Archive for the ‘Teaching Ideas’ Category


Astronomy Class Structure

July 30, 2014

I think I’ve got it! After lots of internal debate, I think I’ve settled on how I want to run my new astronomy class this year.

To Flip or Not to Flip–That is the Question

I fell in love with the flipped class model last year for my geometry class, so I’m definitely continuing it for geometry. That’s no big deal–even when I’m not trying some projecty-thing, I can make up new problems for them to solve all day long. Astronomy, though, doesn’t quite work that way. I think I’ve found some interesting problems/activities/”labs” to go along with the textbook, so we’ll see.

Because all of the freshmen teachers are getting them, I will have the luxury of a Chromebook cart in my room, so I plan to make lots of use out of it for astronomy. First off, I wish I could remember who recommended Blendspace, but this has proven to be incredibly helpful. It lets me pull together different resources to supplement the reading they are supposed to be doing. Check out my first lesson!

I will also be using Edmodo to manage everything (Blendspace is also an Edmodo app), and since I figured out that I can use LaTex on the quizzes, I will probably use it in geometry as well. Pearson, the publisher of our textbook, has some good online assignments that the students will be expected to complete.

The Plan

  • Students will be expected to read about two sections of the textbook for each class and write a one-paragraph summary of each section.
  • They will have Blendspace lessons on each section as additional resources.
  • I will not be checking homework. The class day after the end of a chapter is the due date for all homework from that chapter.
  • During class, we will be doing some sort of exploration/project/activity.
  • The day homework is due, I will give an Edmodo quiz over the whole chapter, broken down into the standards. Students can retake any standard they do not get a 4 on. Since I am giving so few quizzes, I will be willing to go back and change a previous six week’s grade should it be necessary.
  • Grades will be weighted as follows:
    • 20% Homework
    • 20% Classwork
    • 30% Quizzes
    • 30% Six Weeks Test/Major Project

I have felt so paralyzed this summer because I wasn’t sure what/how I wanted to teach this class. I don’t know whether this will work or not, but at least I’m not paralyzed anymore.



“Borrowing” Ideas for 2014-2015

July 9, 2014

Misscalcul8 has some great ideas for next year that I’m going to swipe borrow:

  • Make my own important formula sheet and give to students at beginning
  • Start geometry with sketching and drawings and labeling

I like the idea of a “Draw your best right triangle” contest.

I’m also glad she reminded me of @crstn85’s Test Correction idea.

I think I’ve outgrown LiveBinder–I’ve got so many links, that it’s really slow to open and search–so I think I will also borrow an idea from Dan Meyer (I think) and switch to


Trying To Be Productive

July 8, 2014

I’m trying to find a balance this summer between leisure, house projects, and school stuff. My thinking is to do either a house thing or a school thing during the week, and enjoy the weekends guilt-free. Today, I continued work on my new Astronomy class, setting up the basic calendar for the first semester. Ideally, I want to flip the class and have them do some sort of activity during class, so I think tomorrow, I’ll start working on that.


Clinometer Project

July 7, 2014

This was a really fun project (for me, at least). I’m actually pretty proud of the clinometer that I ended up making. I took a basic protractor graphic and added the degrees and instructions.


I bought a bunch of hex nuts to use as weights. I had enough that if students wanted to keep their clinometers, they could.




Here’s the hall pass I made. I suggest making them BIG (3 to a page) and brightly-colored.


I thought this was a really good project. As with the mirror project, I think I’m going to have them just measure in centimeters/meters. I also want to try to find another angle of depression location.

Obj. 42 Elevation and Depression Exploration


Proportional Relationship Project

July 4, 2014

As I said in a previous post, I decided to take the meaning of “geometry” (measuring the earth) to heart by having several projects where we left the classroom and measured stuff. The first one I did was at the beginning of February where we used mirrors and meter/yard sticks.

Michael’s has some pretty good square mirrors that I was able to pick up pretty cheaply. I also put a reinforcement on each mirror to give them a point to measure from/to.

Generally, this was a very successful project. I started everyone off at the same place, which was just outside my room. As groups finished this, I could send them along to the next station, which was just down the hall. As far as I know (**g**), I didn’t have any students go AWOL on me. When I do this again, I think I’m going to have to bite the bullet and just measure in centimeters. As much as I want them to get the practice of measuring in inches and feet and using fractions, it’s not worth the hassle for what I’m trying to achieve. I may also add a direct measurement of the first station, so they can check their work.

Obj. 37 Proportional Relationships Project


Ideas for 2014-2015

July 1, 2014

My big focus this summer will be on Astronomy.

My school district is finally offering a course in astronomy, and I have been bugging my principal about letting me teach this for about three years. The decision finally came down that yes, I could teach the class as long as I passed the 8-12 Science certification test. This test covers physics, chemistry, biology, ecology, geology, and astronomy (none of which I have really looked at since 1986). Joy. So, for around six weeks, I spent just about every spare moment studying science. The physics and chemistry didn’t bother me too much (math!), but the biology, ecology, and geology drove me crazy with all of the vocabulary. Fortunately, I passed the test, and in a few days I will be officially certified to teach science in the state of Texas. If I get to teach all of the students who have signed up (there’s some doubt as to whether we have enough teachers for all of the sections of Geometry we need), I will have two classes of Astronomy!

It looks like there are some really nice online resources for the astronomy textbook, so I will probably start out using those until I get more comfortable with the material. The big decision I have to make is what kind of structure I want for the class. After last year, I really want to keep flipping my classes, so I want them to take notes for their homework, but I haven’t decided whether I just want them to take notes over the book or whether I want to make powerpoints/pdfs of some sort. I am supposed to be getting a class set of Chromebooks, so I’m thinking of having the online assignments be self-paced, and periodically have the classes do some sort of exploration/lab/project sort of thing. I have been gathering materials together for years, but now that I actually have to put stuff together, I’m getting a little nervous. I do know I want to do some type of big projecty thing for the planets.

As far as Geometry goes, I’m toying with the idea of radically cutting back on the topics I cover in order to spend more time on the important ones. Based on how last year went, if a topic warrants it, I’d like to spend one class day doing skill practice (worksheets) and one day doing problem-solving. Once I figure out what I’m doing in astronomy, I’m going to take a look at my calendar. I’d also like to record more narrations for my notes, because I think that would be very helpful.

I originally asked for Astronomy, PAP Geometry, and AP Calculus AB (yes, I am crazy). I was scheduled for all of that, when a scheduling error was discovered and I lost Calculus. What I’d like to do next year, though, is see if I can observe the teacher who’s currently teaching BC because he’s been a phenomenal teacher and he’s thinking of retiring soon. In theory, I may end up with some regular Geometry classes, but I have put in a request that I have only PAP. I’ll have to see how my schedule plays out.


Quick Idea from #TMC13

August 4, 2013

I just thought of this as I was reading some recaps of TMC13: During “My Favorites”, Chris Lusto offered the idea of having students work out the definition of a circle.

What just struck me was one of the activities challenged the students to come up with an example that fit a classmate’s definition but was not a circle. COUNTEREXAMPLE!! Counterexamples (especially geometric counterexamples) are so tricky for students to get. Here’s a built-in example of why they’re a big deal. Love!