Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Potty Passes, Fahrenheit 451 and Gamification

I am thinking about how ridiculous it all is. I just reread Shawn Cornally's post on Potty Passes where he tells the story of students getting extra credit for turning in their unused potty passes. How meaningless grades have become. 

Then, since my IPad was out of batteries I had to read a real book last night and ironically, I picked up Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The part that hit me was when Beatty is explaining to Montag about how all this book burning got started. There was so much information that people couldn't digest it all, so they had to make it simpler and everyone was so confused that somehow they figured out that life would be better without all of this material that was worthy of deep thought. They needed to present things in quick, easy to figure out ways. 

Then last week I watched a TedTalks video on using games in education or Gamification. (While I am writing this either 1, 2 or all 3 of my sons are playing some horrible game on the XBox in our attic). Ok, now this one really bugged me. The games have such quick resolutions and everything moves so fast and this guy says that this helps kids learn. Learn what? Not how to do real problem solving. Where is the deep thinking here? 

I like video games, I was once really addicted to Frogger (in the early 90s),  I stayed up until 4 am playing it. I've been addicted to other games too, like Scrabble. I've gotten a lot better at Scrabble since I've been playing it on the computer but mostly because I've learned words like xi and za and how to maximize my points. 

Now to pull all of this together, potty passes, Ray Bradbury and gaming. I don't want to be a part of making Fahrenheit 451 come true, I want there to be real books and front porches and good deep thinking, even if it seems boring to my computer crazed kids. They have to know that it isn't about points and getting to the next level. It is about something a lot more beautiful and meaningful and it is worth doing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Google Form for Reassessment

I started using this Google form. I won't let anyone reassess without it. I like it because I can keep track of things. I think I took the questions from Sam Shah.

Here is a link to a better copy if you can't read it.

It's Working

I did something a little drastic, a little punitive and a little scary. I did not want the end of the trimester rush of procrastinating 8th graders, scrambling to reassess on concepts they hadn't "passed." At the beginning of the year,  I instituted a "no-fail" policy that every student needs to get a score of 7/10 or above (sum of last two assessment scores on a 5-point scale) in order to pass my class. First trimester, many students came during the last few weeks to avoid getting incompletes and I had to give several incompletes anyway and I still have one incomplete outstanding. Also, some students needed these skills for subsequent skills and were continuing to fall behind and were feeling lost in class.

So, this trimester I used our "mandatory study hall" to make sure they took care of it and told them that they wouldn't be passing math if they didn't take care of it by Jan 12. In our middle school, students are assigned to mandatory study hall if they have 2 Ds or an F our 3 week progress report checkpoints.  Now, I am only concerned about concepts that have dropped off the in-class quizzes. Setting a time-limit and holding a punishment over their head goes against what I truly believe but it really worked! Of course, the reason it worked is because I have failed to truly motivate them, this is sad but true but hey, it did work! In the past few days, I have seen my students working hard, asking good questions, being resourceful and coming in and reassessing.

I am also very happy that my students did so well on their midterms. I just reread a post from last May where I was so discouraged by their lousy scores. I make them reassess on anything they get a 2 or below on that is no longer tested in class. In my one Geometry class (20 students) there will be 4 reassessments. Much better retention than last year.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Too complicated!

I am starting to see that my whole record keeping thing is a bit too complicated and I want to simplify. I am wondering if I should offer the quizzes less frequently (I do it once a week now in all 5 math classes) or if I really have to record the data by had, then enter it into a Google spreadsheet and then enter it into our school electronic gradebook. The reason I record by hand is because I got into trouble last year a few times by inadvertently overwriting my data. I don't do sbg in my science class but that class definitely adds a lot to my load.

I want to know how my students are learning the skills but in my Geometry class I know I am making them do more then just demonstrate skills; I am asking them to problem solve on the concept quizzes. I am thinking about alternating a problem solving quiz and a regular (more skills based quiz) every other week. The problem solving quiz could combine several skills. I don't really see how this will cut down on my work except for the fact that I can assess problem solving and 2-3 skills at once.

I am going to read up on how others keep records. Maybe it is just too much because of my course load. I don't really know how to back off or to reduce my workload at this point. I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I finished a trimester. I went a bit crazy with reassessments at the end and not I've made a Goggle form that students have to submit before reassessing. My plan is to check the spreadsheet every morning with my coffee.

I was very happy with the retention of skills in my Algebra class, not as much with Geometry. I think it's a big shift for my advanced students. They are so good at the game that they don't know what to do when the game is yanked out from under them.

I've also been thinking about how I used to assess. I never used book tests. I always designed my tests after making a list of objectives. I allowed test corrections. I thought I was pretty good at assessment then, but I knew that some kids weren't really learning anything. This is so much better than that. It is more work but only because it's my first full year and I've completely changed the sequence of what I am teaching. I use the book but it doesn't drive my instruction, I let my list and the students drive me instead.

I am glad to have a short break from reassessments. Thanksgiving is coming and I'm excited for my son to return from college. I need a break.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Last Week of the Trimester

Well, I am a little overwhelmed with reassessments.....I guess I predicted that. I am feeling a bit down about how this is all a lot of bookkeeping and still a bit of a points game. I do have students asking for more practice which seems like a good sign. For the most part I am satisfied with my classroom instruction. We are problem solving, especially in Geometry.

Next week (fri) is the end of the trimester. I predict that I will have 3-4 kids who are not passing. This is sad but they haven't listened and are still in the mindset that they can bumble along and pass without working. In Algebra, it is Percents that is causing them trouble. I put this in as a skill because I knew they haven't learned it.

I have let a few kids reassess without really proving to me that they can do it. I need a better system. I saw something on Sam Shah's blog that I think I'll modify and use.

That's all for now

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Past the Midterm

Just a little update on how my plan is working.

I have about 6 students (out of about 80) who are not passing a few concepts. I have given them passes, called home, had conferences and I'm still not sure they care enough, a few have come in, but they came in unprepared. They may think that I will pass them anyway, I'm not sure. I will tell them tomorrow that they will have an incomplete and no grade until they come in and reassess and do well on their low concepts.

Here are the problem concepts: fractions, decimals and percents (all Pre-Algebra or prerequisite skills). I have one student who cannot pass integer operations. It is interesting but they can do the Algebra concepts fairly well but can't do these.

I have 1 or 2 students who are so low that I am wondering how they will be able to do quadratics, third trimester. I may need to have them on a different path. I have been thinking about having different cutoff points at the end of the trimester depending on ability. Some kids are taking a while to get it. I'll still roll everything over but maybe that would be a good idea.

I am wondering where to end my Trimester 1 grades. I think they need to have had it 4 times in class. Our first trimester ends 11/11/11, which gives me three weeks. I think I will only be able to post grades for concepts 1-9 on Trimester 1. I won't have the start-up time next trimester which should help.

The midterms were good. Students did show good retention and a lot of students have been fixing up their DPMs on their own. DPM stands for Definition and Properties Manual and they are allowed to use it on midterms and finals.

I had some questions and some good discussion at MCTM last Friday. Only 6 people came to my presentation (oh well, I had 3 other talks I wanted to attend while I was giving mine). One was on homework. I am so glad that I am no longer grading it. I am amazed at how many of my students do it. Only a few smarty pants kids (like my son) are skipping it and that's usually because they don't need it. One person asked me about how I am going to make students reassess on concepts they don't show even minimal understanding of on the final. For the first 2 trimesters, I'll just roll that over. I'll make the grade on that concept go away until they reassess.

I have to do that now to a couple of kids.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Plan is Out There

I have thoroughly communicated my grading plan to my students and the parents who came to open house. Students took their first concept quiz and recorded their results on their record sheet. They got their folders and decided whether or not they should store their quizzes in their new folders that stay in the classroom or take them home to help them study. A lot of them took them home.

I am recalling a post from someone on my reader called "SBG and Trust" and I realize that the students are trusting me more now than last year even though I've only had them a few weeks. Maybe I'll track that post down and put in a link later.

I am a bit nervous about the requirement I have made that every student has to get a score of at least 7 on every concept in order to pass the class. Their score is always the sum of the last two scores on any concept/skill. Their grades go up and down unless they achieve mastery, which is 2 fives in a row. What's going to happen here? Am I going to be inundated with reassessments? Chasing kids down, calling parents? I teach six classes total and have four different preps, so I am not sure that my plan is even reasonable. I like the plan because it really holds them responsible.

The other thing I like about my new plan is how everything is cumulative. Concept scores transfer to the next trimester, so they can still improve on older concepts. My midterms and finals are cumulative too. They get longer and longer. I am allowing notes on those and directing the students to take notes as we cover them in class. If they get a 1 or 2 on any concept on a midterm or final with notes, I am requiring them to reassess on that even they have previously mastered it. This requirement may also be overwhelming.

I made a Math Intervention Pass that I got from three geometry teachers at MCTM last spring. I'll post that later when I have my computer.

I'd love it if any of you people reading this would comment. Is my plan feasible, I came up with this after a period of reflection and sometimes it's hard to see the forest.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Problem Solving vs. Skills

I've been thinking a lot about how some kids can solve problems and some kids can't. My grading is based on skills not true problem solving and this has been bugging me for a while. Of course I know the importance of Problem Solving but when middle schoolers are all over the map with these skills, how can yu fairly assess it? I am also trying to convert my Earth Science class to sbg and it is so much messier than math. I think it is because of all the subjective skills. Too many words!

In math, I am currently content with doing lots of problem solving in class and keeping the grades based on skills. In science, I don't know how to do that, so right now, I am linking all the stuff we do to standards and generalizing to come up with the concepts. I'm not going to change anything until I figure out what I'm doing and how it relates to standards. That may seem backward, but oh well, sometimes you do need to back in slowly. I also need to do it this way because I share my science class with another teacher and we want it to be the same so I need agreement from her too.

Hmm.. Maybe I can just generalize the concepts or groups of concepts involved in the problems we do in mathclass and it will all become clear some day just like I am hoping for science.

This is getting quite muddled. This morning, I looked at my Algebra Concept List and thought it was garbage and then I had to redo a bunch of plans and things I had already copied. It wasn't all garbage, but the beginning sequence didn't make sense. What was I thinking when I wrote that? Maybe, I'm just tired. School hasn't even started. Luckily the kids will provide me with some good energy.

Time to sleep...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The New Year

This year I will be teaching Algebra with a mixed group of 7th and 8th graders. I am excited to see how this mix will work since we have not mixed grade levels in the past. I am also teaching 1 section of Earth Science.

I am changing how I do SBG this year. I am definitely letting the grades fall. Last year, students "mastered" a concept when they earned two fives on any concept and I always recorded their two highest scores. Retention was not so good. The other thing I am changing is that I am requiring every student to have a score of at least 7/10 on every concept in order to pass my class. I am going to give them an incomplete if they do not pass every concept. I am doing this because the averaging of scores last year meant that they did not need to learn some concepts and they could still pass.  This year, earning 7/10 on the last two concept quizzes would mean that they at least have a clue on every concept. I do not want kids leaving my class without even having a clue on how to do a specific standard/skill. In order to accomplish this, I am going to use my advisory time (I don't have one this year) and hand out Math Intervention Passes to those who need to come in and reassess. That way they can do it during the day if they can't stay after or come before school.

I am continuing to give midterm exams where the students are allowed to use notes they have created in their DPM (definitions and properties manual). These midterms are cumulative. The change I am making here is that if they get a 2/5 or below on any concept on the midterm when they are allowed notes, they will need to reassess on that skill/standard. Because this test is not a big percentage of their grade 5%, I found last year that students didn't care about it because they understand the points game too well (especially my advanced kids). The final exams will also be cumulative with no notes allowed and they will not need to reassess if they get a low score.

Last year, I cut off skills at each trimester because I didn't know what else to do. This year, I am having cumulative grades so that at the beginning of second trimester there grade will be based on the concept scores from first trimester and I will add concepts to that. If they want to improve their grade, they work on mastering any concept, even if it is third trimester and the concept was introduced in October.

The thing I am still working on is how to make real problem solving part of their grade. I am basically just assessing skills on my concept quizzes. I am planning to introduce concepts with good problems and I will demonstrate and expect to see students solving problems in class, but I don't know how to assess this. I am considering a 10% Problem Solving category so that students who want an "A" in the class need to be proficient problem solvers. Hmmm.... Maybe this is an extra requirement for kids who want to stay (7th graders) or move(8th graders) to the advanced courses. Needs more thought..

Probably my biggest challenge this year is going to be my new and improved classroom management. This has always been an issue for me. I am good with building relationships with students but we waste too much learning time because of my poor classroom management. Though I usually stay up late every night planning good lessons and getting things ready, transitions take forever and students spend a lot of time socializing. I could do all the greatest lessons and assessments I wanted and I will still not be a very effective teacher if I don't get a handle on this.

This is what I've spent most of my summer on. I read 3 (almost 4) books on classroom management and the thing I am going to do is to have no socializing in my class. I will meet students at the door and have work for them to do immediately. I've done this before but it always took awhile for them to settle in. I am not going to tutor my helpless kids during class. I am going to provide some visual aids when they are doing independent practice (I've done this before to) and I will wean them from their helplessness by being less helpful and setting expectations. The other thing I am going to do is to have students earn (or lose) time to do something that they will really enjoy like goofy games (like Kate Nowak's speed-dating), online math games, bingo, etc when they do not waste time during transitions. I will set it up so they are more likely to gain time, than lose it. I got all these ideas from Fred Jones' "Tools for Teaching."

Friday, June 3, 2011

End of year blues

I have a lot of kids coming in for reassessments at the end of the year and what's bugging me is that it seems to be about points and grades. I hope they're learning. I guess I'll find out when I grade their finals next week.

I don't want to be disappointed by their performance on the final but I am not sure that they are really better off after all my work to make their grades meaningful.

I did have a good idea for my reassessment questions. I think I'll put the answers on the back Of the notecards and I have these cool tabs with paper clips attached that I can have them attach the notecard to their reassessment form (so they don't flip it over and cheat). Also, then when I grade it, I can remember to write down their name in pencil on the back to record that they have already done that question. It will be nice when I don't have to write so many questions from scratch.

I have a lot to change and revise next year.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Brain Dump

How should I include problems covering 2-3 concepts?
I think I'll call them Power concepts. These would be required for students who want to move to a higher level of math in 9th grade. I'll list these under a problem solving standard and they will count as 10% of their final grade. They can only take Power concepts when they have mastered the related concepts. This will be good for the high level students who take little time on their weekly quizzes because they master everything as soon as I give it to them.

What should I do about the kids who get a C on the midterm?
An idea:
If the score on a particular concept on the midterm or final is less than 3 (I have a 5 point scale taken from Kate Nowak)and the previous concept is score of 8, 9 or 10, it becomes a 7/10. Their grade will drop. If they receive a 4 or 5 on any concept on the midterm or final, nothing changes. If they get a score of 1, the score changes to a 6/10. Students need to prepare for the final and midterm and mastering concepts but not being able to retain them is a big problem. I will allow them to use their notes on these exams. I think I will add a retention check sheet for their student record.

Students don't care about "old" concepts. Some do and that is great but I have had a cut off point at the end of each trimester. Standards should be cumulative. I have hated not counting standards that are on previous trimesters. Trimester 2 will include all of the concepts from tri 1 and trimester 3 will include all of the concepts from tri 1 and 2. if they drastically improve on concepts, I could even request a grade change for a previous trimester. Any midterm or final should also be cumulative.

What should I do about the end of tri push to improve their grades?
I graded about 75 reassessments yesterday. (I allowed them to do them in class because I have been somewhat unavailable after school) It is still frustrating that this is about the points to them not just the learning but they are learning.....hmmmmm... I think a signup sheet..... If people sign up for a spot and don't show, it will be easier for me but not nice for their classmates who wanted to come, oh well..

Other end of the year woes:
Students have checked out and won't really listen to me or learn from me much anymore so I'm not too hopeful about getting much mastery on the last few concepts.

What about homework?
A lot of kids do a terrible job on it, whether or not it is graded. I think I will check it and write a score in my phony grade book (#correct)and give feedback on my weekly Edline reports but I won't include it in their grade. 

My real grade book will consist of concept scores (Spreadsheet) and I will enter sum of the top 2 scores in our school grade book.

grades next year:
90% concepts
10 % Power concepts and other things I decide that I want to grade. A team test now and then, an involved problem or project they work on that strengthens their understanding of the core concepts.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Let the Grades Fall

Last night I updated my students concept scores and I've decided that next year I need to have the score in the grade book be the last 2 scores on on each concept. I have many students who have the mindset that they can take a test and forget it and they are not studying for these quizzes. It's too late to make the change now and it wouldn't matter for the last 3-4 concepts anyway because we're almost out of time.

I am really happy though, when I look at their grades and now I know that the grades mean something. The grades are definitely lower in my Geometry class so, as I suspected, I was guilty of grade inflation.

Another thing I am pleased with are my students who are achieving mastery on almost every concept and never did well in math before. My general observation is this: my Algebra class is doing better than my Geometry class. I think this is because kids got on the advanced track by being game players and they didn't really know how to learn. The Algebra kids feel like they have a way out and they may have felt trapped (and probably stupid) because they were not good at the game. Now that it means something, they can do it. I love those kids.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

What They Have to Say

I had individual meetings with all of my math students yesterday, just to check in and see how they're doing. In Geometry, I wanted to find out what happened to them on the midterm. most of them brought no notes, many of them rushed through. I asked if they had enough time, they said "yeah" and they were done early. "Well, why did you rush?" I asked. "I don't know just to be done." Many could not do skills they had previously mastered, they forgot and didn't bring their DPM (definitions and properties manual or their DPMs were not useful because their notes were bad.

I'm trying to remember how I got last year's class to love their DPMs. I remember that they fondly called them their "dippum" Hmmm.... There's an apathy with this class that I can'figure out. I think I will reintroduce concepts after the midterm if I see low retention across the board. If they've previously mastered it, they get a free "5" and they just have to do it one time to get their stamp.

I like the idea of a cumulative concept quiz for the midterm and final and including concepts from earlier in the year that are not part of their new concepts.

Hard week. In Earth Science, they're doing their Energy projects on Monday. I do not feel as confident about their readiness for this as I think I did last year and I spent a lot less time preparing for it.

I wrote this on the weekly email to parents this week....
Students are asking for extra credit and my answer is an adamant “No.” In math, students can raise their grade by learning the concepts. They have a weekly opportunity in class on Concept Quizzes and can come in and reassess on any concept as long as they can prove they have done some work towards learning that concept. When they come in outside of class, I ask them to show me their homework or tell me what they have done to learn that concept before allowing them to reassess. I have had to turn several students away when they have come in with no proof that they have done any work toward learning the concept. I call this the “video game” approach to math; just keep trying until something works or you get lucky (that works on video games, I know because I play them). This does not help them learn what they need to know.

The "video game approach" came form Shawn Cornally's blog.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Game

I'm a bit weary of fighting against the game and the games.....I just read Shawn Cornally's post on MineCraft and I'm thinking that though I have put up a good fight this year, I am pretty beat. How is a 49 year old nerd like me supposed to compete with Black Ops? (Hey, at least I know what Black Ops is.)

I'm doing the sbg thing, trying to avoid giving points for anything that's not learning, trying to engage with interesting things I find, etc....but part of me thinks that it's too hard to win this battle, at least this year.

My Algebra students are doing great but my Geometry kids are just not motivated enough for me. I gave them their midterm, all concepts we've been working on since the beginning of the trimester, they were allowed to use notes (only three of them did) and they did lousy. This was not the case last trimester so I'm wondering what happened. I have 25 students and only 3 got A's and 3 B's, the rest were C's with a handful of D's and F's. The test looked like a longer concept quiz (only 4 more concepts than usual) and the questions were recycled from old quizzes. I think I'll meet with each of them individually tomorrow and find out what's going on. I'll have them reflect a bit first.

The midterm is worth very little to their grade but it was worth a lot to me because I was using it to check long term retention. I wish it was worth as much to them.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

MCTM feedback

If you are visiting my blog because you were at the presentation I gave at MCTM, I would love for you to leave a comment with ideas or suggestions or questions or send me an email Gaylord@minnehahaacademy.net. Thanks!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why Teaching Doesn't Get Easier

Last night a friend of our said to me," doesn't it just keep getting easier every year" (referring to my job). I know the answer is "No." I am working just as hard now as my first year but with a less anxiety about my incompetence. He also said "can't you just use the same stuff year after year." I said that I suppose I could but I don't. Sometimes I don't even use the same lesson in one day.

My job has also become more difficult in the last two years because I am teaching Science now, not just math.

I do look at my previous years lessons and tests but I almost always have to revise or totally redo. I also do any homework I assign. Not because I don't think I could do it (or explain it) but because I want to anticipate where they might have problems and think about how to ask good questions (so I'm not too helpful). I've been thinking about the "less helpful" thing a lot because I have really failed in that department over the years. I keep catching myself "doing the math for them." That's why I'm getting smarter and their getting "dumber."

SBG is also making me revise and redo things. This is not a bad thing at all. I had no idea how long it took kids to learn slope until I started SBG. I thought only bad teachers (not teachers like me) would pass  kids on from Algebra without knowing slope. Now I know that it takes about twice as long to teach that concept for the majority of the kids.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Year One....Again

In many ways I feel like a first year teacher again. I am 49 years old, teaching is my second career (I was a chemist). I have had many first years. I was an intern instead of a student teacher teaching Earth Science when I started, I had no idea what I was doing, I had 35-40 8th graders and no support system but I had just left a promising career for this and I wasn't going to quit. I remember staying up late, reading, studying doing everything I could to be a good teacher, but I also knew I couldn't recover from my early mistakes with my students. My classroom management was horrendous. I did a few cool labs and I think I helped one student that year.

My second first year I spent at a nice private school with small classes. I had great support from one wonderful teacher and a lab assistant. The dream job. I still messed up with the classroom management and I couldn't figure out how to really do this job effectively. I was teaching 9th grade Physical Science and 11th grade Chemistry. I quit this job when daycare for my 4 year old closed and I drove to work crying one day (I was also about 5 months pregnant).

I left teaching for 3 years and stayed home to raise my 3 boys. I tutored math and chemistry a little, I volunteered at their schools. I realized I loved doing math whenever I had a student, I couldn't wait to prep for our sessions. When my oldest son entered 6th grade we transferred him to a private school. He was lost at the public school and he needed attention. In the spring a math teacher position opened up at his school and there would be a promising tuition discount, so I applied and got the job.

Then Year One: Number 3 happened. How do I have such a terrible time learning. Parents complained about me. The kids hated me. I worked harder than I had ever worked. I had no idea how to teach math. I enrolled in a math methods class and read books on classroom management. Things got better but I knew I had to just wait for the next batch of kids because it was too late to restore trust. I couldn't wait for them to graduate (I work in a pK-12 school) so I wouldn't have to feel guilty anytime I saw one of them.

I then taught for 8 more years and for the most part did ok. I got into a groove. I felt students were learning, I was told that I was a good teacher. Then last year I went back to teaching Science more than Math, that was ok too, no major problems except staying up reading and planning. It never got easier, just better because I became more effective as a teacher. I still stay up until midnight working on school stuff most nights.

Year 1:Number 4
I discovered blogs, Standards-based grading and what other teachers were doing. I had been working in isolation and I had never collaborated with another teacher (except a little with that wonderful teacher at my job in that other private school). I'm also working on the Science course with a phenomenal teacher and that has been great (even though I am busier now than ever). I started SBG and I could not have made more mistakes, first grading homework, then not grading it, now back to grading it. I'm frustrated with the apathy of many of my students. I still, after all these years, have classroom management issues. I don't want to wait until next year to start over and get through to a new batch of kids, I still have 6-7 weeks with these kids and I love them all. That is one difference. I don't think I loved my students as much during Year's 1 and 2.

Ideas for the rest of the year.

In Earth Science, I'm going to focus on their learning and give as much feedback as possible. I don't do SBG there and the kids are doing fine.

In Geometry, I am doing ok. My students are doing the homework that I carefully select to help them learn. I wish I didn't have to grade it to make them do it but I am making it worth a very small percentage and giving them regular feedback. I'm thinking that the homework quizzes I give could be just for feedback not for a grade. They like working together and they're engagement is satisfactory. They seemed to love right triangle trig last week. They are doing well with their understanding.

In Algebra, I'm having a problem, many are disengaged, they won't even pretend to listen. When it is time to do group work they do a little work (for their peers). Only about 25% of them are doing their homework. Many have not mastered important concepts. I am going to have to change a few recommendations for next year. I'm thinking now that I should be extremely careful with the homework I assign and do the spaced practice (from CPM) in class. I'm also thinking of having them make a Definitions and Properties Manual to use for the rest of the year. I refuse to play the points game with them. This isn't thought out very well, just a little rambling....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Great Lesson Today from CPM

I have reintroduced team roles. I use the Team Roles described by the College Preparatory Mathematics (CPM) curriculum. Today we did the second lesson of one that I consider very Pseudo-Context but I have made it fun by pretending that we are in the Twilight Zone. I play the Twilight Zone theme song and then we get going. The crazy context of this problem is that their team is working for A Function Company and the boss and CEO, Freda Function, needs help.  Each team was assigned a parabola, given to them in terms of an equation. They needed to describe this parabola by defining certain points, the vertex, x and y intercepts, which direction it opens (up or down). I had them make the graph, create a table. A few students had computers and I had a few graphing calculators and they could use the technology if they could figure it out themselves (I've shown them how to use graphing calculators and graphing programs many times and many of them have said they find it too confusing, but it was interesting today that when they realized how much work it could save, they were motivated and they did figure it out on their own)

They had to answer several questions and made a poster describing their parabolas. The engagement was amazing! I get it to teach it 2 more times tomorrow.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Stuff I learned at ASCD

I don't like huge conferences. I prefer MCTM in Duluth. I don't really like San Francisco, it makes me feel poor (how can anyone afford to live there?) It is lonely to go to a huge conference like that alone.

OK, I started with all the bad things. Here are some good things.

I attended a few sessions on formative assessments. Nothing really new but they made me think about how I can improve what I am doing and though I only had 3 days of class this week, I already feel like I'm doing a better job.

I attended a session on Implementing SBG. This guy was great. I loved what he said about homework. He said something like "Homework is for home, that's between the kid and the parent, if the kid lives in a home where doing homework is expected, then they will do it, if not, they won't. So I don't grade it." I'm struggling with this one because I quit grading homework and all my students stopped doing it. They didn't get enough practice and I didn't want to let them fail (I know I'm a chicken!). Anyway, he gave me great idea and I'm presenting at MCTM in one month and I feel more prepared for that.

That's it, I didn't tag anything, I don't think anyone reads this blog anyway, it's just for me.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Sad Truth

I have a student who pays very little attention in class. He kind of “does” his homework. He’s absent a lot and never asks about what he missed, it’s always as though those days never happened. He’s a smart kid and he could do better but he doesn’t care and has decided that math is not for him.

He did better when he could play the points game. He could study for tests with his tutor. Then he could do test corrections with his tutor. He could fake his homework (somewhat because I could always tell on homework quizzes that he didn’t really do it). He got by, in fact, he got a B- the first trimester. Now he is failing. He hates the concept quizzes, he says stuff like “I don’t even know what this is.” He’s quit even trying to do homework. He realizes he can’t play the game the old way. so he quit.

He even admitted it to me. He said, “Everything was fine when I could just study for a test and do test corrections. Now that you want me to know it and prove that I can do it, it’s too hard. I don’t like it.”

Well, I don’t like it either. What kind of education is he getting by playing these games? What type of understanding does he have about anything? Yeah, he can study for a test and take it. He can get other people to do his work, but it’s just a game to him. It’s not about the learning.

He’s not going to fail this trimester because I started SBG halfway through and he had enough of those crazy points to pull him up to a C-.

Next trimester, the last one of the year, if he doesn’t change he’s going to fail big and he’s not going to like it and his parents won’t be happy either with all the money they spend on private school and tutors. I told him that it’s not about the points, it’s about what he knows, I want his grade to reflect that.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Overwhelmed and Unsatisfied

I started concept quizzes in Algebra mid-tri and in Geometry at the beginning of the trimester and now it is the end of the trimester. Reassessments are bogging me down but so is everything else and I have piles of stuff to grade in my Science class (where I haven't started SBG). I used to have a grading bag, now I have a box. Now to top it all off, I got the flu and couldn't work this weekend. I'm in trouble when I cannot work every night and every weekend-what is wrong with this picture. I've got conferences this week, 9th grade math course recommendations, etc, etc. How can I achieve some balance.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Concept Lists, Algebra and Geometry

Here are my lists.

Algebra Concepts

  1. Order of Operations
  2. Fraction operations
  3. Combine Like Terms
  4. Multiply Binomials
  5. Proportions
  6. Solve systems (equal value)
  7. Write equation from graph and graph from equation
  8. Write Algebraic expressions
  9. Write equation from table
  10. Solve equations (dist. property)
  11. Solve literal equations
  12. Evaluate expressions with 2 or more variables
  13. Slope
  14. Write equations from word problems
  15. solve systems using elimination
  16. solve systems using substitution
  17. solve systems by graphing
  18. slopes of parallel and perpendicular lines
  19. equation of a line between 2 points
  20. factoring quadratics
  21. zero product property
  22. using quadratic formula
  23. solving linear equalities
  24. graph 2 variable inequalities
  25. absolute value
  26. systems of inequalities
  27. simplify exponential expressions
  28. scientific notation
  29. fractional exponents
  30. domain and range
  31. simplifying square roots
  32. Real number classification
Geometry Concepts
Concept List- Geometry

  1. Solve Linear equations (with fractions)
  2. Slope from 2 points, parallel-perpendicular
  3. Linear equation from slope and one point, or two points
  4. Solve quadratic equations
  5. Midpoint Formula
  6. Systems of Equations
  7. Name and Classify angles
  8. Circle ID
  9. Quadrilateral ID
  10. Inductive Reasoning
  11. Logical Statements
  12. Logical Arguments
  13. Copy constructions
  14. Construct bisectors
  15. Construct inscribed/circumscribed circles of triangles
  16. Use system of equations to find points of concurrency
  17. Parallel lines-angle relationships
  18. Triangle Congruency
  19. Triangle Proof
  20. Polygon Angles
  21. Midsegments
  22. Trapezoids/Kites
  23. Tangent Properties
  24. Arc lengths and angle measures
  25. chord properties
  26. Circle formulas-circumference and area
  27. Area-perimeter
  28. Area Triangles
  29. Area- Trapezoids
  30. Area-Cylinders
  31. Surface Area-Pyramids
  32. Surface area-Cones
  33. Transformations
  34. Pythagorean Theorem
  35. Special Right Triangles
  36. Volume-prisms
  37. Volume- pyramids
  38. Volume- cones
  39. Similarity-proportions
  40. Similar Area/Volume
  41. Sin, cos, tan- side lengths
  42.  Sin, cos, tan-angle measures
  43. Multiplication Principle
  44. Combinations
  45. Permutations
  46. Probabilities
 The concepts highlighted in purple are the ones that I'm doing this year because I started late (after Thanksgiving).

Monday, January 31, 2011

Blah. Blah, Blah

I was thinking about how I've changed and not changed. I have been boring myself for the last few years with my way of teaching math. Science was better but just because it was new, I'm sure I'd have bored myself with that to if I could've got stuck. I'm still blah blahing in my Geometry Class, the kids don't listen, they are points obsessed and they don't really want to learn. My Algebra kids are great. What happened to get these advanced kids so tiresome? This SBG thing has me invigorated and I love the way the kids are responding but Geometry is still boring, I don't like how my text does not have spaced practice. I'm done blab, blabbing now.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Exciting Day

My students were begging for another concept quiz today. They love having the chance to master concepts. I am learning what is easy for them and what is difficult. I kind of knew this but now they know it. The other math teachers think I am nuts for doing all this work, we had a meeting today. I was thinking that they would see the brilliance of my plan but they just see me as crazy, oh well, I am, it is after midnight and I am blogging....

Friday, January 21, 2011

Couldn't Take it Anymore

I did it, during my 3rd hour prep on Thursday I decided that I have to change my 3 Algebra classes to SBG as well. I was grading some homework that the kids did an atrocious job on and that was it. I realized that I didn't know what they know and that they didn't either. Everything feels like punishment.

I don't know if my Geometry students like this new method of grading but they do see it as more meaningful and I have had about 5 kids come in for reassessment. This is a strange group, many of them do not know their Algebra and they are terrible at anything involving fractions. In fact, I gave them the same problems I gave my Algebra students and half of them could not do all 3 problems.

I'm feeling like my Algebra kids are smarter than my Geometry kids (the advanced class).

Anyway, my students were receptive to the new methods, they liked the "no tests" part and they liked that they will have less homework (unless they need it).

This is a lame blog, oh well...