Sunday, November 8, 2015

Using Google Calendar for Lesson Planning = The BEST

I realize that - as part of teaching - teachers must complete lesson plans. We have a professional responsibility to document what we are teaching, how we are teaching it, what activities we're using, and how we're accommodating the special needs of many of our students.

Having said this, for 3.5 years I have HATED lesson planning. Don't get me wrong, I always had a fairly developed lesson plan in my head, but I hated taking excessive amounts of time to write it down in someone else's format.  I also hated that it wasn't really helping anyone. Who looks at those things? No one. Taking that amount of time away from what I should be thinking about - improving and teaching concepts - was not right for kids or for me personally or professionally.

I realized there was no getting around completing lesson plans, so I began seeking out ways to make lesson planning useful. Enter Google Calendar. My lesson plans are finally useful and beneficial for my kids and their guardians.

I just make an event for each lesson. If I have multiple preps of that course, I just do one plan (the first time slot I teach it). I have a separate calendar for each prep.

No. My lesson plans aren't intense. I don't have that kind of time, but the plan is solid enough that I could repeat it or quickly recall everything we did that day, and that's really the purpose of a lesson plan, in my opinion. Here's what I love - you can attach all of your lesson documents to the daily plan, and they are stored in your Drive (mine are already in Drive).

I can then share this calendar (and thus all my files, if I want) with collaborating teachers, other teachers in the school/district that teach the same prep, and administrators.

Another plus is that Google Calendar syncs with my school website. Parents and students (especially if they are absent) can navigate to my teacher page and see what they missed on the given day.

If you dread lesson planning (not the actual planning - the documentation of the planning), please try Google Calendar. I can't recommend it enough. My lesson plans are always completed in advance, well-developed, and easy to access. If a student comes in and needs "the stuff from last Thursday"... I can actually find it quickly or at least immediately direct them to its location. It's a beautiful thing.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Multiple Representations: Midpoint and Endpoint Socrative Practice

One value I push and is a common thread throughout my lessons is the idea of multiple representations. I think, far too much in education, we teach kids "the easiest way", which may be the easiest way for you, or for most kids, but it could very well be the most difficult method for others. I make every attempt to analyze math topics from multiple perspectives.

If I am a strong algebra student/equation solver, how would I best understand this concept?

If I am a strong visual student/grapher, how would I best understand this concept?

If I am a strong tactile student/manipulative-user, how would I best understand this concept?

I know lots of philosophies put emphasis on catering to the different types of learners (visual, kinesthetic, auditory), but that's not exactly what I'm trying to do here. You see, I am an auditory learner - very auditory. In fact, a specialist "tested" me and said I was the highest auditory result he'd ever seen. Evidently I'm weird - nobody that knows me well is shocked.  But you see, it's a beautiful thing. In a way, we are all weird. We all learn differently. Some of us are about the minutiae - detail people. Some of us are big picture visionaries. How do these types best learn? I don't think we necessarily can have a perfectly ironed-out answer here. However, we should give students choices in how they can approach a problem

When I taught midpoint and endpoint this year, I stressed using reasoning and these multiple approaches to arrive at an answer. Students were taught how to find midpoint and endpoint (1) algebraically, (2) graphically, and (3) on a number line with marker manipulatives. Some kids heavily preferred the algebraic approach. Some initially avoided the algebra like the plague. The great thing is - by the end of the lesson set - students saw how all the methods were interwoven. Because of students' strength in one approach and the interconnectivity, these initial strengths eventually translated into a gradual strengthening of their approaches in other, more weak, methods.

To facilitate this type of practice, I used Socrative (I'm a huge Socrative fan) and a strategically assembled worksheet.

Socrative Code (if you'd like to use this activity): SOC-18350734

Here is the handout. For each problem kids had to (1) specify if the problem was an endpoint or midpoint problem (I know this is obvious, but this question seems to help the kids focus), (2) prove the calculation algebraically, (3) prove the solution on number lines, and (4) prove the solution on the coordinate plane.

Handout Download: HERE

Enjoy! Please let me know if you have any feedback on how to improve this activity!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Google Maps & Midpoint/Distance Formulas Project

As has been the theme of many of my posts this year - my geometry students are all pretty much 1:1. So, I keep trying to reimagine and reinvent what technology makes possible for my kids this year.

Last year I did a project based learning unit for midpoint and distance. Kids had to design and make water parks. That was a lot of fun, but project based learning is hard work, and frankly, the way that project is designed - it took a lot of cash to fund the purchase of a bajillion glue gun sticks, foam, felt, cardstock, popsicle sticks, etc. My school just doesn't have the cash this year, but - having a positive mindset - what do we have? Technology.

I'm sure most of everyone has read/heard about the optimized Road Trip Map produced by some data scientists. If not, you can (and should) read about it HERE.

Maybe it's just me, but I think there is something inherently interesting about a great American Road Trip. I started wondering how I could capture this for my midpoint/distance formula project.

First, there are way too many locations, so I narrowed my project down to the Northeast. It starts at my high school and returns there. I used Google Maps to record the address, latitude, and longitude (in decimal degrees) of each destination.

Here is my file. Feel free to use it, but you'll want to change the start/finish from my high school. To make it easier, tell your kids you are flying into the Lexington,KY (LEX) airport and reroute accordingly.


I debated having kids plot these locations themselves. However, we don't have Google Classroom or GAFE. The lack of these resources makes having students collaboratively working in Google much, much harder. If you have these resources, let them plot the destinations themselves. It takes a little work. You need to enter all points of interest in a spreadsheet (I did address, latitude, and longitude) and then upload as a layer in My Maps. Then, you can create driving directions as additional layers. If kids had these files and could interactively work with them, I'd also have them upload a photo of each destination within the map. This year, I'm trying to not only teach math but also teach students how to use digital tools well. Very few of mine know much about technology except for how to use their phones.

Okay. So, the premise is that we are road tripping and obviously driving to each destination. Students will click on the location marker and record the important info about each place (street, city, state, zip, latitude, and longitude). Then, for almost all locations, they have to Google and determine where they are. I only gave names for strange places to search for by address - like historic districts. They'll record all this information on their handout.

Handout: HERE

Then, they have to do a little research and find out what's special about this place. For each destination, I've created some fill-in sentence-type web quests for students to complete. Each destination also has a virtual tour (except I'm still looking for something about the historic district in Annapolis Maryland) for students to take.

Here is my list of virtual tours:

#1 - Start @ High School
#2 - Mammoth Cave -
#3 - Spring Grove Cemetery -
#4 - Fox Theatre (Detroit) -
#5 - The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame -
#8 - Acadia National Park -
#10 - The Breakers -
#11 - Mark Twain House & Museum -
#13 - Liberty Bell -
#14 - Cape May Historic District -
#15 - New Castle Historic District -
#16 - Colonial Annapolis
#19 - Lost World Caverns -

The last page of the packet has some summary information the kids have to compile.  For example, for each leg of the trip, the kids have to calculate the straight line distance using the distance formula (then use a conversion to get the value to miles) and the time it would take to travel such distance at a constant rate of 60 MPH. They have to compare this to the actual distance and figure out why these straight line distances don't make sense.... i.e. the world is round and thus we should really calculate these distances using great circle calculations.

This reasoning is the best way I could figure out to get kids practicing the distance formula with latitude/longitude and still have them reason/make sense of why the numbers are so off. If anybody else has a better way to integrate the distance formula into this, please let me know!