Friday, October 26, 2012

I'm a Believer: #75FACTS Comments-Only Marking

I've been doing comments-only grading since the beginning of this school year and it has completely changed my students' attitudes.

When I first heard about comments only grading I was in a Standards-Based-Assessment Conference/Workshop and we were learning about traffic light grading as well.  This year I had an epiphany and realized that grading was grading no matter how you tried to sugar-coat it.  Numbers, letters, colors, they're all the same.  A grade is a grade is a grade.  No more.  I only grade tests.

Standards for Mathematics Practices:

I feel this FACT is closely ties to 1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.  I've seen this in action.  Students are willing to try problems more than once, knowing that they are not being judged on their work.  I've written about this earlier.  You can see that post here.


Planning to Use and Implement FACTS:

One thing that I keep in mind when creating assignments is how I'm going to give the comments with my limited time.  If the assignment is something that would be difficult to comment on, I would only assign a few problems because I would have to do the commenting by myself.  However, if the students could comment on each other's work, then I could assign a few more problems.  
In the post that is linked above, I allow space for students to make corrections and time to make those corrections.

Small Steps:

Were your students engaged?  Yes, I found that the students are more cooperative this year with the comments only grading.  Students want to know "why" so they are ready for the test, rather than copying assignments to just complete them.  
Note - I don't penalize students for not completing an assignment, their penalty is less knowledge.

Were you confident and excited about using the FACT?  When I first decided to do this I was scared that students would rebel, I have an entire post about that as well.  In general, the students like not having the comments.  They tell me the class is more relaxed and less stressful than the classes that grade every single paper.

How did use of the FACT affect the student-to-student or student-teacher dynamic?  I believe that the students are less competitive with each other because there is no grade to compare.  They are more willing to help each other and ask for help.  

Was the information gained from the FACT useful to you?  Yes, looking at students' work with commenting on my mind is so much more useful that having grading on my mind.  I know how to better serve my students.  

Would you have gotten the same information without using the FACT?  No, when everything is graded, some students shut down.  Once they've lost their confidence, you've lost them.  With comments only grading, I continuously get information from students because they are not afraid to give it.

What added value did the FACT bring to teaching and learning?  I believe my students are more focused on what they know rather than how much they do.  They are more concerned with knowledge and what have more value than that in a classroom?

Did using the FACT cause you to do something differently or think differently about teaching and learning?  Yes!  I use to think that grades were the great motivator, but they're not.  Students don't like to feel stupid.  You want to motivate your students, find a way to show them how smart they are.

Would you use this FACT again?  Everyday!

Are there modifications you could make to this FACT to improve its usefulness?  I like the book's modifications for codes.  I think I may incorporate that.

Using Data from the FACTS:

When I create problems for commenting, I try to make ones that will tell me if the students learned the major points of the lesson.  In most cases that is only 2 - 3 problems.  I leave time in my lesson plans for the students to make corrections based on my comments.  The students who know what they are doing are asked to help struggling students.  If I find that I was making a certain comment often, I would address the entire class and reteach that part of the lesson.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Create the Problem #75FACTS

This past week I attempted "Create the Problem" (#11 page 80) as my #75FACT.  In this FACT students are given a solution and they need to create a problem that would be solved using that solution.

Here is my solution for Create the Problem:




Eight Standards for Mathematical Practice:

Math Standard #1:  Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.  In this problem student need to create a problem that would be modeled with quadratics and would be solved by finding the vertex.

FACTS and Teaching Goals:

We just finished our lesson on applications of quadratics and I wanted to see if students understood when to find the vertex of a parabola and what that meant in different situations.

After teaching the lesson, I gave each student a copy of the solution and asked them to create the problem as an exit ticket.  That afternoon I made copies of their problems and cut off their names.  The next day I put students into pairs and had them write comments on the papers.  We used the document camera to look at a few together and discuss our thoughts.  That night I went through each problem and picked the ones that matched the work and made copies for each student to have.

Correct student problems:



Small Steps:

Were your students engaged?  Yes, many of the students were able to use their creative side when creating the problem.  

Were you confident and excited about using the FACT?  Yes, I love a great lesson plan.

How did use of the FACT affect the student-to-student or student-teacher dynamic?  Student-to-student:  I don't think students are use to commenting on each other's work.  Also, not often do they have the opportunity to see what other students are doing in class unless the student himself decides to share his work.  Student-teacher:  The students are still in the zone where they need to ask me for assurance for everything they do.  In this FACT, I tried to sit out as much as possible.  Because of this I played a roll of more of a questioner rather than an evaluator.  

Was the information gained from the FACT useful to you?  Yes.  What I was looking for in this problem was "how high" and "when does it reach this maximum height".  However, most of what I received was "when will it hit the ground?".  Because I used this FACT I knew I had to review what information was given from a parabola's vertex. 

Would you have gotten the same information without using the FACT?  Yes, I could have created problems that asked students to find maximum height, and when will it hit the ground to see if they would solve them correctly.  But this FACT allowed students a nice entry point even if they didn't know how to find the vertex.  This FACT allowed students to express that they knew what it meant.

What added value did the FACT bring to teaching and learning?  Because the students had more ownership in the problem they were more willing to figure out why it was correct or incorrect.  Also, because the students' work was anonymous, they were safe in creating their problem.

Did using the FACT cause you to do something differently or think differently about teaching and learning?  Yes, I didn't realize that so many students didn't know what information was given from the vertex?  I mean, I taught it, that means they learned it, right? <-- Sarcasm.

Would you use this FACT again?  Yes, I felt that it helped the students learn about the meaning of the vertex.  

Are there modifications you could make to this FACT to improve its usefulness?  
First, I would give the students examples of the correct work before they were to comment on other students problems.  So, I would go in this order:  1) create the problem 2) discuss some problems together with the document camera 3) show examples of good problems 4) comment on other's problems.  
Second, I used a lot of paper to do this FACT.  I completed this with two classes, a total of 43 students. Then I made two copies of each students work.  Finally, I copied examples of correct problems.  That's a total of 172 sheets of paper!  Maybe to cut back on waste, I will scan their problems and put them in a google doc (can you do that).  Other students can make comments on the google doc.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Make Learning Visible

What you see here is a "Proficien-tree".  When a student has proved himself to be proficient in a particular outcome I write his name on a leaf and the student puts it on their class tree.  There is no competition, just a nice metaphor of how our knowledge grows and blooms.  



I have 5 trees around my room (one for each of my classes).  My students love them.  After every test or flashback day, they go to their folders looking to see if they earned a leaf.  

How to make your own proficien-tree:
Get one planter for each class.  
Get rocks to hold your tree in place.  Luckily I live near a river and collect free river rocks.
Cut some branches off a tree.
Make leaves.  


I started by buying the scrapbook punches you see above ($16 each).  However, the leaf punch has seen better days and I've only owned if for a year.  I used the flower one in spring, so the students could put pink flowers on their tree.  Then I found foam leaves from Oriental Trading.  I can use most of those, but some are just too small to write on.  $8 for 500 leaves....OK.  It saves me time from punching out the leaves, it saves tape too since the leaves are stickers. 

What I like most about the trees are the teachers who walk past my room, stop, and come back to ask about the trees.  After a while, some will come back just to see how the trees are growing.  
I also like to remind the students of how far they have come.  They'll be struggling with something and get down on themselves.  I say, "Look at your tree!  Look how far you've come.  We can get through this."

Friday, October 12, 2012

#75FACTS Week 4 - Human Scatter Plots Poster


This week I tried the Human Scatter Graph again, but using the modification.  Read about that here.
Math FACT # 22 page 104.

Before teaching a lesson on patterns I gave the students a multiple choice problem and asked them to answer the question and rate their confidence on a scale of 1 - 10 (1 being a guess and 10 betting your life on the answer).  I marked those results in pink.

I taught the lesson.

After the lesson I gave the students the exact same problem with the same conditions and marked those results in blue.  


By the way, the correct answer was A. 


Here is the question:

The first five terms of a sequence are given below:
10, 17, 24, 31, 38, ...

Determine which of the following formulas gives the nth term of this sequence.

A) 3 + 7n

B) 16 - 6n

C) 4 + 6n

D) 17 - 7n





Reflection Questions (Page 37):

Were your students engaged?  Mostly, it was a multiple choice question.  How engaged would you be?

Were you confident and excited about using the FACT?  Confident? Yes. Excited?  No, not excited.  I was looking forward to it, but it's not the excitement that's created when conducting and up-and-out-of-your-seat activity.  

How did use of the FACT affect the student-to-student or student-teacher dynamic?  I don't think any of that was affected.  I ask questions all the time in class.  This was nothing new.  

Was the information gained from the FACT useful to you?  Yes, I was able to see that the lesson was effective and that the students' confidence grew.

Would you have gotten the same information without using the fact?  I may have done a pre- and post- question to see what knowledge was gained, but I wouldn't have known how their confidence grew.

What added value did the FACT bring to teaching and learning?  I'm a big believer in student confidence leading to student learning.  Because not only did the students state that their confidence grew, but they could see it in a visual representation.  Maybe a few more students will start to think that they can learn math.  For this lesson on patterns the students were especially whiny.  Many times they complained that they didn't understand and that it was "stupid".  But at the end of class when I showed them the chart, you could see their faces brighten up.  

Did using the FACT cause you to do something differently or think differently about teaching and learning?  I like that this FACT asked students their confidence.  I never thought about making that visible before.  

Would you use this FACT again?  Yes, especially for those difficult lessons where students usually struggle.  I like that even though the students feel like they know nothing, you can show them that they indeed do know something.

Are there modifications you could make to this FACT to improve its usefulness?  I wouldn't use a scale of 1-10 again.  I would use this in conjunction with the FACT: Fist to 5 (#16 page 92), where the horizontal axis would be from 0 - 5 using the Fist to 5 descriptions.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

#75 FACTS - Week 3 - Chapter 3

Okay.  I tried.  I've been "attending" the twitter chat on #75 Math Facts, but I can't do it anymore.  Not that I don't want to, but staying up that late has been messing with my whole week.

So, in an effort to stay in the loop, I will blog about my thoughts rather than participate in the chat :(

I tried out Human Scatter Plot (p 104 # 22) this week and thought I would speak about how it relates to chapter 3.
The Human Scatter Plot is where students are given a multiple choice question and asked to stand somewhere in the room according to their answer and confidence in their answer.  I placed tape on my classroom floor to create 4 lines.  One each for the answer choices A, B, C, D.  If the students were confident in their answer, they were to stand on the line but closer to the door, if they were less confident, they were to stand farther away from the door.  I had 10 questions ready for the lesson but that was more than enough.

Chapter Three: Considerations for Selecting, Implementing and Using Data From FACTs.

Eight Standards for Mathematical Practices

I felt this FACT was closely tied to Mathematical Practice #3:  Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning on of others.  Once the students were standing where they wanted to be I asked them to explain to the rest of the class their reasoning.  It was very interesting to see what was going on in their minds.  I liked when the class was split between two answers and students were jumping out of their skin to explain why their reasoning was correct.  

Facts and Teaching Goals

My goal for this lesson was for students to get better at solving literal equations.  This was the second day of the lesson and I felt they were mostly okay to do some problems on their own.  I wasn't sure if their mistakes would be in the order of operations (SADMEP or SMEG if you will), or somewhere else in their reasoning.  I selected this FACT so I could watch as they walked to their answer.  Who got there first?  Did anyone follow someone else?  How confident is each student in their answer?  Did students get more confident as the class progressed?  What incorrect answers are they selecting?

I also learned who was not only able to solve literal equations but was also confident.  I used this information in the next class to select the students who could coach other students.  I have to admit, it wasn't the usual students who knew what they were doing.  It showed some other students who normally aren't in the spotlight to shine through.  

Planning to Use and Implement Facts

One of the reasons I selected this FACT was because it got the students up and moving.  I started class by telling the students that I have never done this before and it was be a huge success or a complete failure, but I was counting on them to be honest with me about their thoughts.  

Small Steps

Were your students engaged?  Oh yeah, they were definitely engaged.  Every student was completing every problem.

Were you confident and excited about using the FACT?  Yes, I usually look forward to my day when we try something new.

How did use of the FACT affect the student-to-student or student-teacher dynamic?  The students relied on each other to determine if they were correct or not.  I found students discussing a solution before they would go stand somewhere.  If students were sitting at their desks completing problems, they rarely discuss it with their neighbors.  I think this activity encouraged discussion because their answers were visible to everyone.

Was the information gained from the FACT useful to you?  Yes, you can read about that above.

Would you have gotten the same information without using the FACT?  Yes, but not as quickly or easily.

What added value did the FACT bring to teaching and learning?  First, excitement over something new.  Second, the students learned the material faster than going at it alone.  

Did using the FACT cause you to do something differently or think differently about teaching and learning?    The information that I gathered from the FACT inspired the next lesson.  I wouldn't have had this information if I didn't use a Formative Assessment.

Would you use this FACT again?  Yes.

Are there modifications you could make to this FACT to improve its usefulness?  I like the activity the way it is.  However, if I want to do something similar that doesn't require too much time, I may have a warm-up question were the students will place their initials on a poster, teach the lesson, then have the student do the same problem, initial the same poster at the end of the class in a different color.  This way the students can see how their knowledge or confidence changed throughout the lesson.

Using Data from FACTs

The information I gained from using this FACT motivated the next lesson.  I knew who was knowledgeable and confident, those students coached other.  I also included more problems like the ones that the students were struggling with during the FACT.  


Relations and Functions Foldable

Common Core Standard:
A1.2.1.1.2 - Determine if a relation is a function given a set of points or a graph.

In an effort to teach my students about what makes something a relation or a function, I created this foldable.  It's just a 4-door foldable, glued to an 8.5 x 11 sheet.  







It took us the entire period to create this.  And I feel that students were bored out of their minds.  Does anyone else get that vibe from their students when filling in foldables?  

Anyway, we haven't done anything with it yet, so I'm hoping they see the usefulness of it and aren't so bored the next time we create one.




Friday, October 5, 2012

One-at-a-Time Problems....Again

I wrote about my one-at-a-time problems last spring.


In this post I stated that things went well and I didn't see much room for improvement.  But I found some room.  


First, instead of the students just checking off when a problem is complete, I asked them to color-code each problem.  They were to respond to the question, "If this problem were to show up on a test tomorrow how would you do?"  They colored that block in green if they would be able to complete the problem with no struggles, yellow if they would have some trouble, and red if they wouldn't even know where to begin.  

Below you can see the results from one of my classes.  You can see that the first student struggled with the first two problems, was very confused on the third problem, and then created a new color category for the fourth problem.  That's all he was able to finish within the class period.  





I did have students finish early, but then they were assigned as teachers to help other students who were struggling.  I've been emphasizing this year about students helping other who are struggling.  Because of this I believe that my students feel more comfortable not only offering help to struggling students, but also accepting and asking for help from others.  

The chart above gives me a lot more information then my previous chart.  Not only can I see which students didn't finish, I can see which problems they struggled with.  I know that I need to focus on more problems like numbers 3 and 4.  

My roll remained as the person who determined if the problems were correct or not and to hand out the next problem.

One last thing.  As far as organization goes, I gave each student an envelope with 3 holes punched in it so the students could keep their problems in the envelope and the envelope in their binders.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

My Worst Lesson Ever

My worst lesson ever happened during my student teaching days.  I'm not sure if it was my worst lesson ever, but it is in the one that stands out in my memory.  
I remember going to a baby or bridal shower where each woman was given a clothespin.  If you saw another person with her legs crossed, you got to take all of her clothespins.  The person with the most clothespins at the end of the shower won a prize.

I thought this would be a great idea to use in the classroom.

My plan:

Give each student a clothespin and a problem as they walked in the room.
They were to sit in their seat and complete the problem.  Each student had a different problem.
Then, in pairs, the students would attempt the other persons problem.
The clothespins were only exchanged if one student was right and the other was wrong.
The student with the most clothespins won bragging rights.

What really happened:

I gave each student a clothespin and a problem as they walked in the room.
Many students didn't know how to do the problems I gave them, so in an effort to save time (because I wanted this completed in one period) I gave each student the correct answer to their problem, but not how to solve it.
The students sat with each other and got more and more miserable as the period went on.
No clothespins were "won" and the students and I left that classroom feeling like losers.

What went wrong:

I didn't allow enough time for this activity.  Don't all new teachers do this?  At least one day should have been dedicated to making sure each student knew how to do their problem.

I made the students compete against each other on a topic they were still learning.  I am now aware that it is more productive to have students work together cooperatively while learning something.

Students who already had a low level of confidence in math just had it drop another notch.  Who wants to walk around the room and admit they have no clothespins?

What incentive is there to do a problem against a person who has no clothespins?  There's nothing to win so why bother?

If the activity were to continue, it would turn out being the better students participating until only one person had all the clothespins.  The students who truly need the practice would have given up long ago.

Can this be salvaged?:

My thought is no.  Forget the clothespins and competition and try this activity.  Problem Experts.