Friday, January 31, 2014



Back to my geometry classes....the students have moved from triangles to polygons and I read The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns to seven classes.

We started with 10 different polygon shapes cut out of construction paper (I have them with my die-cut machine in the workroom). Each student got a shape and had to glue it to a piece of computer paper, then create a drawing incorporating the polygon into the drawing. We got a LOT of houses and stop signs (even though some had hexagons and heptagons instead of octagons), but some students were very creative with their vision (see pictures below).

After reading the story we discussed what the book was trying to teach besides shapes and most of the students responded with answers like: friendship, being yourself, don't be greedy, love the way you are, etc.

Quadrilateral makes a bird beak.

Student creativity at work!

I then reminded the students that math was not my favorite subject and I always wanted to know WHY we needed to learn things like polygons. I found two video clips that showed how polygons are used in the "real world." (Note to self...ALWAYS bookmark the video you find, when you find it! I only used one, because I couldn't find the other one!)

I explained to the students that one of the videos showed how polygons are used to create the three-dimensional gaming worlds they compete in at home. When you take the coloring away, you see polygon on top of polygon building the blocks of the virtual world. It's very cool (but I can't find it!)

The second video clip showed how polygons are used to build recording studios and help with the perfect sound quality of a song. I had no idea polygons could be used that way! I accessed this video from our PowerVideo database.* I like being able to make those connections for the students when I can!
*Polygons. Distribution Access Inc. 2002
  Learn360. 31 January 2014

Reading with SOL class (Second Other Language)

My ESL/SOL teacher approached me to work on an idea she had to expose her SOL students to more background information for better writing. She has found that the students have a difficult time coming up with examples of people and subject matter that applies to writing prompts because they use the same two or three references every time they write an essay. Our goal is to expose them to numerous individuals and their stories so they have a broader knowledge base for writing and relating information.

We decided our first book would be about Albert Einstein: On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne.
This is a wonderful story about Einstein's childhood and the things he did before he was a "genius" in the eyes of the world.

The first thing the teacher, Ms. Greene, did was show the students how to create a book for note-taking over the several stories to be read. She used a similar method as the one demonstrated in the video, but also gave the students a beautiful piece of card stock to glue to the outside for their "cover."

While I read our first story, Ms. Greene modeled taking notes on interesting information from the book and then we had the students tell us what other notes they had chosen as interesting. The students also listed and discussed characteristic of Einstein and what made him stand out from others. Then we showed this video of Einstein (Albert Einstein Warns of Dangers in Nuclear Arms Race) and discussed how English was not his first language and even though he was very smart, he had difficulty with the language just like they sometimes do.

The second book we read was Sebastian: A Book About Bach by Jeanette Winter.
This book introduced the students to Bach and his entire life, starting with his relatives and ending with his death. We were all shocked to learn that he had 20 children with only one wife and that he was a dedicated family man and composer. We also listened to Yo Yo Ma play Bach's music.

We've got several more books lined up to read throughout this semester. The students, Ms. Greene, and I are all looking forward to more read-alouds!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Another book for Geometry Classes

My Geometry teachers love having picture books to use in their classrooms to introduce new topics, and they want me to read to their kids as much as possible. So I started the new semester with the book What's Your Angle, Pythagoras?: A Math Adventure, by Julie Ellis (Illustrated by Phyllis Hornung).


Obviously, we were talking about the Pythagorean Theorem, which the students mostly knew something about already, but the story helped cement the concept for them in the coming unit. What was great about the story, is it gave three "real-world" uses for the theorem; and isn't that one of the complaints that students have today? "When am I every going to use this?" I often felt that way about math in school (and other subjects as well), but this book allowed me to show them how they could use this equation to map distance, create right angles for building and also use tools correctly. It also lent some history to the math class and gave students a look at the historical fiction genre.

After we were done reading, the teachers led the students to write about what "real-life" examples they could use for the Pythagorean Theorem. One of the principals came by for a walk-through and said the students were engaged and seemed to enjoy the story; recalling what had been read and synthesizing the information into their writings and discussions.

One of the tools I used while reading this book was Google Play. I'd not used it before, but wanted an easy way to show the book to the students. I purchased the books for a few dollars (under $6, I think) and was able to project it from my iPad mini through the AirPlay/AirServer feature available. It made it so much easier to use and manipulate the book in front of the whole class.

In a couple of weeks I'll be using a picture book to introduce polygons!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

What's Your Angle, Pythagoras?

It's a new semester at Mesquite High School, and I started it off by visiting six geometry classes and sharing What's Your Angle, Pythagoras? by Jullie Ellis.

On our first day back from the break, I was sitting in on a meeting with the geometry teacher and our campus technology facilitator. They were discussing ways to incorporate iPads into a lesson on the Pythagorean Theorem. I remembered hearing about a picture book about the Pythagorean Theorem, and the teacher was open to me coming into her classroom and sharing the book as a hook to the lesson. Since our library did not have a copy, I borrowed one from one of our feeder elementary schools.

I began the lesson with a quick clip from NBC Learn about how the Pythagorean Theorem relates to football. The students enjoyed seeing a "real world" connection between geometry and sports. This was perfect timing because the National Championship game between Auburn and FSU had just occurred the night before, so I was able to show a clip from that game that illustrated how "the angle of pursuit" can change the outcome of a game. (You can watch the video at the bottom of the page: Keep your eye on #28, the defender for Auburn, who misses the "angle." If you have watched Auburn's miraculous season this year, you will understand why this is football karma at work.)

Honestly, I was a bit worried about how the students would respond to this book because I did something different this time; I  arranged the lesson before I actually read the book, which I don't advise. With most picture book lessons, I have a high-interest book in mind that I try to match to a subject or class, but this was not the case. When I read the book for the first time (after I had already set up the lesson), I thought, "Oh no. This is cheesy, and they might not like it." But I thought that the football clips might engage them, and I was right. Even though the book has some lame "right angle" jokes in it, the students still enjoyed the novelty of listening to a picture book in math class, and I was pleasantly surprised at how they responded. At the conclusion, they "turned and talked" to a partner about what they learned from the book. As I walked around the room listening to the conversations, I was able to tell that they learned what the Pythagoreum Theorem is, who discovered it, and how.

Overall, this is not the most compelling picture book that I've ever read aloud, but it worked. 

Here is the video clip from the National Championship game. Remember to keep you eye on Auburn's #28: