Sunday, August 28, 2016

A New Beginning for the 22nd time

Highlights from First Week of School!

I always love the first week of school.  Well, once I get over the lack of sleep of course!  I am always so exhausted at the end of the first week- just so much to process and plan!

I teach 7th grade math- two different curriculums.  Merit/Honors follow the common core math 7 standards, and Accelerated does all of 7th common core and about half of 8th.  My day feels a bit disjointed as I teach Merit/Acc/Merit/Plan/Honors/Acc, so never the same from period to period.

Classes today were about 30 minutes long due to a longer advisory class to go over rules/drills/forms.  Love my advisory class- Introduced talking circles and the human knot and I think we'll have a great year together.  Our advisory group meets together every Wednesday for about 30 minutes.
In all of my math classes I started by introducing our daily problem solving.  This year we will be doing:
  •  "Model a Pattern Monday" ( thanks to @fawnpnyugen)
  • "Talk about Numbers Tuesday" (Making Number Talks Matter! and other places- still looking for a good source for a large number of these- suggestions welcome)
  • "Which One Doesn't Belong Wednesday" ( thanks to @marybourassa )
  • "Take your Pick Thursday" (a mixture of and debate questions inspired by @plspeak at
  • "Find the Flub Friday"- ideally these will be real student misconceptions from current content...some from

I'm using a weekly recording sheet for students to keep in their binder, with three end of the week reflection questions (I think inspired by @lisabej_Manitou )- What did you learn in math class this week?  What do you need more help on?  Share one good thing from this week (outside of math class).  I really want to work on connecting more with my students and while reading and responding each week will be time consuming I think it will be work it!

After the Model a Pattern Monday, students did the Broken Circles activity from Designing Groupwork (thanks @mathequalslove for the modified circles!).  I thought this was a great activity and led to a great reflection and discussion about group norms (used the posters from @mathequalslove too!).  Every single person "A" that had a perfect circle from the beginning just didn't want to break up their circle- but that was the only way to complete the group task!  We also did the icebreaker activity (groups agreeing to a favorite food, game, and tv show) inspired by @zimmerdiamonds to reinforce group norms. 

Today students started to set up their interactive notebooks.  We glued in a foldable for the standards for math practice from @iisanumber.  We didn't fill anything into the foldable yet. Students worked on the "Fewest Squares" activity from @joboaler 's week of inspirational math and then we closed the activity by reflecting on which SMPs they felt most applied for this activity.  Students pretty much agreed on "Perseverance" and "Attend to Precision" as they so often thought they had a square when it was really a 9x8 or 7x6 instead.  I had students work on communicators with graph paper inside, and record results as a group on a recording sheet. 

I thought this one was really interesting...she was drawing a diagonal so that she made sure that she ended up with a square without counting #attendtoprecision :)

Continued interactive notebook setup. Our school does standards based grading, and I created a chart for each term for a place for students to record their original assessment grade as well as to record corrections and retests.  I think this helps students track what they have achieved and need to work on without needing to go to the online gradebook or sort through all of their papers.  I decided not to use a table of contents this year.  An 8th grade teacher at my school decided to have students glue in tabs that have the wording of the standard on the inside and just the simplified name of the standard on the tab that sticks out of the notebook.   I loved it so I "stole" it!  It already makes me so much happier than a table of contents so we'll see how it goes.  One of my students asked if she could make a table of contents anyway- so some students will have both.  I think it's important that the notebook work for them!

Our first standard is Calculating Unit Rates (7.RP.A.1).  Students worked with calculating unit rates in 6th grade, so I wanted to preassess and activate a bit of their prior knowledge at the same time.  Here is the presentation we worked through...I really like the Partial Products lesson from @ddmeyer.  I encouraged students to try using ratio tables...while I don't require them as a strategy I find that using them to provide structure while working with any problem involving proportional reasoning really helps students!  To close out the lesson we summarized what a unit rate was, and how it could be useful when problem solving.

My accelerated students took a pretest for the term.  I create a chart for the term with all of the standards so I can differentiate.  Often with the accelerated students they don't know content for the preassessment but pick up concepts quickly.  So I always have a variety of challenges available for when students are ready!

Basically the only difference between 6th grade and 7th grade Unit Rates is the inclusion of fractions, which means fraction division!  Students were exposed to fraction division in 6th grade, but I find that most of them don't have a strong understanding of what division means and what type of answer would be a reasonable estimate for the quotient.  So I started a bit more basic with whole numbers, then whole number with a fraction quotient with this presentation.  I connected that with Fawn's graph paper fraction division.  I love this method and think it makes such a connection for visual learners! I don't require students to use it beyond the 5 problems we do in class, but think it's so important.

Accelerated set up their interactive notebooks.  Their first topic is adding and subtracting rational numbers. I wanted to use number lines so I used a Which One Doesn't Belong for adding integers on the number line that I created last year. (its #29 on this page).  After students brainstormed similarities and differences I asked them to write an addition equation that they think represented each example.  We had a good discussion about absolute values and the relevance of the length and direction of the arrows

Today we continued our exploration of fraction division to help set students up for success when calculating unit rates.  I had students try three different representations of the same division problem...graph paper rectangles, common denominator, and multiplying by the reciprocal. 

In accelerated, students tried out some addition on the number line, and then I asked them to sort into up to  four groups based on similarities on how they solved them and the sum.  While students worked on it I was able to get  around and make sure everyone was proficient with the graphing.  We had a great conversation about different ways to sort and then discussed how we could write rules for adding integers based on the different groups.  Some students didn't group in a way that helped them create the rules- but were able to sort their groups further when they realized they hadn't used a similar method to solve. (example on the side)  This is in preparation for work with rational numbers next week.  Especially after we start multiplying and dividing I find if students don't have/use a visual they start to mix up the rules they have created.

Goodness!  After looking through this post I certainly borrow a lot from pretty much everywhere!  Thanks MTBoS!

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