Today is the last day of summer vacation. In the past week, boxes have been unpacked, t-shirts and class decorations have been hung, and my awesome school custodians have provided me with even more whiteboard space – all the better for getting students up and moving
But beyond the physical layout for this year, here are some ideas I’ll focus on this coming year, many provided by my friends in the Math-Twitter-Blog-O-Sphere, the #mtbos for short.
GREETING STUDENTS WITH HIGH FIVES – Intertwined with all of the mathy goodness of Twitter Math Camp this past July was a simple and powerful device for student engagement from my friend Glenn Waddell – the High Five.
Each day last year, Glenn met his students at the door to give them a high five – a simple, caring gesture to establish a positive tone for class. I often meet students at the door before class or linger in the hallway for informal chat, but I love the tradition and rapport Glenn establishes here and hope to emulate it.
ESTABLISH SEMI-REGULAR RANDOM GROUPINGS – this gem comes from Alex Overwijk, who is the king of Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces and Visible Random Groupings. This year, I plan to randomly change my seating chart once each week, or at the start of a new unit – whichever seems to make the most sense at the time. Traditionally, I’ll assign groups on my own and change them once or twice in a semester. With some classes, I’ll allow students to choose their own groups. But I have found that these practices often foster group-think, where a group will together develop the same bad habits through their work together. I want more interaction, more sharing of ideas, especially in cases where students otherwise would not have encountered each other. I’m planning to assign each student a playing card on the first day, and set the new groups by dealing cards on the desks on days when it’s time to change. I also confess here that a static seating chart was a huge crutch for me, as I would print out student names for me to glance down at when I needed. Which leads into another goal for the new year…
I MUST LEARN NAMES DAMMIT! – I confess this could be one of my weakest areas as a teacher. I could make all kinds of excuses for it, but it comes down to this – I drop the ball when it comes to learning and recalling my students’ names. We start school next Tuesday with a 4-day school week, and my goal is to know all names as they walk in the door by the first Friday. I have already gone through my class rosters (which conveniently provide photos). How awesome would it be to know student names before they even walk in the door?
And beyond my current students, I am brushing up on names from students I taught last year. I’ve missed out on these connections for too long, and it’s my fault – time to work harder at it.
IMPROVING MY HOMEWORK PRACTICES – I don’t grade homework anymore, and in many cases have changed the nature of assignments. I’ve settled into the philosophy that I would rather have students think about a handful of meaningful, discussable problems rather than complete a laundry list. This year, I am looking to include more articles and video clips for students to observe and discuss in lieu of traditional assignments.
To go over homework, I often employ random methods to share works on my document camera, with mixed success. I’m finding that since I don’t directly look at assignments anymore, the completion is spotty at all levels. I may need to go back to a few minutes of checking and informal greeting at the start of a period to improve assignment fidelity.
USING REFLECTOR TO ENCOURAGE PARTICIPATION – It can’t be the new school year without a new tech tool to try out. This year, I am looking forward to using the Reflector 2 program from the folks at Squirrels. This inexpensive software, loaded onto my laptop, allows me to relfect the screen from my ipad or iphone onto the laptop. I’m hoping this will allow me to be more hands-free for presentations, and hand over the ipad to students to take control – using Desmos or Deoceri to create works and share in front of the class. Also, I’m wondering what a class would look like where students could reflect their own phones onto the screen and share works. Day 1 of class could feature a “load test” – what happens when many, many students all try to reflect their graphs at the same time?
Now, out to the craft store to buy some last-minute stuff!