Sunday, September 30, 2012

Whoa, that's crazy!

Last week we finished up the last video that went with our first unit.  At the end of each unit, my math series has a "practice test" that is given to help the students see exactly what types of questions will be on the regular test.  Similar to last year, I had kids all over the board when I scored them.  That is not unusual, as I'm looking for certain things when I grade their tests (for example, do they show their work, label their answers, etc.) that they may not know on the practice test, but surely know on the actual test.

I had roughly 15 students (of my 60) who scored 97% or better, so I gave them the option to just test Friday & get it done, rather than wait until Tuesday with the rest of the class.  They all chose that option (and they all did well).  Then they took a pre-test for the next unit.  I explained to them that if they showed on their pre-test that they knew how to do certain learning goals, then they wouldn't be expected to do the WSQ's for those goals (they could just take the quizzes & test out).  They just stared at me.

Finally one student spoke up & said, "So you're telling me that if we already know how to do something, we can just skip it & move ahead."

I said, "Yes, isn't it a waste of your time to sit here learning stuff you already know?"

His response, "Are you for real?"

My response, "Yes, I'm for real."

His response, "Whoa...that's crazy!"

So here's the I'm going to see whether all my thinking/pondering/rambling/musing this summer will pay off.  Is this going to work?  I don't know yet, I guess we'll find out this week, but if it does, then would be totally crazy!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Attempting the WSQ

My plan for the beginning of the year has been simple...lots of hand holding.  I plan on having my students complete WSQ's to go along with all of our math videos.  I anticipated that it would be difficult, which is why we are doing pretty much everything as a group.  Up until now, we have watched the videos together, written summaries together and asked our questions together.  What I have found so far is that writing summaries about math is HARD!

The kids want to show a problem, and then show the solution.  That's not a summary (at least not in my book).  I have given the students some guidelines about what should be included in a complete summary.  They are as follows:

  • 1 sentence that introduces the topic - This is definitely NOT difficult.  My videos always start out with our learning objectives, and all they have to do is restate it.
  • 1-3 sentences explaining the vocabulary - Again, this isn't very difficult.  The only challenging part is that the students are being asked to explain the vocabulary in their own words, no copying straight from their notes.
  • 5-10 sentences that explain the main points of the vides - This is VERY hard.  My advice to the kids is to try write it as if you're explaining it to a 4th grader (I have 5th graders).  They can use examples to help them explain themselves, but their explanation has to be more than just solving the problem.  I've recommended them using time order words to help them out.  First....Then..., etc.
  • The final part of their summary is the students coming up with an example problem of their own. I want them to use these when they make student made videos in the future, but we're not there yet.
After chatting on Twitter with the infamous Crystal Kirch, she recommended that I use some guiding questions for the kids to answer in their summary, rather than it be a straight up open summary.  I like the idea (add it my ever expanding list of things to do), and I do think it will help give the kids some focus.  So I sat down this weekend to develop some guiding questions for my next unit.  I've got a grid below that breaks down how I'm going to assign things next unit, as well as the guiding questions I have.  Hopefully it helps, because right now the kids are floundering :(

I'd love some feedback on what you've been trying, and whether you've had success incorporating more deep thinking into math.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Week Keepers - Goal Setting

One thing I worked on last year was helping the students develop goals, and then work towards them.  We often reflected on our blogs in regards to how the goals were coming along.  This year I found a really cute activity that connected goal setting to art (not one of my specialties).  Basically I had my students come up with 2 goals for the school year.  One had to be school related, one couldn't be school related. 

My goals were:
1) I hope to create more real world math application projects.
2) I hope to run at least 3 times a week (and not just when I'm training for something).

Then we drew a little picture of ourselves peeking over the goals.  They turned out totally cute, and I've somehow suckered my students into believing that I'm a good drawer (ha!).  

I got this idea for this (and the directions for the drawing piece) from an Art Projects For Kids blog.

First Week Keepers - Creating a Classroom Vision

As much as I love teaching, I tend to dread the first week of school.  I recognize and understand the need for all the team building that takes place, but I want to just jump right into the curriculum!  So this year I was on a mission to figure out how to start curriculum (sort of) but also include a lot of community building activities.  I'm happy to report that there were several activities I did with my 5th graders that I will definitely keep for upcoming years.  Full disclaimer...none of this has anything to do with flipclass, so if you want to tune out now, go ahead (I promise, no hard feelings).

At one of our back-to-school PD days the teachers participated in a vision making activity.  We're currently reworking our district vision, and they wanted our input (go figure).  As we were completing this activity, I thought about how I realize I have a vision for my classroom, but do my kids?  Why not complete the same activity (with some changes) with my class.  So here's how it went down:

First, I posted the question, "Why are we here?" on the board and had the students write their personal opinion on a sticky note.  I got a few giggles (and a few odd looks) when I told them to write what they think, not what they think I want to hear.  From there, they paired up with one other person & tried to combine their thoughts onto a new sticky note.  Then they paired up with another pair and combined their thoughts to a new sticky note (now a group of 4).  In the end, I had six different answers to the question I posed earlier.  The picture below shows what they came up with (their words, not mine).

That was all for Day 1...on Day 2, when the kids came into the classroom I had combined their six opinions into one, and I asked them if I managed to get everything in.  The following was on the board:

We are here to learn so we will be successful in life.  We want our learning to be fun and applicable to the real world.

Most students liked it, some weren't totally happy yet, so I asked them what they would change.  We then had a really good discussion about how we should put something in there about people learning differently, and how it's important that everyone gets a chance to learn.  I also had a few stuck on the desire to add something about sports.  I asked them to tell me more, and one talked about wanting to get an athletic scholarship, therefore he needs to do well in school...huh, I could've easily brushed his idea aside, but I'm glad I asked the follow up question.  So here's the final version of our classroom vision.

We are here to learn so we will be successful in life (college, sports, jobs).  We all learn differently, but we all CAN learn.

I thoroughly enjoyed this activity, and will continue to use it in future years.  And while this was pretty powerful for the kids to have a say in, it's going to be even more powerful when I reference it this year during our lessons.  Everything we do is going to connect back to this vision.  

After we finished the vision, I asked another question: "What can you do to help us accomplish our vision?"  Again, they did some independent thinking, and put their ideas on sticky notes.  Out of that activity came our class rules.  These are rules that the KIDS came up with, not me.  Now that's not to say these are the only rules we'll have this year, but I plan to let the kids realize it when we need to add a rule.  

I'm hoping that since I've done all this from the ground up, rather than the top down, I will see more buy in this year...let's hope so.

PS - I'm really glad that a few kids had #4 down, because I certainly like it ;)