Graphing with Context

This week one of my classes has been studying coordinate grids and graphing. They’ve learned about coordinates, using a table, identifying rules and created ordered pairs during the last part of March. On Monday the class reviewed line graphs and change over time. At this point in time the class is identifying the informal slope (without a formulas) of a graph and describe events that are taking place by analyzing the relationship between the x and y-axis. Earlier this week my students worked through Kurt’s Retro Desmos solving systems by graphing task.

I selected specific slides to complete as the class hasn’t been introduced to the y-intercept yet. The class spent a good chunk of time on slide four – a class favorite. Students tried out different strategies to see what happens as the lines cross or increase in steepness. This led to a class discussion about the slope of the line and what the x and y-axis means in context. A number of students experimented with what happens when you make multiple lines on the graph. This slide caused students to think about the context first and then how the lines look second. Near the end of the class students mentioned that they’d be interested in the process of finding the rate or speed of each character as time progresses.

During the next class I used Kurt’s slides and idea to create an assignment. I added a few criteria pieces related to the 100 meter dash. Some of ideas were taken straight out of the original activity. Click here for the Desmos assignment slide.

Criteria: Mario starts 30 meters ahead, Sonic and Mario are tied at 4 seconds, Sonic takes a 3 second break, and Sonic wins at 9 seconds.

Students worked on this assignment in class and checked their work by pressing play. I was impressed with how students made multiple attempts in trying to meet the criteria. The video playback of the race was used as a self-checking mechanism.

Students then answered a question related to Sonic’s line.

Tomorrow the class will review the graphs in more detail. I’m looking forward to diving into more graphing fun tomorrow.

Changing Models

Arrows indicating direction of student traffic flow

For most of the year my school has been following a hybrid AM/PM model.  Half of my classes attend in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. Some student are in-person and others (about 25%) are elearners, but all attend the same class Zoom session together. In the morning I have three math classes that are about 40 minutes each and then I repeat the process with a new group in the afternoon.  My largest class is about 14 students since it’s split in half.  While not ideal, this model has led to some positive outcomes and I’m glad that district moved in that direction. A few observations:

Since there are less students in the sessions I find it much easier to discuss topics as an entire class.  Guided group discussions take on more meaning as students have more opportunities to ask/answer impromptu questions. Students are able to social distance at an optimal levels because there are less students in the school. There isn’t a lunch period so families and staff feel safer regarding virus transmission opportunities.  

I’ve also noticed that the class has had a community element, but is not the actual entire class.  Since half is in the morning and the other half in the afternoon, students aren’t able to get to know their classmates as well as before the pandemic  Some of their friends that they saw last year aren’t in their session.  Also, math time is limited to 40 minutes, which means something has to unfortunately be cut. This year that cut is taking the form of students working together in groups

Starting tomorrow the model will shift. Boom. Instead of having an AM/PM class, I’ll see my entire class for a full 60 minutes – that’s 20 additional bonus minutes. Approximately 25% of my students are still elearners so they’ll join-in along with the rest of the class in Zoom.  You heard it right, all of my classes and students will be in Zoom.  I’ll be modifying the model from earlier in the year. I’m planning on incorporating more student group work with that present of time. I feel that component has been one of many important elements that have been missing with the hybrid model.  Along with the extra students comes a re-emphasis on social distancing and routines as students will be in school for the entire day.  This is a significant change as lunch, recess and hallway congestion all become more of an issue. The thing that will be immediately noticeable for students is the increase in the number of desks in the classroom and probably the amount of tables/desks needed to eat lunch with social distancing.

New protocols related to recess, social distancing, shared materials, and lunch will need to be communicated to students. Technology and chargers will need to be brought to class and students will have music, art, and PE in-person in the classroom and outside if weather permits. Just writing the last few sentences brought a slight smile to my face.

Even though the last few days have been used for planning, I’m finding that there’s a sense of anxiety that’s permeating the air. Usually that’s reserved for the first day of school. In a certain context it’s like teachers are starting a new school year.  Norms and community building will be forefront as students start getting used being in-person again, although a change in expectations may be needed as school is much different compared to what we left last March.

I’m looking forward to this seven week adventure. After that we can close out the infamous 2020-21 school year.

Math Breakout Rooms

I was introduced to Zoom breakout rooms last March when my district went remote. Breakout rooms were novel and many teachers started to use them during the last couple months of school. It was one way to get students into smaller groups where they felt more comfortable sharing. They were awkward at first for students and staff but most were able to get their breakout room sea legs by May.

Fast forward to the 20-21 school year. Like many around the nation, my school started the year off completely remote. Having a head start in March helped most teachers get into a routine quickly. Most teachers started to use breakout rooms immediately and were able to see the benefits. The social interaction that usually occurs in-person can’t be exactly replicated, but a form of it can in a breakout room. I’ve been part of some amazing student math discussions in breakout rooms this year. I’ve also been in other rooms that were full radio silence. Some this year have had detailed agendas that students follow while others are more student-directed.

Most of my elementary math breakout rooms consist of 2-5 students. Since we are using a hybrid model I try to match students in-person with those at home. I found early on that partnering up kids in the classroom over Zoom causes major audio issues. Less students participate in the breakout room when there are more than five participants. Generally, students in the breakout room have a specific task or activity. Sometimes the assignment comes from their consumable journal and other times it might be a prompt. Students are usually in the their breakout rooms for 5-15 minutes. We have a 45 minutes block for math. While students are working I pop in and out of the rooms with my camera and sound off. I observe the conversation and ask questions if needed. Most of the time, I visit a room and listen to what’s happening, add something in the chat for that room and then move to the next room. After the breakout rooms close the class has a debrief sessions and I try to have each team discuss their solutions. This strategy has worked out well this year, but I’ve had inconsistent success.

I still have questions.

  • What makes a good breakout room?
  • What’s the ideal room size and time?
  • Does camera on/off matter?
  • How do you manage breakout rooms while teaching in-person and elearners at the same time?
  • Should students share their iPad screen?
  • Do you find annotation through Zoom helpful?

I don’t believe there’s a perfect formula for a breakout room, but there are better practices. Feel free to let me know what has worked in your classroom.

Uncharted Waters

I’m expected to report back to school this Friday. I received an email last week indicating a packed full week of professional developing that’s divided into synchronous and asynchronous sessions. One part of me is glad that teachers have six (we usually have less) days to prepare, but there’s another part of me that knows that this year will be unlike any other. As I review the detailed agendas I’m starting to mentally put together how a schedule will look once my school starts to meet face-to-face. As of right now (and this could change), my school will start on 8/24 with elearning for everyone and then transition to a hybrid AM/PM model at some point in September. The hybrid model emphasizes the need for face-to-face instruction for language arts and math instruction. I was given a sample elementary plan and it’s in draft form. The sample plan indicates that there’s approximately 50 minutes designated for math daily and my classes will most likely be split ideally with around half the students in the morning and half in the pm. I feel like the stars will have to be aligned to get exactly half of the kids as I believe the plan for AM/PM depends on bus routes.

I’m trying to make the best of this unusual situation. My classes will be much smaller and it looks as though I’ll be teaching the same lesson to my AM and PM classes. I’ll also be responsible for teaching students that have opted for elearning. I’ll have less time with each class than I usually do. During a usual school year I teach my math students for 60 minutes daily. That time will be reduced so I’m wondering how that’ll impact the structure of my classroom.

Generally, I start all of my math classes with some type of math routine. That usually eats up a good 5-10 minutes of class time. It’s a high-quality math appetizer in my opinion so I’ll probably keep this structure or transform it into a digital activity. After the routine students are introduced to some type of math task where they work in groups or partners. The class then reviews the results and I work through a few guided problems with the document camera. By that time the class is just about finished and we have a closure activity that involves some form of an exit card.

I’m assuming significant changes as my school moves into a September hybrid model. I’ll most likely be using Nearpod for synchronous lessons so the elearning and face-to-face students can all be on the same page. I’ve been an avid Nearpod user for the past few years so I’m familiar and have already tinkered with a few of my lessons for the first couple days. I’ll also be incorporating more Desmos tasks this year. During elearning I was able to leverage Desmos as one of my main tools to help offer students ways to show their thinking and to review past concepts. This year I’d like to introduce concepts through this platform. I’m excited with the steps that Desmos has taken over the summer to help teachers prepare better math lessons with feedback and check-in options. I’m also planning on using Google Quizzes (also known as a Google Form) more this year. Near the end of elearning I was having weekly digital quizzes as a replacement for paper pencil assessments. The auto grade feature was a win and I was able to provide specific feedback to students.

There are also some platforms that I still need to learn more about. Most of my students will be using Canvas this year. This is a shift since my entire school used SeeSaw last year and I had mixed results with that platform. There’s scheduled PD for Canvas next week and I’m hoping to come away with better ideas of how to use it to organize my classes and give students a better picture of what’s expected. I also want to dive into Edpuzzle. The #Mtbos community has had nothing but great things to say about the platform. From what I’ve heard so far you’re able to take a video and place questions in specific parts to help with comprehension. You could even embed sample questions related to the topic being discussed in class. I’m assuming these will be completed asynchronously. I need to also explore Loom a bit more. Similar to last year’s emergency elearning, I’d like to create instructional videos. My students found the videos useful when I introduced a new skill. Loom allows a small circular picture in the corner where students can see my wonderful face as I create the video. I think this is beneficial and adds a bit more of human element into the video.

I have a big picture view of what’s going to happen at the beginning of the school year. I’m sure the details will be fleshed out in the next few days, but I still have questions. My questions are more related to how to safely come back into school to meet students face-to-face and how to engage students simultaneously online and in the classroom. This has caused some anxiety over the last couple weeks. This will be answered in time and may even be decided for us as the county health department directs. I’m looking forward to teaching students math, whether that means seeing them in a Zoom session or face-to-face. This Fall won’t be like emergency elearning in the Spring, but it’s still uncharted waters. Let’s set sail.