Friday, November 16, 2012

Make Learning Visible - Part 2

I know it's hard to imagine, but I have students who will try to do nothing on a Flashback Day (a Flashback Day is a day where I allow the students to practice and reassess on previous outcomes).  Last year I had this student who made it well known that he was intent on earning exactly a 70% in my class (the lowest possible passing grade in our district).  That pissed me off.  However, instead of directing my anger at him, I thought maybe the other students in the class could get on his case.  

I told the class that once every single student is proficient in every single outcome for the first quarter, we would have a party.  I didn't care how long it took for this to happen.  If it happened in May, then our party would be in May.  

The next time we had a Flashback Day, nothing changed.  That student still did nothing and his classmates didn't care.  I reminded them of my promise, and still nothing.  

That afternoon after school I created the following chart.  It is numbered 1 - 60.  Why 60?  That's as many numbers that would fit on my cabinet door.  I made a magnet for each class and placed their magnet next to number of outcomes they still needed to be proficient in as a whole.  For example:  If there are 20 students in a class and a total of 7 outcomes in the first quarter, that's a class total of 140 outcomes to pass.  

When the students came in the next day, they knew I meant business.  Not in a "She's mad, let's do some work" kind of way, but in a "Oh, she's really going to let us have a party." kind of way.  The next time we had a Flashback Day, the students did not let me down.  Peer pressure is such a great thing.

I'm happy to report that last year, all of my classes earned at least one party.  The class with that lazy student, earned two parties.  That class was totally proficient in every outcome for the first two quarters.  The lazy student earned a 78% for the year, not what he's capable of, but better than 70%.  

Lesson learned:  You can say it all you want, in any tone of voice you want.  But until you make it visible, the students won't believe you.  If you're committed, they're committed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Graphing a Story

As an introduction to graphing I completed an activity with my students that I call Graphing a Story.  I have two paper bags.  In one paper bags are units of time that are used to label the horizontal axis.  In the other paper bag are different things to represent the vertical axis.

Students are put into pairs and asked to pick one paper from each bag and tape them to their graph.

Next, I give each pair of students a die.  The first roll of the die will complete the ordered pair (0,   ).  The next roll will complete the ordered pair (1,   ), etc.  The students plot the points and connect those points.  I tell students that the scale of each axis does not have to go by 1.

Finally, students create a story that would "fit" the graph.  My hopes for this activity were to determine if students could read a graph.  As you can see from one story below the students believed that each point was a sum of the previous points, something I need to fix.  Below are a few samples of students' work, worts and all.  Here is a link to the file if you are interested.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Survival of the Fittest

Imagine being able to send your students away to a remote island and be the stars of a new reality show called Survival of the Fittest.  That's exactly what I did and the students LOVED it.

I put students into teams of 3 (or 4) and "flew" them to an island to play a game where the last team alive is the winner.

Each day I taught a short lesson and allowed the students to work in their teams to complete practice problems.  Each member of the team had to make sure everyone knew the lesson because their survival depended on it.  I circulated around the room answering questions only if no one in the group was able to come up with the answer.

Once all the groups were satisfied that each member knew the lesson, I gave an exit ticket that the students had to complete individually.  Each exit ticket had three questions of different difficulty level.  The problems that they students got correct dictated what supplies they received in order to survive on the island.

Once the teams started collecting supplies, the fun began.  I would randomly pick one of the "Survival Scenario" cards and read it to the students.  A card might read that the game-creators are playing with the temperatures at night and a team would need a sleeping bag in order to stay healthy.  Each team needed to hand in a sleeping bag or lose a health level.

Alliances and rivalries started to form and an atmosphere of 'survival' was in the air.  The entire unit took 7 days to complete start to test.  In those seven days, I heard students talking at their lockers about their health levels and making deals for trading supplies that were needed.  My other classes noticed the posting of the teams' health levels and want to know when I'll be sending them to a remote island.  Oh if only!!  But more importantly than students talking about the game, was the conversations that happened during the practice problems.  Students didn't want to let their teammates down.  They asked each other questions, offered advice, and I noticed a sense of urgency in learning the material.

This is the most fun I've had teaching in a long time and I cannot wait to send my students to the island again!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Heheheheheheee wipe oooout!

We have been whiteboarding in my Algebra 1B classroom.

I've been wanting to try whiteboarding for a while, but when I saw the prices of a large whiteboard, I almost passed out.  I would need about 8 boards, and at about $20 a pop, that $160 I didn't have.  My school issues us $115 per year for classroom supplies.  So, I turned to and the students' parents and complete strangers came through for us.

We finished a lesson on graphing lines when given an equation in slope-intercept form.  The next day I put them in groups of 2 or 3 and gave them the following 3 equations and asked them to graph them.

I loved the conversations that I heard throughout the lesson.  "In number 1 after we multiply by one-half, what do we add?"  "What do we pick for x in number 3?" "How do we find y in number 2?"  

They still asked me questions, but I wasn't giving in (showing off).  I assured them that although I wasn't being very helpful at the moment, that I would indeed answer all their questions if they were unable to come to a conclusion.  That seemed to appease them.

I found the one above interesting.  This group believes that the equations x = 3 will produce a point rather than a line.  

The photo above needs to be rotated if you want to see the top graph correctly.

In the group that made the above graphs, one student seemed to really know what he was doing but seemed "too nice" to correct the other students.  Eventually he won, and was able to convince them to graph x=3 correctly!!

Would I do whiteboarding again?  In a heartbeat.  The students loved it, I loved it, the conversations were amazing, and no paper waste.  Win, win, win!!!

Suggestion:  Have different color markers.  One color for each graph, or students, or just to make it more interesting.  I went out and purchased my own, but of course forgot them at home.  *Sigh*

Monday, November 5, 2012

Completing the Square Story - by a Student

For your reading pleasure:  A story created by a student of mine about Completing the Square...
(I know there's an error in her math (+2 instead of -2) but the story is great!)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Solving Systems of Equations: Foldable Booklets

*Update* (10/18/16) - Some people are having difficulties with the download below.  Try this one instead.

What you see here are little booklets with tabs.  One each for solving systems by graphing, substitution, and elimination.  

No staples or glue required to make these.  See how....

1) Download and print the documents back-to-back

2) Cut the foldable:

2) Cut along dotted lines:

3) With Example 1 facing you roll the left side of the paper.

4) Insert the rolled paper into the other paper with Example 2 face up.

5) Fold into a booklet.

All three booklets will fit on a 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper.

What I Learned from my High School Social Studies Teacher

Back in high school there was this Social Studies teacher (Let's call him Mr. A) that made teaching look easy....almost too easy;  like ...