Wednesday, July 30, 2014

#70Days Developing the Action Plan

I spent much of the day just thinking today.  I chose to stay home, to ignore the various chores calling my name, it was a quiet day.

During #TMC14, someone posted this chart as a model of change (sorry, I don't know who posted it originally) ...

On the day it was posted I dismissed it ... I didn't really read it.  But last night it caught my eye again.  After examining it, I realized how valuable and right the chart is.

Last year we had a teacher become overly frustrated - so much so that his health was affected.  He had taught math before but never Algebra 2.  His skills were weak, and anxiety overtook him.

I watched another teacher get so very frustrated that she didn't have access to the materials she thought she should have.  We don't use textbooks much in our school.  Instead, we use backwards design, create our assessments, and from there create learning activities.  Sure, we draw from the text, but we also draw from the Internet and our own creativity.  This teacher was frustrated that the resources weren't right there in front of her.

This summer, I set some goals early on, participated in much reading and discussion online, and then reflected on those goals again.  But even with all of that thinking, my action plan has been fuzzy for sure.  And I don't want to go into the school year with any more false starts than necessary!

So today - I gave much thought to the things I hope to put in place or things on which to focus.  I plan to give the 180 blog a go again - but with a more narrow focus this year.  Here are my top four concerns:
1. Numeracy/Facility with numbers and algebraic manipulation
2. Consistency in the first few minutes of class (warm-ups)
3. Consistency in the formatting of notes (Cornell style)
4. Better questioning

These are not discrete, separate concerns, they clearly overlap.

While I have been round and round about how to do warm-ups, I've decided that the first four weeks will be devoted to number talks in particular and possibly Counting Circles, Visual Patterns and/or Estimation 180.  I meet with students only every other day - so in four weeks, that's only 10 times. That's why I don't want to diversify too much in how I structure those first few minutes.  Otherwise we won't get very deep in any of them. By making a concerted effort to do number talks for example, we will definitely work at our numeracy skills, and my bonus - I'll get to know my students' thinking.  We don't do much review of basic skills or even of linear equations, so number talks involving decimals, fractions, simplifying order of operations, and finding the value of a function will be helpful. I plan to start with Fawn Nguyen's list of problems ... and take off from there!  I'll supplement with Inquiry Maths as well!

I listen and look at everyone's INB's ... and while I have a desire to give those a try, I know they are not my style at all.  Then I stop and ask myself, would they be better for my kids.  I think I can get at note-taking better, more clearly, and with color and interest using Cornell style notes.  That's my plan for now - sticking with it.

Last - better questioning ... I'll need to explore this with more clarity before school starts!  What I want to happen is still pretty jumbled in my head.

But with this thinking today I determined that my 180 blog will focus on the numeracy routine and the questioning.  I teach in a block setting, have A/B days ... 3 classes each day, two days teaching the same material.  So last year I struggled with reporting an interesting picture or topic of each day.  I should have set of a "90" day blog.  This year, I'll capture the numeracy for one day and the questioning for the next.  It's ambitious but doable!

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