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Monday, April 28, 2014

Student Expectations

think that the word "studying" is now synonymous with the term "reading my notes."   At this point in the year I am reviewing students for EOCs and AP exams and I am working hard ... and I think I am the only one.  This is not new, this is not surprising, and instead of complaining I am trying to figure out how to teach students to study and how to take responsibility for their own learning ... and how to implement this from the beginning of the year next year.  I am going to focus on AP Biology first and write about Biology EOC later.  

It starts with expectations, right?  So, what are my expectations?

I expect my students to pre-read before class. Pre-reading for AP Biology includes skimming assigned sections of the book with special emphasis on terminology and figures. The students need a base to add to during lectures, discussions and activities.  Pre-readings are also required before watching and taking notes from flipped videos.  There will be random reading pop-quizzes.

I expect my students to watch all assigned videos.  Our flipped videos have several purposes.  With video lecture students can take notes at their own pace, return to video throughout the year if they need to watch it again, and students are able to keep up with material when they are absent. 

I expect my students to take notes.  When students are assigned videos (my video or “guest-speaker” video), or during in-class lectures, activities and labs students are expected to take notes.  These notes serve as a reference of the most important information covered and as a reminder of the applications of that material. Copying another student’s notes from a video is not acceptable … watch the video.

I expect my students to have questions and to ask questions.  The ultimate goal is understanding (not just memorizing) the material.  When students have question they should write those questions down.  Questions can be asked before school, after school, via twitter or facebook, or in class when appropriate.  Once questions have been answered, the answer should be written down as well.  If no one asks questions I do not know what needs clarification.
I expect my students to complete all work assigned to them.  When assignments require internet access (videos or MasteringBiology assignments) I will assign them as early as possible to allow students to use the computers at school if needed.  Students are welcome to come in before or after school to use the computer in my room or my iPad; the school library and computer lab are also sometimes available. School policy is that any work not completed when assigned can be turned in the next day for up to a 70.  Any work not completed past that will receive a zero.  Students who have an excused absence have 1 day per day missed to make up work for full credit. (EX: If you are absent on Monday, any work that was due Monday is due Tuesday, and any work assigned on Monday and due Tuesday will be due on Wednesday.)

I expect my students to obtain and utilize a study guide.  This can be the study guide provided by the school, or one of the various study guides available for purchase (Half-Price Books online or Amazon would provide cheapest options if an additional resource is desired).  These resources provide students alternate explanations of material, practice multiple-choice questions, and practice essay questions. 

I expect my students to study an hour a day.  An hour everyday is more effective for preparing for unit tests and the AP exam than several hours a day or two before.  Sometimes this could be on review assignments, tutorials, activities, videos, animations or working on their B.I.L.L..  I cannot pass the class or the AP exam for the students, I cannot want it for them. 

I expect my students to do their own work.  There are very few group assignments in AP Biology.  If it is a group assignment that will be made clear and be written in the description of the assignment.  Giving another student answers does not help that student.  Any form of cheating (“working together,” copy & paste, editing someone else’s work and calling it your own, “googling” the answers, looking on someone else’s answers, sharing pictures of assignments or answers, etc.) will result in a zero for all parties involved.

I expect my students to prepare for their AP exam.  The time in class is unfortunately not enough to be adequately prepared for the AP exam.  Students are expected to put forth the necessary effort to make themselves successful.

I expect my students to be willing to work together.  I know that sometimes students in an AP class are competitive with one another.  I value competition, it is a great motivator, but we learn better together.  It is us against everyone else taking this test.  We will be working in groups to perform labs and to learn and discuss material.  Students will sometimes choose their groups and sometimes groups will be drawn at random.  Students are encouraged to form a study group to discuss material, but only if students have the integrity need to refrain from cheating.

I expect my students to experiment with learning.  Students will be required to utilize many learning techniques, including discussions, B.I.L.L., labs, creating lessons and teaching peers, using technology, and more.  Everyone learns differently, and next year students will be expected to teach themselves, so we are will do a variety of different activities so that the students are armed with a variety of tools for their college career.

I am not even sure this is a complete list, but my brain hurts.  Leave me comments about your expectations, or anything you think I should add.  

Come back for my AP Links and Resources!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Less Time Grading!

Have you tried Quick Key?  If you give multiple-choice quizzes, tests or even exit tickets that are less than 30 questions keep reading!

Quick Key is like having a scantron or grademaster machine in your room without the cost of the machine and answer sheets.  Everything is free.  Are you interested?  I was.

Ready to try it out? First visit the Quick Key site.  Create an account, set up your classes, and download the answer sheet.

Then download the app on your phone or iPad.  Then next time you give a quiz just have your students use the answer sheet, you enter the answers in the app by touching the correct answers.  They can watch as you scan and know their grades right away, or you can scan later.

I have even set up the iPad on the Justand and let the kids grade their own.  And quick key keeps all their grades stored in the app.

This is the video from their site:

The site assigns ID numbers for your students.  Since I started using Quick Key midway through the year, I made a spreadsheet with all my student's numbers that I project when we have quizzes.  Next year I am planning on having the kids write their number on the inside cover of their composition books.

I have my teacher's aide make at least 100 copies the forms (they come two per page) and cup them in half, so there is always a stack waiting to be used.  Your key has to have the exact number of questions selected.  If you aren't using one of the pre-set numbers click the number on the far right and it will pull up a scroll to choose any number up to 30.

Try it out and let me know what your think.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Math Alert

I teach PreCalculus at our high school. I am always looking for new and creative ways to engage my kids and help them learn the curriculum. A couple of years ago at a math conference, someone shared the idea of this conic section foldable.

My kids love making it in class. It is a great break from lecture and reminisant of arts and crafts from elementary school. And I start out talking to them like they are little kids. "Now we will fold our paper hamburger style..." I walk them through how to construct the foldable and review the equations for conics. Then I let them use the foldable on the next quiz and test. This always wins me major bonus points with the kids.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Oh, Hello There

I was very excited when Sandy suggested that we start a blog to share our educational thoughts and experiences. Then spring happened and I was very busy. (If you teach high school you know all too well how crazy the spring is.) Sandy is over here blogging and blogging and I kept telling her "I will post something...eventually!"

 So the most important question was..."what do we call our blog of awesomeness???" The first thing that came to mind is what we always whisper to each other in the middle of those glorious inservice meetings. It never fails that we get stuck in meetings being taught by people who have no clue who we are, what we do, where we've been, etc. It is always in a sarcastic tone that we say "ughhhh, we teach high school..."

 I am looking forward to seeing where this blog takes us on our educational journey. I also hope that our experiences will help you on your journey!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What is Your Mindset?

I love TED talks. And, of course, I have my favorites. And I have several favorites that I like sharing with my classes if a lesson finishes early. And one of them is Angela Lee Duckworth: The Key to Success? Grit.

This lead me to Carol S. Dweck and Mindset Works and Brainology. I spent a long time perusing this site. I wish I could get my students into the growth mindset. Especially with my AP students there is a big trend to say, “I do better when I don’t study.” And I thought about that a lot when I was reading through the Mindset Works material.

Most simply the summary is that there are two mindsets: fixed and growth.  People with a fixed mindset view intelligence as fixed.  The goal is to appear to be smart in front of their peers, that effort does not make a difference and if they fail they are not "good at <insert subject>."   People with a growth mindset view see intelligence as a process, something to be developed with practice, that if they fail they are challenged and motivated to do better and try harder in the future.   Imagine the differences in your classroom if you had a room full of students with a this growth mindset.  

On the Mindset site I found a link to another TED talk: The Power of Belief - Mindset and Success: Eduardo Briceno 

Unfortunately, most of my students are not there.  This is what I see: they think their intelligence is fixed and it is easier to give themselves an out and not prepare, than to prepare and feel like they tried and failed.  These concepts also come to mind when they don’t seem to put forth the necessary effort and when they are not willing to focus on the learning as a process instead of the grades. All students need to be developing their intelligence, and viewing their learning as a process and skill to be developed.  

How do you promote learning as a process?  How do you help to keep your students motivated for end of the year tests?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Colorful Classroom Clothes Pins

My classroom does not have a theme ... unless color counts as a theme.  I try to stick to purple, green and yellow, but I love color. So when I wanted to make cute clothes pins with magnets or thumb tacks to hold papers to the white board or bulletin board, I had hard time choosing one color or one paper choice.  This is the result:

These were pretty simple.  Choose your scrapbook paper, cut to fit the paperclip, break out the mod podge and go to town.  Once you have them the way you want on one side, use hot glue to attach the magnet or thumb tack to the other side.  I keep my clothespins in a small open box on my book shelf when the clothespins are not in use.  These come in so handy, and make a great summer project, and I may even put some on Etsy or TeachersPayTeachers ... Let me know if you would be interested in these!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sometimes you just need to color

I love making posters and being crafty; it is kind of like therapy.  I love quotes, quiet test days, competition, and colorful posters (or mini-posters), and all of those things are wrapped up in this on piece of paper.
This is one of my favorite quotes.  I worked with an AVID teacher who said this a lot and it has stuck with me, probably because of all those curve balls life seems to throw all of us.  

So once I drew this I scanned it and saved it as a pdf.  Then announce a contest: the top colored-versions of this will be voted on by the teachers, top 3-5 will be put on twitter for the kids to vote on (remember, I teach high school), best one goes up in my room.  You would have thought I offered them money.   Some are very impressive.  They colored these after their test (I don't allow coloring on normal days) ... and I slacked, so maybe next week I will actually get teachers to vote and pictures up. 

But I did finally upload it on TeachersPayTeachers as my first product, and it is a free download.  Check it out here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

We Teach High School

Why in the world are two high school teachers adding to their workload ... because we are crazy.  There are so many great ideas out there for elementary and middle school teachers, but it is really tough to find great high school ideas.  Do I read the elementary and middle school sites?  Of course.  Can I use all of that information?  No way.  So the amazing Chonte' and I are taking our show on the road so to speak.  We are going to write about teaching strategies, critical thinking, technology that works, classroom management and organization, and provide you links to the amazing articles and posts I keep finding instead of sleeping. So mainly we will be sharing whatever we find helpful or inspirational.   Please leave us comments and share what you think works best in your high school classroom.