Sunday, October 30, 2016

Celebrating My Failure

As most of you know, I've become a pretty avid runner.  About four months ago I signed up for a double marathon (52.4 miles.)    When I first signed up for this event, pretty much everyone asked one question: Why???? (usually with expletives.) I joked about the rabbit hole of running, the peer pressure, or just because I was bored, but the real reason was a bit different. 

As a classroom teacher I ask my students to push themselves in so many ways - they have to do work they don't want to do, set short and long term goals, attempt subjects they don't enjoy and/or are not intrinsically good at learning... basically they are forced to get out of their comfort zone. I decided making them do this without being willing to do it myself was not the message I wanted to send them. I had signed up for marathons and 50 km runs (31 miles) and completed them before. These were definitely NOT in my comfort zone, but since I had successfully completed them I felt I needed to step it up further.  So on June 30th I registered for the Run With Scissors double marathon.

Yes, you get scissors 

I started the day with a 3 am wake up call. Ironically I actually woke up a bit before my alarm -not uncommon considering how excited I was about today. I left my airbnb with a great note from my hosts Kevin and Carolyn hanging on the front door wishing me luck. Arriving at Cuyahoga National Park at about 3:40 am, I got my gear ready, set up my drop bag, and at 4 in the morning I started off on my first of two 26 mile laps. I'll spare you the mile-by-mile play by play -  the first 15 miles were great, but I was definitely feeling the distance by mile 23.  I finished lap one in about six-and-a-half hours.  

At the start/finish aid station I changed my shirt, socks, and got some food.  I wasn't feeling optimal, but I still went off for lap two. Things didn't improve much from there. Physically I felt fine - my nutrition was where it needed to be, nothing was cramping, hydration was solid... but my body was just not responding well. Come mile 30 I was walking way more than I was running. I was having serious discussions with my body: 

"OK, this part is slightly down hill and seems like a beautiful time to run!"
"But it ..."

I did feel better than this guy. 

I arrived at an aid station at mile 36 and had to sit down for nearly 5 minutes. The crew there was AMAZING - they asked me questions, gave me suggestions, provided aid, and really motivated me to keep going.

After leaving that station I had to follow a five mile loop before I returned back to that same aid station. It was during this loop I realized I was not going to finish this run. I needed to average about 18 minute miles during the last half marathon of the run and I was nowhere near that, coming in closer to 22 minutes per mile. My legs just did not want to go anymore. After some really tough reflection I decided I was going to drop when I returned to the aid station. This would give me about 41 total miles.  I slowed down and really started to enjoy the run - taking pictures and admiring the sights and sounds. It took nearly 2 hours for me to get those 5 miles done.

Gorgeous scenery! 

By the time I got back to the aid station it was 3 in the afternoon and I'd been moving for 11 hours. The crew there was once again amazing. They celebrated my success as did I. They took care of me wonderfully and gave me a ride back to the start/finish line. My run was over about 11 miles short of the finish. 

My goal was to get out of my comfort zone and really push to see what my body could do. I learned that my limit for today was about 41 miles. There are dozens and dozens of possible reasons that I topped out there today. Maybe it won't be my limit next time, but that's not for me to decide now.

It is also a great reminder to all of us to celebrate successes even when goals are not reached.  Celebrate the student that gets a 55% on a quiz, a student that gets one out of ten free throws, or just the student that came to school that day.  For them, this might be their own personal success.

We're still not really talking to each other...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Who Killed Mr. Xavier Pression?

I just got back from AMLE 2016, and what an amazing experience.  I met some amazing people, including many that I've been talking to during #MSCHAT and #TLAP talks.  I know many of you want to hear all about it, but honestly this graphic kind of explains where I am currently at:

I think I need to install some new RAM.

So for now you'll have to read about my latest activity.  

This year my 7th grade math class has been immersed in a game world.  They are in guilds named after mathematicians (Kepler, Nother, Euler, and Brahmagupta), exploring a world, and helping to bring together two nations.  They were introduced to Mr. Xavier Pression, the main diplomat brokering the truce between the nations of Gunthar and Sancrist.  Last week they received a message that Mr. Pression has gone missing.  They completed a series of quests to find him, which all four guilds did successfully.  

Unfortunately at the end of the last quest they found this on the screen at the end of the period:

It took a minute, but they eventually got the pun.

There was shock on everyone's face.  He was dead? How could that be?  They did everything they could to find him.  The next morning they walked in determined to find his killer.  

I purchased this activity from Teachers Pay Teachers.  It is a clue-based activity to have students write algebraic sentences as expressions.  In fact the whole game is set up like the boardgame Clue.  Here is the link to the product - I highly recommend it: Who Killed Mr. X. Pression

Now here is where Dave Burgess would say it is time to kick it up a notch.  They could have just come in and done the activity. I could have had the worksheets with the clues out and they could have just completed them and discovered the person, place, and thing.  However, this was a murder mystery. This was drama.  This was a crime investigation.  So instead of coming in to a worksheet laden room, they came in to this:

SO much positive feedback about the atmosphere.

Dark room, chilling music, the only thing out was the title.  By the way, students were actually working when I shot this video - that's the murmuring you hear in the background.  There was so much excitement and chatter.  They wanted to finish this assignment.  They learned that their sponsors were offering rewards including kingdom points, renown points, and new items to anyone that correctly completes the problems and solves the mystery.  They begged to get it started. 

How often can you say that has happened while teaching writing algebraic expressions?  

Saturday, October 8, 2016

It's So EASY When You Put It That Way

My 6th grade math class isn't as ready to be fully entrenched in the #gamification, but we still play plenty of games.  We just don't do the leaderboard, experience, or player character aspects - there are no NPCs (Non-player characters), and they don't collect items.

I haven't ruled out doing this later in the year, however.  In fact I have penciled in a quest where the 7th graders have to rely on sixth graders for important information.

Today I introduced the concept of combining integers.  Amazingly, I did it with a game.  Shocking, I know.   Students logged on to an interactive number line maker (there are many, I used this one) and let students play around for a bit.  After they became comfortable using the page I instructed them to create a number line from -20 to 20 that counted by ones.  I then had them move their circles to zero.

Students were organized into teams and they saw that I had spread out a deck of cards on the front table.  I explained that I removed the face cards from this deck, and so that the card values of two through ten were available.

I then explained the rules of the game.  Each student would be chosen, one at a time, to pick a face card.  Black cards represented positive numbers and red cards represented negative numbers.  We reviewed that positive numbers were on the right and negative were to the left.  They quickly made the connection that if they pick a black card, the number would move right, and a red card would move them left.

The first team to positive 20 points wins the game.

Students came up one at a time, picking their team's starting card.  From there they moved their virtual number line to their starting place.  As more cards were picked students realized black cards were always good and red cards were always bad (in this game anyway. I hinted in a future game they may want the negative cards!)

What they didn't realize is they were learning how to add integers.  I specifically instructed them to not use words like "adding" and "subtracting."   Later in the week when I introduced the vocabulary and concept, they were blown away how easy adding integers was.  We talked about how this was addition (even though negative cards "subtracted" the value" because we were always adding cards to their collection.  Later in the week I gave students a check-out (formative) assignment and nearly the whole class scored 85% or higher.

When I get back from AMLE 2016, I plan on introducing subtracting integers with a similar game - students will start with cards and get to discard to get to a target number.

I'm off to Austin tomorrow for AMLE!  'll be arriving on Sunday and my session, Building Simultaneous Engagement, will be on Wednesday at 11:30 am!  Hope to see many of you there!