Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Maths and Magic Squares and other goodies...

I stumbled upon David Saldkey's blog Reflections of a High School Teacher. Originally my attention was caught by a fraction slide that I thought would be a great "Warm Up" or "Hook" for a unit I am just planning.

Then, as I browsed down the posts I got exited to see Magic Squares and algebra in action!

The link between the magic square and algebra I have never emphasized. I thought this was great. But then, I saw this below. Talk about taking it to the next level! This this will be fantastic in my algebra class!!

He also had entries on Google Reader, Teacher movies and many posts on Flipping the Classroom (its on my reading list!). Definitely a blog to keep an eye on!

Monday, 19 August 2013

W.H.E.R.E is your lesson going?

During my back to school exploration, I came across a new acronym in relations to planning a lesson.

W  Where is your lesson going? Whats the purpose?
H   Hook for students? How are they engaged?
E    Explore.
R    Revise. is there opportunities to rethink or revise subject matter
E    Evaluate. How can they exhibit and evaluate their progress?

Thought it was a nice quick way to just check you lesson to ensure we are planning opportunities for students to engage, explore, rethink and evaluate during their learning.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Curious Video

The problem solving and engineering and art in this video is exemplary of the beauty of mathematics.

Source: RUSD Secondary Mathematics Haiku Page

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Orientation Day 3 - Common Core Exploration

We had a few things on the agenda of todays orientation. Firstly, Team meetings followed by Library Orientation, a lovely lunch, Child Protection session and a Duck Tour of London (yes you heard right!)

It is compulsory at the school to complete the Child Protection Training before stepping inside the classroom. I had already completed this before starting last term and had some extra time up my sleeve (yay!). I went back over the Grade 8 Common Core standards for Mathematics. Not just my own level, but also the standards above and below my planned classes.

Back in Australia in my old school we spent much time unpacking and exploring the Australian National Curriculum, which for my school would be trialing it for the 2013 academic year. It was interesting to compare the two and see what similarities and differences between the two initiatives. I also thought to myself how grateful I had already had experience reading and synthesizing information from a document like this.

Having taught the final term and preparing the students for their end of year exams, I found the standards made so much more sense to me after going though that experience. With my new found enthusiasm in seeing connections I then got on the track of UbDs. UbD stands for Understanding by Design, which essential is a process/template to work backward in designing a unit to drill down what do the students need to know or key skills. I have used this template before, but with mixed results. The mixed result I feel might spring from colleagues having different ideas of some of the working or sections in the past (not at the current school). I really want to create a great document that can be utalised and useful.
On our internal Portal I watched YouTube video on Understanding by Design.

Which then made me go back to the Common Core Site to investigate further.

How were the Math Standards Constructed. It was interesting to hear about their rational behind the move. Much they spoke about getting through concepts, delving deeper, developing curriculum to raise the bar in education and the idea of "strands" (briefly mentioned in the video below, but prominent in the Australian Curriculum but interestingly enough being moved away from in the Common Core)
 Lots to think about and still to do!!!!

Grrrr! (and some Mac shortcuts)

Oh boy...

Its funny how easy we can get use to something. I wrote my last two posts at work during my breaks on the school Mac. When growing up, throughout university and during my whole teaching career I have used PCs.

I was horrified to see how many mistakes I made - blame it on the shortcuts or the tiredness but it just goes to show how much we can be creatures of habit (and writing posts on my PC)!

Great thing about this situation, is with the help of Google, there are plenty of people on the wonderful world wide web that are very happy to share their skills and tips. I decided to start with some Mac shortcuts (and my frustration of not having a "Snipping Tool" in a Mac  - I leant there was a shortcut though!).

Some useful links are:
Mac for Beginners - user-friendly page and not too overwhelming
Laptops' Mac for Beginners - a list of 22 shortcuts
Mac Centrals' Mac Keyborad Shortcuts

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Orientation Day 2

Todays morning session focuses on the schools philosophy and approach to leaning, teaching and understanding.

The first activity was an icebreaker. The facilitator asked a great question at the end, "why do we do icebreakers?". We came up with reasons as it builds connections within the group, a level of trust, little bit of bonding. We were also told that research shows that getting to know each other before doing a task or exercise produces a better outcome or result. I missed the name of the researcher, but would be interested to read more about it.

We were then part of what I thought was a very effective jigsaw activity.  On our name tag had a colour and a number. The number correlated to one of the 7 Learning Principles at the school. My number was 7, which related to the principle "Learning is encased through opportunities to discuss, collaborate, debate and share their thinking" which we had to fill in a grid.
All the 7's (and other numbers) got together to share how they interpreted and the ideas they came up with. Next, we moved into our group colour (Red, Blue, Green, etc) where we created a group of 7 with someone representing each principle, which we then could share our combined knowledge. Felt it was a great dynamic and interactive way to delve into this type of information. It was also a good way to demonstrate the type of activities and philosophies of the school. 

Next was the Technology session which just reminded me of how much I still want to learn and explore - Google Docs, Evernote, Email functions, Portals etc!!!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

New School Year & Orientation Day 1

So it's a scary thought that a new school year is about to start.

Only a few weeks ago I remember sitting at my desk after the Grade 8 Graduation and Farewell lunches and thinking I didn't want to go.

Now, I am nervous, wishing I had a few more weeks break to delay the inevitable first day jitters. On the flip side, I am also curious to see what the new year will bring....new colleagues, new students, new hurdles, new risks and of course new memories.

This week is orientation week for new staff. Although I had taken a maternity placement position at this school last term, I really wanted to be part of the Orientation Week as I still feel new and have a lot to learn. Being "thrown in the deep end" last term, was a great way for me to learn. You just got the job done and ask LOTS of questions as each new event rolled around.  The way I like to explain my experience was it was like rolling one school year into one term. For example: getting to know the staff, getting to know the students, learning your way around the school, learning protocols, using technology specific to this school, student lead conferences, familiar with curriculum, excursions, WrAP testing, overseas filed trip, communicating with parents, subject selection, high school placements, assessment and graduation....phew, what a list!

This orientation will be a great opportunity to go back and fill in the blanks.

During our first section during the introduction each person part of the Senior Management team gave a hint or tip after they spoke about their specific topic. It added a nice personal touch as well as some great "inside tips". They ranged from school related (get to know the Meal Deals at the Canteen) to places to go, things to do to help settle into a new city to suggested apps.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Immersion: Normandy Field Trip

Last term the Grade 8's went on a field trip to Normandy, France to complement what has been happening in the Social Study classes (and for some of them also what they have been learning in Languages). The trip contained many different aspects historically but also a few opportunities culturally.
Ultimately, the aim for students was to ask questions, seek answers, use primary and secondary sources, look critically at evidence, infer causes, consequences, motivations and understand perspectives. Students recorded notes and diagrams into a booklet and were asked to write an essay during their social studies class once they returned to school.
It was a massive undertaking! The preparation pre-departure was mammoth, but very much worthwhile. The logistics of the coaches, accommodation, booklet creation, food allergies, media resources (clips and footage to show at a locations or on the way ), medical information, passports...the list goes on!!

The year level was split in to 3 groups. Each had their own coach and historian. There were three "itinerary days" which the coaches (AKA "moveable classrooms") rotated through. One is as follows:

Day 1: Ponte du Hoc, Omaha Beach, US Military Cemetery at Coleville-sur-Mer, Longues-sur-Mer Battery, Vergers de Fumichon cider press (Cultural Point)

Day 2: Pegasus Memorial, Sword Beach, Juno Beach, Arromsnches 360 cinema of WW2, Mulberry Harbour, Gold Beach, British & Commonwealth cemetery, Bayeux (Cultural Point, free time, optional visit to Bayeux Tapestry),  dinner in Caen (cultural point)


Day 3: Le Memorial de Caen (Caen Peace Museum) , German Military Cemetery, Airborne Troops Museum at Sainte-Mere-Eglise, Utah Beach

This field trip had a great effect on students, but also me. I learnt so much on this trip and found it such a powerful learning experience to hear the stories, see the geography, footage and artifacts from each location first hand. It  created such a bigger and more vivid overall picture. The connections the students made, conversations and questions were quite astounding.
The whole Grade 8 team went on the trip. At first it might seem a little strange a math teacher going on a Social Studies tour, but the real benefit was when we returned back to school. I was able to talk about and connect back to what I saw and heard on the trip with my students. Even though its not my strong point, I could call on my feelings, insights or memories which was a great benefit.
I am really grateful for this trip. Its given me such a deeper understanding and appreciation of the events of WW2.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Immersion: The Globe Theatre

One thing I love about this school I am currently working at is they believe in providing experiences for their students to connect and explore subject matter.

The last day of last term was used to indulge the students into Shakespeare. The following term they were to start their study of a Midsummers Night Dream. The day started with a quiz on Shakespeare, his life and work. It went down really well with students (along with some friendly rivalry!) and got them excited about the trip to the Globe.

We caught public transport to the Globe and split up into smaller groups. We had a phenomenal leader. Each leader was an actor associated with the Globe and had a passion and in depth understanding of their subject area. Our workshop started with a talk about the history of the Globe theatre before moving into the rooms to delve into a Midsummers Night Dream. It was great to see some students remembered little facts that also provided some good discussions during the day.

In the rooms our leader introduced the complex plot of a Midsummers Night Dream beautifully. If you are not familiar with the love story, its quite complicated with a few twists and turns. She managed to keep all the complexity of the relationships but communicated it so simply. She used students to be each character and asked them to raise one hand and point to show who they fancied in the story. It was like a dynamic visual flow diagram!! What a great simple strategy -something to note for future reference! ;)


The English teachers also had organized tickets for 30 enthusiastic students to have the opportunity to see the production at the Globe after school. I was fortunate to be able to join the excursion group last minute. It was just AMAZING. I had never studied A Midsummers Night Dream, but with the quiz and workshop earlier it gave a great background.