Saturday, June 28, 2014

Geometer's Sketchpad class part 1

     I just finished my class on Geometer's Sketchpad. I am a newbie to this program and have never worked with it before. When asked what our background was with Geometer's Sketchpad, my response was that I bought the licenses and had our IT person install them. That was it. I had no idea what the capabilities of the program were. This program is awesome! There is so much that I will be able to do with my classes this coming school year and I can't wait to get started.
     The class I took was through Dynamic Math with facilator Kristen Clegg. She was amazing. I learned so much in this class! If you have the opportunity to take a workshop from Kristen definitely do it. You will not believe how the times flies and how this can transform your classroom. I give this class 5 out of 5 stars.
                                                          Karen Clegg 
                                                  Kristen Clegg from Dynamic Math.
                                       Check Kristen's website for lessons as well. 
     I am excited to share the resources that I learned about this week. Here are just a few samples. All of these resources need the current version Sketchpad 5.06. Remember, I am new to this and just getting started so my sources are for those newbies. Enjoy!

     1. Go to the website for Geometer's Sketchpad from Key Curriculum.  There is so much on this website, I could take days checking all of the different sections. Included on the site are tutorials,free lessons, Sketch exchange, books and so much more that you can use for your classes. The Getting Started tab is where you will find Sketchpad tutorials and videos to help you begin using the software. Even if you do not have the technology available for the students there is so much you can do with this program in class led discussions. 

     2. The free activities tab has some great lessons that I will be using. Being an 8th grade teacher, I went to the middle school tab and found that I could use all of the lessons listed with my classes. My favorite is Mellow Yellow - Interpreting Graphs. This is a lesson about a character named Mellow Yellow. The students decide whether a graph describes a given story. They also create stories based on given graphs and create graphs as well. There is also a Hikers problem where students use systems of equations to compare the hikers distances and time traveled. Just click to see the lessons for your subject. 
      3. The books below have great modules for students with step by step instructions. I look at several from the Exploring Algebra 1 and am ordering this book. The layout of the modules is easy to follow.
      Click here to see  books with sketchpad-activity-modules.
        4.  If you don't have the program, you can download 20 minute trials at Geometer's SketchpadYou will not be able to save or print but you can use it to see some of the things you can do with the program.
     5.  Go to: learningcenter.dynamicgeometry. This takes you to GSP (Geometer's SketchPad) and connects you to sketch pad tips. (You are going to love this one.)  
  • Download the entire sketchpad tip library (it's a zip file if you want it :)) or just click on a topic.
  •  Next, click on the yellow tab next to the topic name and you will get a cool comic strip that gives the directions and diagrams in an easy to follow style. These are nice!
  • Here's an example for measuring length and distance.

  • My eighth graders are going to have no problem understanding what to do when I use these pages. I plan on having them make a reference book from them. (Thanks to Diane for sharing this resource.)
     6.  There is a sketchpad-explorer-for-ipad available that is a free app. It works with any document that has been created in GSP so it is not the full program. Good news is that it is free. I love free things. Go to the iTunes store to download the app. I haven't used this yet but it could be great for my students as we have a classroom cart with iPad's and only 15 licenses for the laptops. 
     7. Sketch exchange is a place where people have shared lessons they have made. Just looking through all of this takes time but there is so much out there to use that is where I will be starting.
     I walked away with lessons that I will be able use this year. I like what Kristen said during our class. She said, " not to look at this as one more thing to our already packed curriculum but to see how we could use this program in place of what we already do."(Not an exact quote but something like that.) I can tell you that I will use this when I will be using this when I teach translations, angles, and graphing functions. It is fantastic. I realize I have only talked about resources here but trying to explain everything this program can do for you is beyond my ability level now. I will keep reflecting and hope to have another post with on this topic soon.
     On a funny note, I was watching TV and a commercial came on. There were some shapes connected by segments floating around on the screen. I was so excited, I said to my husband, "I know how to create those shapes and make them animate like that now." It's the little things in life that can make your day isn't it?
                                                              Til next time,

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Vocabulary Unit 1 Pre Algebra

     This is going to be a very short post. I found this great foldable template called the magic foldable. It is on teacherspayteachers by Coach Academics.  Best of all it is free. I am always looking for different types of foldables and this one is great. When you make it a hidden middle area appears. I am going to use it for a vocabulary study guide for Unit 1 in my 8th grade Pre-Algebra classes. Stressing vocabulary is one of my goals for the upcoming school year. With so many 2nd language learners I want to spend much more time on this. If they don't understand the vocabulary, they can't do the work.

Front of the foldable

Back of the foldable.

This is the middle that appears when you put the foldable together. Fun!

     I am in love with foldables! They are such a wonderful tool for students to organize their work and help them to study. Just had to share this one. Told you this post would be short.

                                                         Til next time,


Thursday, June 19, 2014

The beginning of my journey to Standards Based Grading

      Today I finished my training sessions on Standards Based Grading. How do I write about 4 full days of training and work? Hard to do but I'll try my best.

Gina (left), me (center), and Mike (right), working hard at SBG training. These are two of my amazing colleagues from my school.

     Where to start. Hmmmm... So what have I learned about Standards Based Grading?
  • Do grades reward working or learning? Grades should determined by academic performance only.  I never really questioned my grading policies before. It makes sense to me now that the grades I was giving were not a true picture of my students knowledge. It was so inaccurate because homework was a completion grade and that does not show what my students do or do not understand.
  • Behavior is important and should be communicated to parents and dealt with in another way. It should not be something we add or subtract from a grade. Effort or just being a nice kid should not earn you a better grade. Just as your students who have challenging behaviors should not get a lower grade. Grades are not for sale. Bringing in a box of Kleenex does not show me how a child has improved their ability to factor  (or fill in the blank.).Grades reflect knowledge that can be shown through evidence.
  • You  need clear standards and all assessments should be consistent with the standards.We need to communicate clearly to our students through rubrics what the objectives are. Something we have decided to do is to place all the learning standards for the unit we are working on in each math classroom and refer to them everyday throughout the unit. We are not just going to place them on the board daily but have all the standards for the unit instead of just one or two on the board. We want them to see the big picture everyday of the unit. We did create a generic rubric that we are going to tweak for each of our standards. This is still a work in progress. 
  • Group grades for group work should not be used. Again students should only be graded on their individual knowledge that can be shown through evidence. Grading students lower for work that others do not do or giving a student who does nothing a higher grade is not a true reflection of their knowledge. Group work is absolutely a valuable learning tool and should not be eliminated.
  • Anything that can be copied should not be graded. We have decided not count homework as part of the grade but we will keep track of it. It will appear in our grade book with a weight of zero. That way parents, students and teachers can see what has or has not been completed. Also, when a student wants to retest and has not done homework for the practice, one of the criteria to retest will be to do homework and show us evidence that they are have practiced the targets they want to improve.
  • No more completion grades, only grade assessments. We have decided to have our grades weighted as 20% formative assessments and 80% summative assessments. Some believe that the entire grade should be summative only. We aren't ready for that.
  • Grades are inconsistent from teacher to teacher, so aligning and grading  to the standards gives a true grade of student performance. We have always aligned our tests and work to the standards but now we are switching to Common Core Standards so we need to rewrite the assessments to reflect these standards.
     So there is my brain dump from my training. There was so much more but these are the parts that really resonated with my school. We are in the process of many things and I will share them in later posts. So much to do and so little time. Next week: Geometer's Sketchpad class.

     On a funny note, a teacher from our science department came up to us and said, "Look at this great retest form that _______ Middle School gave me that they use." This was amazing because this school never shares anything unlike my amazing school that shares everything with everyone. I looked at the form and smiled and said, "That's the form that I stole from Sarah at math = love , that Kathryn Smith,one of our reading teachers,  rewrote for me, that I posted on my blog on the Retesting - a new idea for me post.." Too funny.

      And of course, I can't leave without sharing something I love with you. If you have never seen Tarsia puzzles before, you have to download the free program  from Mr Barton Maths that has a wonderful list of puzzles that are already made for you to use. (Do not hit the first download button you see. Read the directions further down.) We use these all the time and the kids love them. You can also create your own puzzles but there are so many I haven't had to do that yet. They are so much fun and look very nice hanging in your classroom. Enjoy!


                                                                       Til next time,


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Thoughts on formative and summative assessment training and nice a coordinate plane foldable

     Yesterday I finished my training on formative and summative assessments. Everything that I am learning is so different than the way I have graded for years. I am a very traditional teacher and have been using percents forever to grade kids. Unit tests were weighted at 50%, quizzes and 25% with homework being the other 25%. My homework has always been viewed as a learning experience and they were given a completion grade for doing the assignment. The comment from one of our trainers was, "if it can be copied, it shouldn't be graded," hit me like a ton of bricks. I have been placing grades in my grade book for years that is homework I know some of my students copy from each other. After a long discussion with Gina and Mike, two of  my math colleagues at work, we made the decision not to grade homework or give it a effort grade. Wow, I am nervous about that. Are the kids going to do the homework or not?  
      We now grade only on the knowledge the students can demonstrate and our grades will be 4, 3, 2, 1, and 0. The way we need to grade now is a complete shift but it some ways it seems like it will be easier and a much more accurate reflection of what the kids really know.  As a department, we decided to start doing Standards Based Grading next year and the first step is to figure out what our formative and summative assessments will be. We are developing a plan of what all of our changes are going to look like and placing them on our syllabus. I really need time to wrap my head around all of this. I am so glad that my entire department, there are 7 1/2 of us, are jumping in and doing this together! We work well together and will all have the same criteria so that will help. I am so glad I already have been allowing kids to retest, see Retesting a new idea for me, as that is a large part of what we talked about today. I know this is all just ramblings but it is what is floating around in my head. If you've read this far, thanks. Tomorrow we finish the second day of training on Standards Based Grading. I'll keep you posted of our progress.  

     I can't have a post without sharing a foldable with you. This is one of my favorites from last year on the Coordinate Plane. It takes time but there is so much information on here and it's all in one place. The kids really liked making it as well. Click here for the original from   Amy Harrison at teaching in a virtual reality. Her pictures are much better than mine so visit her site. Thanks for sharing Amy!

Coordinate Plane  Foldable Cover

middle of foldable

Inside of foldable

Til next time,


Friday, June 13, 2014

Repeating decimals as fractions and some other stuff too!

     Next week I am going to training on Standards Based Grading to learn how to enter it into our grading system. We have a choice next year as to whether we want to do Standards Based Grading or not. Then the following year everyone will have to use SBG. My department decided to get trained and jump right in this school year. This is going to be quite a learning curve for me as I have graded using percentages and standard tests and quizzes for 28 years! This summer I am going to be busy reading all the great blogs out there with info for SBG. (Please put some positive vibes out there for me that my head will not explode during the training from overload:)
     The last week of June I am taking  a course on Geometer's Sketchpad. I have wanted to learn how to use this but just haven't had the time to sit down and do it myself. I sometimes have to pay someone to make me actually take time to look at it. I am excited about using this program. One of my goals for next year is to incorporate more technology into my classroom, so this is one of the programs I am going to use to do that. 
      My posts over the summer are going to be short because summer is just crazy. I'll be putting up some foldables that I will collate into a unit at the end of July to get ready for school. Here is one on made for writing repeating decimals as fractions.

Click here for the outsideinside and practice page  for the foldable.
     I really like the kids to write in their INB's and not have everything written out for them. I do need to make some additions to the foldable so my kids who have difficulty writing and processing won't have to write as much. I'll just add that to my TO DO LIST. I have so many lists I have lists that tell me what list to look at. 
                                                           Til next time,          

Friday, June 06, 2014

My most used graphic organizer

     Let me tell you a little bit about the demographics my school. About 65% of our students speak a second language at home. Actually, in my district there are 88 different languages spoken in the homes of our students! I don't think I could even get close to naming that many different languages. With such a diverse population with varying levels of understanding of the English language, I really need to stress math vocabulary with my students. One of the ways I do this is with a vocabulary graphic organizer of words for all the operations.

                                   Click here
key words graphic organizer

            As a class we will brainstorm all of the different words they can think of that apply to the four operations. This gives my second language learners an opportunity to build their background knowledge and also have a visual they can refer to throughout the year. I use talk moves in my classroom and it has been a wonderful tool to help not just my second language learners but all of the students in my classroom. Check out the video below from the teaching channel on talk moves.

Click here to see Teaching Channel video on Talk Moves

     I use this graphic organizer several times throughout the year beginning with writing expressions. We fill out only the portion for the four operations. Later we add the words for equal when we write equations. And still later in the year when we hit inequalities we add in the inequality symbol words. When doing any type of word problems the students refer to it as well. I am thinking of adding the idea of color with a purpose where students will underline words in different colors to help them decipher the meaning of the text. (Sorry I can't remember where I read about color with purpose but I will find out.)  I truly believe that Foldables and graphic organizers are a wonderful tool for these kids. It gives them such a good visual to refer back to.

     One great example I have from this year was my student Josue. He was a level 3 ELL student who tested in the Algebra range for math and was leaps and bounds ahead of his ELL class. He came to my gen ed Algebra class, which is an accelerated class for our 8th graders, with a very limited English vocabulary. I paired him with 2 other students who spoke Spanish and he did all the work the rest of the class did with very little accommodation. That is until we hit writing equations, and systems word problems. I gave him this graphic organizer and I read the test to him. He was able to achieve a C for the section. I was so proud of him and he was thrilled with himself. His English improved tremendously throughout the year and he wrote me a note at the end of the year thanking me for the time I spent with him on word problems in particular. He referred often to this graphic organizer.
     As you can tell, my mind has already shifted to the beginning of the school year. I have so much to share with you this summer. I can't wait to get it all down on paper.

                                               Til next time,


Key words graphic organizer

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

You just never know when you make a difference in a child's life.

     The end of the school year is always crazy. We have field trips, dances, recognition, honors dinners, band and choir concerts and the list goes on and on and on. I am sure it is the same at your school as well. One of the things that always surprises me is when students write me letters. Here is one of the letters I received this year.

Just in case you can't read it here is what it says.

Dear Mrs. Lichtenberger,
     Today in English class we had to write a letter to someone who made a difference in our lives and I decided to write to you.
     On the first day of school, I was scared and terrified. I didn't know anyone or anything about the school. Each period got worst and worst, until eighth period algebra.
     Right when I entered your classroom you said how was your day? We had a conversation about our day. The classroom was comfortable and that was the only time I got to relax. I loved it.
     I don't really talk that much, but after everything it made me feel better about going to school everyday.
     Although this incident may seem like nothing, it really made a difference in my life and hopefully many others.
                                                 Your best student,

     This is a student who came in after the first nine weeks of school. I could not remember this conversation and had to think long and hard before any of it came to me. It was nothing, probably a minute or two but in that short time this boy was at ease. Wow. This letter really touched me. Who knows how many times the little things I say or do can impact a child. This incident reminded me of a book I read titled, Just a Minute.  This book is filled with stories of people who took just a minute with children and how that minute impacted their lives. I have decided to make my goal for next year to try to make these minute appointments with my kids. Who knows when those minutes make an impact on my students?

                                                                          Til next time,
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