Thursday, April 26, 2012

Springtime Deep Thoughts

I would like to send an official welcome to the three newly hatched sparrows living in the fake plant above my front porch. Their mother was chirruping furiously from the nearest ledge as I took the picture, despite the fact that I was safely behind the glass of the front door. Such feisty mothering instincts are admirable. Especially living so close to Zombie Math Teacher and family!

In school-related news, we finished the first round of school-wide state tests earlier this week. My wonderful coworker paid for mint gum packs for our 90+ shared students out of her own pocket, which was much appreciated, and much quieter than clanking hard candies. But having the desks in nice straight rows for the two days of testing left me feeling stuffy and rigid. So the same morning that we finished testing, I immediately enlisted the students to help me in rearranging the desks into pods. Here is the result.


I have to say, the classroom looks much cleaner and larger in pictures than it actually is in real life! The extra open walking space adds to the decluttering effect, I think. As does the lack of 35 large bodies in every seat. The best part about this seating arrangement, at the end of the year, is that it facilitates student discussion. And it forces ME as the teacher, to do less lecturing. I'm lucky to have their eyeballs on me for 5 minutes before their attention wanes anyway, so why not use their sideways bodies as a reminder of it? 

Also, the end of year chattiness is virtually unstoppable, so why not use that as a strength instead of a weakness? I have tried to fight it for 3 years now; with projects, long lectures, a new unit, and/or cumulative review, and it is EXHAUSTING. So this year, I give up. They want to talk? I'll make them PRODUCTIVE with their talking. Maybe even throw in a group or partner quiz for once!?!?

Along with the giving up on talking, I am also relinquishing the power of seating charts for the remainder of the year. It seems early, I know... but there are only so many "barrier students" you can build around the higher intensity personalities, before they've burned all their bridges. So let 'em pick themselves. Each day. With the caveat that messing around will result in alphabetical seating for everyone, for an indefinite period of time. And they HATE sitting alphabetically. Time will tell if I regret this new philosophy. 

But for now, one last deep thought... HOT GLUE GUNS ROCK. 

I posted last month about the book All of the Above, and its interdisciplinary connections to math through the building of tetrahedrons. I am unsure if I can agree with the gluing methods described in the book. Supposedly, each student builds the paper shapes, and then puts either a blob of glue stick or regular glue on the corner, and then holds it until it dries in place. THIS DOES NOT WORK! We tried. With foam glue, glue sticks, Elmers glue, rubber cement, and even tape. Finally, I gave up and bought a cheap low-temp hot glue gun. And VIOLA!! A stage-2 tetrahedron is born.

Total props go out to my student for taking the added step of writing book themes on several of the figures, using each of the 4 faces for a different character's perspective of the various themes. While we glued and held the corners together, classmates came to the front table to check out what we were doing; which started a great conversation about bigger tetrahedrons, and if we wanted to try a Stage-3 challenge (64 tetrahedrons) before school gets out. I said, let's go for it! 

P.S. Not-so-deep-thought: PENCIL SHARPENERS ARE MY NEMESIS. We somehow broke BOTH of my new pencil sharpeners over the course of two testing days. And the pencil sharpeners took their revenge; eating sharpened lead straight out of the barrels of a variety of sizes and wood quality pencils. Make that item #3 on the list of "things I've given up on" this spring... 

ATTENTION STUDENTS: WRITE WITH WHATEVER YOU WANT FROM HERE ON OUT. As long as it's not blood. My zombie nature forbids it. I have better things to do with my class time than battle with Darth Sharpener any longer. Unless someone buys me this one ;)