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Summer Vaca Day 11

Posted on June 30th, 2014

A week of running back and forth to my folks helping out and visiting with my brothers. Not much time for reflection.

Chapter one of Marzano mentioned how one English teacher used a poem to get her rules across to students. I said, why not?

My Typical rules are:

I have really easy classroom rules that help keep the classroom a safe place.

Respect: We need to respect everyone else in the room

Reasonable: We need to be reasonable in our expectations and actions. No Extreme behavior.

Responsible: We need to be responsible to get work completed, keep our areas clean and for any equipment we use. If equipment is not cared for, then others won’t be able to use it and it costs money to replace.

So I tried writing this draft:

Bring your pencils, papers, books

Don’t forget your calculator

You won’t get any dirty looks

Be your own Motivator

Let’s not swear or be rude

Let’s work hard while we are here

Don’t give anyone ATTITUDE

Math shouldn’t cause you to shed a tear

One thing I was going to play with this summer is to begin to write raps for classroom use. Maybe this might be one?


Summer Vaca Day 1 and Reflecting on This Last Year

Posted on June 19th, 2014

In the spirit of open practice, I’m going to blog this summer about my HS classroom. If anyone besides a bot is reading this, feel free to leave a comment/suggestions.

The first day of summer break. It was a late night last night. We drove 90 minutes both ways to go see a monster <link>. It was an entertaining show if you are in the area over the next couple of weeks.


Reflecting back on this last school year:

All of my dual enrollment courses went great. We covered the material that we needed and 15 students out of 18  registered earned transferable grades. These 18 students represented 1/2 of the students who were eligible to register for pc, statistics and calculus as dual enrollment students. I’d like to improve on this for 2014-2015. I get to have one of my own children in AP Calculus this next year. Her cohort seems to be a great bunch of hard working students so it should be fun. I also implemented in my Statistics sections and that went well and the majority of students left an evaluation saying they favored it. I am expanding this next year to include my calculus course. My precalculus course uses this textbook <link> and


What am I going to do this summer? Besides my online cc courses, which are 1/3 over already!

After 26 years of classroom management that worked for most students, but not for all, I am going to work on improving my classroom climate. It was a tough year with one out of control class and one that marginally pulled it together.

How am I going to do this? I started reading Marzano’s Classroom Management that works <link>.  Chapter 1 deals with statistical significance and why improving teacher quality is important. Chapter 2 deals with setting classroom rule and procedures. This seems similar to what Wong wrote <link>. I truly believe that I am good at establishing rules and procedures. I don’t think this is the problem. I did have one student tell me that I have no follow through. It will be interesting to see what Marzano has for suggestions to help me there.

One last comment for today: It is interesting reading one of these classroom management books after so many years of teaching. Seeing what I am doing and doing well and remembering about things I should be doing but have forgotten about is sobering. If I am going to keep doing this job, and I want to keep at it for several more years, I need to get this under control.

Enough for today. The “Honey do” list is calling.

Change is good?

Posted on August 26th, 2013

We are dealing with our eldest leaving the nest, heading off to college. Man, all the years of sending seniors off out of my high school classes and I never knew what the parents went through.  I’ve been in tears every day, missing that little boy he was, but glad that he is ready to get on with his life. The house is very quiet without him here. I already have talked with my parents and through the tears told them for the umpteenth time I was sorry for being such a jerk when I moved out of the house. My son has dealt with this in a much better manner than I did.

One result of this experience is that I’m going to try to focus on building the relationships with my HS students that will hopefully get them to buy into learning the mathematics. I have always held the math first figuring that if I jump right into the course material that will send the message that we need to get down to business. So I’ll try something a little different this year. Beside the basics during these first three days, I’m going to have them respond to these questions:

What is one thing that you are excited about for this school year?

What are two concerns you have about what you’ll face either in this course or at Oxbow this year?

I am also going to use this icebreaker <link>

I’m always willing to change and do things better. I guess the year that I don’t feel this way should be my last year.

Thinking Out Loud about SBG

Posted on June 30th, 2013

I’ve spent the morning reading Shawn’s SBG manifesto <link> and began reading Kelly’s <link> thinking about how the assessment items should complex, assessing 3 – 4 standards. I also just returned to Jonathan’s page and looked at some of his assessment items. The couple I have looked at are not assessing more than one standard at a time, e.g. evaluating a piece-wise defined function.

What is the best way to go, more focused single focused questions or rich (and difficult) problems? I suspect the truth is a combination of the two.

Both Shawn and Kelly are teaching pretty high powered students looking at what and where they are teaching.  I want to implement SBG in a class that has low achieving students. I’ll be willing to bet, based on previous years, 1/3 will have learning plans.  I’m not complaining as I seriously do like accommodating and adjusting to meet students learning needs. This always benefits students that do not have learning plans.  I think I can do this better with single standard questions.

Another tool that I think will help to assess where students need help is using some kind of online HW system. Something that regenerates problems with different numbers. This requres the student demonstrate understanding. This kind of HW can’t be copied from a neighbor. I don’t see any reason NOT to include this as part of a student’s grade. I’m talking about something like I’ll have to dig deeper to see if it has enough problems for this IM Data course. I have been using MOM and the Lippmann text <link> for both my HS and CC courses. I’m liking it.

I still can’t get away from thinking there is great benefit in learning how to solve a problem using an algorithm as then maybe you can apply it to a more complex problem. If you don’t have a toolkit, you can’t build anything.  Knowing the algorithm can help to us to solve more complex problems. Granted, the algorithm will not in itself help us but having as a tool to use may help us to break a problem up into solvable chunks.

Using weighted categories instead of total points is also weighing on my mind. I like to think that the way I have assigned point values to graded work does essentially the same thing, but maybe not.

Planning already

Posted on June 29th, 2013

I’ve begun looking at the CCSS HS Statistics and Probability standards in preparation for my Math Credit Factory  IM Data course I’ll teach again this fall. What prompted this early start? @rawrdimus wrote about using Interactive Notebooks and SBG <link> That is the best thing about #MTBos:We can find motivation from each other.

My local math department spent inservice time this last year learning how to write #SBU . To do this we spent some time looking at the CCSS HS Math content standards. As an allegory, I was cutting up some storm damage this week:

One big unusable piece

All Split

All Split up into usable pieces


I made the connection that to get started using the CCSS, you first have to get into it and split that document apart into usable pieces.

The next question that arose for me is: What do some of the standards mean? I tweeted our State Math person and she helped, but I figured that there had to be a forum or a more permanent way to ask those kind of questions.

I did some bookmark searching and came up with No forums there but they do have some “approved” sample tasks that elicits math to help assess the specific standard. It isn’t all fleshed out yet so I emailed them and someone emailed back and sent me to where Bill McCallum is encouraging posts in his forums <link> You have to register to post a question.

Just thought someone might like to know this is available.

What to Grade?

Posted on March 3rd, 2013

Admin at my HS has had us reading three books so far this year during  part of our grade level core time. A book about learning targets in which the authors were incredibly condescending and really were offering an old school approach. Honestly though it has really made me think about what I am doing each day in the classroom.

The second text we read this year is Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap. A lot of pie in the sky ideas. What we as a core group keep referring to from that reading is his list of 7 Survival Skills. This mention is important and I’ll refer back to it in a moment.

Right now we are reading Ken O’Connor’s How to Grade book. We are just through the introduction at this point so I won’t pass judgement on it yet. A well defined set of grading standards is what appears to be important.

During our core meetings we are trying to come to terms on what appears to be a conflict between what Tony Wagner is saying is important (those soft skills) and what the Learning Target authors/Ken O’Connor is saying is important (hard skills). The Seven Survival Skills can’t be tested on paper. We can see these are more like the participation grades. What has our attention right now is how can we accurately and fairly assign grades to assess how we’ll students are showing they have those survival skills? What do the skills even look like in action for high school students?

We don’t have the answers. Do any of you?

Lift the Scales From My Eyes

Posted on February 3rd, 2013

What am I walking away from all this video and text that I consumed this morning in the #edcmooc Week 2 resources? If we are going to fix things in this world, we need to be able to communicate and learn outside our social network. Our learning and interactions needs to extend outside our Personal Leaning Community (PLC). Otherwise we are forcing our learning to be “in-bred”. In order to be able to communicate outside our circle of friends we need to be able to communicate with a common knowledge base.

Why is a common knowledge base important? When we use metaphors, we are using them to communicate ideas.  Unfortunately, people need to have the common experience in order to understand what the metaphors are saying. This brings to mind Ed Hirsch’s book Cultural Literacy < link > where he lists a set of ideas and things that everyone should know. This really flies in the face of personalized learning where students only study what they are interested in.

How is this related to another idea brought to mind by this week’s reading and video is the idea of how effective is social networking. We can interact and collaborate with like-minded people using social media. These people will most likely have the same reference base as we do so they will understand the metaphors. SO I guess as long as we are content with communicating with like-minded people, then we only need to have a localized cultural base.

What kind of learning do I value most?

Posted on January 8th, 2013

I’m participating in #moocmooc this week, or at least trying to. One of today’s assignments was to answer the question: What kind of learning do you value most? I’m going to use this blog post to semi write a script for the video I’m to make today.

For me, to be a successful learner, I need a goal. I need to be able to do something with the material I’m learning. Goals I remember setting for myself in the past have ranged from doing well on a test, to be able to complete a project I’m working one, or even to impress someone.

One thing I’ve tried to teach myself over the years is more computer programming. I’ve failed miserably. Every time I engage with the material, my eyes gloss over and get heavy. I suspect this is due to lack of time, but really I can’t yet see a short term goal come out of my learning this material. I’m not yet at a point where I can use it to complete a project. I supposed if I was scheduled to teach a programming course, that would motivate me. But that is not on the horizon.

Learning is not easy and some is down right hard. This last summer (2012) I thought it would be good to retake a calculus 2 course since often I’ll have someone show up on eTutoring  who needs help with that material. The first half of the course was a breeze as it is what I’ve been teaching in my HS AP Calculus course. Then I hit the wall and the course required an incredible amount of time. The last 5 weeks of my summer vacation consisted of teaching the online cc courses and doing calculus. I did not get to do much else. Did I value this learning? I saw the point and the goal. I enjoyed interacting with the material again after 26 years but it was not enjoyable. Do we have to enjoy the learning to be able to walk away from it with something of value?

So I guess what I need to get out of this reflection and what I’d like anyone who reads this post or watch the #moocmooc #video I create: I value learning where I have something to show for the time spent. A monetary reward is nice, but not a requirement. If the learning leads to a job well done, that is reward enough. Just sitting and doing nothing with my life is not an option.


QuadBlog Post 1

Posted on December 30th, 2012

How have new developments in the Web 2.0 world changed what I do for the courses I teach? This last semester I began recording my solutions to quiz questions for my community college statistics course. Many of students gave that work a thumb up in the discussion forums. I was just looking at the number of views though and the most watched only had 18 views and there where 24 people participating in the course during the last week.

For my HS courses I also have been using youtube to record video, flipping the classroom a bit. I also have been having students produce explanations. One issue that is arising is that I have just been awarding full credit for all presentations, some should not be and I need to create/steal a presentation rubric.

What am I doing new that has my focus and is related to digital learning? My HS Precalculus is working hard in class, doing what I ask of them but when I ask them to take a quiz on the material, they tank it. How do I fix this? Better quizzes? Maybe.  What I’m going to try this second term is use and create a course portal which is aligned to this new text we have been using . All students in the course have computer/broadband access at home and at school. I’m going to require online HW exercise sets that have embedded video. The exercises regenerate and the students will have multiple attempts allowed to show mastery. Maybe this work will help them to master and retain the skills needed to be successful in the course and as they move onto college they will get out of taking remedial courses.

As far as this Coursera course, I was looking at the description just now and read this line: For example, how is ‘learning’ represented in the film The Matrix, and how does this representation influence our understanding of the nature of e-learning? At this point, my response is: We cannot just “jack in” and download the knowledge. Learning something new still takes hard work and learning new skills requires repetition.  eLearning is no different, people still need practice. It will be interesting to see if the course content changes my mind about this.

Don’t Feed the Trolls

Posted on December 27th, 2012

Don’t Feed the Trolls This is a great little video. Worth the time to watch. God, please keep me from having my inner troll surface.