Bond with James: October 2017

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Week in the Life of a Teacher (Week 10): Evaluations, Frustrations, and Stations! Oh, my!

This week was perhaps one of the more stressful weeks I've had since the school year began.  You can watch the video to hear more about it or you can skip my frustrating moments and read about what my students did this week (below the video). 

Monday (10-23-17)
Happy Mole Day! Unfortunately, I did not plan anything for Mole Day. I know, I know. I'm a horrible chemistry teacher.  With that said, my A-Day classes repeated what my B-Day classes completed on Friday - which was the Periodic Table modules on the class Canvas site.  I shot a video and edited it into seven smaller videos during my conference period last Thursday.  Then I uploaded each clip onto Canvas and created questions that went along with each video as a way to gauge student understanding as they watched and took notes.  

Unfortunately, the Teaching Gods were not on my side. Similar to the issue I had last Wednesday, none of the videos would play. I immediately decided to skip troubleshooting and teach the whole class.  I had to do this for the first two periods of the day.  During my off period, I remembered that I still had access to Google Classroom and decided to upload the videos there to see if that would fix the problem.  

Long-story short, I was able to get the videos uploaded to Google Classroom, but not without a cost.  I had planned to shoot videos for future lessons but ran short on time because I had allocated a significant amount of time to troubleshooting the video issue. Oh, well!  At least now I know I have a backup in case the Canvas video player does not work.  

Tuesday (10-24-17) and Wednesday (10-25-17)
On Tuesday and Wednesday, my students completed two of my Student Learning Stations activities: Atomic Structure and the Periodic Table.   Students had participated in 3 other stations activities in the past. However, I incorporated two different topics into one lesson.  
I did this as a way to review material covered last week, to allow students to get up and move around, to interact with more hands-on activities, and let students choose the way in which they demonstrated their understanding of the material during the writing sections.  There were also a few concepts that I had not taught and I used the stations as a method to cover them. 
Furthermore, my formal evaluation was on Wednesday and I had wanted to implement a stations activity set during an observation. Teachers receive two formal evaluations, by two different administrators, during the school year - one in the fall and the other in the spring. Both observations are approximately 30-minutes in length. I waived my pre-conference and sent my administrator a copy of my lesson plan outlining what my students would be doing at each station. 
I was able to get a feel of how the lesson would work with my Tuesday classes and made improvements after school that day.  I took out two stations and also taped down all of the cards and station signage.  This was to prevent students from mixing up the duplicate card sets at each table (which had been an issue during the other learning station activities); and it worked!

I didn't tell my students that I was going to be observed.  From the clips in the vlog, you can see that students were working individually or in small groups; as well as picking the order of the stations they wanted to complete. Students were engaged in higher-level academic conversations or tasks based on the specific activity they were completing.  Overall, I felt that the evaluation went well.  Now it's only a matter of time before I find out how I did during the evaluation. 

Thursday (10-26-17) and Friday (10-27-17)
Thursday and Friday were days dedicated to completing the station sets. A majority of my students did complete the stations, however, I am on the fence about combining two topics in the future.  Actually, as I wrote the last sentence, I realized that I was really undecided about allowing some of the students to pick and choose during the station activities. These particular students did not utilize their time wisely and often start off the station activities together until I have to separate them.  After four attempts at allowing them the choice to move around (based on previous station activities), I think I am going to direct their station flow in the future. 

If you're interested in hearing about my frustrating week or seeing more clips of students in action, you can check out the vlog at the top of the page.  You can watch me talk about my missing COW key (computer cart), having to fill out student forms, waking up late, technology failures, and more!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Week in the Life of a Teacher (Week 9): Labs, Blended Learning, and Homecoming!

Homecoming week, labs, and blended learning during my 9th week of school! In addition to the weekly vlog, I've also detailed the week down below with pictures. 
In an effort to play catch up to my district curriculum (and compared to where I normally should be) I am combining two units.  On Monday and Tuesday, my students participated in a chemical changes lab.  I decided to leave out examples of physical changes and only provided experiments that demonstrated signs that a chemical change had taken place. 
The students were engaged during the lab even though I provided materials for a micro-scale version of each of the reactions.  There still is some work to be done in regard to basic lab skills, however, the students were on task and completed the activities in a timely manner. I delayed the chemical changes lab because I was asked to hold off doing big labs with my students until my class sizes could be leveled to 28 students or less. To be honest, I also spent too much time on my Numbers in Science unit. 
On Wednesday and Thursday, I decided to teach atomic structure.  I had shot a 20 minute video over atomic structure before I left work Wednesday evening.  I split the video into six smaller videos, uploaded it a hosting site, and created questions in our Canvas program.  The idea behind this was to allow students to watch the videos, take notes, and learn at their own pace.  Unfortunately, my 1st period students had difficulty watching the videos because the videos kept buffering.  I tried to troubleshoot, but my vision for this lesson was dead; at least for first period.  I quickly flexed and taught the class as a whole, however, students had to return to the Canvas program to enter their responses.
After first period, I used time during my advisory period to download all six videos from the host site and then I uploaded the files onto Canvas. Thankfully, this solution worked and my other periods were able to watch the videos uninterrupted.  As students worked at their own pace, either individually or with a partner, I walked around the room to ask or respond to questions; as well as ensure that students were on-task with the blended learning assignment.  The great thing about Canvas is that I can see which students are having difficulty and develop a tailored lesson just for them.
I also had to make a decision about topics to cut out from this particular unit (which I'm combining with the previous unit). For example, I decided to scrap isotopic composition; or at least push it to nuclear chemistry toward the end of the school year.  Students will still be required to know what an isotope is, but they will not learn how to calculate the average atomic mass.  Since I made the decision to combine atomic structure with my matter & change unit at the last minute, I did not have time to give students all of the handouts; so we used a few minutes in class to prep interactive notebooks.

I requested my formal evaluation to be conducted on Monday of next week. I have decided to combine two Student Learning Stations for the evaluation: Atomic Structure and the Periodic Table (mainly because I need to catch up) . I've done stations during previous evaluations and my students have done three other learning stations. I'm not worried about doing two different stations because I've had duplicate sets of a single version during previous lessons and the students did fine. Students should be able to complete all of the stations since I will be using them as a wrap up to the concepts covered in the blended learning lessons. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Week in the Life of a Teacher (Week 8): PD, PSAT, and Demos!

This high school teacher vlog highlights a 5-day period of the eighth week of school during the 2017-2018 school year. Watch as I show clips of students working on chemical equations to me demoing a few chemical reactions.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Week in the Life of a Teacher (Week 7): Labs, Quizzes, and Subs!

The vlog highlights a 3-day window of the seventh week of school during the 2017-2018 school year. I show clips of students participating in a density lab, taking a quiz, and me talking about preparing for a substitute.

This week marked the beginning of a new six-weeks grading period - the 2nd six-weeks. I started off the week making new hall ticket passes for all of my classes. You can check out my hall ticket video here (I talk about what they are and my motive for doing them). 

On Monday, my A-Day classes participated in the density cylinder lab. My B-Day classes did this on Friday. Each group of 4 received a tube containing four pieces of a particular substance.  However, they worked in pairs, and each pair took two of the pieces to determine the densities.  After, the pairs switched pieces so that all students at a particular table had the opportunity to establish the densities of all four pieces.  The purpose of the lab was to help students observe that the density of an object is an intensive physical property (the size/shape of the object doesn't matter). 

On Tuesday and Wednesday, my students took an online quiz over density.  I had created several videos of myself teaching the various density calculations and had given students over a week to watch the videos.  Unfortunately, this did not go over well because I had a large number of students that had not watched the videos and it showed during the quiz.  However, with all of my quizzes, I do allow retakes if students come in for tutoring.  

After the quiz, I began teaching students how to read chemical formulas, and I also started an introduction to balancing chemical equations.  I figured I could introduce a topic and leave something general over these concepts with the substitutes on Thursday and Friday. I did not make the sub assignment too tricky, but I did leave something that would challenge them while I was out. 

Planning for a sub is a pain; at least for me! I ended up leaving late because I had to put up equipment and prep the sub work for my students.  I still hadn't even packed for my trip to New York, and I had a flight at 5 a.m. the next morning! Although, in retrospect, I should have planned a little earlier and thought I could quickly do everything at the last minute. I was wrong.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Week in the Life of a Teacher (Week 6): Stations, Field Trips, and End of Grading Period

The following vlog highlights a 5-day window of the sixth week of school during the 2017-2018 school year.  Below the video I discuss specific aspects of my week in more detail. 

Students completed another stations activity this week, the Matter & Change Student Learning Stations.  Since our school will be a 1:1 campus in the spring, I wanted try my hand at a blended learning environment. I've done this before, however, technology has changed since I was last in the classroom (and I'm also part of the tech committee at my school).  A few of the activities were hands-on and the other stations were placed on the class Canvas site.  

While students were doing this, I asked a table group of students to come to the back of the lab area so that I could teach them how to use a Bunsen burner. 
On Thursday, my dual-credit chemistry class visited the University of Texas at Austin.  Unfortunately, many of the students were not able to attend because they had extracurricular commitments on the same day. However, fun was had for the few students that did attend the field trip.  Perhaps I enjoyed it a little too much because it was my first field trip in over 10 years. 

On Friday, my B-Day classes participated in a density lab. Prior to that, students had to sketch the objects I had on my mobile demo table.  
While there were four students at a lab table, I arranged the activity so that students had to work in pairs.  I've done this particular lab before and it has also worked out well in pairs versus a group of four.  I am going to complete the same activity with my A-Day classes on Monday. Stay tuned!