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Blog 2013-2014

guided noteshttps://docs.google.com/a/zps.org/document/d/1Rr9sHoPcJNK3Lv3MTTYR4qRmdaRW3Qm17NaE6hQUXME/edit

Collaboration ... GVSU math students create, 8th graders & teacher benefits

posted Apr 7, 2014, 8:05 PM by Tara Maynard   [ updated Jan 6, 2015, 6:10 PM ]

        Earlier this school year, I received an email from Jon Hasenbank (@ProfJonh), a professor at Grand Valley State University.  He was looking for a teacher that was willing to teach a lesson as well as allow their students to test out some middle school statistics tasks.  He would have his GVSU students develop the lessons/tasks and the teacher would then have their students work through them.  How could I turn this opportunity down?  Have someone else develop my lessons, overseen by a college professor, and then I get to teach them?  Sounded like a win-win for everyone involved.  I figured, shoot - this will be easy!  Boy was I wrong. I don't think I have worked harder learning content than I have this past week.  When I read the four learning targets that came from the 7th grade CCSS, I thought, "What did I get myself into?"  
        Let me back up and explain the collaboration a bit more before I tell you about the amazing, yet tough, week I had last week.

        First, the GVSU students made 20-30 seconds videos introducing themselves in pairs/trios to my students.  Each team from GVSU was assigned 9-10 of my students.  They said their names, why they wanted to become a teacher and something personal.  That personal item was key because I heard students in my class say, "I love softball too.", "He plays sports like I do.", "She owns a bunny - I've always wanted one!"  This reminded me then and it reminds me now, teaching is all about relationships!  The GVSU teams then made pre-assessments to gauge where my students were at in terms of the CCSS they were going to be creating their tasks around.

        Second, after the pre-assessments were looked at and tasks developed, my students had the opportunity to test out the tasks developed by the GVSU students.  My students were so excited about being able to give feedback, like "This grid was too small.", "It would be nice to have lines on to write our answers.", "These directions don't make sense.", etc. They really felt empowered.  I felt like some of the students in my class took this very seriously and realized they were helping someone learn the little parts of writing assessments that would make them a better teacher later on.  Yes, I had students that didn't take it seriously too.  But then it wouldn't be a middle school classroom if they all were focused on one day, would it?!?!  ...  (I ended up having my students pilot 8 different tasks.  When they are ready, if I can get permission, I will share them!)

One of the tasks dealt with measuring arm span and height, creating a scatterplot and drawing conclusions.

        The next part of this lesson was the GVSU students collaborating together to create one lesson for me to teach.  They decided on the following 7th grade standards for the targets of the lesson.


1.       I can identify whether a sampling methods is likely to yield representative samples. (CCSS-SP.1)

2.       I can demonstrate that random sampling tends to produce results that vary significantly from sample to sample. (CCSS-SP.2)

3.       I can describe how far apart the means of two samples are by expressing the difference as a multiple of the MAD. (CCSS-SP.3)

4. I can judge how likely it is that two population differ on a given characteristic of interest by comparing random samples drawn from those populations. (CCSS-SP.4).

When I first read these, I thought, "Am I really reading middle school expectations? This has got to be a mistake. What is a MAD? Something my students make me every so often, but MAD in the statistics world?" Little did I know what I was about to get myself into! The lesson was created on a google doc which I had permission to comment, leave ideas, etc. It was very interesting to see how the lesson developed, what things they were doing well and those things they weren't realizing would not work well in an 8th grade classroom. But then again, these are college students learning about creating lessons, creating tasks, etc. Jon H. offered many suggestions and I chimed in as well. All in all, I enjoyed watching the lesson take shape by seeing the additions, suggestions and deletions from the google doc. It was decided that I was going to teach the lesson on Wednesday, April 2nd and Jon would come video tape the lesson in action.

            Well, in order to teach a lesson, you need to understand the content. This is where I had both a challenge and an amazing experience, all wrapped up in one package. Jon I and spoke briefly via GHO on the Monday before the lesson and luckily he could read that I had no idea what I was about to teach. The concept of MAD (mean absolute deviation) was foreign to me! He agreed to do another GHO that evening to help explain it to me and make sure the lesson was a go. We started our google handout at 9 PM and when we finally said good-bye, it was 10:45 PM. It took him nearly 2 hours to get me to understand it and I was suppose to teach this material in less than 2 days? What? I had some work to do! Tuesday evening I sat and stared, thought more than I had thought in a long time about content and finally pushed through. I took the outline the GSVU students created, the questions they wanted me to ask, and walked into school Wednesday thinking "Here we go! Let's see if this old dog can still learn new tricks."
        The day of the lesson came, I started teaching the content and realized, "I think I am pulling this off. I think the students are understanding little bits here and there." When Jon walked in with his video camera, I knew this was real and that it was my time (and my students too) to show the GVSU students how well their lesson was designed. Luckily I had two "trial runs" with 3rd hour and 4th hour before being taped 6th hour. We gathered the data the students had collected the night before during their "flipped classroom" outside-of-class work via an excel file on my laptop. The students then discussed the guided notes they had taken after reading a couple articles. Then I did a lesson in front of class about what the concept of MAD which is different from what I normally do as I flip my classroom and spend very little time "up front". I enjoyed it, the students seemed to be engaged and trying to follow along as much as possible. We had some group discussion time, they created venn diagrams of similarities and differences of the two sets of data. We ended with a reflection on beta.socraitve.com. ... Right as the lesson was over, my principal, Greg Eding, (@gregeding) came in. The three of us discussed briefly what had just happened and during this time, I selfishly got the approval I was looking for from Jon. He said I explained things correctly and he was happy with how it all went. I needed this more than he realized as I was fairly confident I understood the topic, but wasn't sure I could pull off teaching it.

Videotaping the lesson - just getting class started. 8th graders reflecting on similarities & differences. GVSU students seeing their lesson in action.

        For me personally, the best part of this experience came after the whole lesson was done. Jon sat me down and did a cognitive coaching session with me, allowing me to reflect on the lesson, the comparison of my three different hours and this whole process. He taped this session and planned to share it with his GVSU students as well. I would love it if someone say down after every lesson and allowed me time to think. Shoot - I would love it if that happened a couple times a year. I learned so much. I actually thought about basic things with management (which you forget about after 16 years in the classroom), student comments (which you don't always want to hear), the flow of the lesson and the parts of the lesson the students seemed to understand. I took away more from this 20 minutes with Jon than I ever would have imagined. I also realized that we need to share this lesson with as many middle school teachers as possible because this topic is not one many truly understand. Thank you, Jon, for giving me (and my students) this opportunity! Amazing!

        As I bring my thoughts to a close, one thing I wonder is if the students in Jon's class realize how luck they are to have him as a professor. They are creating great content, getting real experiences and learning from a man that is such an incredible giver. He is showing them the power of twitter, the power of collaboration and getting them to think outside the box.

*photos taken by T. Maynard and J. Hasenbank

They surprise me ...

posted Jan 30, 2014, 6:18 PM by Tara Maynard   [ updated Jan 30, 2014, 6:21 PM ]

After four, yes FOUR, snow days in a row (Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) we returned to our daily routines at Creekside.  Knowing that my advanced geometry kiddos were bored and itching to get to work, here is what I posted on edmodo.com over the snow days.  It is paraphrased to save space!

Monday: "Complete the 6-2 in-class practice (parallelogram properties).  It's on the schedule from last week."
Tuesday: I posted the answers to the 6-2 practice and then said, "You might as well watch the 6-3 video and 
complete your notes." (conditions to prove parallelograms)
Wednesday: I posted the 6-3 in-class practice problems as well as the answer key. "Go ahead and give 6-3 a try. 
Post questions if you are getting stuck!"
*I also encouraged them all three days to be completing their quick checks on thatquiz.org
(This is their first "graded" assignment; 4-6 questions on 1 topic.)

I knew my students were motivated but I didn't realize just how motivated they were.  Out of my 40 students, 34 were somewhere in the midst of lesson 6-3.  18 had completed everything!  They ROCK!  This would have never happened if I wasn't teaching in a flipped environment.  They had the tools to do the basics outside of the four walls of our classroom.  We've built a strong classroom community and the expectations are there (by fellow students and myself) that we work hard to prepare ourselves for the next step. 

What I thought would be 4 lost days turned into really, only ONE lost day.  1.  That is something to celebrate!

Backs to the Front ... Vocab and Drawing

posted Jan 1, 2014, 8:10 AM by Tara Maynard

Here is a fun, exciting way for students to use vocabulary and communicate in different ways while working on drawing specific parts of mathematics.  I've used this idea of "Backs to the Front" for a few different review activities. 

Both activities involve students working in pairs, with one facing the front screen in the classroom and the other with their back to the front of the room.  If you need to have a group of 3, I put one facing front and other two with their backs to the front.

#1: Just Vocabulary
Display 3-5 words on the screen.  The person facing front needs to describe the words, in order, without saying any part of the word.  The person that can't see the words shouts out what term/concept the person is describing.  You can have as many rounds as you'd like, depending on the number of terms/concepts you have for the unit.

#2: Vocabulary & Drawing
In the past I've displayed images, starting basic and moving to advanced, for students to describe.  The person facing front needs to describe the image, using the most specific vocabulary possible.  The person with their back to the screen then draws the image on a whiteboard.  Sometimes I allow the describer to see the whiteboard, sometimes the whiteboard can only be seen by the drawer.  I ask them to not use their hands when talking as well.  That is tough for some!  I try and put a time limit on it so that we can get through a few rounds of images.  Here are some pictures and videos showing this activity in class.

Both of these images would be considered "advanced".  With teaching HS geometry to advanced 8th graders, they need the challenge!

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Dance, dance, transversal ... Dancing in Geometry

posted Dec 31, 2013, 8:21 PM by Tara Maynard   [ updated Jan 1, 2014, 7:12 AM ]

A few weeks ago I had one of those lessons that you just don't know how it will go.  Lots of time was spent creating, but I didn't know how the students would react and/or participate.  ...  They LOVED it!  I heard comments like, "Best day ever in geometry", "Best math game", "This was fun!".  Isn't that what every teacher wants to hear after the extra prep time?

After participating in a few #MTBoS missions (http://exploremtbos.wordpress.com/), I came across a blog post by Jessica (@algebrainiac1) about this activity, Dance, Dance, Transversal.

First I created a keynote presentation, which I've linked here.    I'm not sure if the "moves" in the keynote will download correctly.  The moves are how the whole thing works as a keynote so that the abbreviations of the angle types are moving up the screen.  The students then "dance" and move their feet to the correct places as the different angle types fly up the screen.  (Feel free to email me if you want the original keynote presentation at tmaynard@zps.org.)  Here is a screen shot of what the students saw on the screen.  I started it slowly, maybe too slow, and then picked up the pace.  We did three rounds, so 6 songs total.  Picking the songs was a harder task than I imagined.  Appropriate, yet fun.  No inappropriate language, yet engaging for 8th graders! Tough stuff! 

To start, I had students tape a set of parallel lines cut by a transversal on the floor with painters tape.  

The students worked in pairs.  One student "danced" while the other watched for mistakes.  They counted mistakes and tried to beat each other by getting a fewer amount of mistakes.  Here are some images (sorry some are blurry) and a couple short videos.

A few videos for you entertainment.  Fun stuff!  

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If math were a season ...

posted Nov 26, 2013, 5:29 AM by Tara Maynard   [ updated Nov 26, 2013, 5:37 AM ]

Trying to get some creativity out of my students while having them think outside the box, I posed this question today.

 If math were a season, which one would it be and why? 

This was inspired from a google docs of questions put together by Justin Aion (@JustinAion) and the google doc can be found  here.  I asked the students to draw a picture of it and write one sentence.  The sentence needed to be, "Math is like _________, because _______________.

Here are some interesting ones.
                M. Draisma                                                          E. Dryden                                                          O. Turner

"Math is like spring because like spring the snow is melting which
soaks into the air and ground and the information soaks into your
brain and some things you relearn like the birds coming back." - H. Woodwyk

                   D. Chaloern                                                                           V. Rodriguez                                                                    K. Kramer                                                                                 S. Rodriguez

Realities - flipclass days

posted Nov 19, 2013, 11:33 AM by Tara Maynard

Wow - we've had some productive days this past week in 8th grade math.  We've been plugging through solving inequalities!  

The students that are focused, able to work on their own without too many distractions and open enough to asking for help, have really figured this whole flipclass thing out.  The questions they are starting to ask amaze me. They ask about why and what if and how.  Very cool stuff! They seem to be more willing to help each other too.  I often catch them explaining things to others or asking questions to others to help them get through a problem.  OK, reality check, this is about 50%-70% of my students on a daily basis.  They are pushing each other!  Just yesterday they were critiquing each other's word problems.  They needed to write two application questions that needed an inequality to be solved.  They were creative and most really understood the parts needed and words that must be included to have an inequality situation versus an equation.  Hearing students say, "You can't have the word same because that tells us it is an equal sign.  We need to change that to minimum, at least, more than, etc."  is exactly what I love hearing!

But what about the others?  What about the 30-50% that don't "get it".  I have a handful that everyday, come to class without their video watched, reading done, exploration completed, etc.  No matter what is asked of them to prepare for class, they don't do it.  They then start class by doing it in the hallway or off to the side and miss out on all the group interaction, which I feel is the best part of the hour.  I can poke and prod, sit down right next to them, ask them why they aren't prepared, but none of that seems to help.  Hmmm  ....   Where to next for this group?

One Good Thing ...

posted Oct 24, 2013, 8:06 PM by Tara Maynard

...  inspired by this blog, titled, One Good Thing.

The last three days in our flipped environment in 8th grade math have been overall, great days.  I have had time to work with my lowest achievers who are trying but just not quite getting there.  They are coming prepared to class by reading, taking notes and watching a short video, but they need me to walk through a few more problems with them.  I love seeing their faces after I've encouraged and helped them gain some confidence.  They sit up straighter, hold their head higher and then help others.  One good, actually great, thing that happened today was the look on a students face when I asked him to go help another small group.  He looked at me with the expression of "What, you are talking to me?  I never get asked to help in math class."  He ruffled up his feathers, walked over and explained a problem to another group of struggling students.  I may just have him hooked!  

Playing Uno - The combine like terms version

posted Oct 9, 2013, 6:40 PM by Tara Maynard   [ updated Jun 12, 2018, 5:54 PM ]

So today I threw out a picture of my 8th graders playing "combine like terms" Uno on twitter and was about blown away by the retweets, favorites and questions about where to find details. Since they started from an idea given by Mike Klavon at our local ISD (Ottawa Area ISD), they have been rumbling around in my head.  The fun thing - it actually worked!  Here are the details, the cards I used and pictures to try to make it more realistic.

1) I made these "cards" in a word document.  It's a google doc that I linked here.  Cards for CLT Uno
                                                                  A group in the middle of a hand of Uno!  .....   

2) I made five copies of the cards, each on a separate color of card stock.  I sorted the cards so that each deck had all terms and extra cards (wild, skip, reverse) but were varied in color.  This gave me 5 decks of cards total.  My groups then had 5-6 students per group and that was a decent number.

3) Rules for playing:  (You can do what you want, but here's how I ran it.)
  • Each student receives 5 cards and the deck is placed face-down in the middle of the group.  The first card is then turned over and faces up.  (The normal 7 to start seemed like too many to get a winner within a decent amount of time.)
  • Students can play either a like term card or a like colored card on their turn.  If they can't play, they draw ONE card.  (IF they draw until they can play, it may be a long time. :))
  • Skips and reverse cards only work for their given color and wilds work whenever.
  • When playing a wild card, a student must call out a like term, NOT a color to continue.
  • When a player has 1 card left, they must call Uno.  (Like the real game.)
  • The player who gets rid of all their cards first wins.
4) Once a team completed a game, I asked them to call me over.  I then chose 5 cards from the pile and asked them to write the terms as an addition sentence.  I provided a half-sheet of paper for this work.  I then asked them to simply their expression.  Once they did this, they could then play again.  Once someone won, they needed to do another addition problem.  (You'll see on the sheet that I had them pick 6 cards and then 4 cards another time.)

It took anywhere from 5-10 minutes to get a first winner.  We then kept playing for another 7-10 minutes and there were some winners, but not many.  I felt this went well and heard lots of "I love this!", "This is fun!", "I hope we get to do this again!".  I also heard, "You can't play that because x and x squared aren't like terms."  Isn't that what every math teacher wants to hear?  Correct content and fun at the same time.

Ideas for future/to change?
If I had time, I would have made a few more decks so groups could have been 4 students.  They are time consuming to make, but well worth it!
Maybe do more with the pulling out of cards to simplify and get answers for combining like terms?

Good luck - let me know how it goes via twitter (@tmaynard5) or email (tmaynard@zps.org)

Talking math in week 2!

posted Sep 14, 2013, 5:46 PM by Tara Maynard   [ updated Sep 14, 2013, 5:58 PM ]

One good thing that has happened already in my 8th grade math classes and geometry classes too is that the students are "talking math".  I was very nervous to start this year as I switched to the flipped classroom model back in November of last school year.  I'd never started school this way.  I'd never had to start from the beginning with such a drastic change for the students in the structure of math class.  However, as I walk around and hear groups discussing their summaries and questions from the previous night's activities, I am amazed at how on-task they are as well as open about asking each other or myself for help.  Usually this early in the year, they don't want to ask.  I think that starting in groups from day 1 has really helped.  Here are a few things we did in the 1st two weeks to get them comfortable "talking math".

  1. In teams, on day 2, they had to come up with 10 words that had a double meaning - a math meaning and a non-math meaning.  MEAN is a great example!  We wrote sentences for each meaning and talked about how some words have more than one meaning.  (two, to, too)
  2. The opening "get to know you" activity was to sketch a google doodle.  On the day they were due (day 3 of school), students set their sketches on their tables along with a blank white board.  Students then went around and made comments.  I gave them a goal of having at least 3 comments on all boards.  We had a lengthy discussion before writing comments about HOW to write them.  Saying something is "cute" gives the person no real feedback.  We talked about how to constructively criticize, give positive suggestions, say "I noticed ...", "I like this but would have changed that", "I wonder ...", as well as how to receive comments.  After 7-8 minutes of our "gallery walk", we sat down and read our comments.  We then talked about how people noticed things about our drawings that we didn't mean to create. (good and bad)  We talked about how when people are trying to help you with your work, they are doing just that - helping.  They are not saying they don't like you, they are wanting to help you improve.  This is very hard for 8th graders to do.
  3. After doing a warm up to start class, every student read their summary and question of the previous night's lesson to their team (3-4 people).  The lesson would have been reading from the textbook or doing an exploration to try and get some of the basics before coming to class.  I usually use video but students don't have their iPads yet so we are using other ways of gathering information.  Often their work to prepare for class would involve vocabulary and I would leave it very open to the students as to how they filled in those notes.  I told them they could use their textbook, the internet, family members, etc. and they could record it how they wanted to in their notes - drawings, words, etc. They would then read their questions from the lesson to their groups as well.  It is amazing how they would answer each other's questions and/or add to the explanation another student was giving.

(The summaries and question idea is referred to as our "WSQ" was "stolen" from Crystal Kirch.  http://flippingwithkirch.blogspot.com/)

Opening week activity - Google Doodle

posted Sep 8, 2013, 8:02 PM by Tara Maynard   [ updated Sep 8, 2013, 8:13 PM ]

While at the American Museum of Natural History this past summer, I saw a display of Google Doodles that students of all ages had created.  It was a competition where students had to draw a doodle for Google, taking on the shape of the letters G-o-o-g-l-e.  The these was "Best Day Ever ..."

I changed this idea just a bit and asked the students to create a Google doodle that showed what they enjoyed, their favorite things, what they did over the summer, etc.  Here are just some of the great products they created.  I was very impressed what was created in just one or two evenings and a little class time.  WOW!  I'm excited about what creativity might be brought to math class this year.


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