Saturday, October 20, 2012

Character Qualities for Devotions

In many of past years of teaching, I've had the responsibility of leading my first hour students in devotions. Most of the time I have seen this as a great worry -- one more thing for me to plan for. Admittedly, this shouldn't be a huge problem, except for the fact that I have not really developed the discipline of personal devotions or Bible study in my own life, and so I don't have much to go from. That struggle is a-whole-'nother post which is probably too personal for me to write about some other day.

Operational Definitions of Character Qualities
This year I found something I have enjoyed very much using for my classroom devotions.  My wife brought home from her M.O.P.S. meeting a handout of Operational Definitions of Character Qualities. I don't know the original source -- a quick search showed them related the Duggars, or from Bill Gothard.

This sheet contains 49 characteristics, an antonym for each, and a definition which helps unpack the meaning behind the word.  Then a bible verse is suggested which places some context to the word. The picture provides just a snippet of four of the words -- including the word Love. The antonym provided for love is "selfishness" which condemns me a lot. Many times instead of showing love to my family, I want to do my own thing. Especially when I first come home from work.

Lately, we've been taking a few minutes to digest a word -- typically by trying to describe it at first, then list several opposites, and ending with reading the passage associated with the word. This has lead to several fruitful discussions with students regarding many related topics. One day we talked about how we need to choose to love some people because it doesn't come naturally at times -- and is that ok? The word of the day was honesty -- and the student felt they were being dishonest perhaps in loving someone when they were angry or frustrated with them. I was able to share that many times, in marriage for instance, we need to start by showing love, and then the feelings follow. Actions drive feelings, as opposed to deriving from them.

Anyway, I thought perhaps others could benefit from this list of words and learn from them too. If you decide to look at them, share any revelations or surprises you find in the comments below!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Notes and Links from MANS Conference

Image of of my blog, made in Tagxedo.
The past few days I have been attending a teacher's conference, and this post is an assorted list of links and brief descriptions of some of the things I heard about and might want to look into more deeply:

Scoop.It: A networking and bookmarking tool -- seemed like Pinterest for teachers.
Twitter: I already have an account and you can follow me @rockyroer
iEar: list of teacher reviewed apps for education.

Storybird: Website for making story books, which was very easy to pull in beautiful artwork
Fodey: Website for making student written news articles appear newsarticle-y.
Wordle: Create artwork from chunks of text, by frequency of word
Tagxedo: Similar to wordle, but you can use different shapes of words.
Voki: a website that can read text outloud, in many different voices, and languages.

Lulu: A self-publisher. Send your student work here and they can print off their own books and have it shipped to their house. Others can buy it too if you make it public.  Imagine someone in another state or country wanting a copy of your short stories or poems?  Or a grandparent who wants something special for Christmas?
Cafepress: Create your own ... T shirt? Coffee Mug? Purse? You name it! Imagine making your first graders painting off your fridge and keeping it forever on a plate?

   Lure of the Labrynth: A game that teaches algebra skills -- apparently quite involved
   Isle of Tune: A web game where users make cartoon maps, but as cars travel around and pass trees, houses, etc, music is played. Very impressive version that plays Don't Stop Believing
   iCivics: Many different games related to civics, government, and economics.

Blue Elephants and Polynomial Equations

The other day in my precalculus class I used a series of jokes to make a point. We were studying polynomials, and how to solve polynomial equations such as:
Polynomial Equation:
The basic technique for solving a polynomial equation is to move everything to one side of the equals sign, and then search for the roots -- or x-intercepts of whatever is left.  This roots searching was something we had spent about a week practicing and refining, but hadn't yet discussed why one would bother looking for roots.  This example would lead to the equation  which has the graph: 
y=3x^3+6x^2+8x+6 has a root at x=-1.18
Image made in Geogebra
Since this equation has only one x-intercept, it has one solution, which is approximately -1.18.  (Yes, it also has two complex roots, but that's more than we need to discuss today).

One of the major reasons for finding roots is to solve these types of equations, but this root finding skill can also be useful in solving different types of equations. For instance, we learned how to solve "rational equations" which are polynomial equations with fractions involved: 
Rational Equation:
The basic strategy for this type of equation is to multiply by the denominators, which will eliminate the fractions, converting this ugly equation into a polynomial equation, which we can then find roots of.

We also learned how to solve "radical equations" using a similiar "convert and tackle" mentality:
Radical Equation:
The technique for these is to eliminate the radical by getting it alone one one side, and then squaring both sides. This will give you a polynomial equation which you can find the roots of.

This lesson reminded me of the blue elephant jokes I learned as a child, and shared with my students:

Teacher: How do you kill an elephant:
Student: I don't know
Teacher: With an elephant gun.  
Teacher: How do you kill a blue elephant?
Student: I don't know?
Teacher: With a blue elephant gun!
Teacher: How do you kill a pink elephant?
Student: With a pink elephant gun?
Teacher: No! You hold his trunk till he turns blue, and shoot him with a blue elephant gun.
Teacher: How do you kill a purple elephant?
Student: Hold his trunk till he...
Teacher: No! You first paint him pink, then hold his trunk till he turns blue and shoot him with a blue elephant gun. How do you kill a green elephant?
Student: Paint him ...?
Teacher: You fool! There's no such thing as a green elephant!

Students caught on pretty quickly to the absurdity of the jokes, but also saw the connection between killing blue elephants, and the equations we were slaying. One hour in particular enjoyed the metaphor and now calls all polynomial equations "blue elephants".  
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