Saturday, August 19, 2017

Teenagers are like soap

I read this in a magazine recently:

Think of a teenager as a wet bar of soap. If your contact is too light, it will slip out. If you apply too much pressure, it will do the same.

While this was intended as parenting advice, it is also good classroom management advice. I've taught both middle and high school and while middle school often gets the bad rap, managing high school classes seems to be especially tricky business. It seems often that teachers struggling with classroom management falls under one of these two camps.

Trying to come in too authoritarian doesn't go over well. Coming in with a long list of rules and making it clear that they're not going to get away with anything doesn't go over well. With these teachers, the kids start to enjoy making them angry.

The other side is the teacher that too much on trying to have a good relationship with the kids. This may sometimes come from an attempt to show the kids they care, but more often the kids take too much advantage of this teacher and don't respect them at all. These teachers try to address all issues too casually and the kids know there aren't ever going to be real consequences.

The trick is finding a very careful balance between the two. Find a few (2-4) issues that are important to you and create clear policies with them. Enforce them every time, for every kid. Don't make a huge deal out of everything. The more often that a tactic (the talk in the hallway, the whole class guilt lecture, etc.) the less effective it become. Kids like and respect the teacher that seems approachable and expresses their personality while also holding them to high standards. Not too light, and not too strong of a hold.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Organ Function Grinder Machine

This is an activity that I really like but forgot about for awhile. One of my projects for this summer was to clean up all my files and I recently rediscovered this. After starting this post, I even rediscovered that I blogged about this awhile ago right after I made it. 

Since then I've refined it a bit so I thought it was worth sharing again.

A bit of background is that this idea came from the Math Midway exhibit which was here at the Liberty Science Center awhile ago. My favorite was the Organ Function Grinder. This is the activity guide that goes along with the exhibit. 

This activity is my attempt at recreating the exhibit. 

The basic idea is a three function machine where the kids needs to play with the dials and choose input numbers to try to make goal numbers. I really like that they include some interesting functions, especially invert. I also like that there are more than one way to get the answers, that's always a huge plus.

The activity gives a list of available numbers that can go into the machine, and a list of goal numbers. The students choose an input number and decide what functions to use in order to make the target number. The activity begins by having them only use one function and then progresses to using all three. Using multiple functions starts to get especially interesting and leads to good conversation about how the order of the functions used changes the output.

Below are the tables that can be used for the activity, or this could easily be split up a ton of different ways. On the handouts (download link at the bottom of this post), I also included a picture of the machine above each table.
Use only one function

Use two functions

Use three functions
Just a word about the layout of these- I originally had the goal outputs filled into the output column instead, but I changed it thinking that especially in the more complex ones that I wanted the kids to go across the row and apply the functions in order to calculate the output for themselves and check that it worked.

This could easily be modified a bunch of different ways. Some of the ideas I had were:

  • Changing the inputs to create different problems.
  • Choose one goal number and challenge kids to find as many ways possible to make it.
  • Choose one input number and have kids choose 3 functions. Investigate what happens when the functions are applied in different orders.

If anyone else has other ideas I'd love to hear them.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

SBG Score Posters

In the past, I've hung up a "What does my grade mean?" poster, that was too small to be usable.

This year I hung these up instead:

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Some classroom finds

Within the past couple years I've been making an effort to spend less money and time on decorating my classroom. I've accumulated so many things that I really don't need any more. It is hard though when I find pretty things to not buy them all. These are some fun things I've found lately that I wish were going to be in my classroom.

These I was really surprised to find at Ikea. I'm not sure if they're intended to be motivational posters or if they're just playing into the typography trend, but they're perfect for the classroom.

These I came across at HomeGoods and also really wanted, especially the one about staying humble. I advise a group of students where we have a group of officers that we try to develop leadership skills in and I find that I talk about this a lot.

This one I couldn't pass up. A desk calendars is one thing that does run out so I can justify buying and this one is just so much fun. Each page is hand lettered and has fun little sections all around the page. Each page also has a matching page for notes and with a whole bunch of adorable little coupons and notes. (I got excited and started to fill out September before I took the picture).

Amazon Link
ps- mentioning this because people have asked before- I do not just love Rutgers football games (I don't really like sports at all) as a fundraiser I work with a group of kids running a concession stand at every game

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Course Guide

This is a super old post that for some reason I never published. I do still use this as my syllabus posted on my website. I also still use the one black and white version for the kids' notebooks.  So while it's it's an old post it's still relevant. 

Old post:

Last summer I revised my syllabus into this one page course guide which I really like. Well I came across this awesome syllabus on Pinterest and which made me want to revamp mine yet again. 

In the past I've always made different versions for my different courses but really my class policies and information is the same in all my courses so I decided to take that out and just make it a general information sheet on the highlights.

In the tweet below, Rob Patin shares the Photoshop template he used to create his original version.

I discovered this far too late and it could have made my work in recreating this way easier, but oh well. Below is what I came up with. All the information is my own except for the section on Remind101, that is taken from the original. I loved pretty much everything about it so I didn't change all that much.

I also use Photoshop to create almost everything I make but in case you don't have Photoshop, I included a basic template below that I think should be pretty easy to use. It's saved as an image so you can put it into whatever program you use. Easiest I think would be to put it into Powerpoint and then just put text boxes on top of it to type whatever you want. I included one version with the pictures I used and one without if you'd like to add your own.

download here

download here

I don't think that I really want to print color copies of these to put into the kids' notebooks so most likely this will be for my website and possibly one to hang up in the room somewhere. Many thanks to Rob Patin for the awesome idea!