Monday, February 13, 2017

Coding: Google Calendar (Day 100)

Here is the today's Pappas question of the day:

ABCD is a four-digit number with the following properties:

1. C is the only even digit, with all the other digits odd.
2. The digits 5, 6, 7, and 8 do not appear.
3. Each digit is greater than the previous digit.

Question: What number is AB?

To solve this problem, we notice that by Rule #3, our number probably starts with a low digit so that it can end with a high digit. So let A be the smallest possible thousands digit, 1. This works by Rule #1, which tells us that A must be odd. We know that B must also be odd, so it can't be 2 -- so let's try 3 for B. Now C can be 4, since by Rule #1 it must be even. As for D, it can't be 5, 6, 7, or 8 by Rule #2, so we must go all the way to 9 for D. As this is the largest digit and we chose the smallest possible value for A, B, and C, there are no other possibilities. The number ABCD is 1349 -- but the question asked for AB. So the answer is 13 -- and of course, today's date is the thirteenth.

I call this a Pappas question, and her calendar does occasionally give digit questions, although none of them are exactly like this. This is actually more like one of the Monday Five questions that I gave my seventh graders today. It's not exactly the question from the worksheet, though -- I manipulated it so that the answer would come out as thirteen. Thus both Pappas and the worksheet influenced today's question.

Monday Five -- that's right, today must be a coding Monday. And unfortunately, this is a one-day post, so I'll be writing about very little math today outside of the Monday Five question.

The sixth graders are creating a survey, and they are able to answer each other's surveys. The seventh graders are continuing with spreadsheets -- today they research data on whatever topic they like (such as sports) so that they can create a spreadsheet with that data. The coding teacher decided that Unity is too tricky for the eighth graders. So instead he shows them some Google apps -- today's app is Google Calendar.

Since today's a coding Monday, and I have nothing else to write about today, let me discuss some issues related to the school calendar. After all, the eighth grade coding lesson is about Google Calendar, so my calendar discussion fits perfectly!

Lincoln's Birthday. As I wrote in my last post, today is the Lincoln's Birthday holiday at many schools, but not the LAUSD and hence not my charter. The districts for which I subbed last year did observe Lincoln's birthday, which is why I observed the holiday on the blog.

On the other hand, remember that our charter has PD days coming up on Thursday and Friday. Thus the students, in effect, will be able to enjoy a five-day President's Day weekend.

Some other districts observe Lincoln's Birthday differently. Instead of celebrating Honest Abe on the Monday before President's Day, they do so on the Friday before President's Day. The result is the observance of a four-day Prez weekend. When I was a young sixth grader, my school did this -- plus there was a PD day on the following Tuesday, so we had a five-day weekend. This only lasted for one year -- we returned to having consecutive Mondays off the following February.

But our upcoming five-day weekend has nothing to do with Lincoln. We teachers must put in a full day of PD on both Thursday and Friday, with Monday as our only day off.

Day 100. Today is the 100th day of school, a day celebrated at elementary schools. I've mentioned this on the blog before as a mere curiosity -- but notice that I now actually work at a K-8 school, which means that Day 100 is finally relevant. Day 100 is often celebrated in kindergarten and first grade classrooms, as these are the years when students learn to count to 100.

Despite this, no one actually celebrates Day 100 at my school today. There are two reasons for this -- first, notice that tomorrow is Valentine's Day. It's awkward to have a big party today for Day 100 and then a big party for V-Day tomorrow -- a three-day week with parties on two of the three days! The official recommendation from our director (principal) is to wait to celebrate Day 100 until after the five-day weekend, on Tuesday the 21st.

The second reason is that, for the kindergartners, the 100th day of school is next week anyway. The first day of school for Grades 1-8 was Tuesday, August 16th, but kindergartners didn't go to school that week. Indeed, I don't think our kindergarten teacher was hired until the following week. The Kinder teacher herself counted Monday, August 22nd as Day 1 (which was our Day 5), and so her Day 100 is our Day 104, Wednesday, February 22nd.

The only relevant Day 100 is counted by the grade that actually celebrates it -- kindergarten, not middle school. So our school will have the Day 100 party one day later than the recommendation by our director, on the Wednesday of next week.

The three-day week. Recently, my weekly plan has been the following:

Monday: Coding
Tuesday: STEM Projects
Wednesday: Student Journals
Thursday: Learning Centers
Friday: Assessment

This week there is no school on Thursday and Friday, so the resulting week looks like this:

Monday: Coding
Tuesday: STEM Projects
Wednesday: Student Journals

This eliminates the assessment at the end of the week. In fact, when I submitted my plans to cover all Major Content (MC) before the SBAC, I left this week open as I knew it would be a short week. So I didn't even bother to list a Learning Module for this week. This allows me to give more time for topics that I know will be difficult for the students.

In eighth grade, I actually gave an extra week for EE7b, on solving multi-step equations. I already started Learning Module 11 -- the corresponding standards of which are actually SP1 and SP2, which are in the statistics strand. Notice that SP1 and SP2 are not MC -- yet they appear on the second trimester benchmark tests that are coming up soon. I still don't like how Illinois State provides both a "Year View" pacing plan and benchmark tests, yet one doesn't correspond to the other!

For sixth and seventh grades, I'll continue the standards that I began last week -- since both of these are huge ones. Sixth graders are learning about percents for the first time. And the seventh grade standard is integer operations -- I covered mostly addition last week, so that leaves subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Seventh grade is especially challenging since that I don't see that grade on Wednesdays! It means that tomorrow is the last time I'll see them for a full week! Naturally, the Student Journals are when the students learn new material, so I'll be doing that with the seventh graders tomorrow.

I also use the SBAC prep time to attempt to sneak in new material, especially for seventh grade. In fact, today I mention a practice SBAC question based on EE1 -- on basic factoring. In a way, this is just GCF factoring, or the distributive property in reverse. But it's tricky when embedded into an SBAC question which directs the students to find which step contains an error.

Other issues. There have been several other things going on in my classroom that I'll mention in this coding Monday post.

The instructional aide has been continuing to work with my classroom management. This time, she tries to enhance my classroom management via desk arrangement. The seats, previously divided into groups of four, are now arranged in order to form a sort of horseshoe shape, which allows the teacher to reach the students more easily. The ideal horseshoe has already been implemented in the English class next door, but due to the location of my front board and projector, a modified horseshoe is in place in my classroom.

I remember back when I was student teaching, and I was provided a copy of Fred Jones and his work Tools for Teaching, which I still own. The horseshoe is one arrangement that Jones recommends.

We have been required to submit a list of high-, middle-, and low-achieving students to our director, along with plans for how we will help each group. The new seating arrangement goes hand-in-hand with these plans.

Given a list of high- and low-achieving students, some teachers prefer to group homogeneously, by placing students at the same level together. The alternative is to group heterogeneously, by seating a high student next to a low student. Traditionalists tend to prefer the former -- indeed, they often advocate going one step further to full-blown tracking (which is controversial -- I explain why in vacation posts and keep the controversy out of school day posts). The English teacher also appears to be grouping the students homogeneously.

There seems to be conflicting directions from the administration. On one hand, coming up with plans for each level implies homogeneous grouping. But we were also asked to list helpful students -- that is, strong students who can assist weaker students in heterogeneous groups. In the end, I seated the student so that stronger students can help the weaker ones out -- a difference from English class. But the seventh grade groups somehow end up more homogeneous. This could be helpful during the shorter seventh grade week, when the traditional lesson could bleed into Learning Centers (so I'll want the higher group to work on the new material independently while I help the lower group).

On the other hand, since the other two grades do meet on Wednesday, I could do projects with sixth and eighth grades tomorrow. Notice that as there is no new Learning Module this week, there is no STEM project either. I want to take advantage of this and provide activities that don't come from Illinois State. Which projects will I choose? Well, you'll have to wait until tomorrow's post to see.

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