Saturday, November 30, 2013

#MTBoS Mission 7 - A Day In A Life

 math twitter blogosphere, mathtwitterblogosphere, mtbos, MTBoS, math  mooc, mission 1: MTBoS
 
     At the start of October I signed up to participate in #MTBoS as a way to connect with more math educators and learn about different strategies/activities that could help me as a first year math teacher. I'm not exactly sure what I did wrong, but I signed up to get the weekly challenges emailed to me and added their wordpress blog to my Feedly account and for some reason I never got any updates!

     8 weeks later... I noticed that a few of the bloggers that I follow have jumped on the #MTBoS wagon and are blogging about week 7! At first I felt mad because I felt like I've missed out on so much and I didn't understand how come the information didn't get through. Then I felt embarrassed because I was so busy with everything that comes as a first year teacher that I never remembered that I could just go back to the original website to check instead of expecting everything to always get sent correctly.

     Regardless, I'd like to participate in both Mission 7 & 8 this weekend, it is never to late to learn and share!

Mission 7: A Day In Your Life

You’ve read about what other people are doing in snippets and snapshots. You’ve shared about yourself in 140 characters or less. This week is your chance to know more, and to share more. Just about this time last year, a concurrence of events led to people who were frustrated with the perception of teachers by the general public. We wanted the world to know exactly what it is like to walk a mile in our shoes. Some of our shoes drive a long commute while others walk across campus to get to class. Certain teachers’ shoes are tied tight to race from one class to the next as they try to beat their students. Others have a change of shoes as they get out on the track or court or field to coach. All of us have a different story to tell, but we all have tired feet by the end of the day!

     I don't only just teach math (I also teach Grade 7 Science, Grade 8 Science, and Grade 8 Art) so I'm going to share what my day was like on Wednesday as I have all of my math classes on that day.

Period 1-2: Grade 8 Science

Period 3: Grade 8 Art

Period 4-5: Grade 8 Math
- This week we started our new unit on Squares & Square Roots.
- Every class begins with a mental math activating activity. Students
  participate in mental math every day, which they keep in a duotang
  in our room. Every week we have a mental math hand-in day where
  students can select 1 mental math activity from their duotang to hand
  in for assessment.
- As I introduced our new units, students were provided with the
  definition of what it means to "square a number". We then went
  through representing squared numbers with symbols, multiplication,
  and pictorial representations. For this, we alternated between
  teacher-lead instruction and student-lead example questions. In our
  math class, we use individual white boards ALL the time when
  practicing questions so we utilized these while going through this
  practice:

individual white boards in math instruction
This isn't my classroom but it allows you to get an idea.














- We also created a benchmarks chart that summarized our
  perfect squares from 1x1 to 13x13.

LUNCH

Period 6-7: Grade 10 Essential Math
- This week we started a new unit on Consumer Decisions.
- Every class begins with a mental math activating activity. Students
  participate in mental math every day, which they keep in a duotang
  in our room. Every week we have a mental math hand-in day where
  students can select 1 mental math activity from their duotang to hand
  in for assessment.
- We've been having discussions about consumer decisions as we've
  lead up to this unit (especially with Christmas shopping season
  starting), so my students had a good background on what this unit
  entailed before we officially started. We started by brainstorming in
  table groups about why consumers might pay more for an item than
  its actually worth:
     - Location (sports stadium, theatre, remote area)
     - Timing (holiday season, in demand products, natural disaster)
     - Etc
- After sharing these ideas as a class, we began discussing unit
  pricing. As part of this discussion, groups were presented with a
  shopping scenario:
     - Starting a new sport & need equipment
     - Going on a camping trip
     - Accessorizing their new vehicle
     - Etc
  Students came up with a shopping list of 5 items that fit their
  scenario and then researched what their unit price would be in our
  area, what it would be in our province's major city, and what it
  would be in a city in the US.

Period 8-9: Grade 9 Math
- We are working on a unit on Power Laws.
- Every class begins with a mental math activating activity. Students
  participate in mental math every day, which they keep in a duotang
  in our room. Every week we have a mental math hand-in day where
  students can select 1 mental math activity from their duotang to hand
  in for assessment.
- We've previously gone through 6 Power Laws in group settings as 
  well as in a full-class setting with student-lead example questions.
  Students are now practicing their application of these laws. I
  provide students  with three different sets of practice questions &
  they get to chose what set they want to complete for each Power Law.

HOME TIME

     So that is a glimpse of what one of my days might look like. I feel like I could dedicate post(s) to each of those individual classes so if you want more details on anything don't hesitate to comment!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Stanley the Koosh Ball!

This post is for all of you that have a SMART Board or other brand
of Interactive Whiteboard in your classroom.
Did you know that you can use a "Koosh Ball" to activate your
board and, thus, create a kinesthetic learning opportunity for your students?
 
Before I graduated with my B.Ed I spent a lot of time substitute teaching
in a Kindergarten class near our home. As part of their morning
calendar time, students reviewed months/days/years by activating review
prompts on their SMART Board with a "Koosh Ball".
 
These rubbery balls are the perfect sensory tools if you have students
that need "fidget toys" but they also work perfect for this activity
because they activate the SMART Board but are so soft that you won't
damage it by throwing them at the screen!
 
I got used to this activity while substitute teaching and then promptly
forgot about it because I didn't think my Grade 7-10 students
would want anything to do with it. Then, however, I came across "Stanley".
 
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Ball Toys. (2011). Uploaded by Heidi Ferrer. Available online at: http://girltomom.com/mommy-mistake/stop-thief
 
Now I don't have an exact picture of Stanley but he is blue, has a cute little face, and looks
just like the "Koosh Ball" in the photo above.
I purchased Stanley from our dollar store for $2 & thought I'd give it
a try because I felt like I was having a hard time building in enough
kinesthetic activities in our math classes.
 
Surprisingly, my Grade 8 students LOVE Stanley!!
They bought right into Stanley as a "character".
- He only likes math so that is the only time we see him
- He lives in the bottom drawer of my desk because he is scared of the outdoors
- He lives off of pickles, broken pencils, and chewed up loose-leaf
 
I've used Stanley as an activating strategy to reveal new information
as well as a review strategy to quiz students.
What is even better, is that SMART Exchange has 100's of
"Koosh Ball" Review Templates that you can use and modify
to suit your class needs and subject area!
 
Tips/Tricks That Have Worked For Me Using "Koosh Ball" Activities with Middle/High School
 
- Create a story to go behind why you are doing the activity.
  It can be funny or crazy but a story helps students at this age
  buy into the activity.
- Have an "x" on the floor to mark where students can throw from.
- Build in an underhand throw rule if your students throw TOO hard.
- If you have bigger class sizes, incorporate an activity so that students
  are in groups or completing another aspect of the activity so they have
  something to do while another student is throwing.
 
Do you use "Koosh Balls" in your classroom?
If you have any activity ideas or tips that you want to share, leave them in the comment section below!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My 1st Parent-Teacher Experience

     On Monday of this week our first round of report cards went home and officially kicked-off Parent-Teacher Interview week. Being that we are a K-12 school, our K-7 teachers scheduled and organized their own meetings which ran throughout the week. In the 8-12 end, our school secretary scheduled our meetings for us which were primarily held on Thursday after school and Friday during school-hours (there were no classes on Friday).

     Thursday marked a full day of teaching from 8:50-3:30 and then straight into interviews beginning at 4. By the time I had straightened up my room and ran to the bathroom, parents were already walking down the hall (talk about a busy day)! Our interviews are scheduled in 10 minute blocks and with the exception of a 20 minute break, I was scheduled from 4pm to 8pm! I'm proud to say that for approximately 95% of my interviews I was on-time and didn't have to be concerned about running over time. Near the end of my schedule, however, I had one interview that ran over and resulted in me not actually being done until 9:30pm! Over 12 hours at school is way too long for me...

     Friday was more spread out and I felt more prepared having a full evening under my belt already. Our staff was able to go uptown for lunch together and I was done early at 2:15!

ORGANIZATION/SET-UP

     Here are some organizational aspects that I included when  setting up for my interviews:

1 ) Clearly Posting The Schedule Outside The Door
- This way parents could visually see that someone would be coming
   after them and that there was only so much time (it seemed to prevent some
   interviews from running over time).
- It also let other parents know when you were with someone so that they
   weren't walking in during the middle of someone else's interview.

 2 ) Having Portfolios of Student Work
- Before interviews, have students place samples of their work in a duotang
  so that their parents can see their actual products of work and see the
  rationalization behind the assessment.
- It seemed like a lot of parents had a better understanding about their child's
  mark once they were able to see the work that they had completed and it helped
  to have a visual when explaining what the student's "next step" could be.
* Make sure to pick work samples that demonstrate different skill sets
  (knowledge/understanding, mental math, problem solving) and/or from the
   different units of study (rational numbers, percentages, etc).

3 ) Having a Detailed Print-Off Of Their Mark Ready
- I found that a lot of parents didn't come into the meeting with a copy of their
  child's report cards or the child hadn't brought their report card home with
  them.By having a detailed print out of a student's marks in your class it is
  easy to show parents what assignments are missing, trends in marks, and
  provides insight if they hadn't seen the report card yet.

4 ) Setting up a Tech Station Outside The Door
- This way parent could explore through our classroom website or the Grade
  8 class blog while they waited for their interview. This received positive
  responses and I had several parents on the computer when I went to
  welcome them to the interview.

     When I first posted about Parent-Teacher Interviews when I was student-teaching I summarized some of the different types of interviews you can encounter. Now that I've gone through interviews independently, I'd like to revisit these types:

STUDENT WHO IS DOING WELL
     We all know this student, he/she is the one who has marks in the mid 80's and up, they have all of their work in on time and very rarely present behavioural challenges in class. These interviews were very short and to the point. More often than not these interviews just reassure the parents that their child is still doing well in the class and that they should keep up the good work through the remainder of the course. At times, the parent was interested in knowing how they child could do even better but for the most part, these interviews were very short as there wasn't a lot of information that needed to be covered.

     Depending on the student, these interviews may discuss the option of enrichment material as well. Luckily for me, the High School math teacher is right next door to me so it was easy to quickly include him in the conversation if the student/parent was interested in adding in enrichment activities from the upper-years math classes.

STUDENT WHO IS STRUGGLING (PERSONAL EFFORT)

     These students are the ones who have the potential to do quite well in the class but, for various reasons, are not applying themselves. Some reasons for this could be:
- Not taking the time to fully complete their assignments
- Not handing in assignments for assessment
- Not attending class
- Not interested in the class
- Influenced negatively by peers, etc

    These interviews tended to address the fact that I knew the student understood the material but due to the student's personal effort, their understanding wasn't being reflected when it came to assessment activities. Most of the time, the parents were quite aware of their child's behaviour and the discussion shifted from their child's assessment to what can be done to assist the student in getting on track. For a lot of students, we used the pre-printed reports to highlight missing work and make lists of what the students can complete, or re-do, in order to boost their mark. We also discussed options like coming in during study periods, lunch hours, and after school to work on assignments and receive additional support to get caught up.

     While I realize that these type of interviews could be challenging, I found that most parents were very aware of their child's personality and weren't surprised that their child needed to apply themselves more often. I think that, for a lot of students, this type of behaviour is just a part of growing up and learning responsibility and accountability.

STUDENT WHO IS STRUGGLING (UNDERLYING CONCERN)


     These students are the ones who are continually struggling in multiple core-area subjects and the parents and teachers have begin to consider adaptations to help the student succeed. Some situations I experienced were:
- Students encountering new medical concerns that were presenting
  challenges for the student
- Students who may be undergoing assessments for a possible learning
  disability
- Students who comprehend but are unable to produce any tangible
  products for assessment.

     These interviews focused on the fact that there was some sort of underlying concern that was preventing the student from succeeding and having a positive learning experience. For almost all of the students who were in this group we discussed the resources and supports that may be available to them in the school. We also set up meetings with the school's resource teacher when it was appropriate. This allowed the teacher to have some type of documentation about the student's challenges and would allow them to implement certain adaptations once the resource team had addressed the student's specific situation. Until assessment with the resource team could take place, we discussed adaptations that could be implemented  right away. These included bringing in laptops to type assignments, using voice-to-text software, having verbal assessment options so students can verbally explain their understanding and recording in-class explanations.


STUDENT WHOSE PARENT IS UNHAPPY


     These students had their parent(s) come into the meeting very unhappy with various aspects of the class or school in general. Some concerns that were addressed with me included:
- Frustration over Grade 10 Essential Math being mandatory
- Anger towards disciplinary actions occurring through another
  teacher or administration
- Unhappiness with the wording of Report Card comments
     These interviews were more about school operations, me as a teacher, and classroom routine as opposed to the student and their progress. I will start by saying that these types of interviews are mentally and emotionally exhausting. Depending on the parent and what their concern is, you might not be the one who can assist them. For these types of interviews, remember to reference back to your anecdotal records to provide specific examples and recognize when to direct to administration for the concerns that were not in your jurisdiction.

TIPS
(in no particular order)

- Speak to what was communicated on the report card (both academically
  and behaviourally). This ensures the parent/guardian fully understands
  what the report was telling them.
- Having print-offs of the most current achievement report (including
  report card comments) is a great reminder if you're on your 101st
  interview and can no longer think clearly!
- Write notes to yourself after each interview (if needed) so you can
  follow-up effectively (I would never remember otherwise)
- Have your anecdotal records handy, don't mention behaviours or
  situations that you can't back up with documentation!
- If your discussion warrants a follow-up phone-call make sure you
  note this and put it into your planner after interviews are done, there
  is nothing worse than promising to do something and then forgetting!
- If you are not the right person to talk to regarding a certain situation
  then make sure you direct the parent to the correct person, don't try
  to tackle something that isn't in your area.
- Relax, focus, and take it one interview at a time! :)

     

Saturday, November 23, 2013

An Open Letter To Parents

Dear Parents/Guardians,

     As I sit here, reflecting on my first parent-teacher experience, I want to share the following thoughts that have been infiltrating my mind more and more. First, I would like to thank you for sharing your children with us:
- for allowing teachers to have the opportunity to be a part of their lives...
- for allowing us to witness their personality and appreciate their quirks...
- for allowing us to be there on the good, bad, and out-right crazy days...
- for allowing us to be a part of their development (academically, emotionally,
  etc)...
- for allowing us to be there as they experience new things...
- for allowing us to be the ones that are there when you can't be...

     Secondly, I would like to say that there nothing that teachers want more than for your child to be successful (in all areas of their lives, not just in our subject-area). Everything that we do, day-in and day-out, is to assist us in making sure that our students are not only learning the content of our subject but are learning necessary skills to be life-long learners and be successful in whatever situation they chose to pursue.

     With that in mind, it breaks our hearts to have students who struggle in any of these areas. To have a student who is struggling in our subject area, who is not reaching their true potential, or who is maybe experiencing a difficult time in their lives, are not situations that bring us joy by any means. It seems, however, that there are students and parents/guardians out there who believe exactly the opposite.

    I recognize that there are an infinite number of possibilities that can explain why your mindset is as such. I ask you, however, before you enter the classroom with an attack plan, please try to recognize that the person on the other side of that desk wants your child to be just as successful as you do...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Report Cards For Teachers?

     When I was student teaching, I had my students complete assessments of me as a teacher. This was not something I was required to do but it was a big learning opportunity for me so I continued doing it throughout my last year of my Education Degree. I actually got the idea from Larry Ferlazzo's blog (here is his most-recent example).

     When student teaching, my evaluation questions were centered around the statements/categories that were included in my evaluation checklists from my university. Now that I am out of school and have my own classroom I am not sure if I want these questions to remain the same, or if I want to change them....

     Here are some questions that I am thinking of asking:

- If you could describe Mrs. T's to someone taking a class with her next semester, what would you say?

- Are Mrs. T's classroom expectations fair? Why or why not?

- My favourite thing / least-favourite thing about Mrs. T's class is:

- One thing Mrs. T needs to improve on is:

- Would you take another class with Mrs. T?

     I'm thinking of meshing some new questions with my pre-existing questions so please leave question suggestions in the comments!

Report Card Reflections

     Today our Semester 1 Report Cards went home with students and I could breathe a sigh of relief. The past two weeks have been emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting as I've attempted to survive my first report card experience as a first year teacher. To be honest, I don't feel like there was any one aspect that was genuinely hard (although they were time consuming). The most difficult part, for me, was making sure I actually did everything that was required of me.
    
     I felt like there was a lot of aspects that I simply wasn't aware of, so I would think I was completed... only to find out I was still missing details or tasks. I feel like it would have been a lot more simple if I had a comprehensive checklist to work through. Unfortunately, our Provincial Report Cards are new so even our most-experienced teachers were still going through this for the first time. In the interest of helping others (and reminding myself), here is a checklist of what I had to do:

1) Organize & Update Records
     - Go through my anecdotal records, ensure everything is up-to-date,
       notify admin/parents/students of any necessary concerns

2) Complete all Assessments for This Semester
     - For two of my classes, this included a unit test or project as they
       were at the end of their units
     - For four of my classes, this included finishing up current
       assignments
     - I also made sure none of my students had missing assignments
       or completing proper documentation for those who still had things
       missing at the cut-off date

3) Fully Update my Online Markbook
     - This was done as I completed Step 2

4) Writing 4-5 Sentence Comments For Every Student For Every Subject
     - For each of my students, for each of my subjects, I needed to
       write a comment to expand on the numerical grade that each student
       received.
     - Each comment identified the student's strength in the subject,
       a challenge in the subject, and an appropriate next step for the next
       semester.
     - For me, this equaled approximately 94 comments!
     * I know I still have a lot to learn about comment-writing but
        luckily none of my comments were sent back when reviewed by the
        principal!

5) Reporting on Learning Behaviours
     - For each of my students, for each of my subjects, I also needed to
       report on my student's learning behaviours while in class. As a
       Middle/High School teacher I only needed to assign a letter
       designation in each category and not write a full comment (unless
       there was a specific concern)

6) Completing IEP Adaptation Checklists
     - Any of my students who are on an Individualized Education Plan
       (IEP) needed an Adaptation Checklist attached to their report card
       to document what adaptations are being included in the classroom
     - I only needed to complete 5 of these, which wasn't too time-consuming

7) Ensure All Grade 8 Teachers Have Their Comments/Learning Behaviours/Marks Completed
      - As the Grade 8 homeroom teacher, it was my responsibility to make
        sure that their other teachers (English, Social Studies, French, Band, Gym)
        had their comments/learning behaviours/marks completed by the
        mandated deadline.
     - While High School Reports are managed by the office, Middle &
        Elementary School Reports are managed by the homeroom teacher.

8) Print Off Grade 8 Report Cards & Prepare for Delivery
     - Once every teacher was completed and the report cards had been
       signed-off by our principal, it was then my responsibility to print off
       the Grade 8 report cards (since I am the homeroom teacher), address
       the envelopes, and deliver report cards in class.

     With Report Cards officially sent home, our next step includes prep for Parent-Teacher Interviews which occur this Thursday evening and Friday during the day; wish me luck!

Making Time...

     This past month has been a weird one for me as it has been the first month in almost two years where I haven't been blogging regularly. They say that if something is important to you, you will find a way to make time for it.... My viewpoint towards my blog has not changed. In fact, my time away from my blog made me realize how much it truly meant to me. So much has been happening in my teaching-life over the past few weeks and there has been several times where I have wanted to share it with all of you.

     Unfortunately, I seriously could not find the time. The past few weeks marked my first report card season as a new teacher. I felt prepared... I had taken classes in university on assessment and evaluation, I have been student teaching during report card prep, I've sat in on parent-teacher interviews.... but I was not prepared.

     The last two weeks have been physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting and I've realized that I really had no idea what all went into this time of year. Report cards, however, are now completed and passed out to students and I hope to be able to resume normal scheduling!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Visualizing the Circulatory System

     We are currently discussing the circulatory system in Gr 8 science as we near the end of our Cells & Systems unit. Today my students had an opportunity to learn some interesting facts about this system through some activities:

The Box of Mystery
When students arrived, I had a large Rubbermaid storage bin on the table. After taking a few guess about what was inside, we blindly pulled items from the box until each student had an item (they were all containers of various shapes and sizes). Without giving any insight, I asked students to find somewhere in the school to fill their container with water, return to class, and dump their water into the storage bin.

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The result? Approximately 6 quarts of liquid, which I then explained was the average amount of blood in a human body! They were pretty surprised!

The Big & The Small
Students then got to compare two different widths: a hose with a width of approximately 3cm, and a human hair (stuck between two pieces of tape). I explained that the width of the hose was approximately how wide their aorta is at the top of their heart and that the their capillaries got so small that it could take 10 of them to be as wide as a human hair!

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Time for a Walk
Last, but not least, I had students measure out how many yards it was from one end of our school to the other using the floor tiles as a reference. After they completed this task, I had them multiple their appropriate answer by 84,507 (in order to get them to a final total of 12,000 miles). I explained that if they were to walk from one end of the school to the other 84,507 times, then they would have travelled as far as their blood travels in one day!

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Sunday, November 03, 2013

2 Stars & a Wish: Week 9

*Unfortunately, I do not have a reflection for Week 8 as I was on a hiatus/break haha.

     November is upon us and reality is beginning to hit home. Number one, report cards are due in 10 days.... Number two, my first parent-teacher interviews are in 15 days... Number three, there are only 34 teaching days left until Christmas! Seriously, was it not just the first day of school last week?!? I guess the only thing to do is take a deep breathe and take one day at a time. In the mean time, here are some things that I think went well this week:

1 ) My Grade 8's Passed 1,000 Views On Their Blog!!
- When I first introduced our blogging project this year I feel like many of
  my students were skeptical... maybe even unenthusiastic. It was new to
  them and I think they assumed it would be a lot of writing.
- Fast forward two months and we now start each science class by looking
  at our map of viewers, see who our audience is, answer blog questions, etc.
  They LOVE when they see that a new country has been added to their
  audience map!
- On Friday, we celebrated the fact that their blog has now passed 1,000
  page views! When my students arrived I had 10 big balloons around the room.
  Students had the option of popping 5 of these to determine their prize. Some
  of the prizes included new pencils, stickers, candy, music time, and "no notes"!

2 ) I Only Have 5 "At-Risk" Students
- With report cards coming up I am tracking assessments closely, offering extra
  assistance & trying to track down those missing assignments. This also
  involves contacting parents if necessary.
- I am very happy to report that this term I only have 5 "at-risk" students (those
  who are below a 50%). I want all of my students to  be as successful as
  possible and try my hardest to provide multiple learning opportunities so
  students can understand content in different ways.
- For many of these students, I feel as though they understand the material, I
  just don't have assessment activities in to formally document their understanding.
  I am hoping that by this Friday I will have these students on track *fingers
  crossed*

     The things that I want to work on this week include getting students caught up on missing work and writing my report card comments. This is a busy time of the year for teachers and there seems like so much to do that I am worried that something will fall through the cracks simply because I do not have the experience to understand it all! I do, however, have a good group of colleagues and admin around me that I know are willing to help.

Week 7 Update

     Last time I shared that I wanted to work on differentiating instruction for my Grade 9 math class. Since then, I have included the following activities/resources:
- two different sets of notes
- manipulative blocks
- grid paper
- large-group/small-group review
- two different sets of questions
- interactive notebooks
- partner/small-group/individual assignments
- real-life scenarios (which of these classrooms is closest to a perfect square)
I feel like, instructionally, the class is going well. The reason they are behind, however, is simply because I don't see them very often.
    

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Using Siri in Math Class

Today I was playing around with the Siri application on my iPhone and I discovered that it can solve math problems! Not only does it solve the math problem, but it also visually represents the answer in different ways!
 
I have a few students who have difficulty with realizing that numbers can be shown different ways. For example, the fraction 4/5 can also be written as:
- 0.8 (decimal)
- 80% (percent)
- 8/10 (equivalent fraction)
 
It could also be represented using a:
- number line
- 100-grid paper
- pie chart
- cubes or other manipulatives
 
After experimenting with Siri for a bit, I am pretty excited to show this to my students!
Here are some screenshots of results I got that would align with our current Grade 8 unit on percentages.
 
Different ways to represent 13/18
 
What are different ways to show 73%

What is 9% of 60?



November Currently

 If you haven't encountered a "Currently" post before, it is just a fun post at the beginning of each month that serves as a way to share what is Currently going on in your life! You can link up and share your own "Currently" post by visiting the wonderful Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade.  
     November is here and that means that it is almost time for my first parent-teacher experience as a teacher! I feel like this month will fly by with all of the new things that I have to learn, all of the things to prepare for, and all of the excited/nervous feelings I'm having. Wish me luck!

"Open Phone Exams" Response

     This week I read a post by George Courso titled, "Open Phone Exams" in which he started off with the following comparison:

     "If I was to ask a question of an educator and they didn’t know
      the answer, the tendency would be to google it, or for some, to
      send out a tweet and ask the question.  If they find the answer,
      they would be considered resourceful.

      If I was to ask a student a question on an exam, and they did those
      same things, they would be considered a cheater."

     This immediately got me thinking. Why? Check out the disclaimer I have on my classroom website and course outline for my 3 math classes, as per divisional policy:

     "Please note, calculator tools on mobile devices (iPod, cell phone,
      tablet, etc) are NOT permitted during formal assessment activities.

     Students MUST have their own scientific calculator for formal assessment."


     The reasoning for this is that students may use their device to cheat...

     George then brings up a good point which I think almost all teachers can agree with, " If I can google the answer to the exam, the question is probably too simple and not that good in the first place." I see literally hundreds of posts about using Bloom's Taxonomy in assessment, getting students to apply their learning in authentic meaningful situations, creating inquiry projects to help students use their critical thinking skills, etc.

     We all recognize the importance and value of higher order thinking. Why then, are we worried about student's using their devices during assessments? If we are truly asking higher order questions, they shouldn't be able to find the answer through Google. Can they use their device to find information to help them get to this goal? Yes, and I think that's a good thing.

     I want to send a big thank-you out to George for getting me to think more about the assessments that I'm delivering and work towards updating our device policy.

*If you'd like to read George's post, "Open Phone Exams", visit his blog: The Principal of Change.