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Two weeks of average teaching

My classes for most of the month of January have been kinda boring. Sure, students listened, took notes, stayed organized, practiced concepts and demonstrated understanding on assessments, but save a game day or two and a Socrative Space Race, things haven't been fun. We haven't even added to our digital portfolios!

1. Grades and comments were due January 21
2. Polynomials
3. My husband, two kids and I got the flu for a week
4. I had to go to meetings
5. Not enough class time (yes, I always use this one)

My geometry students took the biggest hit. They learned about the interior angles of polygons without doing much exploration or any application. Similar polygons was covered with a boring lecture in which I presented one example. Then they did a worksheet at their seats.

I have made my peace with the fact that not everyday can be a trip to Disneyland, but I do think I take my students' motivation and good study habits for granted.

I made an attempt to rally on Wednesday (Day 87) by giving my geometry students a great similar triangles problem from Five-Triangles. Twitter pal @JustinAion reminded me recently how kids like working on tough problems in a small group with mini white boards. They had fun arguing with each other and racing around the room trying to be the first group to figure it out. I overheard great discussions of why triangles are similar and which sides correspond with which. Today (Day 89) was a similar experience with Floodlights from MAP. Two days of small wins don't quite make of for 10 days of dull, but, hey there is always next year!

Today in algebra was a better outcome. The plan was to teach factoring trinomials with a coefficient of the squared term. This day is also known as the day when my students panic because they can't figure out the answer on the first try. Usually I do a few samples and let them practice. I don't teach a factoring trick. I make them list factors and do strategic, organized guess and check.

Today while walking upstairs to my office, I thought of doing algebra tiles. Then I worried that my algebra tiles activities would be too challenging for their first day. This is what I came up with:
Do a demonstration in which I make a tiny card for each factor and move around the cards until it works. I have been factoring for 20 years and teaching it for 13. This was my best day of teaching it yet. By being able to move around the factors, they were able to see how the factor products combined to make the middle term without the frustration of erasing.

Of course after the puzzle, I gave them 10 more to practice and told them to have their erasers handy.

Here is a link to the handout.
Student Sample

My demo. I changed the problem after to get rid of the common factor.