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Thursday, August 27, 2015

First Day Wordle

Yesterday was our students' first day of class.  I'm very excited about what I saw so far.  The students were very respectful and I think I'm going to have a great year!

I usually start the year with a survey for the students to fill out about themselves.  The first question asks the students to fill in the blank with one word.  Algebra is __________.  Then I take the words from all classes and create a Wordle.  This is the result:



My plan to to give the same fill-in-the-blank later in the year to see the change.  I'm hoping that "Boring" will get smaller.  It would be great if it disappeared all together.  


Here are the questions that I give to my students.  Feel free to steal this if you like.







As far as question #2 goes.  Here are the results of that:

This bar graph was create at Create A Graph




The one year almost all of the boys wrote that "The Maze Runner" was the favorite book.  I had to go out and buy that book right away.

There is one thing that happened this year that never happened before.  One of the students asked me what my answers were to these questions.  I was flattered.  Never did a student show interest in how I would respond.  See?  I told you it was going to be a great year.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Connect Games to Curriculum - Don't Make my Mistake(s)

I use to believe that the games I play in my classroom could stand alone.  In other words, the students could play the game and *poof* they knew the material without any further instruction from me. Let me give some examples.


Bounty Hunter:

Last school year, I had students comes to my room four at a time during homeroom.  I asked them to come there to play Bounty Hunter so I could pre-test them, watch them play, and post-test them without losing class time.  Most importantly, the students were struggling with determining slope from a graph and needed this reinforcement.

I was amazed at how quickly they 'learned' the material for the game.  They were correctly placing the numbers in the "fraction" for the game and moving their pawns in the right direction.  I was so impressed.  Then I gave them the post-test and although their scores increased, I expected scores to be much higher due to their competence in the game.


After this happened with 16 students (4 groups) I decided to figure out what was going on.  When the 5th group came during homeroom I took some time between the game and the post-test to talk with the students.  During the game, the students did spectacular just like the other groups.  Then I gave them a graph like the one on the right in the image above and asked them to tell me the slope.  I got blank stares from all 4 of them.  After some discussion with the students I found out that they didn't see the pawns in the game as points on a graph.  In fact, they didn't even see the grid lines on the game board as grid lines on the graph.  Once I took 30 seconds (literally) to make those connections for the students, the light bulbs went on.  The difference really showed on the post test. 

Pre- to Post-Test results without making connections for students --> 18% increase

Pre- to Post-Test results with making connections for students --> 35% increase



The Absolute Value Equation Game:

In our building, the administration team allows us to decide what day and period we want to be formally observed.  I chose to play a game with the class on the day of my observation.  (You think I would have learned my lesson from Bounty Hunter, but I'm a little thick in the head.)  My plan was to play the game with the class, then give the students an exit ticket before leaving, and showing my Assistant Principal what a genius I am. Ha!  Not one single student got the exit ticket question correct.  Not one.  


So what happened this time?  We played the game and the students were doing extremely well.  They could create absolute value equations that would place their pawns exactly where they wanted them.  In the example above, the student created the equation |x+5| = 2 with their cards, then moved their pawns to -7 and -3 to collect their gems.  They were doing with without assistance from me.
The exit ticket was a problem similar to the one above.  "Solve |x+5| = 2 for x".  Most students gave an answer of x = -3 and quite a few of the remaining students wrote IDK on their exit slips (The correct answers are x = -7, -3).
The Assistant Principal asked to see the exit slips and noticed that not one student was correct. "What happened Mrs. Oswald?"  Oh, I'm certain that I didn't connect the game to the curriculum.  *sigh*
The next day I took some time again to talk with the students.  In less than a minute I was able to help the students understand the connection between the game and the problem.  For my own sanity, I needed to give another formative assessment on this.  This time all but one of the students were able to get the correct answers.





Friday, August 21, 2015

Stitch Fix August 2015 - New Back-to-School Style

I LOVE Stitchfix.com!  In a nutshell, you pay a $20 styling fee, they send you 5 items (clothing, accessories, etc), you decide what you want to keep, and send back what you don't.  If you do decide to keep something, you get back your $20 styling fee as credit.  Want to learn more?  Check out their website.  Also, if you decide to try out this company, please consider using this link.  If you sign up under me I will receive $25 credit when your first fix ships.  I am so appreciative to all you who have already don't this.  Thank you so much!!

Here is what I received in my back-to-school stitch fix!!


Seriously?  How cute is this dress?  This is the Donna Morgan Kellen Dress.  Here's another shot.  


Wow, I make some seriously strange faces when I take my own photos.  I have a few cardigans that can be worn with this dress.  Do all teachers have a rainbow of cardigans like I do?





All three of these items arrived in this fix.  I am wearing the Liverpool Anita Skinny Pant.  I use to think that I have absolutely no business wearing skinny jeans.  But(t), these are so comfortable and sturdy that I can.  
The white shirt is Market & Spruce Jamie Button Down Cotton Shirt.  This shirt is lightweight and perfect under a dress or sweater.  
The scarf is cute.  That's Octavia Saira Skull Print Scarf. Yes, skull print.



And my favorite item from this stitch fix (of course it's a cardigan):
RD Style Cassi Open Cardigan.



I am in love with the elbow patches.  







I decided to try the shirt with a LBD and the necklace from my previous stitch fix.  This could be a first day outfit for me.  



And the styling cards.  





Want to get your stitch fix?  Click here.







Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Insane Asylum: Making the Irrational Rational

Every summer I attend the Edugaming Workshop that is hosted by the local community college.  Each year I learn something new and am given the motivation to create another game for my classroom.

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The two professors that run the workshop challenge us to create a game with the following constraints.
  • The game has to be your own, meaning that we can't partner up to create one game together, but of course we can offer each other ideas.  
  • The game cannot be quiz based.  In other words, you can't have a game where if a player answers a question correct, then they get to do something in the game.
  • The game must be closely tied to a story.  No abstract games.
  • The game must be original.  I can't take Sorry and turn it into a math game.
  • We are required to pre- and post-test the students to see if there is any change in the students' knowledge.  
  • I guess this one's obvious, but the game needs to be educational.  

I was going to wait until the game was completely finished to share it here, but that's silly.  I could be getting your feedback and suggestions.  In Insane Asylum the players are a group of doctors working together to help cure their patients of being insane.

The objective is for students to be able to simplify radicals.  (I thought I was overdue to create a game with this objective since it is the name of my blog).  For the most part my student can simplify sqrt(12) with little difficulty.  However they struggle with sqrt(6) * sqrt(15) because they don't see any 'pairs'.  Hopefully this game with help them factor the numbers and then look for pairs.

I created a video to show you how the game works so far.  Your feedback is greatly appreciated and welcome!


The Materials:


  • The game board
  • 4 pawns (red, yellow, green, and blue)
  • Cards:  4 of each (bed #1 - bed #12, and straight jacket)
  • Player Cards 
  • List of Actions
  • Potions: 6 of each (2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 6, 10, 14, 22, 15, 21, 33, 35, 55, 77) Yellow circles, numbers on both sides.
  • Patients: 2 of each (6, 10, 14, 22, 15, 21, 33, 35, 55, 77, 30, 42, 66, 70, 110, 154, 105, 165, 231, 385) Green circles, number on one side.
  • Prime Numbers: 9 of each (2, 3, 5, 7, 11) Pink circles, numbers on both sides.
  • Card Chart







Game Set Up:









Game Play:



Monday, August 17, 2015

Prep Dinner in the Summer to Survive the School Year

I know many of you are already back in the classroom, I start in 7 days.  Yikes!  I am not looking forward to the after school rush.  Housework, dinner, activities, homework, yadda, yadda, yadda.  About a year or two ago I purchased this book:





I know, I know...you can find all this stuff on pinterest.  But there is something about holding a book and paging through it.  

I have a confession.  I love to eat out.  Anywhere.  McDonald's, high-end restaurants, pubs, hotdog stands, you name it and I love to eat there.  You can see my problem during the school year is that I don't want to cook when I get home from work.  I want to eat out.  But, if there is something in the slow cooker or something thawing in the refrigerator that I have to eat before it spoils, then I'll eat at home without complaint.  That's where this book comes in.  For the recipes that I've tried so far, the measurements are spot on.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Tex-Mex Chicken Fingers - The kids like this one.  You don't need a recipe, just make homemade chicken fingers and freeze them.

Mozzarella Meatballs - These are FANTASTIC.  A pain in the ass to make, but delicious.

Cheese Steaks - Buy and freeze the rolls and cheese too!!  

Very Vanilla Snickerdoodles - Dessert in a flash


These are just a few of my favorites.  I'm not suggesting you go and purchase this book (you can if you want to).  I just wanted to share how pleased I am with the make-ahead meal trend.  I save money, time, dishes, and calories from not eating out.  

Anyway, that's where my last week of summer vacation is going...to the kitchen.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Paradox of Choice

Every time I attend a gaming workshop, I am reminded to limit the choices that my players will have.  "It will paralyze them."  They say.  "There are too many options and the players freeze."  They say.  Yeah, yeah...I hear them.  I get it and I limit player choice.

And then it happened to me.





Today I had nothing to do, nothing pressing anyway.  The possibilities were endless and it was just me and my two sons.  Should we go to the park?  Maybe a bike ride?  Or a hike might be nice?  Maybe we should try out a new playground?  But sometimes playing in your own backyard is fun too?  I do need to go to Walmart and get a few things?  What about some board games at the dining room table?  I really should clean out my closet?  I could make some meals and freeze them for the school year?  What about the game I'm working on, that needs tweaking?  I didn't finish my library book and that's due back soon, should I relax on the porch and read that?  Teach the dog a new trick?

So as I'm considering all these options, I'm overwhelmed and we did NOTHING for the entire morning.  I wasted an entire morning because I had too many options.  After lunch I got my act together and took the boys to the playground, but for crying out loud.  This paradox is real.


Then I did some searching and I found an entire book about this paradox of choice.  Click here to see that.  (I did not read this book, so I have no opinion).


Monday, July 20, 2015

Watch What You Say

I don't know why, but lately I've been thinking about things that have happened in my classroom in the past in an attempt to learn and move forward.




Student talking at inappropriate times drives me crazy.  One of my favorite sayings is, "Please be quiet."  Just this past year I had to keep repeating this to one particular student.  Please be quiet, please be quiet, please be quiet.  Finally, I asked him why he wouldn't be quiet when I directly asked him multiple times.  He response?  "I am talking quietly".

He got me.  You could tell by his reaction that he was clearly surprised by my anger.  I asked him to be quiet, not to stop.  I need to watch what I say.