Monday, July 25, 2016

Highlighting mistakes

I have been thinking about the new year that is fast approaching. I am excited to be heading into a new year, but I will miss my summer vacation. I want to have conversations with my students and help them through their mistakes. I have recently discovered the benefits of making mistakes and have found how much I have learned from my own mistakes.

Far too often I hear from students that they just want the answer. They look up answers on photomath and think that is all that they need to pass the class. I do not want to concentrate on the answers but rather to concentrate on the process. It is one thing to get a correct answer but does having the correct answer mean that they have the understanding of the process. I think not. I want them to understand the relationship of numbers and patterns.

This year I will have all freshmen and will be teaching Algebra I. I have named my class Madtown Mathematics. Algebra Boot Camp. Madtown is for our city of Madera which is also the name of our robotics team: Madtown Robotics.

I like the idea of having an Algebra Boot Camp. I was thinking that more than likely, my incoming freshman will probably not have enough background knowledge as they need. It seems that is always the case. There are a few that come in with all the background knowledge that they need to be successful, but the majority do not. I don't know if it is a flaw in our system as it is or not, but I just know that I am going to give my own students as much as I can.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

First Day of School Jitters

The first day of school is right around the corner and I am getting all anxious to meet my new students. I am hoping to start the year off with my students since I was not able to do so last year. I am teaching only Algebra 1 this year for five periods. I don't know when my prep period is. Last year it was the last period of the day and that was nice because I could fall exhausted and be able to catch my breath before heading home.

Some of my plans this year:
I am looking forward to implementing more writing for my students. I am always hearing from them that this is Math and not English so they think that they can get out of writing. Well not gonna happen.
Another thing I want to do is not use pencils in class. Mistakes are excellent learning opportunities and if we are using pencils that can be erased, then we are missing out on a valuable learning tool (at no additional cost, and what teacher doesn't like free).

I need to sit down and think of some of the other things I need to do for this year. Any suggestions?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

My life is a circus

My life is a circus. It is a constant performance, and I am juggling various acts.
Johnny hasn’t had his breakfast, Willi needs help with homework, Caitlyn is dressing the chickens, Kenny shoes are untied, Michael has disappeared (again), Sean is chasing the cat, Brent is scaring the younger kids, Kevin is complaining (always complaining).

How do I keep up with all of these children?

I walk across the sawdust ground and look up to see the high flying trapeze acts. I am mesmerized.
These are my days of navigating the legos on the floor and washing clothes and feeding children. I am amazed at the disasters these kids come up with.

How do they think of all the things that they do?

I am the ringmaster of my life. I am in charge. I take the whip in my hand and control everything around me that I am capable of controlling.
I am no longer at the mercy of a someone’s whim. I know that I can walk away if it is what is best for me. I no longer  submit myself to someone else’s morals.

How could I have been so gullible?

As I walk across the tightrope, I have no fear for I have a safety net to catch me when I fall. I know that I am not invincible and this net is there for a reason.
The safety net I have is that of my family and friends who are there to support me when it is necessary and help to celebrate my successes.

How could I survive without my loved ones?

I keep the circus within alive, always going, always smiling, not taking life too seriously,
I know that it will work out in the end. I smile at the little things, enjoy the experiences and when the circus tents are packed up and leaving, I will miss the days of the hustle and bustle of our circus days.

How I miss those wonderful days.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Power of Mistakes

Every time a student makes a mistake in math, they grow a synapse. (14)

It this is true then we are missing out on the one of the greatest teaching tools we have available to at no extra charge. I teach math but I hate it when someone tells me when I am talking about something mathematical, 'That's easy for you because you are a math person'. Excuse me. I am not a math person. I am an educator first. I struggle with math just like the next person, but the difference in me and the person next to me is that I am not afraid of making mistakes.

Making mistakes was not something that I have always embraced. In fact, I have spent most of my life trying not to make any mistakes for fear of being yelled at or viewed as inferior. It has only been recently that I have changed that mindset and, in fact, it has been with the change of that mindset that I have discovered how much I have learned. I feel that in the past couple of years when I gave myself permission to start making mistakes, I have learned more than I have in most of my entire adult life. That is amazing.

If we believe that we can learn, and that mistakes are valuable, our brains grow to a greater extent when we make a mistake. (17)

Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students' Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching by Jo Boaler Follow @joboaler on Twitter 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Made it through week 1 #sjvwp

This is the record for yesterday's content:

We learned about Jackson Pollock and his art as performance.

Muhammad Ali Underwater Boxing Writing Technique:

We posted some butcher paper on the wall and got out the oil pastels. Volunteers draw on the butcher paper for three minutes, either with their eyes opened or closed, music on or off. Any color can be chosen. Use of the entire body is encouraged. At the conclusion of the drawing for three minutes, we all made observations of what was in the picture. What did we see? A recorder writes down what we all saw. This is our picture:

This is some of our observations: 

Opening a book is like finding magic.
Words can erupt like a volcano.
They can be as disturbing as riding the storm in a boat,
or as hot as a blue flame.
They help you climb to the top of the eiffel tower,
or give you a playground to safely play
It is like being in a candy store with so much to choose
Ideas explode like fireworks on the Fourth of July
There is chaos, or order,
Unidentified Formulated Opinions pouring from us and rising from the pen
Writing is like a masterpiece, an atomic bomb, rebirth

This is just my sample. What could you come up with?

Observational writing helps to build students vocabulary and observational skills. 

How can we add writing to math? What about daily logs or scribbles of math related topics? Presentations are necessary in some careers and in college. What goals do I need to set for my classroom to add writing to our mathematics and chemistry classes?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Cilantro Method - strategies to teach

Teaching creative writing and creative learning and resources, tips by Juan Felipe Herrera at Fresno State on June 29, 2016. Fresno is the capital of poetry in the US.

Our Matra:

C - Cultura
I - Inspiration
L - Literature of and for the people
A - Assertive Creativity / Many forms and styles
N - Network / Small Groups / Virtual / Community & Global & Library of Congress / Laureate Lab
T - Telling our story / Community and Binational and International
R - Radical new thinking / Experimenting always
O - Oxygen, laughter, breathing exercises every 15 minutes

  • Laureate Lab - Fresno State / September Inaugural - Brand new resource (paper structures, murals with words, etc)
  • Library of Congress: Various Divisions: House of color, prints and photographs, the technical adventures of Catalina Neon (super hero) - Juan will write the first chapter, everyone will write other chapters.
  • Bilingualit Rising! bilingual version of Get Lit Rising. There is a bilingual element to this book.
  • Fresno Youth Laureate
  • Fresno Laureate - Lee Herrick - - can come to your school
  • Mai Der Vang (Walt Whitman Winner) Fresno  - Hmong community, can come to school -
  • LA Youth Laureates - will come out -!yplla/cylz
  • Oakland Youth Laureates -
  • Amanda Gorman - LA Youth Laureate / previous - neighborhood cam poem - -
  • LA Laureate - Luis Rodriguez will come out - grew up in the gang world -
  • California Poetry in the Schools / SF -
  • Poets and writers
  • CAL Humanities - can fund activities -
  • California Arts Council -
Explore these books and presses:
  • Get Lit Rising / new book - coming out soon - Spoken word classic - teenagers responding to poems and what is going on in their lives - Beyond Words Press -
  • Francisco Jimenez Series (YA) -
  • Please excuse  this poem / published -
  • Naomi Shihab Nye's books -
  • An American Hero: Shiro Kashino -
  • Lee and Low Publishers -
  • University of Arizona Press / Chican@Latino@ and native american series -
  • Heyday Books - Oakland -
Notes for today:

Before we begin: the five magic words - You have a beautiful voice

Movement is the key to being successful as a teacher.
Use a lot of calling out in the classroom so students can use their voices.
The brain likes oxygen. Movement helps bring oxygen to the brain.

Tapping Ten doors:
Get into a tortilla (make a large circle) Introduce yourself to someone in the circle and move to another part of the circle.

Masa ball Theater:
Another circle like the tortilla, but this one is smaller. Someone (the director) comes to the circle and places everyone in the masa ball in various poses. Students write a short story about the masa ball.

Students can get into a masa ball (less than half of the class). Teacher gives the students a topic either directly to the masa ball students or gives it to the audience students to tell the masa ball students and the masa ball students act it out. Teacher says to freeze and the audience does a free write about what the students structure looks like. Tell a story.

Student can use one of their five senses when writing descriptions.

Salmon Run: (approximately 15-20 minutes)
create two lines facing each other
Students can whisper or talk loud, either is fine
everyone has a pen and paper
'We are the salmon runners'
we are going to learn how to write a poem without having to write a poem
all of us in the salmon run is going to write and speak at the same time
create a poem without having to write a poem
whether we like or hate writing a poem
the students are going to talk to each other non stop
one student at a time will walk down the middle and write down everything they hear
extreme listening, extreme writing while we are moving
you can give the students a topic or concept to talk about
this could be a review before a test
the comments they write down can be added to their blog
Students then read what they wrote down going through the salmon run
Students may add words to fill it out a bit and make more sense
  1. Spoken word - The new IT!
  2. The Mariachi Phenomenon - everyone loves it 
  3. Aztec Renaissance 2 - learn and use Nahuatl in your experiments
  4. The presence project - show our faces and our words
  5. Cultural Drift - our communities have many talents to share
  6. The new MFA and groups: diversity movement of artists and writers
  7. Super abilities: many likes - art, acting, dance, computers, painting, etc
  8. Verbal Olympics - games for the students that want to move
  9. Libros & Familias - bringing in the families
  10. The Biggy: violence and friendship - the issues of our new generation
Exercises for Starters:
Movement / Music / Art / Visualization / Group / Voice / Performance
  1. Make a book - one piece of paper - six pages - fold it in half and then fold it in half again. Now it is a quarter of the size of that piece of paer. Fold it in half again. Open it. There are eight rectangles in the paper. Tear the paper in the middle down to the fold. Now fold it in a way to make the book. (pictures will come). Can be used to write about concepts. Use pictures and words. 
  2. The gauntlet - everyone writes without effort - also known as the salmon run.
  3. the Muhammad Ali underwater boxing writing technique
  4. Writing on newspapers and magazines
  5. El Tendedero / writing in groups, with word groups / yarn / space / movement
  6. headphone poems
  7. perform poems
What if we wrote on cardboard? The students are so use to seeing paper. They have been given paper their entire school career. But cardboard is different. It is different than paper so it can get the attention that the old fashion worksheets don't. They are use to worksheets. This would be excellent for pre-paper writing to gather ideas. Use different sizes, give to individuals, give to groups, etc

SJVWP Reunion Day with Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera addressed our group. Juan Felipe Herrera is a poet, performer, writer, cartoonist, teacher, and activist. Herrera has been the United States Poet Laureate since 2015. The son of migrant farm workers, Herrera was educated at UCLA and Stanford University, and he earned his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

I loved how he transitioned by playing the harmonica. He had everyone up on their feet and participating in a fun and safe manner.

He read many of his poems to us throughout the day as well as have us read along with him or repeating after him as he read. 

He had a printed hand out which I have posted on another post. There is so much that he has taught us about writing that can be used in any content area. These methods and strategies will work in my math classroom as well as my science class. Learning is learning and absorbing information is best when we use many strategies. It is like the more you incorporate the five senses, the more you will absorb.

There are so many cultures in our community. Likewise there are so many diverse cultures in our classroom. 

There are three things that are most important according to Mr. Herrera's mother: Be kind, be respectful, and to find happiness. Live these three things and everything else is just the icing on the cake. 

Skate Fate is one of his books full of funny poems and some serious ones. The book is dedicated to a boy that was shot in an apparent hate crime. He came open about being gay. The kid continued to write and leave poems all over the place. 

Have you ever had a dueling word wall? I think if I had opposing word walls and one line of students face the one wall and the other set of students face the other wall and as the students go down the line listening and writing what they hear being said, it is a mix of both word walls. I am looking forward to trying this with my students this year.