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Replacing the Friday folder with a podcast: Voxie Pro Recorder

When you change the way that teaching/learning happens in a classroom or a school, you quickly discover that additional changes are needed to support it.  We have been in the process of learning ALL of those things that are affected by changing the classroom model.  At Anastasis Academy, we are largely paperless.  Our students still write with paper pencil, create posters and projects, but much of their work is done in Evernote, iMovie, Stop Motion HD, Pages, Keynote, and Notes on their iPads.  When you take away worksheets, traditional quizzes and tests from the classroom, there isn’t a whole lot to send home as a “Friday folder.” As teachers, we were pretty comfortable with not having a Friday folder.  We were seeing all of the incredible evidences of learning that the students were creating.  The problem: parents aren’t always seeing those same evidences.  Either the parents aren’t sure where to look, kids are feeling tight lipped or blogs aren’t subscribed to properly or read regularly.  We were hearing often from parents, ‘I know that they are progressing, I know that amazing things are happening, but I’m not quite sure how to prove it to myself.  I’m not sure where to look.’  Because we also don’t give homework, parents can’t use that as a gauge of what kids are doing in the classroom.  So, we needed a solution.  One day while @Matthewquigley and I were rehashing and wracking our brains for the best way to do this without taxing our teachers to the point of burnout, @Matthewquigley had a stroke of pure genius.  “What if we did something like a podcast Friday folder?” Brilliant! The more we thought about it, the more we liked audio as a solution.  @Matthewquigley and I can walk into a classroom at any given moment and ask students and teachers what they are observing/inferring/learning/noticing and they can give you a great answer.  It is easy to talk about students and to tell those great stories about a student that often get forgotten before parent-teacher conferences.  It is equally easy to talk about the work you are doing in class, when you are still in class where one project isn’t lost among the plethora of activities and learning that happened in the day/week. We went full steam ahead with this idea.  First, I looked at audio recording apps for the teacher iPads.  I wanted something that would be easy to use, give us the ability to categorize, easily sync over wifi, and email the audio recording to parents and admin.  The clear winner was Voxie Pro.  It was simple enough to do everything we needed, without too many extra bells and whistles to distract. Here is what we did: Length- 30 seconds to 1:30 per student Frequency- every other week Purpose: to help communicate the progress that students are making, to collect an audio body of evidence that helps tell the story of student growth, to aid in the building of the digital portfolio. Teacher should include: what has been observed, noticed, inferred Topics: Social/emotional, spiritual, academic Student should include:  Something they are proud of, want to share and where parent can find it in pictures, Evernote, iMovie, the interwebs, etc. Student could read a few sentences to show progress in skills, explain Bible verse they discussed that week, re-tell a story, explain a new concept, etc. Teacher Template Student:___________________ Week: _____________________ What I noticed/observed/inferred: Spiritually:_____________________ Academically:____________________ Socially/Emotionally:___________________ Student Template A project/blog post/discussion that I want to share/am proud of: _________________________ My parents can learn more about it here:________________________________________ The first wave of these audio emails went out today.  They turned out great! Parents know exactly what is happening in the classroom as it pertains to their child and kids are sharing work that they are proud of and reminding themselves (and mom and dad) where they can find it.  Not only do parents have a great bi-weekly update specific to their child, they have a timeline of learning and progress at the end of the year.  Imagine the implication of starting a program like this in kindergarten, and following the student all the way through middle school.  You would have a week-by-week of what was learned, what strengths and weaknesses were exhibited, but also have that precious student voice throughout the years. What I like about the audio Friday folder, is the ability to say more about a child than a worksheet with a star at the top can.  With the audio, you can communicate things about the development of a child.  Their progress in math when they struggled and struggled, but stuck with it to the end.  Their empathy for other students when they notice another student who is lonely in the lunch room and get up and invite their friends to sit with that student.  Their maturation as they handle a conflict with another student appropriately.  I especially love that students can highlight a project(s) that they are particularly proud of and help mom and dad find it.  That is a dinner conversation starter!  With any luck, we will forever banish the “what did you do at school today?” question.  In it’s place, “I’m really proud of you for sticking with that math when it was so difficult, what was it that you were working on?  How did you finally solve it?” Awesome.

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Math Class Needs a Makeover: videos, inquiry, math stories and more

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Blogs, Create, Download, Evaluate, inspiration, Knowledge (remember), Math, professional development, Teacher Resources, TED Talk Tuesdays, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 18-06-2013

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What it is:  I’ve had the great fortune of time to go through my Google Reader favorites this week as I prepare for the shutdown (still bitter about that!).  The unexpected benefit I’ve had from Google Reader’s demise? The forced opportunity to go back through and be reminded of some of the truly amazing people and resources in education.  Dan Meyer is one of my all time favorite math geniuses.  He reminds us that math is more than computation, it is a frame of mind and an outlook on the world.  If your math program isn’t that…it is time to change!  As I went back through the resources of Dan’s that I had tagged, I re-watched his TEDx Talk: Math Class Needs a Makeover.  If you haven’t seen this TED Talk, or haven’t watched it in a while…now is the time.  I’ve embedded the talk above for your viewing pleasure…you don’t even have to go anywhere!  If you have watched it recently, be a friend and share it with someone else.

Dan also has some other really useful mathspiration.  His blog, dy/dan, is a source of math prompts and discussions that will have you thinking beyond computation. 101Questions is a project that encourages students to think about math through photo prompts and inquiry.  Graphing Stories is STINKING fantastic, Dan offers a printout for your students, they can then watch any video and graph the story.  AWESOME describes this resource. Three Act Math is a curricula that Dan developed, click on the links within the doc to get to the resources.  Again…AWESOME. Geometry curricula offers you Dan’s handouts, pdfs, powerpoint and keynote presentations.  Algebra curricula offers the same.

THANK YOU Dan for sharing your passion for mathematics, your inspiration for those of us who aren’t as naturally inclined to geek out about math, and for your openness of resources.

How to integrate Dan Meyer’s awesomeness into the classroom:  Dan makes it really easy for you to integrate his methods into your classroom.  Everything you need from inspiration, to mathematical story sets, to curricula materials is available.  If you teach math, the obvious place to start is with the type of math that you teach.  Dan’s resources are mostly intended for high school students use.  However, as I looked through his resources again, I think they could be appropriate for students in elementary school as well.

101Questions is a great way to have your kids enter an inquiry mindset as they approach math.  These are photos that ask your students what the first thing that comes to mind is.  Students can type in their answer and get a new prompt.  These would be a great way to start your class using a projector or interactive whiteboard.  Have your class inquire and come up with questions together.  Students can also do this as an independent activity and then share their questions with other students.

Graphing Stories speaks for itself.  Again, it is geared toward secondary students, but I think that given enough support, primary students would really enjoy engaging math this way too.  (Sometimes we don’t give students enough credit for where an interest can take their thinking.  Case in point: Anastasis 2nd and 3rd graders who know Fibonacci inside and out. Normally you wouldn’t see the concept until high school or later.)

The Three Act Math is also a favorite of mine.  Use Dan’s three acts, or use his as inspiration for creating your own!

Dan’s resources hit on every level of Bloom’s Taxonomy…that alone is good reason to stop reading this and go on your own exploration!

Tips: Dan is great to follow on Twitter...a constant stream of 140 character mathspiration!

How are you using Dan Meyer’s Awesome in your classroom?  Leave a comment below!

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