Day 9: The One With the Pattern Stations

Kiddos worked on making and extending patterns in stations. We also did a Number Talk (back when these were a thing). What do you notice? What do you wonder?2014-08-28 18.35.112014-08-28 13.13.49

Day 5: The One Where We Learn Ken Ken and Imagine the 10th Figure

First week Friday! Woooo! I am planning to sleep and not grade this weekend, which will be the opposite of all the rest of my weekends until June.

Photo #1: Ken Ken

Ken Ken




A while ago, my curriculum partner found a Japanese math puzzle game called Ken Ken. It only has 3 rules, so it’s a simple, repeatable structure. It builds on basic math skills (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing). It is challenging enough that some of my students with higher levels of prior math get stumped, but no one ever really gives up. I can specifically name at least 2 times when classroom management disasters were imminent and I got the class to calm down by playing Ken Ken.

I taught it for the first time last year, which was nerve-racking since I had just learned how to play the day before. It felt easier to teach this year, after a year of practice (which I told students who were struggling this year). At least one student, who I had last year, said they finally understood how to play, while another student (also from last year) left their thoughts on my whiteboard after class in the photo above (sigh).

Photo #2: More Patterns

More Patterns

We’re still looking at patterns and how they grow. This lesson, which was supposed to end with presentations, is actually flowing over until Monday. Classes struggled with drawing the 100th figure in a sequence of patterns, so we asked students to instead find the 10th figure. For students who could find the 10th figure, we then asked them to find the 100th figure. We’re moving towards the idea of representing big blocks with numbers instead of drawing every individual block (upper right photo). Some students still insist on trying to draw 100 squares, then look at me bewildered, as if to say, “Mister, how in the world do you expect me to draw 100 tiny squares?”

Photo #3: The Big Honkin’ Stack of HomeworkNext Week's Homework

All of next week’s homework (4 pages of math and one reflective paragraph per class). To be handed out Monday, due back Friday. Read it and weep. Because that’s what I’ll be doing on Friday. #ImNotSorry

Questions for the Floor

1. Have you played Ken Ken? Which of the 3 rules is the hardest for you?

2. Any guesses as to homework completion rates for the first week?

3. Are you smarter than a 9th or 10th grader? Go to this pattern from Visual Patterns, the site where we get our patterns (it’s by an amazing math teacher named Fawn Nguyen). The 1st, 2nd and 3rd figure are shown. Can you draw the 4th pattern? The 5th pattern? The 0th pattern? The 100th pattern?

Days 1, 2, 3 and 4: The One with the School Values, String Shapes, Patterns and the Selfish Shellfish Selfie

Survived Day One. Survived Days One through Four, in fact.

Photo One: Values (Day One)

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Since almost all of our students are newcomers, we spend the first two days of school in orientation, where teachers lead sessions on topics that help our students be successful in school. In talking to other teachers, I am thankful that our school values and takes the time to do this. One of the activities I taught in my class (on our four school values) involved sorting words into “good” and “bad” categories. Admittedly, “good” and “bad” are super polar (as some of our kiddos pointed out), but it’s a start. 

It´s interesting to see which words are tricky for our kiddos and why. Almost every class asked what “liar” and “caring” meant, but understood as soon as they heard them pronounced. Kiddos at various points thought “selfish” was “a type of fish” and “when you take a photo of yourself”. At any rate, they were generally able to make sense of what the words meant. 

Photo #2: School Values Posters (Day 2)

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Having talked about good and bad values, we transitioned into our four school values. The kiddos cut out photos from magazines that they thought represented (or didn’t represent) each school value. Note: I had first period draw their pictures. Giving them magazines was probably a better idea. They were super thoughtful about the pictures they found.

Photo #3: The String Shapes (Day 3)

Students making string shapes

Yesterday was the first “official” day of content. To reenforce groupwork norms, we had students work together to make 2D and 3D shapes out of string. It’s more challenging than it seems. It was interesting to see that groups that talked together while they were building tended to build more shapes. Success rate of groups that tried to plan out shapes before actually touching the string was mixed. Side note: students were very into having photos of the finished project taken. Perhaps a future motivational tool? I wish I’d gotten more photos of the process…(except for that whole “teaching thing”)

Photo #4: The Patterns (Day 4)

Students show how figures in a pattern change

In moving towards our first unit on linear relationships, we’re asking the kiddos to look at patterns (many teachers and the CPM curriculum refer to them as “pile patterns”, though this extra language is probably a bit much for our crowd) and then show the pattern, using colors, words, numbers and arrows. Note: I chose quite a few of these photos to showcase growth, either in students from last year or from students who were ready to give up at the beginning of class but with a little (lot?) of coaxing, were able to make progress. Not that you could really tell without knowing the students, but…

Photo #5: The Dot Talk(s) (Day 3)

Dot talks

One of the members of our teaching team has experience giving number talks, a strategy designed by Jo Boaler to develop number sense by asking students to think in many ways about seemingly easy problems involving basic computations or drawings that can be pulled apart and thought about in many ways. This was the first time that most of us gave a dot talk in front of students (I theoretically did this in grad school, which is a hazy shade of two summers ago). Students were able to share the different ways they saw dots in a picture. Lots of room for growth when we continue next week, though.

Photo #6: The Selfish Shellfish Selfie (Day 2)

When I wrote "selfie" on the board

Evidence that, in building language skills, we did talk about selfish versus shellfish versus selfie (and penguins, which were in one of the videos we watched). I just had to share (…because to do otherwise would be shellfish).

Days -2 and -1: The One Where I’m Ready (or Not)…

Kiddos are back in school tomorrow, or rather, today. Two days of orientation, then we’re right into content.

Photo #1: Working Norms

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At our school, we talk a lot about norms. This helps set clear expectations for everyone involved. There are norms for classes, for students, for teachers, for everyone. This is a list of initial norms for one of the groups I work with. We then discussed our individual norms to build a list of group norms.

Photo #2: The Room

2014-08-15 17.45.16Every year, I consistently try (and fail) at getting the whole 360 degrees of my room into one photo. Maybe next year? I stayed 2 hours later than I intended to and the room still doesn’t feel quite 100%. I’d put it at 85%, which is functional for now.

What I’m Working On

One of the things I’m trying to do this year is focus what I’m working on. I could try and get better at everything, but I think that’s too overwhelming. So here are the big 3 (for now):

  • Support students who struggle by identifying and then supporting gaps in prior knowledge.
  • Strengthen classroom management by being clear about consequences, recognizing positive behavior and knowing and communicating what the boundary is for when a student deserves to be sent out.
  • Push students to speak English. One of my prouder moments last year was when one of the kiddos looked at me and said: “Mr., you speak a lot less Spanish this semester.”

One of my friends is fond of saying “You can only do year one once.” I’d counter with “I spent all year wishing I’d known what I know now on the first day of school.” I guess tomorrow (today) will test if that is true or not.