First Day Algebra II – Will you catch the fever?

made4math_smallMy First Made 4 Math Monday Post! I have obtained many ideas from this so hopefully I can start contributing something as well!

I can’t believe that it is almost the end of July and school is right around the corner! I am excited and nervous all at the same time! I kind of already have my first day for algebra II planned out since I am going to use something similar to last year. I still have no clue what I am going to do for honors geometry but I do have some ideas rolling around in my head. Anyways, for anyone reading this, you need some background info about my algebra II class. It is a lower level class (but that doesn’t mean the kids are any less awesome and I requested to teach it!) and we start off the first unit on models. Understanding how to use the calculator and introduce our basic info before we cover all our different units on linear, systems, inequalities, quadratics, exponentials…you get the idea. I love and I keep referring back to this stuff throughout the entire course. So, here is my plan:

  • Stand outside and greet all the students at the door (I do it everyday and they like it and it helps me with classroom management).
  • Have something projected on the board saying welcome and to grab the worksheet at the front of the room. I have them get started filling out your info sheet via Dan Meyer with some edits of my own for my personal preference. (It sets the tone that they have to start working right away and I expect that everyday they walk in).
  • After the first 5 minutes of class (making sure no one else is late) I very briefly introduce myself and welcome them to Algebra II.
  • I now get into my mode and I tell the students that in order for me to work here I have to let them know of a medical condition I have. I say that I have to take medication for it everyday otherwise it could be contagious. I took it today so it is okay but if you need to go to your counselor and switch out at the end of the period I will let you. (Their faces are totally scared and freaked out…so much fun for me). I say that we are going to look at a worksheet to discuss what I have and answer some questions.
  • I pass out the worksheet (link below) and I tell them I have SCHOOL FEVER! (I am really loud and full of energy so just pretend all of that explodes here). Some sigh in relief, some laugh, others just think this is weird and question if I have a teaching degree….
  • I quickly give all the kids numbers by having them number themselves off (hence the reason they have a box for it on the worksheet so we don’t have to play the I forgot my number game). I talk about how I am infected and lets say that after each moment I can infect one other person. I use the random number generator from the calculator and I project it on the board so they can see. I briefly explain what the random number generator does (I use the randint function on the nspire but I believe it is on the 83/84 as well) and then use it to find my first victim. Actually, I lied. I have the kids predict how many people they think will be infected next but since I am the only infected and I can only infect one other person they all say 1 since it seems obvious to them.
  • The person who is infected now has to stand up and say their name and a few random facts they want to share. I hint that they can use the worksheet they started on in class. I don’t pressure if they don’t want to say a lot. It helps me gauge who is willing to speak up and who will need some helping along. It is interesting to see what some say….and I use this way to take attendance so I don’t have to do the boring roll call that infuriates me to no end since I don’t like wasting time in class doing annoying things. Anyways, they keep standing so we can see the infection spreading. (Most have been sitting all day getting rules and procedures lectured at so this is a nice change of pace I hope…or I am the worst teacher ever for making you stay standing…whatever.)
  • Next, I have the kids make a prediction again, ask some kids to volunteer what they predicted, explain their reasoning, etc.
  • We do the random number generator again except I have it pick 2 random numbers since 2 people now are infected.
  • The new people stand and they tell us their stuff, I check off the attendance and we keep playing. The fun is when you get to someone that is already standing. Are they infected again? (No, since you can’t get school fever again if you already have a fever…which makes sense.) If the same student keeps getting infected I will crack jokes like you hang out with really sickly people.
  • It is also interesting to see that many students think the pattern doubles but then it doesn’t and it throws them leading to great discussions.
  • When you finish with everyone in class we then make a quick sketch. (SPOILER ALERT…..It is a logistic graph and one that many students have not seen before and every time we see a logistic graph someone yells out SCHOOL FEVER!!!! I also discuss stuff about carrying capacity with populations from my science background).
  • We then go through the rest of the questions taking input from students and letting them run the discussion. I just write down thoughts and answers on the computer.
  • If there is time leftover I let them continue working on their info sheet. This is their homework for the night as I tell them that I really want to know about stuff they like and things they do. Knowing who they are will better help me figure out how to make my class better for you.
  • I like that a lot of students last year asked me what were doing the next day. My response: “You will just to have to be here to find out.”

Overall, I really love this. The kids are not bored and think I am nuts. (If you watch when I teach then you would know that I am always bouncing off the walls and 10 times more excited than I should be about things but I think it is contagious!). Either way, I really hope when they go home and talk about their first day that I am mentioned. I want my students to be talking about math and hopefully having positive feelings with it. I truly believe that when kids are doing math on the first day, we are off on the right foot. I don’t think giving them equations to solve and say “we need to practice our algebra skills…here we go” is something that would work for me. I am not that type of person. Eventually I will do some practice with that but later. We need to start off on the right foot, especially in a math class where many students have already made up their mind that they hate math before they even walk in my door. Can I say that everyday we have some amazing exciting activity? No. Can I say that I will try and give you as many activities as possible to enhance the learning? Yes. I tell this to my students up front and be realistic with them. If anything, that seems to work with lower level kids who have been beaten down before. Honesty is the best policy. I loved that at the end of the last school year when I asked what were some of the favorite and least favorite things we did, a lot of students mentioned this first day as a favorite. They liked it and I think I totally hooked some of them in.

By the way: I totally stole this idea from a colleague of mine that presented it at a workshop I attended last summer. I modified what she did and put my spin on it to make it work better for me…so there is no way I would have made something this amazing by myself. I think I also did something like this in my high school calculus class…I believe it had to with points of inflection or something but that was awhile ago so I am a little fuzzy on those details. This helps me late out what I want to do and I also hope that someone can find this useful. Good luck on your first day!

What I learned from subbing for the last week of Summer School

This week I took over a classroom for one of my cooperating teachers back when I was student teaching! I spent the whole week basically getting them ready for the final today. I taught for 2 classes for about 2 and 1/2 hours each. Teaching for 5 hours straight can be exhausting and you can get bored so easily (well not me since I am always running around the room like a crazy person).

When times were getting bored I would try to mix things up. Have them stand up and do some math aerobics. Pull out mini whiteboards and have them practice. Make the students go to the board to solve a problem. Use large butcher paper and markers and students would work on problems and post them around the room. Go outside and use chalk to make graphs and then walk around and discuss what we liked and what may need some improvement. Play a game to make things more entertaining.

After doing all of this I am wondering at how often do I make my students get up and switch to something different during the regular school year. I know that I try and always plan to shake things up but I don’t think it happens as often as I like. My advice to myself, and anyone reading this, is try something different and get the students up and moving whenever you can. Your students will thank you.