Monday, January 28, 2013

I Don't Think So - Review "Game"

I adapted this review from Miss Rudolf.

In a nutshell, the students do problems in a group and then give those problems to the next group to check their work.  Points are awarded a teams win.

One problem Miss Rudolf wrote about was grading every single problem, so I made a few changes in my version.  I created the problems instead of the students creating their own.  I know this takes a little of the learning away, but a plus side is that every type of problem that I want reviewed is covered.  I also did two rounds of the activity because I wanted the students to understand how the scoring worked (I'll get to that in a minute) and have another chance to earn as many points as possible.

Set up:

In one class I had 4 groups of students so I made two copies of the file, cut out the problems and gave teams 1 and 3 the A problems and teams 2 and 4 the B problems.


I allowed the students about 20-25 minutes to work on the problems and then 15 minutes to check over another team's work.  


I did keep the basics of Miss Rudolf's scoring:  1 point for a correct answer and 2 points for finding an incorrect answer.  However, I did add the following.  
First, the team would receive 3 points for a set of problems.  I define a set of problems where each group member got a problem correct.  I did this for two reasons.  One is that I wanted the students to help each other with the problems rather than encourage one person to do all the work.  Second, I wanted to keep it fair to the groups who had less team members.  Although they may not get as many problems correct due to lack of people, they could make up for it by getting more sets.  
Second, the only way to receive the two points for finding an incorrect answer is to state what the person did that was incorrect.  


I didn't want any team to feel like they had lost.  I mean earning any points is a type of winning.  Currently we are playing "Survival of the Fittest" and I allowed the teams to purchase supplies with the points they earned.  

Pink Supply - cost 5 points
Yellow Supply - cost 8 points
Green Supply - cost 10 points

Next Time:

I'm thinking that I should award some points for accurately checking the other team's work.  I found that many students just check incorrect and put down some bogus reason in the hopes that they would receive the two points.  I'll have to experiment with this a little bit more.


It wasn't that horrible.  No worse that grading tests or homework assignments, especially with the answer key handy.

What I like about this review:

For the first round, students sorted through the problems and did the "easy" ones first.  But for the second round, they were forced to do the more challenging problems.

If teams wanted the most points they had to help each other even if it means to stop working on your problems and walk your teammate through his problem.  

Students realized how important it is to take notes.  I saw them borrowing notebooks from each other and wishing they had been more organized in the first place.

What I don't like about this review:

The grading, but who likes paperwork?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mission Statement Posters

I went through with it.  Each of my Algebra classes and I had a discussion about what our job is as a student, a teacher, and a class.  The posters below are the product of our discussion about our job as a class.  

There was definitely a theme yesterday and is was "Stop Waiting"

Stop waiting to ask for help.
Stop waiting for the teacher to remind you to do your work.
Stop waiting for the teacher to ask you to come during homeroom for extra help.
Stop waiting for your neighbor to ask you for help, offer your help.
Stop waiting to begin the group work.
Stop waiting for the teacher to give the correct answer.
Stop waiting for the teacher to tell you what outcomes you have to work on.
Stop waiting for the teacher to tell you to take notes.
Stop waiting to make corrections.

Period 1 noticed that everything we talked about was linked to each other.  If we stop waiting, we will be giving out best effort.  If we are giving out best effort, then Flashback days will work.  If Flashback days work, then I will pass the class and become more knowledgeable, Once my grade improves I'll be motivated to stop waiting.  

Student don't believe you until they experience it themselves.  One student came to my class one day during a study hall, and I told him that the only way he could stay in my class was if he did the practice problems for an outcome and reassessed the next day.  He agreed.  The next day during Flashback, he walked in the room asked for the test, passed, and now he's passing the class.  He's a believer.  It was that student's suggestion to put "Flashback Works" on the poster.

Period 6 emphasized that our main goal as a class was to learn Algebra 1.  Everything else we do supports that goal.  They were especially focused on having fun.  Not because we don't, but because we do.  They noticed that they're not as willing or motivated to work in the boring classes.

I can't get this photo to rotate.  Any ideas?

Period 7 wrote this little poem.  I think many of them found this activity a waste of time.  I guess we'll find out.  There was one area where we just didn't agree.  I like to give problems where they have all the knowledge to solve the problem, but I didn't teach them exactly how to do it.  When we were discussing what my job was as a teacher, this came up.

Student - It's your job to teach us.

Me - I agree.

Student - No, I mean when you give us those problems that we don't know how to do, you're not doing your job.

Me - Do you think it's my job to teach you every little step?  Or is it my job to give you the tools you need to succeed?

Student - It's your job to teach us every little step.  

Me - Suppose you are an employer and you have a worker who only does the work you asked him how to do and that you showed him exactly how to do it.  What do you think about that worker?

Student - That's fine.  He's doing his job.

Me - Okay.  Now suppose you have another employee who does things correctly that you didn't ask him to do, nor did you show him how to do it.  What do you think about that worker?

Student - I would give him a raise!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mission Statements

Something has been different with my students lately, and it's not just one class, it's all of my classes.  I have to wonder if it's me.  My students weren't perfect, but earlier this year they took more initiative and were more cooperative than they are right now.

Bell-Ringers:  This week we are straying from the index card bell ringers and I have the following directions written on the board, "Sit with your team and help each other make corrections on yesterday's exit ticket."  When I come into the room, the students are sitting in their desks that are still in rows and columns and waiting for me.  Waiting for me for what?  Since day one, the directions have always been on the board, and suddenly they seemed confused.  Every day this week I have to read the directions on the board to them and remind them that the desks are not glued to the floor.  Next day, same thing.

During Class:  They easily give up when a problem is challenging.  They are whiny.  Why do they have to learn this?

After School:  Lately, only 1 or 2 students are staying after school for help.  Earlier this year I had 10 - 15 students.

Burning Questions?  Where do students get the idea that they have to wait for me?  Why am I here for their entertainment and to fill their every need?

What am I going to do about it?

My first impulse is to yell.  I want to lash out and demand their cooperation.  This may work for a day or two and I'm not a fighter.  I hate the awkwardness that follows a teacher's yelling.

I went home the other day with this on my mind and when I was getting ready to go to sleep I picked up the book I've been reading and had an idea.  Currently I am reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I'm currently on habit 2 about beginning with the end in mind and mission statements.  I thought I would give a class mission statement a try.

This is really something different for me.  I'm a math teacher and this touchy-feely stuff is so out of my comfort zone.

I'll try to keep you updated assuming I'm not too embarrassed by the results.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

For the Students, By the Students

Today, my Pre-Calculus students are taking their mid-term exam in my class, but the real learning took place last week.

By administration, I am told that I must give a mid-term exam, but my heart isn't into it.  My students in that class just finished taking the Keystone Exams for Math (our state tests), last week was Literature, and this week is Biology, and I'm suppose to give a mid-term.  Talk about test overload.

Since my heart wasn't into it, neither was my motivation.  I went to the students for help and suggestions.  Here's what they came up with.  Split the class into small groups and each group is assigned an outcome or two to write questions for.  Genius!

One day last week I put the students into groups, assigned each group two outcomes, gave them a large whiteboard and markers to do scratch work, and this handout.

I asked the students to create two multiple-choice problems for each outcome, one review and one for the test.  I scanned the students' problems and complied a mid-term review and a mid-term exam with those questions.

Students were learning as they wrote the questions.
The use of the large whiteboard is perfect for collaboration.  Working on paper, only 1 or 2 students can see what's going on.
I didn't have to create another test.

Some of their handwriting is awful.
I may have been able to create a more thorough exam.  For example this question misses the point:
It's just too easy to "plug and chug" as the students would say.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lesson Plans and Google Docs

*Update* - I think I might be making another lesson plan change.  Check out the first comment on this post.  The website is amazing.

I'm a pencil and paper kind of gal.  So, when I made the switch from writing my lesson on paper to google docs, it was a big change for me.  In my district we are/were required to hand in a week's worth of lesson plans each Friday for the following week.  My problem with this is that I don't know what I'm doing from one day to the next.  This type of planning doesn't work well with formative assessment.  If the students need more time (or less time) for a particular topic, then the lesson plans need to change.  This resulted in a huge waste of my time, writing lesson plans that never came to fruition.  I decided to start writing my lesson plans on google doc and share those lesson with my administrators.

I can edit quickly (I can type faster than I write).  I can include links to website that I will need for that lesson.  I also include a reflection after the fact that will help in my planning next year.

My initial thought was to just tell you about this, but I feel that I should share it with you as well, warts and all.  Please don't judge me on my spelling or grammar.

Here it is.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Card Sort Woes

Download the card sort activity here.

I "completed" this card sort with my Algebra 1B students yesterday.  My intention was to give the cards to the students and have them sort the cards, duh.  But it didn't work like that, and I learned another valuable lesson.  I have to model things for the students before they can do them efficiently.

I thought that it would be enough to tell the students to start by putting the cards into four piles, one for each form of a linear equation.  But just saying it isn't enough, I needed to model it.

I never taught this lesson in the past, I would just begin the unit on writing linear equations and if the directions said to write the equation in standard form, well then write the equation in standard form.  But the students never had a chance to practice doing that.  So, I added this lesson into my curriculum and I was right, they didn't know how to do this.  I hate it when I'm right.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Shifts in Classroom Practice - Authority Part 2

A few posts ago I asked for advice on a shift in my classroom.  The shift was to move from me or the textbook being the authority on what is correct to the students deciding if their work and answers is valid.

Here is misscalcul8's response:
Basically, you have to get out of the way. Your class time should shift until you are barely talking at all. Discussion should be happening among students. Let them find validation through solving the problem on their own rather than hearing validation from you.

Perhaps I've been looking at this the wrong way.  As I was reading the response above, I'm thinking to myself, "But I already do this."  You know?  The whole Ask-three-then-me thing.  I was thinking that I never confirm their work, but that's not realistic is it?  

When we meet again for our PLC tomorrow I will have something to offer:

 - I have students in groups going over the work from their previous exit ticket, that I did not grade or comment on.  The students needed to compare their work and come to their own conclusion as to what worked and what didn't.  After the students were done with their discussions we went over the problems as a class.

 - I currently have my pre-calculus class working on a jigsaw activity where I've only been circulating and eavesdropping, rather than dictating what is right and what is wrong.  

 - Later this week I will have the students once again do a white-boarding activity where I again don't offer much advice or direction.

The shift of mine was made over a few year period.  I used to have a presentation for every single lesson.  I would stand in the front of the room, teach the students how to do the problems, give them some to practice for homework, repeat.  Slowly I started to include more and more activities where I'm not the star on stage.  
I feel that maybe I've made this shift, but just didn't realize it.  Allowing the students to work things out for themselves and when everyone is settled, going over their work and thoughts, is what I'm working towards.  

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 ...