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Mind Dump. Beep Boop.

September 23, 2011

Some spare time, so I thought I’d dump some thoughts out onto the blog…

My last post was about group work and the participation quiz. I took a page from Dan Meyer’s book and tried the group definition activity, and made a low-tech way of monitoring it via the participation quiz rubric I had made. The activity had it’s successes and failures – the framework with the groups generated some good discussions, but the actual activity of coming up with group definitions definitely wasn’t the right activity for my kids – even though we refocused and went through some examples, students still ended up with their own half-formed notion of the definition rather than a concise, agreed-upon version that the class decided (which is what happened, but enough students zoned out that it didn’t stick). Two major points of confusion were with linear pairs and adjacent angles – students struggled honing in on the definitions and (in retrospect) I realize the real skill I want them to have is identifying these relationships, rather than defining them (which this activity didn’t actually touch on). Anyway – I didn’t implement the collective definition activity as well as I could have. On the bright side, I tried out the participation quiz framework and that worked pretty well – making notes and walking between groups worked out great. I tweaked my rubric a bit based on some feedback – I added a ‘demonstrates leadership’ category and made the active participation and non-participation aspects more explicit (leaning forward, eye contact; slouched in chair, head down on desk, off-task conversations).

Something I’ve realized in reflecting on my first few weeks: as much as I would like to, I can’t teach a conceptual lesson with inquiry and a gradual build to the punchline and then give them homework and expect them to apply it right away without me having worked out at least one or two explicit example. My students don’t have the mathematical confidence yet to make those jumps on their own. I’ve become a lot more explicit with the things I expect from my students at the end of the day (which I think has helped) and started to do much more I do/we do/you do. It’s actually made me reflect more on the Bloom’s Levels that I use as a guide for monitoring how much I’m really challenging my students. I’m starting to realize that in my own idealized world of the classroom, I never had a place for the low-level blooms skills – identify, list, categorize, name, etc (especially identify in a geometry class). However, I’m realizing these are the skills that are best for formative assessment and quick corrections – I’ve started using these types of low-level questions and skills on the first few bellwork questions just to see if the students are on-board with the basic concepts we learned yesterday. It also builds that mathematical confidence, which I think is the biggest block many of my students have. I guess I’ve started to think of Blooms as a hierarchy – first I should asses lower-level skills (identifying, listing) and gradually build to assessments with the higher-order skills (comparing, synthesizing, creating) – which I guess makes sense, but I wish someone had told me this before I jumped into planning lessons with all these wonderful higher-order thinking activities without giving them enough time to process and practice using the lower-order skills.

Last little thing I’m thinking of: we’ve been moving through angle relationships and into parallel lines and those relationships (all really as an excuse to continue refining algebra, which all of my students need). I want to do an activity which works as the following: every group starts off with a certain number of poker chips and a certain number of geometric figures (lots of intersecting lines, etc). They are in charge of finding every missing angle in the figures by using properties such as vertical angles, corresponding angles, etc. As they work through the problems, they can pay me one chip and I will tell them the measure of one of the angles they are missing (they pick the angle). At the end of the activity, the number of chips they have left is their score for the day. So, the less times you need to ask for an angle, the higher your score will be. Any problems not completed will result in a penalty. So, if the total points for the day is 10 and each group starts with 14, then one group asks me for 6 angle measures before finishing, then they would get an 8/10 for the day.

The chip = points aspect requires them to decide how many angles they can find without any help, which is really the skill I want them to have anyway: given only a tiny bit of information, tell me everything there is to know about a figure. It also makes them think about when they absolutely have to ask for an angle – and, when they do, which one should they ask for? So, maybe I’ll do this one day too.

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One Comment
  1. I have mad teacher envy for your reflectiveness/thoughtfulness…

    I’m teaching geometry this year and I love your chip idea. I think when I get to more in depth angle relationship problems I’m definitely going to steal that. What I like most about it is that it gets the students to say things like “If we have this angle we can find that angle because….” To me there is a huge difference between that and the students being given certain angles and being told which ones to find.

    I’m curious: is this activity something to practice certain skills or the general skill of finding missing angles. If it’s the former, how will you ensure that students are actually practicing the necessary skills (and not just relying on you for the angles of the relationships they’re having trouble with)?

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