgotten (integer rules, or common fraction to decimal conversions) which puts the responsibility back on them instead of me. 

I used their notebooks as a quiz grade at the end of each quarter, which helped keep them responsible for them.  I still had a few students who would spend the last two weeks of the quarter desperately updating their notebooks because they hadn't kept it up to date throughout the nine weeks, but overall they did very well with them.  One thing that I will make sure to focus on a bit more next year is the table of contents - my students didn't understand how to fill that in correctly using their own notebooks, and often would wait until the end of the nine weeks to come in and copy mine.  It wasn't until the third nine weeks that I realized this was happening (when I hadn't updated mine and they were all in a panic because they didn't know how to do it).  Next year I'll make sure we really cover this at the beginning of the year.

I am going to try to do a really in depth post on our math notebooks over the summer - I'm even thinking about including a video so you can see EVERYTHING we did with them!

2) Learning Stations

How I organize stations (ignore the voting in the corner - that was for something else)

This is probably the one thing that didn't go as well as I had hoped.  I started off they year strong, but about the time I started slacking with the blog, I started slacking with stations as well.  It's a shame too because my students really enjoyed them and got a lot out of them.  I created quite a few activities for the stations that worked really well and that I will continue to use.  Whenever I did stations I tried to have one technology station, one game station, one independent practice station, and one partner practice station.  I was really happy with the technology and game stations I came up with, but really struggled to come up with meaningful independent and partner practice activities.  On top of that, creating the technology activities and games was also very time consuming.  I am hoping that next year, since I have some of these already created, it will be easier to implement consistently.

3) Math Bucks

You can find math bucks here, on Teachers Pay Teachers - (not my product)

I was happy with how using the math bucks in class went.  It was a very effective classroom management tool and my students loved it. One thing I did up changing part way though the year was the cost of certain things (mainly right or wrong on tests, and hints).  I realized around Dec/Jan I wasn't handing them out as often as I really needed to for them to be effective, so I dropped the 'price' to reflect that.  I have gotten better since then, and I think I will start with the original prices next year, and just really try to make sure I am handing them out more often.

One thing that did not go as well this year as I had hoped was this blog.  I got very overwhelmed around the beginning of the new year with my husband deployed, the graduate classes I was taking, math department chair, our impending move back to the states (woo hoo!), and the roll out of all the new technologies (1:1 laptops and new SmartBoards).  I was really hoping to have a new post at least every week, and that obviously didn't happen.  I would like to use this summer to try and post about some of the things I did this year but just couldn't find the time to write about.

What are some things you're reflecting on that went well, or maybe not so well?