Friday, December 11, 2009

The Cube A Differentiated Instruction Lesson

In my Introduction to Algebra Class we did a lesson covering the area of a triangle, rectangle, and a parallelogram. We used a differentiated lesson idea of making a cube. The students wrote questions on 5 sides of the cube and then their answers on the 6th side of the cube. On the five sides students had a choice of what types of question s to put on it. They could choose easy, medium or difficult questions. The students would then use scissors to cut out and tape together their cube. Once the students were done with making the cube, they found another student to roll the cube with. They would then they would do the problem and then check with the answer side of the cube. It turned out to be a great activity of choosing problems and checking their answers. I have attached a link to the the activity that I did.

The activity
A PDF Cube

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

So Many Flags on this Veterans Day

The note read "I miss you Dad". It was a note that a son had written to honor his Dad at the Naperville 2009 Flag Memorial. The memorial has 2009 flags set up in a park in Naperville. It is amazing. It really struck me that this man gave his life for his nation. His son knows the meaning of that full well.
I took a 1 minute video of all the flags today. Hopefully you will just get a glimpse of it's power. It has made me reflect on this Veterans Day that so many people have died for my freedom. We are certainly blessed. I think it is worth while to discuss the importance of honoring our veterans this week with our students.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Changing Seats and Interview Questions

I have my students change seats every chapter. I often have my students work in pairs throughout the class. So this change of seats is really a change of class partners. This change of seats and change of partners typically occurs on the first day after a test. We change seats and then I have the new partners interview each other. I just make up random questions for the students to ask each other. After they interview each other, I pick students at random to and ask them to introduce their partner, and then answer one of the questions from the interview. It does take a little time out of my class, however, I believe it is well worth while to create this type of community team spirit.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS and Changing Seats Directions (I give my students these)
We will change seats every chapter.
The purpose of Interview Questions is to get you to know your partner a little bit before you work with them on Math.
You do not need to write them out. However, you might be asked to share part of your interview with the rest of the class.
Students will be picked at random to share their interview with the rest of the class. Remember, to introduce your partner first, and then answer the question that we are on.

Interview Questions
1. What is your name?
2. What are your activities and interests?
3. What extreme sport or activity are you most afraid of? (like 1/2 pipe snowboarding) Why?
4. What former president (living or not) would you like to have a conversation with?
5. Rank the following restaurants from best to worst: Outback, On the Border, Mongolian BBQ and Maggiano's.
6. What insect do you like the most, and hate the most? Why?
7. Without giving a name of a person, give a few positive traits that you admire in someone.
8. Tell about your pets and their names.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Using Flip Videos to help students teach students

We used the class set of Flip Videos last week. It worked out well. The students worked in pairs and solved a word problem from the section we were on. It was actually a homework problem. We have desks that can be written on. So the pair of students wrote some key information about the problem on the desks with their whiteboard makers. Then, they each explained how to do part of the problem. They watched what they did and if it wasn't good, they redid the problem. If they liked what they did, they gave me back the Flip Video and I downloaded the video to my computer. I then put the videos on YouTube and linked them to my site. Students then could watch the different problems from home with the added benefit of stopping and rewinding the video if they needed to.
The rules were simple. 1. Make sure your problem is correct before you explain it. 2. All people in the group must take a turn in explaining how to do the problem. 3. It must be 3 minutes or less in length. 4. You must do the video in one take, so plan out what you want to say. 5. Lastly, have fun.
See the video for an example.

Here is the link to other Flip Video Problems

How have you used Flip Video's in your class?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Differentiated Instruction Site

This site is a great example of differentiated learning. It catches the student where they feel most comfortable starting. The site gives a math problem and then develops the problem into different stages A, B, C, D, and so on. I got this from my twitter friend johntaig.

This site has caused me to think about the way I present problems. I'm wondering if I should have a extention whenever I give a problem. For instance, if I give a problem to the class, I should consider posing a thought provoking question at the bottom of my queston to extend their thinking. Wouldn't this be great for that student who is always done early to chew on something that is a little more difficult, yet helps promote understanding?

See the example below

What do you think?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Email Your Students Day 1

Welcome back to a new school year! Homework Assignment Number 1 was to have my students email me a few things about themselves. First, they had to write their name and class in the subject line. Second, they wrote some activities or interests that they have. Thirdly, they had to go to my website and find a quote that was posted there and explain it's meaning. Not a huge deal for the students, and a great amount of information for me. First of all, they realize day 1 that they can email me to get some information. I think this is a great thing. Secondly, I have found out some information about them that really helps me to get to know them. They feel a little more comfortable sharing about themselves in an email compared to talking in class or writing in class. Right after the emails started coming in, I really felt as if I knew them better. Lastly, I made a distribution list of the whole class off of these emails so that I can send information out to them when I need to. I did answer each email. I commented on things that they wrote. It took a little time, however, I really enjoyed it. By the way, my quote was this: “Attitude is the mind's paintbrush. Create a masterpiece.” Author Unknown

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Uno Stacko Final Exam Review

My brother in law gave me this idea. It is a uno-stacko review game. Uno-stacko is like Jenga. Here are the rules
1. Groups of 4.
2. Give a problem to the class.
3. Give time for them to solve the problem.
4. Call on someone at random.
5. If they talk you through the problem correctly, they pick two tiles.
If they don't get you through correctly, they pick four tiles.
6. If the tower falls when you are working on it, EVERYONE in the class gets extra credit, EXCEPT that persons GROUP of FOUR.
7. The students really get into it.
8. And yes, I have had students that want to knock it over and give the rest of the class extra credit. It never has happened yet.

Give it a try. Here is the video for it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pop Goes the Weasel and the Quadratic Formula

I thought I would show a video of a couple of students singing the quadratic formula to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel. The students really like this. Give it a try.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Inside or Outside the District?

Ben Grey has a great blog post that has prompted me to think about the question of housing our student and teacher work in or out of district. Thanks for the great post Ben.

Should we keep our students' work and our teachers' work within district? Why or Why Not. Is their a compromise on this issue?

My thoughts keep waffling on safety and collaboration. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Finding the Regression Curve of a Sin Graph in Precalculus Class

Wow. Today I approached Precalculus class a little different than last year. I asked my students to work in groups and guess the average high temperature in Naperville for the month of January. Then I gave them the answer which happened to be 32 degrees F. Then I asked them to find the average of all the months of the year. When they had finished this they graphed it with the month being the x-axis and the temperature being the y-axis. Then, in their groups I asked them to make as many observations about the graph as they could. We spent about 5 minutes going over many ideas such as there is a max point, and it is periodic, and then someone said it. They said it looks like a sin graph! Awesome! This made my day.
Then I had them draw in the midline and tell where exactly it hit the y axis and it's meaning to the problem. Quickly the students found that this was the average high temperature for the year.
We covered other things like the midline and the amplitude and the phase shift. The period seemed boring to them, but was an important fact.
Then, we looked the actual graph that has on it. We went to the site and typed in our zip code 60565. Then we scrolled down to find AVERAGES . This gave this terrific graph.
Then I asked them to predict what the graph would look like from Honalulu HI. They used all kinds of precalculus vocabulary with each other and described how it would be different.
We looked up other cities like Barrow AK, and Death Valley CA. We also looked up Sydney Austrailia and found that the graph was shifted over significantly.
This lesson was different than last year because they were very interested in their own predictions. I think they were much more engaged.
Thanks to my colleague Kevin Bell for introducing me to the site.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reaching for a Star

My father-in-law gave me this awesome quote and I thought I'd share it.

I'd rather be a could-be if I cannot be an are;
because a could-be is a maybe who is reaching for a star.
I'd rather be a has-been than a might-have-been, by far;
for a might have-been has never been,
but a has-been was once an are.

Milton Berle

I'm going to give this quote to my students when I get back from spring break.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Free Virtual Calculator


Do you have a virtual calculator on your computer? It is easy to download. Follow the instructions on the website and you will have yourself a TI 83 on your computer and for the data projector in a snap. The best part of this is if you have a IWB, then you can have a student model the keystrokes that you should use when using the calculator. If you are not too techie, then ask someone who can help you to take these steps. It will not take too long. With a restart about 10 minutes.

Here is what I did to get the calculator on my laptop:
1. Make a folder called "Virtual TI83" in the Programs folder
2. Click the "" file and all of the files should show (if you don't have a zip program, there is one at the bottom of the website "unzip32-312.exe" that you can install to be able to unzip the files)
3. Put the unzipped files into the folder "Virtual TI83" from step 1.
4. Download "ti83 Plus v1.03.rom" to the folder "Virtual TI83" from step 1.
5. Go to the folder "Virtual TI83" and click on the "vti.exe" file to start the program. It will ask you to set the ROM calculator version and then you will be ready to go.
6. When using the calculator and you would like to turn it off, right click while you are pointed on the calculator, and click on Exit without saving state or Exit and save state.
7. Now make a shortcut for your desktop. I do this by right clicking on the "vit.exe" file and sending it to make a shortcut on the desktop.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Human Ambigous Case

Today was something new for me. I put a masking tape angle on the floor. It was an acute angle. Then I had a tall person and a short person volunteer for the activity.
I had the tall person on the ground in line with the acute angle already on the floor. I had the short person forming a triangle with the tall person and the tape on the ground. It was quite a site. The students were really interested in what was happening. Keeping the same vertex, I asked the students to make another triangle if possible. The students found it quickly. I had a third student put masking tape on the triangle positions that were formed. I had the students talk with their partner and write down any observations they had about the resulting figure. We had a rich discussion sharing out their ideas.
Then I formed groups of three with the class. One of the three was to cut out a longer strip of paper, another was to cut out a short strip of paper, and the third was to cut out an acute angle. The were to physically make the SSA example with their paper Side, Side and Angle. All groups worked well with this and some interesting results occurred. The usual two case scenerio occurred. One group found that theirs did not reach. Another group found that theirs only formed one triangle. Each group of three drew their results on the board.
It gave me a way to describe something mathematical in an easy way. I used language like Side (Anthony) Side (Michelle) and Angle (Acute). After I felt like the students were much more engaged in the process. It took most of the period to do it. We did one problem at the end of the class and that problem went extremely well. I think that moving while learning is important for the brain to remember what is happening.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pythagorean Theorem using an IWB

First, this activity will take about 20 minutes.
Show the students the problem and make sure they know what is being asked. Don't give any clues as to how to solve it. Have them work in pairs to come up with a plan to solve it.
After about 3-5 minutes pick a pair at random to explain their plan. A class discussion will take place on the plan. Then that pair will start executing the plan and all in the class will do the math for that plan. Plans have differed from class to class. But, they will definitely need to use the Pythagorean Theorem to get the answer.

The students solution: Usually it will be to measure two sides with the ruler, and then find the third side using the Pythagorean Theorem. They now have the 3 sides in centimeters. Then they measure the key in centimeters. They sometimes use a proportion to convert the centimeters to miles.

It is great fun to watch the student trying to use the ruler on the IWB to measure. The students are using collaboration, problem solving, and math skills with this activity.
Hope you can try something like this in your class,

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pumping up the Brain Video

CBS's Debbie Turner Bell came out to our school in December and she made a very nice 3 minute story called "Pumping up the Brain" It aired nationally in January. Debbie and her crew made us all feel very comfortable. Hope you enjoy it.

CBS Early Show Link Video

CBS Early Show Written Story

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fill in the Missing Pieces

My colleague coined it scaffolding for our students. He is right. We need to build some structure help to our weaker students. Here is what I did. Instead of just solving an equation, I solved the equation myself and then took out key parts. I made labeled these "blanks" with letters so that the students could communicate with each other which "blank" they were referring to. The students then were given time to work this out with their partner. Then I randomly picked a student to go up to the board and fill in a missing spot. Interestingly the student who started picked the middle to start with. See video. Students came up one by one until they hardest spot was left. All of the explanations were very good. Things like, "you have to add it to both sides" came out. I like when that happens. I'm trying to build a little challenge for my stronger students as well as a little guided help for my weaker students.

The second video looks at a different class in a pre-calculus example. This uses the same idea as above, except it has some diagrams involved.

What do you think?
Remember to Take Time to Enjoy Teaching,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Dream Classroom Design

Our school is undergoing some renovation. Every room will be changed. We are trying to design the ultimate classroom. Will you help? I have put down a few of my ideas on the Voice Thread. I would love to hear your ideas on this. You can comment on Voice Thread by typing in a comment, or using a microphone and verbally giving your comment, or you could even phone in your comment. Just click on the comment button (on the Voice Thread above) and join in. If you want to hear or see other peoples comments just click on their image.
Hope to hear from you,

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Front of the Class A book by Brad Cohen

I am amazed at how Brad Cohen overcame his Tourette Syndrome and became a wonderful teacher. Tourette Syndrome is a neurological condition that is exhibited through twitches, yelps, verbal outbursts, and more. The problem is that with TS you have no control over these behaviors. It is like blinking for most of us.
Brad's main theme in the book is that he would educate people about TS and they would generally accept it. He would honestly explain his condition to any audience that would listen. Most importantly he would educate his students. His students would then in turn ask questions which Brad answered frankly. As kids are, they accepted Mr. Cohen quickly. It is really a great story of how positive attitude and fortitude will get you to realize your dreams. In this case Brad's dream was being a teacher.
Brad's story reminds me as a teacher how I treat all my students. It makes me think of how sometimes I assume that students have complete control of themselves at all times. I always need to investigate before I make assumptions. It has been a great lesson for me.
Thanks Brad for your inspiring story. I hope you get a chance to read it.
Here is Brad's Website