Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Last Year's First Day of School

 I have journaled every day since November 2019.  I thought it would be fun to look back at my journal post from the first day of last year - September 2020 - Covid.  Our school started 10 days late to give teachers time to prepare.  We were told to learn and use Schoology that August.  Surprise!  Our students came in every other day in a hybrid situation. Some students chose fully remote.  And, as you will see I learned this first day that I had to live stream some of the remote students into my class.

This is exactly what I wrote.  I was laughing as I read it, so I thought I would share:

Wed, Sept 16, 2020 - 1st Day of School for Students:  Well, that was weird! Way too close to a dystopian young adult novel.  I arrived at 6:30 am, no time to exercise before class, because I wanted to beat traffic.  Two-thirds of our students are being driven to school and have to wait in their cars until 7:15 am.  School starts at 7:25 am. The school is building some new classrooms adjacent to my room.  My window that had been covered with a plastic sheet, finally got boarded up yesterday. Right outside my door is a stairway that is plastic sheet walled off, so I am now at a dead end next to a construction zone. 

When I got to school at 6:30 am, I decided to check my period 3 roster.  We are still fighting against live streaming students into our classes, so imagine my surprise, but not really, because it's covid, that I have two new girls that will be live streaming during Period 3 today. I had to teach periods 1 and 2, so no time, no training, no equipment, no agreement, just a declaration.  So, I sent the 2 girls the time and zoom link.  

I greeted my Period 1 class, instructing them to think about which seat they wanted.  There are 15 desks in my room, 6 feet apart, tape on the ground. I asked them to think about their seat choice, could they see/hear/did they want to sit by the window because they have to be kept open and it was chilly today. 

I offered each student a face shield. Two out of eight took one. They all had their masks and kept them on. I introduced myself, gave a little tour of my very bare room because we can't share supplies, so I didn't put them out. 

New this year, I put a QR code printed in orange paper and laminated. It is my sign in and out. It links to a google form that gives me a nice time stamped list of sign outs. Then, I shared my sparkly new Schoology page, brand new to us (aka -thrown in our laps after we just taught ourselves how to use Google Classroom in the Spring. I told them I was building it one lesson at a time. I didn't have any handouts for them. I am trying to be all online. I also reminded them to be aware of all varieties of anxiety due to the virus.  Some people didn't believe it is real and don't think we should wear masks to those who are very fearful of getting sick and we have to honor each persons' feelings by respecting their 6-feet of space and keeping our masks on.

We did a Desmos: Math and Me. Desmos now has classrooms - one code all year. It is amazing. I shared the dashboard with my coteachers and we were off. Then, we played 31-derful-virtual style. Some kids couldn't get on Desmos and went to 31-derful. I think with tech activities having different platforms for back up is a good idea. Onto Period 2 after a 15 minute mask break for half the kids. Repeat lesson. Then, Period 3. I pulled up my google slideshow (only 1 computer) and zoomed the live stream girls in, while welcoming students in after Mask Break 2 for the 2nd half of the alphabet. It took me a minute to peel away my computer layers to find the screen to take attendance for my full class - my hybrid and my remote students. Yes, marking students at home that I have no contact with as "remote present" (somewhere in the world). So, I have 15 kids in front of me, 2 kids to the left of me, and my google slides behind me, sharing with my zoomers. I did forget about them. I tried to stand where they could see me. I tried to check in at transitions or while working. I got them into Desmos and wrote the code on the board. The zoomers reminded me they needed the code - as polite as can be. They played 31-derful as well. 

I finally got to sit down around 10:40, take my mask off, and take a sip of water. I was freezing, exhausted and then it hit me. I have to do this exact thing all over again tomorrow! So, I sucked it up and got to reading through my students' desmos responses, excited to grab some snapshots to share and discuss, but that I remembered I need to wait until I have the results from the other half of class tomorrow. Great, can't plan that yet. 

I forced myself to break for lunch, in my room, at my desk, by myself. Good think I like my own company but it will get old.

Last period came in, another Algebra 2 class, bigger at 14. At the end of each class, I spray the desks, the kids grab a paper towel and wipe theirs down. They leave as new kids come in. I spray again and they wipe down. This will grow old quickly as well. 

Class went well. I congratulated them on a first day done!  And, they were off and I was out. I hurried. I knew traffic would be a nightmare with parent pick up. Our high school is next to our middle school and we end up with gridlock from two closed circles, but I made it through. Traffic was half way down Pleasant St. I got home (1 mile commute) and changed my clothes. I felt like a jellyfish blob. I couldn't move or think or function. I collected myself. Rick came home and we shared stories. I made links work in an embedded google slide. Kathy did a great job explaining how to do this over the phone and I got it! Then, I made a google slide lesson with pictures from Desmos on Piecewise functions. 

I tried to tape the first time but forgot to plug my microphone in. I figured that out as I was recording myself teaching the lesson and I found a mistake in the graph I made, so I had to go back to google, back to Desmos, and fix the original graph. Take 2 was a hit. Sure to be popular with all my fans. At this point, it was 5:15 and time to pop dinner in. I remembered I froze a homemade buffalo mac n cheese from sometime this summer. I thanked my former self for that amazing idea as dinner was fabulous. 

Rick and I went for a walk. The boys were golfing and fishing.  It's getting darker earlier already. On my walk, I remembered we had leftover ice cream sandwich cake so we had that when we got home. Then I sat down and started to journal! Time to knit my temperature scarf and then off to bed. I need to be up at 5:15 am tomorrow to squeeze a workout in before I do this whole day over again (minus the mac n cheese) - Lord, help us all!!!!

The End

My journal posts are not always this long and it took a lot longer to type than I anticipated.  Hope you enjoyed. 
Notes: my room is ready, but construction is still going on.  I am still walking, still knitting. My boys are still golfing and fishing.  I sprayed the desks all year long. I used the QR bathroom code all year and will continue this year.  I am very thankful to this last year self who did a lot of working finding my perfect tech tools and figuring out how to use them.  I am using a lot of what I created last year.  Thank you to me!

Monday, March 15, 2021

I have an IDEA! #MyDollarJourney

 My town has a site on Facebook to share puzzles.  I came up with the idea to write our Last Names on the puzzles as we pass them around and called it #PuzzleJourney.  I think people liked the idea.  

My husband said it reminded him of "Where's George?"  I hadn't heard of it but it is a way of tracking dollar bills.  You stamp a dollar bill with a stamp you buy.  I bought one with pink ink, like this one but it will say "Made in Math Class/Hopkinton MA"  

I registered on the site and enter five $1 bills.  It is so cool.  It keeps a history with a lot of information broken down into tables.  There is even a George score.  With my five bills and not having traveled anywhere yet, my George score is 126.  I wondered how it was calculated.  I found it at the bottom of the website.  

Very interesting.  I was chatting with Sam Shah about the formula because I didn't know if it was real or just made up.  He has some good thoughts.  I'm going to think on it more.

I am going to ask my students to each bring in a dollar bill.  I will record all their numbers and then stamp them.  Then, the kids should go spend it and we will follow #MyDollarJourney.  Then, I was thinking it would be fun to set a date, say June 15th, and have a contest to see whose dollar went the farthest.  I could do 1 winner per class.  

If interested, give it a try!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Reviewing with Desmos and a Twist

 In these Covid times, we are in school learning in hybrid. My students sit in rows and we don't do anything that involves moving around the room, working in groups, or using all my manipulatives.  This makes it a little challenging to use my fun review games.  

We are getting ready to take a quiz on Quadratics in Algebra 2, so I made a 10 question Desmos activity.  I am not versed enough in the computation layer to make it self checking (yet), so I did not include answers or make it self checking (but that would make keeping track of the game much easier).  I wanted to make it a game to add a little bit of competition and make them motivated to work and ask questions.  I don't like games that add a speed element because it adds too much stress to the students.  I divided my students into teams based on their rows with about 4 kids per team.  Once I saw that each person on the team had a correct answer in desmos, they earned a card - a regular playing card (mine are bigger size though).  I put the card on the board face backwards so they can't see the value.  I had the value for 2-10 as the face value.  I made Jack, Queen, and Kings all 10 points each and the Ace is 11 points.  

They had me running about all class.  I was checking their work and answering great questions. I felt like I was on the Price is Right.  In fact, it was the most they have spoken or asked questions all year.  Just that little added layer of "winning a card".  As the period drew to its end, I flipped over the cards and we totaled them up.  Highest hand won.  It was a lot of fun.  I learned about a lot of common misconceptions.  So many kids are still squaring a negative b and getting a negative in the quadratic formula even though I tell them to include the parentheses every day.  

They learned and I learned, it was a quick and easy fix to make it a game.

Friday, January 1, 2021

How I Design My Lessons in Covid Hybrid Times

 This is the 3rd installment of the #MTBoSYuleBlog.

It took me a while to figure out all the tech to put my lessons together.  I spent a lot of extra time this summer figuring it out.  I knew what I wanted, but not quite all the know-how to do it.  I stuck with it.  I was so frustrated sometimes I would scream and want to throw my computer, but I did not. The time and effort paid off and now I can just do it instead of the figuring out part.

The biggest piece I needed to figure out was how to make a video and post it so I can know the kids have watched it.  Edpuzzle does this.  Our school pays for Edpuzzle.  Okay, I knew I wanted that piece.  Our school threw Schoology into the mix this September with minimal training.  I had to figure out how to get the Edpuzzle video into Schoology.  Those were two of the last pieces I needed to get it to the kids.  Last spring I was making screencasts using Screencastify.  I made google slide shows and then voiced them over.  I had my little face in the bottom right of the screen.  I got into the groove.  However, it was a lot of time writing out make equations with my finger on my track pad.  Or, I spent a lot of time typing of equations into Google Doc and then screenshot to put it into the google slides.  Why can't Google Slides insert equations?

Bigger question - why can't Screencastify have an ipad app?  That was what I needed.  I wanted to be able to make my google slide, pull it up on my ipad so I could write on it with an apple pencil, see my little face, record it, then upload it to youtube to eventually put it into Edpuzzle and then Schoology.  I asked Twitter, I researched.  I briefly used Loom in the spring, so I tried that without luck.  I tried working in zoom, on my laptop and my ipad at the same time, writing and recording.  Too clunky. I had to make sure whatever path I chose would be as sustainable as possible because with 3 preps, I would have to make a lot of videos.  

Other teachers were ahead of us in heading back to school and people were sharing on Twitter that they were making videos galore and I was still trying to figure it out.  My frustration continued to mount.  

I finally landed with Explain Everything.  The free version only allows 3 videos so you have to keep going over them and they can only be 1 minute long.  I tried it and it was okay.  I didn't like that it just takes my google slide and turns them into a pdf anyways, but it was the best thing I could find.  Our school did pay for the version that allows longer videos and more videos.

Okay, so now, I am going to use Explain Everything except, I can hear the darn Apple Pencil tapping.  Tap, tap, tap. It was so loud, it reminded me of Edgar Allen Poe's, The Tell-Tale Heart.  I couldn't do it that way.  I went back to twitter and asked, how were people making and writing on videos.  I can't remember who saved me but someone recommended I wear a microphone so I bought it.  All of this is happening with school just days away.  There was no way I was going to have 3 libraries of videos ready.  But, I finally got the microphone in the mail and was so excited to use it.  It was the key.  You can't hear the pencil anymore.

My video process: Look at my old google slide lesson from years past and write on paper what I need.  I had to chunk things down because I wanted to keep my videos to 5-10 minutes.  I learned the hard way that Youtube won't upload them if they are longer than 15 minutes.  I noted what vocab I would need.  I decided on an order to present the material. I came up with problems to do together and then ones they could try on their own.  I typed my equations in Desmos now and dragged them into Google Slides. If I needed a graph, I made them in Desmos and screenshot them and added them in.  My videos had a title slide, an agenda slide, a Let's get ready slide, then the lesson, and all end with a recap slide.  It was like putting together a scrapbook.  I did scrapbooking back in the day - finding the right color paper to use, the right font, where to put stickers, how to cut the pictures.  I do enjoy this so I think of it that way, more like a hobby.  

Once the google slide is made I have to record it in Explain Everything.  I am doing this at home because you never know when school will have an announcement come on over the loudspeaker.  I have definitely gotten better with the recording part.  Key piece - make sure the microphone is plugged in and make sure you are actually wearing it.  I have started many a video without it being plugged in, I just clip it to my shirt.  Or the opposite, I plug it in and leave it hanging down to the ground.  Take 52!  As I am recording, I speak quickly.  The more mistakes I make, the more takes I have to do and I get faster with each one.  They say it is okay to speak quickly because the kids can stop and rewind as need be.  If I am recording and I don't think I made a mistake, I call it done.  I don't go back and listen to it because 1.) I hate hearing my voice and 2.) it takes more time.  

From Explain Everything, I upload it to Youtube.  I remember my first video that was too long.  I didn't know it was too long.  I tried to upload it. It said it couldn't.  I recorded again.  Still said it couldn't.  I recorded again, still couldn't.  When I went to Youtube to manage videos, I saw it was too long.  So, I cut some problems and fixed that. So much wasted, precious time.  Mind you I am usually recording these 2 days before I need them to be up.

From Youtube, I grab the link and put it into Edpuzzle.  I started out using Edpuzzle the way it is intended, by adding questions at certain spots.  That didn't last long.  I didn't have time to go back to all the videos and check answers.  I only use Edpuzzle to see who is watching.  

From Edpuzzle, then I upload it as a link to Schoology.  In Schoology, I have to edit it by enabling grading.  This piece took a long time to figure out.  I could get it up to Schoology but the kids couldn't see it.  Grrrr.  I knew it was one small piece I was missing - "enable grading".  Then I put it in the homework category for 4 points.  That was a lot of work.

Now that I am in the groove, it probably takes about an hour to make a lesson video above from creating the lesson to making it into a google slide show to voicing over it to uploading and linking it.  3 classes, lots of videos to be made.  I made this google slide for our virtual back to school nights for parents to view.  I don't know if anyone did.

Once that is done, then there is the actual lesson when the kids are in front of me.  I make another google slide for in class.  It starts with a title slide, an agenda slide, and then usually about 2-5 problems to do together as a class so I can model steps and speak reminders throughout the problems.  I have a lot of different math and speed abilities in my classroom, so I don't want to do too many as whole class problems.  Also, the kids do not speak.  With a mask on they are so quiet.  I can try to call on them but sometimes it becomes a staring contest as we both have our masks on and are just eyeballs trying to read each other.  It makes me miss my groups of 3 students working at the boards together like I have done with VNPS over the past couple of years.  This year I do not allow any movement in my classroom.  No one is getting up to the board or touching the markers.  It would be too complicated for contact tracing.  

After we have done our opening problems, then it is time for the workshop.  That is what I am calling it.  It usually consists of Desmos or Deltamath.  Desmos for discovery and discussion.  I can use the snapshot figure to grab and compare student work.  I am loving the feedback feature on each slide so as they are working at their own pace, it is like I am texting them and asking them to come back and check a certain slide.  We use Deltamath for the practice.  It has had most of the content I have needed.  I love the different levels.  I love everything about it.  The kids like that they get the feedback right then and there. They don't have to check an answer key.  I don't have the make an answer key, which inevitably would have a mistake or a typo and then I have to redo, rescan, and reupload.  They can watch a video at each problem if they are stuck.  They can submit a wrong or empty answer and then read through how the problem is done.  They are becoming independent learners.  I am so happy it is them typing the math equations. They have to figure out how to get exactly what they want into Desmos and Deltamath.  They are seeing the importance of a negative sign.  You know how often students do their work and drop a negative, now they can see how that changes a problem. They learn how to type an exponent and a square root and function notation and fancy brackets to limit a domain.  They are doing it!  It makes me so happy.

Here are my notebooks and folders for each class.  I can use 1 page for each lesson the right and any extra notes on the left, like who was absent or how much time things took.  You can see a page of my Acc Algebra 2 lesson with all my check lists.  I have to have check lists or I would be checking a million times to see if I actually uploaded the video and actually assigned the Desmos. Do I remember to unpause it, sometimes? My notebooks have become like journals.

As class wraps up, I ask if there are any questions, which there never are.  Maybe there is so connection or closure I need to make sure they have from the lesson and then they have to finish their desmos or delta for homework and watch the new video for next class.   

My students know it is video lesson, desmos, and delta.  I go to Schoology gradebook to see if they have watched the video lesson and give them 4 points if they did.  I go to Desmos and now with the classroom codes, I can see who has completed what.  And, I go to Deltamath and see what they completed there.  They get 4 points for each assignment. Everything is 4 points.  Even if late, just do it and get 4 points.

More on my assessments in another post.