The One With the Fall Semester Lists

Did I fall off the blog again?

Hard to believe it’s December already. Hard to believe Portfolios have come and gone (though I need to remind myself that fall semester is shorter and goes faster than spring semester).

Photo: State of My Room Before Break

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Note to self: request to get the light in the back corner fixed. This was after I did intense post-portfolio cleaning (but not as much as I usually do).

Fall Semester By The Numbers

I always mean to publish a “by the numbers” (math teacher and all). So here’s where we are:

  • Our team currently teaches 80 students, divided more or less evenly among 4 sections. (In contrast, we had about 60 students between 4 sections at the beginning of the year).
  • Our team teaches students who speak 8 different languages (not counting Mam, an indigenous language from Guatemala, counting “Chinese” rather than “Cantonese” or “Mandarin”, which I’ll be the first to admit is not right, and not counting the Mayan language Tzetal or Portuguese, as the students who speak these languages also speak Spanish)
  • My advisory is currently 16 students, including 2 students who came during our last week of portfolios. I started with 12 and lost 2 during the year (one transferred, one dropped out).

This Break

I like to tell people who ask that I am planning to spend this break being a real, live adult.

Current plans include:

  • Plug drafts in the apartment (somewhat successful; rain two days ago meant the temperature in general was warmer…darn you, confounding variables!)
  • Read through Common Core Progressions. The Common Core Progressions tell you what you should learn K-high school in Common Core. A big take-away from a recent conference is that when students struggle or have gaps in their learning, looking back at the progressions should help you fill in the gaps. Pretty obvious in retrospect, but it was good to hear.
  • Write a couple grants for materials and professional development (NCTM, chromebooks and Cantonese conversation classes through City College)
  • Read. Goal is 3 books, but I’ll be lucky to get through the one I have to give my mom for Christmas on Friday.
  • I am planning to go back and at least post a picture and a sentence for every day this year. We’ll see how this goes.

Day 82: The One With the Awards


Portfolios AwardLast day of school for the semester. Students present about their content area one last time. We do some advisory things (which I did a horrible job of structuring this year) and then students actually go up on stage in front of the entire 9/10 class and present the awards to other groups. Assemblies always give me the heeby-jeebies (so much classroom management, so little structure), but it felt like this one went OK. Part of the jobs of urban schools and portfolios is that students often arrive late or miss school if they are sick (which a bunch of my advisory was this year). This award went to a student who had to do a whole presentation, in English, by himself before another group member arrived. Keep in mind this kiddo has a sixth grade education level. He did pretty good.

Day 81: The One With the Portfolio Binders


Portfolio binders

Portfolios means grading portfolios. Which means hauling all the binders somewhere to read over them, usually with the rest of our team. This year, I was better about grading some (but not all) of the writing beforehand and grading some (but not all) of the presentation beforehand. We started at about 3pm and finished at 7pm, when the janitor starts to close up the building.

(Apologies to those of you who read this blog by email – I can’t figure out how to not email you every time I backpost something. If anyone knows, I’m all ears)

Day 80: The One With the Portfolios Rubric


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Portfolios are starting to wind down. This means that the kiddos have written some (most? some…) of their essays. This also means that I can start grading things. While I usually like to grade in green pen (mostly because it’s not red), this year, I’m grading in pencil. So much of portfolios is practice and revision that being able to change grades is a necessary part of the process.

The former Operations Manager in me went and did some visual reformatting of the rubric (mostly moving the “things you did well” and “things to improve” to the top).

(I’m also going rogue and using my own version of the rubric which I updated over the summer while stuck on a plane flight. Don’t tell anyone. (he said on social media))

Day 79: The One With the Essay Draft


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Each round of portfolios brings new ideas and new growth. I feel like I pushed students to do more brainstorming with scaffolds (though there’s a TON of growth I want to do in that area next round). I feel like the support I was able to offer fell off as the week went on. This student had some decent ideas. I definitely didn’t push them as much as I wanted to on formatting or translating those ideas into English (which is a common theme that I saw during this round).

(My favorite quote was this essay is “Last years soso speak  in English this year is Amazing.” I can absolutely hear this kiddo saying this and it’s pretty spot on)

Day 72: The One With the Last Quiz…

…of the semester.

Crazy to think that we are done with content for all of first semester. In some ways, it feels so quick (with so many misconceptions still to fix and so much material still to cover, uy), but then again, August seems so far away (on both ends).

Photo #1: Solving Equations Individual Quiz

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In the end, it feels like the strength of the answers reflects how well groups worked together. Groups and/or students that struggled in class and on the group quiz seemed to struggle on the individual quiz while groups that worked well throughout the unit seemed to do well enough on the quiz. I haven’t graded them yet (uy), so we’ll see how it actually turns out.

This is from one of the individual quizzes for our group that had less experience solving equations. There was a lot of language scaffolding for the first problem. While the second answer isn’t really the answer we were looking for, the student shows that understand ideas of balance and making zero, which is good.

Photo #2: Don’t Wanna Talk About It

Have we talked about how long a semester it’s been? I mean, not really any longer than other semesters, but after a full unit with algebra tile manipulatives and many handouts to scaffold learning (plus preparation for upcoming portfolios and a semester of buddy reading in advisory), my room is in a state. I spent a non-significant amount of time looking for a student’s bus pass that they left in my room and that I put in my desk for safekeeping. And then couldn’t find. (I found it in 30 seconds the next day. I’m fairly sure it knew I was looking for it and just hid from me)

Side note: Post-sixth period me is probably the grouchiest me.

Anyway. I’m hoping to clean before portfolios. Dinna hold yer breath.