Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A California "Snow" Day? (Days 77-78)

This post is being submitted to Tina Cardone's "Day in the Life" project. It fulfills the requirement for the special day "after Christmas break," since due to our three-week winter break plus an extra day for PD, today was the first day back for the students.

But before I begin, let me explain something about California weather. You see, another one of Cardone's special days to post is "Snow day." Now as it turns out, it almost never snows here in the city of Los Angeles. The closest snow is in the mountains. Some cities in the northern part of our state, such as San Francisco, receive the occasional snow flurry.

I'm actually not quite sure what Cardone means by a "snow day" anyway. She could mean a day on which a blizzard or nor'easter cancels school completely -- meaning that the resulting post describes not interactions with students, but what the teacher does at home once the school is shut down. Or Cardone could mean a day on which the school is still open, but there are enough flurries to affect school in some way, such as a late start or the cancellation of outdoor activities.

Here in California, the closest we get to a "snow day" is a rainy day. So far this season, there hasn't been much rain here. It actually started to rain more in mid-December -- and it was right on first day of winter break, so the weather hasn't really affected any days of school so far.

My original plan was to submit a rainy day and claim it as the closest I'll ever get to a "snow day" here in California. I was hoping to post a rainy day in February or March, since my regular posting day of the 18th falls on the weekend in those months. But it's definitely raining today, and this is a post I'm submitting to the project anyway. And so I'll no longer make an extra post in February or March, as there's nothing about the weather in those months that is significantly different from what is happening today.

Keep the weather in mind as you read today's "Day in the Life" post. Most of the "Disillusionment" I feel today is related to the weather and its effects.

7:45 -- I arrive at my school.

8:00 -- I report to the playground, where many students are beginning to arrive. The students are told not to gather in a circle for the flag salute, but to go straight to the classrooms due to the rain.

8:25 -- My first class, a sixth grade class, begins. As it turns out, two students -- one boy, one girl -- are celebrating birthdays today.

The class is learning prime numbers and GCF. I begin by telling the class that if I am a PRime, then 1 and ME are my only factors -- an idea I got from the fifth grade teacher at our K-8 school. Then I play a short game where students earn participation points for naming primes, one for each digit. So students earn one point each for 3 and 7, two points each for 13 and 17. One student impresses me by giving the three-point answer 113. I trick one girl into giving a four-point answer by asking her to name the new year, since 2017 is prime.

Then I mention a prime that would earn eight points -- 74207281. But this number is nowhere near the largest known prime. That number is the subject of a Numberphile video that I show the class:

This number is 2 to the power of the eight-digit prime I gave earlier, minus 1 -- a special number called a Mersenne prime. This number requires three notebooks to print -- and each notebook contains a ream of paper. It's so huge, yet its only factors are 1 and itself. If one of my students could have come up with that number when I ask for a prime, that student would have earned over 22 million participation points!

Someday, we might discover a prime with 100 million, or even a billion, digits. I tell my students that those primes are worth $150,000 and $250,000 respectively -- not points, but dollars:


Of course, I warn my students that if they find the prime, they'll have to share the prize with the person who wrote the computer program.

9:45 -- My sixth graders leave and my seventh graders arrive. In this class, the students are learning about angles, as well as how to draw a triangle given its three angles. I start out by telling the class about a movie I watched over the weekend, Hidden Figures, whose main theme is that black girls can do math, too. I'm offering extra credit points to anyone who watches the movie, brings me the ticket stub, and answers five questions about the movie. I'm hoping that my students -- especially the black female students -- will watch the movie.

Halfway during class, I give the students a "music break" and I sing a song from Square One TV that's appropriate for this lesson, "Angle Dance":

This is one of the oldest videos on YouTube -- in fact, tomorrow will mark 11 years since it was uploaded there! I do not play this video in class. but instead I sing and dance it myself. I find that the students enjoy the songs when I sing them much more than when I play them on YouTube. Still, I post the lyrics to the song here, courtesy Barry Carter:


Angle Dance

Lead vocals by Larry Cedar

Featured vocals by Reg E. Cathey

The following song includes graphic descriptions of obtuse and acute angles.
Viewers who might be offended by this subject matter should not view this program.
I know all the angles
Angle Dancing’s the latest fad
Make two lines meet, add a throbbing beat
The results’ll drive you mad
If you learn all the angles
You can dance to my angle song
To start bend your knees forty-five degrees
Everybody crawl along
Angle Dance, Angle Dance
Find the point where two lines merge
Angle Dance, Angle Dance
Come, let’s make our paths converge
Once you know all the angles
A two-person square’s a breeze
It’s quite cut-and-dried; stretch one arm to the side
Raise the other one ninety degrees
Next hang a friend from the ceiling
If he loves you I know he won’t care
Grasp his hands real tight, get those angles right
There you’ve done it; you’ve made a square
Angle Dance, Angle Dance
Help me measure these angles please
Angle Dance, Angle Dance
We’re all doing it by degrees
Angle Dance, Angle Dance
Make a circular turn on your toe
Angle Dance, Angle Dance
In degrees spin three six zero
If you try you can make any angle
If you don’t there’s no excuse
This little beaut is called acute
And this wide one is obtuse
Now I’ve taught you the angles
You’re Angle Dancing hip
And if you’re inclined, you can go out and find
A spatial relationship
Angle Dance, Angle Dance
Come and join me, hun
Angle Dance, Angle Dance
Have some geometric fun
Angle Dance, Angle Dance
Let’s hope our math’s correct
Angle Dance, Angle Dance
Gee it’s great when lines connect
(Fade out, repeating last refrain)
I offer the students a participation point for dancing along with the song. Several students take me up on my offer, including two black girls -- the target demographic of Hidden Figures.

11:05 -- My seventh graders leave for nutrition. It is raining outside, and I tell the students that they my stay inside my room for the break, but they decide to go out anyway.

11:25 -- My eighth grade class arrives. I begin the class the same way I start all my classes, with a Warm-Up question, which I form from the digits of the new year:

Question: 2 + 0 + 1 + 7 = ?

The answer is 10 -- and of course today is the 10th.

11:35 -- The students are now learning about translations, rotations, and reflections. These are at the heart of the new transformation geometry that is taught under Common Core. The name of my blog is "Common Core Geometry" because for the two years before I became a full-time teacher, I devoted most of my blog posts to these transformations and how they affect the way eighth grade and high school Geometry are taught.

Of these three, translations are the easiest to understand, so I begin with these. Working from the Illinois State text, students are given a line segment and a direction and they are to graph the image.

12:00 -- A seventh grade boy and his sixth grade sister arrive in my classroom. As it turns out, they are leaving to go to a different school. The boy wants to join a middle school football team but our school doesn't offer competitive sports.

12:15 -- At this point, the students are now working on questions where they are given a preimage and image and they are to give the translation mapping one to the other. The only trouble is when students miscount the number of steps -- otherwise they do well with this lesson.

12:35 -- This is a good time to end the period with an Exit Pass. Students redo one of the translation problems from the text:

What translation maps y=6 to y=-6? (Answer: 12 units down)
12:45 -- My eighth grade class goes out to lunch. At this point, we actually require the students to go right back to my room to eat lunch, rather than let them stay outside again.

1:00 -- The dean comes in to explain why lunch must be in the classroom. He asks, what would happen if a student gets sick and must go to the doctor? The parents would complain to the school for letting the child go outdoors in the rain. (Note to non-Californians -- I know that in other states it rains so often that parents and teachers let the children play in the rain.)

During this time, I receive an email from the Green Team. (I explained what the Green Team is in my November and December "Day in the Life posts.) The leader of the program wants to meet with both the fifth grade teacher and me to discuss implementation of the program. The two of us look forward to our students learning about energy, water, and science!

1:10 -- A girl takes out her cell phone -- which is forbidden at our school, even at lunch. She tells me that she's using it to look up movie times, and so I inform her that she can use the phone only if she's looking up times for Hidden Figures, not Sing.
1:25 -- My sixth grade class returns for a special "Math Intervention" class. There is special software for this class, IXL. But first, I let the students sign up for the Green Team online. By doing so, they will get a T-shirt when the program leader arrives on Thursday. Afterwards, they may complete any sixth grade math lesson on IXL.

2:25 -- My support staff member is also in charge of P.E. for sixth grade. Of course, P.E. is cancelled, and so she shows the students the movie Good Burger in my classroom.

3:20 -- After school, all of the middle school teachers plus the fifth grade teacher (at our K-8 school) gather in the classroom of the history teacher. We discuss various things -- Green Team, the two students who are moving away, and the cancellation of music tomorrow due to the injury sustained by the music teacher.

3:50 -- We receive an email informing us that tomorrow's Common Planning meeting will be held at our sister charter school. The topic of discussion is the Illinois State text -- which means that the curriculum developers are flying in all the way from England.

4:00 -- I go home for the day and head for my computer to type up this blog entry.

This concludes my "Day in the Life" post for both "After Christmas break" and, um, "Snow day." My next monthly post is scheduled for Wednesday, January 18th. Since that will be a school day, let me squeeze in one of Cardone's special Reflection Questions into this post:

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

This is followed by two sub-questions:

How did someone help you today?
Describe a relational moment you had with a student/admin/teacher/support staff today.

And here are my answers:

1. Several people helped me today. My support staff member and Bruin Corps member (which I explain in my Day Before Thanksgiving DITL post) helped me keep the class under control and allow me to assist other students with the work.

I also had to ask the English teacher next door for several things -- first the paper telling us what we're supposed to say at the morning circle (as I was the one to lead the circle today before it started to rain), then a projector because the sound stopped working when we tried to play Good Burger (though it was working fine for the Numberphile video earlier), and then some scotch tape (so I could tape up a poster of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose holiday is next week). All of this is after I had to borrow her laptop yesterday during PD, since I'd forgotten my charger.

2. In previous posts, I wrote that I yell too much at my students. Today I tried to avoid yelling and worked at establishing a more respectful relationship. When a girl told me that she got sick during winter break, I made sure that I looked her in the eye before asking "Are you OK now?" The girl who had the cell phone out informed me that she has a friend who goes by the name "Dren." The name "Dren" is short for something else -- and it's not pronounced the same as the word "dren" I use to describe a reverse-nerd who doesn't know basic math! And so I asked her more about her friend.

I've also gave high-fives to my students as they enter the room -- quickly today, though, so that they aren't stuck in the rain -- to welcome them back. I wished my students a "Happy Birthday" and tried to call on those students so they could earn extra points on their special day. (The girl I let give the prime 2017 celebrated her birthday yesterday.) And overall, I tried to do a better job checking for understanding before moving on in the lesson. All of this is to build a relationship with my students that's based on mutual respect, not yelling.

My next weekly post for my other challenge, the MTBoS 2017 Blogging Initiative, is on Friday.

My next personal post (that is, one that's not submitted to a challenge), is on Thursday, since this is a two-day post.

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