Good Enough for Now: The Field Trip


You might say that it’s bananas to execute a field trip during a 5-week summer school program and you might be right.

We do it anyway.

Field trip chaperoning means not really having enough time to take photos, so here’s a picture of the handout that we had kiddos do on the walk over to the park. Shout out to this kiddo who painstakingly circled all the storm drains on the way over (the field trip had an environmental focus. Kind of.)2017-07-09 20.16.16Other fun quotes and memories:

“MISTER, asì nacì, asì voy a morir.“-one of my advisees, when I caught him swearing (again). Translated: “MISTER, I was born this way, I will die this way.”

I also spent about 10 minutes trying to teach one of our students that it’s impolite to ask teachers (especially female teachers) how old they are. Didn’t get far with that one. Also, guesses of my age, by students: 25, 45, 30, 37, 32, 35. Number sense is getting better, but not really.

Kiddo, umprompted: “Mister, you speak French?”

Me (What?): “Um. No.”

Same kiddo: “That’s what math is like for me! No like math.”

Me: “Oh. Um. Je parle Francais.” (Kiddo doesn’t buy it)

As happens with our kiddos, there is soccer. There are several kiddos sporting honest-to-God soccer jerseys and fancy sweats that are probably out of my price range (and in all fairness, these kiddos probably play on several, super intense teams that are deserving of jerseys and more). When one team slaughters the other, we jokingly suggest that we shuffle players so that they have the same number of “official jerseys” on each side (the kiddos say no). The one female player eventually stalks off, amidst a string of curses. Comments about caballeros (translation: gentlemen) fall on deaf ears.

I play soccer with a few of the kiddos afterwards. I barely made the 8th grade team in middle school. I have not progressed much beyond there (but that’s good enough for now).

What do you observe? What do you wonder?

Really Slow Boomerangs: 2016-2017 Wrap Up

It feels slightly weird to write a wrap up for the school year when my mind’s actually on wrapping up summer school (7 more days and everyone’s counting).

Big takeaways, largely parroted from other people:

  • If a kiddo can be saying it, why are you? Stolen from one of the teachers who I’ve taught with for a bit. One of the things I struggle with in my context is that, especially at the beginning of the year, many of our students (all of whom are emerging multilinguals) don’t understand that much English. So me saying instructions to them doesn’t always make much sense. However, one student read to everyone at least focuses their attention (and so much better if it’s a phrase or norm that’s repeated frequently or that they’re familiar with). (And they’re generally more respectful to each other than they are to me. Ha.) I maintain that this still works even if they don’t entirely understand what they’re saying (when reading classroom objectives, etc). And having them read and explain to each other is even better.
  • Randomness can lead to equity, if you’re thoughtful about it. I’ve always been antsy about calling kiddos at random. First year teacher used to do it to kiddos who weren’t paying attention, which probably wasn’t the wisest idea. I finally glommed on to a structure at our school where a student opens class by randomly selecting students to read objectives, agendas, and announcements. It’s fascinating seeing how this structure plays out. Students speak more and (largely owing to a collaborative culture at our school) will try and help each other read or answer questions. This works when the questions are pretty low stakes (either reading something off the board or choosing between 2 options). The goal is to get kiddos to speak and feel comfortable participating. Another helpful thing is the culture that our school has created where students know they’re supposed to help and support each other. At the beginning of summer school, I saw that students were really reluctant or scared to speak in class and it definitely took some supporting and needling to get them to speak and feel comfortable speaking.
  • When in doubt, lean hard into your structures. I’m pretty sure I stole this from Carl Oliver and it goes for both kiddos and adults. Since so much of school can be new and strange for our kiddos, having established structures calms a lot of nerves. It’s said at our school that kiddos are confused by the blue opening papers (a schoolwide structure where kiddos fill out the date, day, content and language objective, and do an opening) at the beginning of the day, but are pros at it by sixth period on the same day. I’ve also noticed, in my afternoon classes (which are almost always squirrely) that, as crazy as the actual class may go, things calm down noticeably when I ask them to take the last 10 minutes to write a journal (again, repeated structure). This plays out interestingly when thinking about direct instruction (“Copy this down in your notes”) versus groupwork where students have to step out of their comfort zones, but that’s a thought process for year 5. I’m also finding that structures work well for adults (or maybe just me). By a stroke of luck (good? bad? Undecided…), I ended up making meeting agendas for our grade level team this year. Figuring out what to actually covering in meetings was tricky, but certain structures popped up that made the process easier – there’s always a check-in question, someone suggested that we make time to celebrate our students, and having time for feedback, and to reflect on our process gave us a way to get ideas for the next meeting and to give people a chance to reflect on how the meeting went for them and to say things that might still need to be said.
  • It takes time. This is my fourth year as a teacher, which firmly puts me in “not new teacher” territory (where I think I’ve actually been for about 2 years, though it was easier to shirk duties in prior years. Ha.). This became clearer to me with some newer teachers on our team. Some of our school is just like any other school. But there are some very quirky school-specific structures at our school, specifically our intersession electives and our semester portfolio process. Whereas both of these structures have become “Oh, that’s just a thing we do” to me (after 4 and 7 cycles, respectively), I have to remind myself what it was like the first time I went through either of those cycles. (For intersession electives, I was lucky enough to get paired with 2 amazing teachers from my team and for my first round of Portfolios, I just stumbled through because I didn’t know any better). I somewhat try to think of how to share strategies, structures and work samples to make the process easier for new teachers, but mostly I just try to stay afloat amidst my stuff (a large part of my Portfolio process this year is storming out of the classroom to drag back 2 of my advisees who eventually saunter in on their own time. “They’re like really slow boomerangs,” the vice principal tells me.). I know there are probably better ways to structure weird processes, but for now, I can’t think of a way better than to just experience it.

And since I’m not entirely sure I want to end things on that note, here’s what I’m doing this summer:

  • One week of staycation (sleep, clean out classroom, watch friend teach, go to Julieta Venegas concert, sleep, host dinner party)
  • 4 and 2 half weeks of summer school.
  • One week at the Inquiry Schools Summer Institute (and then a week in DC).
  • One long weekend at the Knowles Teaching Initiative Summer Conference (and then a week in New York).
  • One week at a Geometry of Redistricting conference.
  • And then we’re back for PD week. And if that feels short to you, it doesn’t include a few optional work days that I’m missing (they coincide with the last conference) and does include an extra week of summer because our District is starting a week later (to accomodate December holidays).

The One With the Graphing Project Page (Number 2)


Admittedly, I’m not backwards planning this summer unit as well as I’d like to. We spend Fridays working on a summative-esque project page. Last week, we used real data to make graphs. This week was supposed to be more of a focus on using linear functions to make predictions, but we ended spending a worthwhile day making a table and then a graph from a situation. (I also wish we’d done something with equations, but that’s for another time).

2017-06-30 21.00.16Photo: Student work. This kiddo was rather stymied because the (correctly scaled) axes made her graph too small to see the change over time. So we worked to redraw the axes (growing by 5 instead of 10).

What do you observe? What do you wonder?

The One Where the Equation Pushes the Representations


In our abbreviated summer program, we’re going through linear functions. Kiddos are great at tables and pretty good at graphs. So now it’s on to using equations to generate those representations.

I feel like we could probably push more on what the different parts of the equation mean (slope, y-intercept) and I almost wish we were doing more with really big numbers (to make using an equation worth it rather than just counting or multiplying), but it feels important to build intuition around how to use linear functions and equations.2017-06-29 13.52.56-2

Photo: Student work. What do you observe? wWhat do you wonder?

The One with the Extension


Our school/summer program works with a wide range of prior student knowledge. As such, I feel like teachers sometimes talk about whether they feeling stronger supporting students with interrupted education or students who need more of a challenge (the two extremes of the spectrum). For whatever reason, I often think of myself who is (mildly) better at supporting students who are struggling.

So I’m pretty pleased with how Wednesday’s extension went. We started with a 3 Reads problem that I’ve done before (the first one I ever wrote and, surprisingly, one of the strongest ones I’ve taught). It ties in pretty well with the content we’re studying right now – linear functions and volume. Most of the class tried to figure out how many boxes there were be if a certain number of boxes kept appearing every day. The one group that was farther ahead got yardsticks and had to estimate if all the boxes would fit on the third floor, which involved actual estimating and modeling (if you think I’m letting kiddos out into the hallway to roam free during last period, you might be confused).

2017-06-28 13.58.17-1Photo: Student answer sheet and calculations: What do you observe? What do you wonder?

The One with Graphing Negatives


One of the weaknesses of the curriculum we wrote for the school year is that it mostly focuses on graphing in the first quadrant. As I was reminded while writing and pulling activities for this summer, that’s where many of the “real world” problems are. (I know, I know. Not all math needs to be “real world”)

Fortunately (and as a reminder to my future self), problems with money and days can extend into work with negative numbers. My Summer Planning Partner also came up with the idea of using a 4-quadrant axes regardless of where the numbers fall (at some point, School Year Planning Partner and I made the decision to print 1st quadrant graphs so that kiddos could focus on bigger, more easy to see points. Maybe I regret that?)

2017-06-27 18.12.09Photo: Because we didn’t put in a table to scaffold, one (some times distracted) kiddo wrote their own work on the bottom, then made the graph without much prompting at all.

What do you observe? What do you wonder?