Tag Archives: classroom culture

Making Corrections is Valuable

I love, love, love having the kids make corrections on quizlets (formative assessments) and tests (summative assessments). It requires them to actually look at my feedback and to maybe even learn from their mistakes.

For corrections on the last test in FST, I also had the kids write down one thing they’re proud of or one thing they thought they really learned. I got some great responses back, and I hope it helped remind them of what they did well rather than just focusing on mistakes, so I’m glad I had them do that.

Sample responses:

“I did really well on my factoring. I was worried about it and it went better than I thought. Happy about it.”

“I did well on the quadratic formula.”

“I liked Part 1 because I didn’t get any points off, and I did good with my negatives.”

“Last year I feel like I didn’t get a single quadratic problem correct. I feel like I understand them a lot better this year.”

“Factoring went well and I really have cemented the material in my brain.”

“I learned how to graph equations and find the x-intercepts.”

“I think I really mastered the factoring aspect of this unit.”

“I showed my work.”

“I slowed down this test!”

“Overall, I did OK.”

“I did well at taking my time and going through my work.”

“Test was easy but J. did better than me, so I’m salty. I’m over it. Otherwise, test went pretty well. What really helped was coming in and reviewing with you. Thanks, Ms. Cummins.”

Sometimes these kids drive me crazy, but sometimes they can be thoughtful and serious and make me proud.

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Filed under formative assessment, FST / Algebra 2, grading

High and Lows (Mostly Highs!) of the First Two Weeks

I survived my first two weeks as a high school math teacher! So many things have been running through my mind, but right now I’m going to make a list of things that are going well and things that need improvement. I just want to get it all out. I hope to blog more regularly from now on!

Things that are going well

  • I love my school. It’s so, so, so good. My colleagues are incredibly supportive and amazingly talented. Our students care about their school and each other. I am very fortunate to be part of such a strong community.
  • There are some very effective school-wide policies in place that administrators, teachers, and students are all on the same page about. I feel like this really promotes school pride and diminishes behavior problems.
  • My Geometry and FST students are awesome kids. I am so impressed by them.
  • Creating a classroom that values mistake making. This is a work in progress, but I’ve got a decent start.
  • Establishing a classroom community where the kids feel comfortable talking to each other. Seniors are good with this (too good, actually), and I’m still working on Geometry kids.
  • I have established some classroom routines! Phew. Thank you Andrew Stadel for Estimation180. It’s been a great way to start class every day. Similarly, ending class with an exit ticket lets students know that we work until the bell, as well as provides me with some great feedback.
  • Using whiteboards (both big and small) has been an effective way to get students to share their thinking and to just get some students to write something down.
  • I’ve done some deep activities, problems, tasks, or whatever you wanna call ’em that have produced good results.
  • I am learning every day.
  • I am finding time to exercise and cook dinner. (Sleep is another matter. Looks like I might pick up drinking coffee again…)

Thank you to all the inspiring teachers who share their wonderful ideas and activities so that I can use them. I stand on the shoulders of giants.

Things to improve

  • Classroom management. Can you tell I’m a first year teacher?
  • Similar to the first point, I struggle with engaging every student when I’m talking to the whole class. Group work is my strength: students discussing with each other with me floating around from group to group asking questions and guiding them along. In contrast, I feel like I’m not strong enough at whole-class lecturing and encouraging note-taking. I think I just need to be more strict about it. No talking when I’m talking. Pick up a pencil and write something down.
  • Kids who are absent. And the kids who are just now switching into my class. How can I get them up to speed?
  • Checking homework and going over answers. What a big ol’ unproductive time sink.
  • Better hand-writing. I save my Smart Notebook documents and upload them to my class website for students to use as a reference. Neater hand-writing would be easier for kids to read and follow.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone! Here’s to a great year!

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Filed under culture, productive struggle

Creating math culture

Lately, I’ve been thinking about classroom culture, specifically math classroom culture. I want to create a culture of asking questions, learning from mistakes, sharing ideas, and justifying answers. Basically, I want my students to participate in rich mathematical discourse, and to do this, I am going to have to create an environment in which they feel safe enough to contribute.

One thing I tried while student teaching was to create a class mission statement. I had the students brainstorm ideas about what our class’s goals and purposes should be, and then we came up with some sort of summary to be the class mission. I didn’t do a great job with this activity and never referred to the mission statement again, but it was a small step in the right direction.

My cooperating teacher had group work norms posted on the wall, and I really liked that idea. I think they could be especially effective if we kept returning to them as class. My cooperating teacher suggested picking one to focus on every day, so I would announce one at the start of group work and tell the kids to keep it in mind as they worked. I didn’t do it every day, but I thought it helped the days when I did it. When I worked as an AVID tutor, I also began each tutorial session with an expectation.

So one thing I definitely want to put on my walls this year is a set of classroom norms. Some really good ones from my cooperating teacher’s wall were: “Reach consensus, not majority rule”, “Ask your group before you ask your teacher”, “Criticize ideas, not people”, and “Ask for reasons, not answers”. I’m definitely going to use those. They are similar to the ones Ilana Horn just posted on her awesome blog, Teaching Math Culture. Sarah Hagan at Math Equals Love also just posted the pdfs of the classroom norms she’s going to put on her wall, so check those out.

It’s also important to keep referring back to the norms. They aren’t just going to magically become part of my classroom, so, as I mentioned earlier, I want to pick one to have the kids focus on each day. We’ll see how that goes. If I’m really good, I might figure out some way to get the kids to reflect at the end of class on how they did with that norm.

How do you create classroom culture? Do you use norms? Which ones have worked in your classroom?


Filed under culture, group work