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Showing posts from February, 2015

Class preview for tomorrow in Algebra


Since I started looking beyond the textbook for problem solving opportunities for my students, I am continually reminded how much I used to over teach and over model. My traditional daily class plan had been: Review homework, new lesson, guided practice, homework. Repeat. Quiz. I know that I had been leading them too much because now that I am giving them richer tasks, I am surprised by how difficult they find some of them. Fourteen years in the classroom and my judgement of the degree of challenge in a problem still needs calibrating.

For example, recently we did the task Viewmongus from Mathalicious to explore applications of Pythagorean theorem in Geometry. Given the diagonal length and the aspect ratio, calculate the dimensions of the TV. I looked at the materials before class and judged it a 10 minute problem. I budgeted 15 and reasoned that they could blog it for homework.

I was surprised (and happy) to see my students struggling to use the 16:9 ratio to find the dimensions of t…

Sometimes, it is okay to give them a worksheet

One day recently (I am behind, I think this was Day 96), I had a thought after teaching two classes of Algebra 1:

Sometimes students need to sit down and do a worksheet.

I spend a lot of time trying to make class engaging and fun. I love playing games, getting them out of their seats and using the white boards to do group PrBL... They reflect, instruct, and create via their digital portfolios. I regularly feel guilty when class is just a practice set.

The day I had this thought though, class wasn't boring. Students were working on a (massed) problem set in pairs. The pairs were in sync, having great discussions, teaching each other the ins and outs of various factoring problems. I had pairs come to the document camera to present a few problems and they were comparing other problems with their corresponding graphs on Desmos. The last ten minutes of class was a low stakes assessment.

Could it have been better? Sure. But I don't think I will do anything differently next year.

Oh …

Framing Factoring

I am still playing catch up on the blog!

In January we had a great faculty meeting, (not a joke, from time to time we actually have informative faculty meetings that forward our professional development). A colleague, who attended a conference given by Research for Better Teaching, reminded us of the importance of "framing the learning" by providing a road map of the daily lesson for our students each class. The four parts of the lesson frame are to state the learning objective, write an agenda of activites, link the objective to a larger goal and state the criteria for success.

We were asked to bring a sample lesson plan to share at the meeting. I felt proud because I had clearly stated the objective in SWBAT form on my lesson plan and I always write an agenda on the board in class. Two of the other strategies hit home though. While I spend a lot of time discussing our goals (especially since embracing Standards Based Grading), I don't always link individual goals to a b…

Improved Unit on Similar Triangles in Geometry

As mentioned, I have gotten behind on blogging.

Three weeks ago in Geometry, we were discussing similar triangles. Usually when I teach this, I am in a hurry to get to right triangles. I would make the excuse that they did a lot of ratios in pre-algebra, so let's just do similar triangle proofs and get to trig already!

This year I did a few things that made class a lot more engaging. #joyful

1. As mentioned before, I had kids do problem solving in groups using white boards. Five Triangles is a great source of problems to use to mix it up.

2. The Blob - I filed Fawn's golf problem remix away when I first read it last year and I am SO glad that I used it this year.

I followed her script, instructing them to draw a blob somewhere in the rectangle, a point H on one side and a point B on the other. I collected them and made copies. The next day I gave them the copy and gave them the challenge.

I did more guiding than I had hoped to do. My students aren't used to using measureme…

100th Day of School

I celebrated the 100th day of school yesterday by giving my Algebra students a test on factoring. Traditionally this has been a challenging unit and I was anxious to see if the more frequent assessments and feedback via Standards Based Grading would bolster their results.

I haven't tabulated results yet, but I noticed students are still struggling to know when to use which rule. General trinomial factoring with a coefficient of x squared was confused for grouping and sums of squares were too often factored into conjugates.

The good news is that I will continue to assess these skills (albeit infrequently) through the end of the year. Active Grade will continue to track their progress. I am 2 chapters into Make it Stick and I am already an Inter-leaver! I spent the weekend reworking my assignments to include random "spiral review." Review questions will pop up on skill quizzes and unit tests too.

Lastly, I am thinking of reordering the order I teach the concepts. Not being…