My Math Class Weblog

January 15, 2009

Re-Inventing the Wheel Isn’t So Bad

Filed under: Uncategorized — KymInKorea @ 10:03 pm

I know a teacher who has taught the same course for the last 7 years. He has his lesson plans for the entire year prepared on the first day of class.  In fact, the only modification he has to do is change the dates from last year’s to this years.  He has no need to stay up late lesson planning or even attend trainings during the school year.  


That has and never will be me.  I think by nature I have to reinvent the wheel each year.  That is what makes it exciting for me. Lets try something different that I believe will be better for the students and see how it works.

I am a big proponent of lesson planning flexibility. Why, you may ask?  Its because I deal with a different group of students each year. What may have worked for my students last year is not always a guarentee to work with my students this year.  Heck, what worked for them last week may not work for them this week. The point is, you shouldn’t be so stuck on your lesson plan that you can’t add an extra day to expound on a concept differently. Secondly, I’ve been to a lot of trainings this year and regardless of how effective the training session is, I still learn a lot from the teachers I sit next to at the trainings.  I even learn a lot from the teachers whose blog I frequent on a daily basis (literally).  I still manage to stick to my pacing calendar (pretty much), but what I do in the course of the lesson varies from year to year.  With my discovery of google docs, I’ve realized that I can leave myself notes from last year on how a particualar lesson went and the next year I can improve upon the lesson.


November 9, 2008

Teachers are just like their worst students.

Filed under: Professional Development — KymInKorea @ 5:10 am
Tags: ,

As a teacher, we have the “opportunity” to attend countless professional development sessions. And one thing that has been exhibited in every single one of them is that there are some teachers who act just as bad as the students they complain about.  I will admit, that I am often a part of that number, and here is what I learned about it. 


1.  My mind will wander even during the most engaging session.  Sometimes I miss something important because of my wandering.  

2. When you don’t understand something the teacher said (for whatever reason), sometimes I don’t want to interrupt the teacher to ask my question (which I believe is valid, but whose answer I think is probably obvious).

3. The side conversations I have with my group members are often on task or related to the teacher led discussion.  It is during those times, I absolutely hate it when the teacher interrupts the conversations.

4. When I am off task it is because I have rationalized that what the teacher or presenter is doing is not as high on my educational priority list as what I plan to do off task.  Or I believe I can get a 3 minute synopsis from a group member or a future activity/assignment.

5.  Process/Wait time.  A lot of times, so much “profound” information is said that I miss out on some of it because the presenter hasn’t given me enough “process time” before going on to the next important thing.

So I thought about what I’ve learned and I realized that I can incorporate methods and strategies to work around it, while not prohibiting the learning process for my students.


1. Set something in place so that when kids minds wander or they are confused or off task (and they will do all three during the class) that they can quickly get back on task.  (I’m initiating Group Captains which is someone in the group who other group members can ask if something is missed or needs to be repeated.)

2. Allow the students to have off taks conversations in groups.  I know that most teachers will cringe at the thought, but as long as the students have someone close by to ask what they missed, it is a win-win. The group members get to finish their on task discussion and the person they ask gets to summarize what the others missed.

3. I have to do a better job of continuously reading my students faces throughout the introduction,  discussion and analysis.  I tell my students all the time that I don’t read minds and that they need to voice their confusion, questions, and comments.  But sometimes that can be overwhelming because a lot of times they whine their questions and don’t give me specific things I can target about their misunderstanding. Basically, I need to train my students how and in what tone of voice to ask questions.  I also plan to institute a gesture that a student can make when they need a little bit more wait time.

October 2, 2008

The best professional development

Filed under: Uncategorized — KymInKorea @ 2:53 am

The best professional development I have ever experienced has come directly from the mouths of experienced teachers who TEACH AT MY SCHOOL!.  I have been at many different schools (okay only 4) within the district and I have experienced the gammut of professional development.  But without a shadow of doubt, whenever I get the opportunity to learn from a presentation from a teacher who is teaching at my schooo, I learn tons of applicable proffesional development.  I bet of administrators to stop hiring outside the district, region, and school, and take stock of the resources you have at your school.  Having your teachers present for professional development will

1.) motivate other teachers to attend on their own and not of obligation, because everyone wants to know what so and so is doing.

2.) give other teachers an opportunity to see first hand or hear from the horse’s mouth about the lessons other teachers learned the hard way so that the new teachers won’t have to learn them.

3.) encourage others to present their ideas and/or successful teaching, discipline, document management ideas to other teachers

August 27, 2008

We started our notebooks today!

Filed under: Interactive Math Notebooks,Interactive Notebooks — KymInKorea @ 2:03 am

My school made a wonderful attempt at making sure the schedules were 99% set before school started. So the first day of school (where all classes were visited) went by very quickly. The 2nd day of school involved us setting up our notebooks.  I’m happy to say that only 10 of my students were unable to set up their notebook because they didn’t have one. I know you may be saying, what a wonderful thing, but the truth of the matter is that if I hadn’t purchased forty (40) notebooks over the summer, I would have around 50 students not having their notebook. I sold out of notebooks by second period.  So I thought no big deal, I’ll go back and purchase some more. Little did I know that every parent of a school age child also thought to go purchase their child’s school supplies. I could find no college-ruled (good quality) composition notebook. So I ended up paying double for graph paper notebooks, and only getting a limited supply bummer!

So anyway, I gave them a handout that basically covered pages 1-35, and we started on page 37 with our notes for Unit 1.  The only hitch in everything was the fact that I didn’t have enough scissors so people were waiting on others.  The people who didn’t have a notebook did some alphabetizing, collecting trash, passing out papers, etc … to keep them busy. But they do know that it is there responsibility to set up their notebook before next class. For homework, i had them work on their table of contents.

August 22, 2008

How I Lesson Plan Part 1

My first four years I think I wrote one lesson plan. Every day I taught was a last minute struggle.  Don’t get me wrong, I always covered all of the material by the end of the school year, but I definitely wasn’t as efficient as I should have been. The main problem was that I was not as organized as I needed to be.  Throughout the years, I have improved in my teacher organization and I have experienced the benefits. But if you’re not an organized teacher, but would like to be, I decided to write out how I lesson plan.

First I start off deciding which topics I will cover.  The decisions I make involve the order they fall in, how long I will spend, and what subtopics will be covered.  I did all of this on a paper calendar for which I have already penciled in the school holidays and any sub days I know in advance I will be attending.   This year I have started that process with Google Calendar.  I did this because you can’t lose Google Calendar like you can lose papers.  Google Calendar is also easily updated and because I work on several different computers in a day, I can keep track and have readily accessible calendar information.  Thankfully, my district put together a pacing calendar for each subject and it allows me not to have to reinvent the wheel.

I plan grading cycles at a time. No need to plan for a week when you can plan for six.  It takes me about 90 minutes to plan out each prep for a cycle. Once I have that. Then come the nitty gritty. The questions I ask myself is “What am I going to use and have the students do so that they can learn the concepts in the time frame that I have given them?”.  Then my weekend beforehand is set aside to making those decisions. Its 1:14 am and I’m sleepy so I’m not going to be able to finish this post. But I’ll pick it up later, I promise.

Here is what I’ve done for the first six weeks in Algebra 2A and Geometry.

August 21, 2008

What a long list!

Filed under: Grading,Uncategorized — KymInKorea @ 5:25 am
Tags: , , ,

So I’m taking Dy/Dan’s lead and incorporate skill/concept based testing. I am excited about this because it gives me the opportunity to be more specific and descriptive in my formal assessments.  I’m teaching Algebra 2 and Geometry, so of course I had to use the state skills (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).  Here are my lists.

Algebra 2 and Geometry

I incorporated the use of Weights to let the students know how much each skill will contribute to their grades.

I want to note that there are actually 145 TEKS for Algebra 2, but I condensed it down to 45.

For Geometry there are 104 and I condensed the TEKS down to 35.

August 17, 2008

What I’ve learned from dy/dn

Filed under: Professional Development — KymInKorea @ 2:44 am
Tags: ,

If you haven’t already please checkout this teacher’s blog.  This blog is by far is the best professional development I’ve done ever.  I’ve spent most of the summer reading his entries from when he started almost two years ago to now.  He brings up some interesting points/methods/ideas that have gotten my creative juices flowing.  Here are some of the things I’ve read about that I plan to incorporate for the school year.

1. Instead of Tests based on units he assesses them on whether or not they have mastered certain skills.  The “test” occur quite frequently but have between 3-6 problems. Its set up where students want to be tested and re-tested to improve their skill score.

2. When using Powerpoint, do not fit 300 words of text on each screen for their notes, but instead use PowerPoint/SmartBoard to accentuate important concepts and to pose questions.

3.  Using images to generate a group pair share question.

How I grade

Filed under: Grading — KymInKorea @ 2:43 am
Tags: , ,

My grading method/process is an ever evolving process. I’ve tried different things each year using the following basic tenets.

1. Return the graded work by the next class meeting. No exceptions since I’m on block scheduling. I do aim to return work for within the same class period for homework and bellwork.  For classwork and tests/quizzes I aim for the next time the class meets.

2. The grading work is helpful and constructive for the students. I used completion grades last year for homework and classwork and I found that not only did it not help the students who were having difficulties, it also didn’t significantly increase the number of students turning in homework/classwork, so no more completion grades. (My hypothesis on that will come later in a different post.)  More work for me.

3. Tardiness should not affect the grade the student receives. I know, I know, “I’m not teaching students responsibility if they don’t get punished for late work.”  But as a teacher the more important thing for me is that the students learn the material that I “teach” them. If they don’t learn it on the timetable that I would like, I shouldn’t ignore their effort or learning when they eventually do learn it (within the same semester, grading period, school year….)

4. Cheaters should never benefit. It is my personal mission to make it as difficult as possible for students to be successful when they cheat.  The lesson learned should never be “If I cheat, I win”. I can’t stop a student from cheating, but I can stop a student from benefiting from cheating.

With those basic tenets in mind, here is my brand spanking new Grading Policy for 2008-2009. Please note that this is not written in stone and is subject to be changed.

Grading Policy

1.  Work will be graded only if it is entirely completed in pencil and if it has the correct heading (complete name, special number, date, period, assignment title.

2.  On each assignment, the final answers must be circled and highlighted, while the explanations/showing of work should be boxed and highlighted with a different color highlighter.  Failure to do so for any problem(s) can severely reduce your grade.

2.  Bellwork, homework and classwork will more than likely be graded in class by you.  At the time that I share with you the correct answers, no pencils are allowed to be in your possesion.  You can use a non-erasable blue pen to add comments and notes to your paper while grading it.  At the top of each assignment you will circle the number of problems you answered correctly divided by the total number of problems assigned. I do reserve the right to overrule any grade you received on an assignment.

3. Each homework/classwork assignment is worth up to 10 points.  Each Bellwork problem (~ 3 a day) is worth up to 1 point. Bellwork will be used as extra credit towards your grade. (I.E. Ten (10) bellwork problems can be worth a homework/classwork grade).

4. Failure to turn in the classwork/homework assignment by the due date and due time will cause you to have to complete a separate assignment in its place.  Homework is due at the beginning of class before the tardy bell rings.  Classwork is due at the end of class before you leave  class.In other words, you still have to turn in the homework/classwork, but it will be a different assignment (of the same learning concept).  I make no guarentee that the late work will be graded and returned to you in a timely fashion.

5. Skill Tests are given on Mondays. If you miss a skills test, you will have to make it up on the following Monday.

July 25, 2008

Interactive Notebook Startup Packet

Filed under: Interactive Math Notebooks — KymInKorea @ 3:40 am

One of the problems I had when I was working with the Interactive Math Notebooks was when new students arrived to my class.  Of course I told them to purchase a notebook, but I never had the time to sit down with them to help them set it up.  Then I got this wonderful idea of streamling the process as much as possible.  So I created all the pages I want them to start off with (the non-instruction pages), and I typed them up with the page number that they need to go on.  And here it is.

July 21, 2008

Pictures of my math notebook for Algebra 2

Filed under: Interactive Math Notebooks — KymInKorea @ 3:32 pm

This by far is not a complete album, but it is one to get an idea of how I set mine up.  I plan to do a more complete one with each page complete in the future.  It is for my benefit as the years progress.

See the picture .

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