Saturday, August 5, 2017

Goals for 2017-2018

At the start of every year I always set some sort of goal for myself and this year I find my goal area needs to be on mistakes.  As teachers we always say "It's okay to make mistakes", "Mistakes mean we are trying" and "Mistakes are how we learn" but for me that's about as far as it went.  So are we really saying mistakes are ok?  Does this really encourage students to take more risks and to make mistakes?

This past school year I cam across the video below on how this teacher grades her tests.  It is worth watching but if you don't have time here is a quick but "does no justice" recap: She highlights the mistakes that students make on their tests, no grade is put on the test, grades are put in their online grade book the day AFTER they have received the test back, and she celebrates her favorite mistakes.  Students work together to recognize where they have made mistakes and work to correct them.  


I just love the idea of only highlighting the mistakes made on the test.  This way students are more focused on the learning and content rather than what grade they received.   She said it perfectly when she talks about how students get their test back, look at the grade, and then throw it away never to look at it again.  When this happens I feel we are saying that the material we taught really wasn't that important, and that the grade they received is acceptable, even when it may not be.

My most favorite part is how she celebrates mistakes.  She displays a photocopy of a mistake that a student or many students made, and calls them her favorite mistakes.  The class works in their groups and then together as a whole to identify the mistake that was made and then how to correct it.  She also brings to the students attention parts that may be wrong by highlighting them, but she doesn't necessarily take points off for it.

I've been teaching for 10 years, this will be my 11th year, and this past year when students only focused on their grades it really started to get to me.  I knew I needed to change something about how I was running my class.  Standards Based Grading was something I brought into my room about 5 years ago and it helped get the kids to focus more on the learning but the level put at the top of the paper was still sparking the conversations I was hoping to eliminate.

So my goal for the 2017-2018 school year is to highlight mistakes, enter grades in the following day, celebrate my favorite mistakes, and hopefully get my students to focus more on the math and less on their grades.  Wish me luck and we will see how this year goes!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Candy Land

So about 2 maybe 3 years ago I was trying to come up with some new ways to keep my students engaged in math class on the days where...well frankly...they just need to practice.  We all have those days and honestly, they are the days that both my students and myself dread.  It's boring for me, they get cranky, and everyone is just off task.  To them it feels like "busy work", which it's not, they need to master the skill before they can apply it, but that's how they feel.  One evening by some miracle I came up with life-sized Candy Land.   Before you get all excited there is no Mr. Mint, Princess Lolly, Lord Licorice, or Queen Frostine.  I laminated colored squares of paper that I put in the pattern on the floor.  There is a start and finish square, and the students get to pick their own game piece (I'll talk about those later!).  They draw cards out of a bucket with problems on one side, and either a single colored square or double colored squares on the other.  If the students answer the problem correctly they move ahead that many colored squares.  If they answer it wrong, they don't move at all.  The team to make it to the end wins!

Here's how it looks...


It's pretty basic but my students absolutely love to play it.  I have watched students jumping up and down to come to math class because we are playing it. When I first started the winning team would get candy bars of their choice.  After a few years of playing, I have made a few adjustments to the game.

I have added chips that can make them advance or have to go back, and if they are super lucky they get a go back to start chip.  Instead of just the winning team getting candy I decided to put chips on specific squares around the room.  The first team to land on that square after answering a problem correctly removes the chip and turns it in at the end of the hour for candy.  This way those students who might are further behind won't give up so quickly.  

The game pieces are the best part of this whole game, and the part they will race to class and fight over getting.  They are just random things I have in my classroom and many of them I have no clue where they came from.  The bucket of pieces keeps growing each year and they are getting better and better. 

The colored squares have been used by a ton of teacher in my building.  What's funny is what game pieces they come up with to use.  Our Nursing Program borrowed it and used fake organs as their pieces and it was AWESOME!  I hope to add to the game the Rainbow Trail and the Gumdrop Pass, it's what they keep asking for.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Animal Cells

I've been teaching both Biology and Physical Science for the last 10 years aside from my Math Courses and since the interactive notebooks worked so well in math I thought it would be a good idea to move them into my science classes as well.  This was not as easy as I had thought and I didn't get as many pages done in Biology last year that I had hoped.  However, this one on Animal Cells was one of my favorites.

This page covered identify the organelles in an animal cell as well as identifying the function of each organelle. I know that the function of each organelle is far more in depth than what I covered but my students have a hard time with concepts that they can not see or experience so I had to keep it simple and to a minimum. This is where you could go more in depth with your classes if this page works for you.

I each of my students a colored sheet of paper as well as the sheet of the diagrams (you can find it here!) They cut flaps that fit each of the diagrams, colored them each a different color than glued them onto the page.

Above each of the flaps we identified what the organelle in the picture was and under each flap we stated what the function was.

The large diagram we glued onto the right page.  Students then had to color the organelle the same color as they had done on the flap and then draw arrows and identify the organelles.  

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Trigonometry Task Cards

Towards the end of this past school year, my Geometry students were working on Right Triangle Trig.  Trig is not an easy concept for them to grasp and I had to think of ways to help make it easier for them to understand the process.  Trig has always been a challenge for my students and each time I teach it I go into this unit hoping for the best (because I love it!) but fearing the worst (They don't love it!).  They always get so frustrated and give up so quickly because they view it as being too difficult for them to learn.  In the end, many see the light and realize it wasn't as bad as they thought it would be, while some don't budge and remain struggling.

I had originally made these task cards for my class to use as practice this year but it was something I never had the time to finish up.  The end of this school year was a rough one and everyone was doing their best to keep their heads above water.  So needless to say I never got to use them but plan to this year with my new Geometry students.

Had I actually had the chance to use them I would have used them in one of the following ways:

Option #1 Students work in teams (my room has 4 large tables) and each team would get a task card from each page, work it out together and pass them around until they did all 4 then we would pass out the next page.  All students would complete all problems.

Option #2 Put the cards randomly though out my classroom, have students work in pairs and work their way around the room until they have completed all the problems.

Option #3 Put all cards in a bucket, have students work in small groups, they come up and draw a card out of the bucket and work it out with their team. The only downside to this option is that there is a chance some groups might not get a card from each page so they won't get practice from that kind of problem.

Well here are the cards...Let me know if you have any other ideas for options.  If you use them with your students let me know how it works out!

If you would like your own set here are the links.  If you blog or tweet about my task cards please reference where you got them from.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Domain and Range

In previous years I've always taught Domain and Range when I taught Graphing Functions/Equations (see my previous post) and it was enough for my students to grasp the concept.  However my Algebra 1 group last year, and again this year, needed so much more than what I've previously done.  Some years they are able to catch on quickly while other years need more explanation and practice.  So prior to my Graphing Functions/Equations page I designed one that just focused on Domain and Range to help these groups out.

We started with how to identify Domain and Range, what's the proper way and what happens if a number repeats.

I had the students pick two colored highlighters (one for domain and one for range).  I use a lot of color on my pages but it's always for a good reason.  We don't ever just use color to use it.

As a whole class we went through the different situations they would be presented with: XY Table, Set of Ordered Pairs, Maps, or a Graph.

For the XY Table they had to highlight the Domain and Range then write them in proper order.

For the Ordered Pairs they had to highlight each number that represented the Domain and which ones represented the Range. Then write them in proper order.

For the Map they had to again highlight the Domain and Range then put them in order.

The Graph took a bit more effort on our part.  I gave my students the option to either write out each point as an ordered pair or we could make it into an XY Table.  They prefered the table and found it easier to use so we went with it.  They again had to highlight and write the Domain and Range in proper order.

On the right side of the notebook we defined Domain and Range and then they were given the 5 different examples.  For each they were asked to find the Domain and Range.  Some understood it and no longer needed to use the highlighters while others relied on them for quite awhile. I always allow my students to use materials like highlighters and such on their progress checks, so some of them were still using it even on progress check day while most had stopped using them long before.

This is how the pages look side by side.  How do you teach Domain and Range?  What tricks do you use to help them remember the difference?  I'm always up for some new, fun ideas :)

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