Next year will be so much better!! I learned so much this year and I love my job more than ever. Im gonna punch next year in the face.
Here’s a few things I’ll keep and a few things I’ll change:
Flipclass: Some parts I liked, some parts not so much. I found that taking the lecture out of the classroom and moving it to the home environment was not effective. Now, I’m not saying that direct instruction doesn’t have its place. The videos I made did get watched and they were helpful to many students. It’s just that I had them at the wrong point in the learning process. The awesome thing is that the kids showed me this by how they used them. I had intended for them to watch a video on a particular topic, then come in to class ready to discuss and dive into activities. But hardly anyone was watching them (they didn’t know why they needed those skills yet). So we’d do our activities, then have some sort of assessment. The kids who weren’t making the right connections between the activities and the problems or tasks on the assessment did poorly on those assessments. But then, they used the videos to get some help before they reassessed on that topic (and really these were the kids who I made the videos for in the first place). Seeing this, I kept making the videos, but with this purpose in mind. Which leads to my next topic:
Homework: As I started the year having students watch videos for homework, I had a bit of a dilemma after scrapping that idea. Should I go back to p.342 #1-30 even? Should I give just a few problems (a la Dan Meyer)? Or do I just not assign homework at all? I ended up doing some of each, and while I preferred no homework, I found it hard to get everything done in class. So I’m giving homework problems again next year. But i think I’m gonna like it because I’ll be using SocraticBrain.com, which tracks homework progress automatically. I plan to put certain skills in there throughout the year to make sure that we are keeping them fresh. Which leads to my next topic:
Spiraling skills: I feel like this was my main problem this year. I didn’t do a good job of keeping skills coming back throughout the year. One place I failed was not reassessing enough. This is another place where SocraticBrain.com will help out. When I make a rubric, I can include whatever skills I want on it. That way, all skills can be tracked all year. So lets say I give a task where they need to solve a system of equations by graphing it, and a student makes a mistake with slope. I can enter a new score for slope in the gradebook, so that I and the student both know that even though they may have had it at some point, slope needs some work now. I also am planning to implement some “Algebra Skillz” after talking to a colleague about it. He does a set of basic skills each week with different sorts of incentives for getting them done. They can work on them whenever they have time, and they check each others work. This way they’re constantly keeping tabs on any basic skills that may need work. Which leads to my next topic:
Standards based assessment and reporting: Love it. Not a fad. Gonna keep doing it. Just changing systems. I used ActiveGrade this year and it worked great, I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a SBG system. I think it’s even linked with Haiku LMS now too, so check it out. But the benefits of teaching next door to the creator of your system are too many to pass up. My friend and colleague Stephen (@socraticbrain on the twitter) has put quite a lot of work into making SocraticBrain.com and next year I’ll be using it for Physics and Algebra!! If you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited about that because it’s awesome. It has algorithm generated questions for homework and quizzes, rubrics for graded tasks, ClassDojo style assessment of discussions, and all of it is automatically entered into a standards based gradebook. It’s kinda hard to describe out of context, but look out for plenty of posts next year about it. Speaking of awesomeness:
Inquiry learning: Sometimes it went well, sometimes not, but I always learned something. One major reflection from this year is that questions are extremely important and that they should come from the students whenever possible. I found that our physics lab discussions were not successful because we did not always have a clear goal in mind. I knew what types of questions the kids would be able to answer as a result of the lab, but they didn’t. So the plan next year is to start all labs with “what types of questions should we be able to answer using this model?” For instance we could watch a video of a bowling ball and a tennis ball being dropped from a window. The students will probably want to know which one is going to land first (and hopefully some other stuff too). So then we could bust out some carts and tracks and start to develop a model for accelerated motion.
I think that I did a decent job of coming up with and/or finding some good inquiry activities in algebra. I even got a shoutout on Dan Meyer’s blog for some of the cool activities we did (and also got linked to from Frank Noschese’s blog, dropping the big names here) So I’m doing something right I guess! That said, I know I have a lot to learn about executing a good 3act. I’ll be watching Dan and Andrew to get better at those (and you should too).
What are you planning to get better at next year? Can I join you? Anything I can do to help?
I do not consider myself a master teacher. But I feel like I have brought myself closer to that goal this year than in my previous 5 years combined. And collaboration has been the key. My advice to all teachers who care to listen:
Get on Twitter and find some like minded people there.
Here’s just a few examples of how my Twitterings have helped me and my students this year (there are like a bajillion of these too!).
I follow Danny (college physics) and he posed the question “What is a model?”. You can see my reply and explanation there in the pic. What’s awesome is that this collaboration went from the classroom to twitter, then back again. Literally the next day in class, I used the analogy of a model being like a tool. We were in a circle holding up our whiteboards to show what we had learned from a lab. I told students to think about digging a hole. What would they do first? (Get a shovel) Then I said “the board you are holding is your shovel!”. Some of them were holding spoons we decided, and since it’s pretty hard to dig a hole with a spoon, we better figure out how to make those boards better.
I think it is very important that HS teachers begin talking more with college professors so that we can figure out where there may be gaps in kids’ knowledge between our classrooms. And so we can share ideas on best practices in teaching and learning. Guess where we all are?
The best idea in collaboration since the mathtwitterblogosphere: the CCSSM Draft! Last night, a small group of teachers decided to NFL-style draft their two favorite common core standards from grade 8, along with one math practice standard, and then create a lesson with them. Here’s the story of how the whole thing shaped up over the course of a few hours on a Friday night (it’s a little long, but give it a chance!).
What I especially love about this is that it feels like our version of Genius Hour (a sort of free for all learning time). I would love, love, love for my students to have Genius Hour in my class next year and so the chance to model what it looks like and what you can get out of it is awesome! Bonus: the link I provided up there for Genius Hour also shows how powerful Twitter can be as a collaboration tool.
Man, do I feel like the major underdog on that list for the CCSS Draft! I better bring my A game. And that’s the point, right? Give kids some time to work on something they care about, and they’ll bring their A game too.
First of all, if you somehow read my blog, but not Andrew Stadel’s, stop here and subscribe to his blog. He’s been doing awesome work with 3 Act videos, his estimation site, and recently analyzing math mistakes. Then, as Mr. Stadel said in a recent blog, you gotta check out Michael Pershan’s Math Mistakes page as well.
Ok, so here’s my contribution to the mistakes conversation. I had students do this activity (it’s a functions matching activity) that I got from Mrs Reilly’s blog. It went pretty well and I was pleased with the results in general. Then, as an extension I gave each group a whiteboard with a quadratic equation on it.
That’s it. No real instructions.
They naturally decided to make a table, a graph, and a sentence for their equation. This ability to go right to work creating different representations is something that we’ve been working hard on in physics and algebra, and I was pretty proud of them for just doing it without explicit instructions.
The results in one of my classes were not so great though. Their boards were riddled with mistakes and we ran out of time in class to do any real work on fixing them.
But the next day (different classes), I had a spur of the moment idea. I had a hunch that this class was going to do a little better on them in general, so I thought “Why don’t I give them the same problems and then have them compare their boards to the boards with the mistakes?” And then that turned into the students writing notes to the other class to help them out. Here’s the boards with mistakes and the notes (some are more helpful than others):
I love the idea, but it didn’t work exactly as planned. The students were not really thinking about the specific mistakes made by their peers. They were mostly just pointing out that something was wrong.
I like that the mistakes weren’t obvious necessarily, but that did make it harder for students to spot them. I think I can build up to this activity by using the mistakes game more frequently in class (basically, they insert a mistake on purpose and the rest of the class tries to find it). By getting good at finding these purposeful mistakes (which should be easier to spot), they should be better prepared to spot accidental mistakes and even misconceptions.
I had an education professor at UNO that told us a class should pretty much run itself. He said by the end of the semester, there would be at least one occasion where he would not even show up, and yet our class would go on without him.
It did. We were working on short lessons and presenting them to each other to get feedback. He never showed, so we started without him and everyone stayed the entire time.
Today I came into class and basically said “You know what you need to work on, let’s get to work!” and it happened. Here’s why I think it worked:
1.) They were all very aware of exactly what skills they need to work on. I use standards based grading and report their scores with ActiveGrade. When they login, each student gets a report that looks like this:
2.) They are accustomed to getting help from outside sources. I have been getting better at providing good resources for my students this year. My newest adventure has been in using Edcanvas. It is super easy to use for teachers and for students, and it tracks views (and emails you a daily digest if you want). Here’s one of mine (click it if you want to see how it works):
3.) They are accustomed to getting help from each other. Since I teach using modeling in physics (and try to in algebra as well), the students are used to not really getting answers from me (hence the “Never” tagline of this blog) so they have gotten much better at learning from each other. They are getting way better at spotting when someone has a skill that they do not, and asking that student for assistance.
BTW Even though it was awesome (!!), we didn’t use the whole class period for this “extra practice” session. The second half of class was used to work through this handout (which you can see in the Edcanvas as well):
The awesomest thing was how I had never used the term “zeroes” before and they already knew what I was talking about! I also love how it really ties everything together nicely. I got a lot of “ooohhhh, now I see why we did that” out of it. The thing that it is missing is a real, quality application to real life. Any suggestions??
Note: This is my first year teaching freshmen physics and it’s also my first year teaching physics using modeling. Lots to learn! I’ve had to remind myself of this a lot:
So after discussing the various forms of energy and then giving the students some time to play with Phet’s energy skate park (with some guiding questions), we jumped right in to a lab. The groups were each given an inclined plane and a cart. We discussed what we could measure, and decided on height of the cart as the independent variable and velocity as the dependent variable. The velocity should increase as the height increased right? Let’s see!
Problem: Why are we interested in this relationship?
They didn’t have a clue, so the lab was a total disaster. Some groups had issues collecting good data (that’s another problem for another blog post) and the rest had no idea why they had collected good data. I think the reason is because they didn’t start the lab with a good question in mind. What is the velocity vs height graph supposed to tell us about energy anyways?
Back to the Drawing Board
As I told my students today, it’s just not good science to run an experiment with no purpose in mind. So where should we start then? As always, the blogosphere has the answer. I found this post by Kelly O’Shea. Starting with pie charts? Sounds good to me. Maybe that will help us gain a better understanding of energy transfers and then we can head back to the lab.
When I discussed this with my colleague who teaches the same class, he asked why I decided to go with pie charts at all (instead of going with bar graphs). This comment from Kelly’s blog post shows others have had the same question:
You can check the comments on Kelly’s blog post for her answer. But my answer was that I didn’t really know where else to start and Kelly’s lesson seemed to make sense. But after doing the activity, I feel like I’ve got a much better answer. First, here’s what we decided on for our three pies of a ball falling from a really tall building (I used Empire State):
The discussion that came up based on these pies centered around “what should the proportion of kinetic to potential energy be in the second pie?”. That was a question that everyone seemed to want answered and no one had a solid answer to. “Well,” I asked, “what would we need to know in order to determine that proportion?”
They asked those questions right away with exactly zero prompting from me. All I did was write them down. Then, it was super simple for them to see that right there on the board staring them in the face were the exact questions we were attempting to answer with our inclined plane set ups. Now we have a purpose for our experiment!! We are trying to answer the question, “In what proportion are the gravitational and kinetic energies of the ball when it’s about halfway down?” (or perhaps anywhere on the way down? .
Other Good Arguments That Came Up
In this whiteboard, you get a visual representation of the students arguing about two things. First, should there be thermal energy in the first pie? Someone had drawn it in and then someone else in the group erased it (after a board meeting with another group). The first student stood by his original pie though. His reasoning was sound, he explained that thermal energy is internal energy and that the bunny must have some internal energy to begin with because it’s got a certain temperature. Then argument two is in the third pie, where once again students dueled over whether a wind up toy would be left with some elastic potential energy even after it stopped moving. It seems the side of “nope” won out on that one. This next group agreed on the third pie, but not the first:
I got asked today “is there a real world connection to factoring?”. I hadn’t heard that one in a while and I think it’s because I’ve been doing a good job of “starting at the end” like this awesome teacher. Factoring though, that one had me thinking I’d better just stick with what I know. So I showed them the area model for multiplying two binomials, then we worked that backwards and called it factoring. We even did some whiteboards earlier today. I told them a new student was coming and they would need to teach them the skills they just learned using only one whiteboard. Here’s what they came up with:
Not too bad. I also asked them plenty of questions to make sure each group member could explain what was on their board. And there were a few mistakes (some still in there), but that was ok because we fixed them as a group! So, clearly they’ve got this skill now. But the question still came up “is there a connection?”. Dammit.
I think that my techniques here were good because they can factor a trinomial now. And we also have made connections between quadratic equations and real world projectiles:
The constructed response portion of our last exam even had a real world connection:
But where I failed was connecting these events.
So I think what I should’ve done was start the unit with a video of a projectile. Then get the students asking questions like “how high will it go” or “where will it land”. Then when I show them factoring (using the same method I just did) they won’t ask “where’s the connection?”, they’ll just proceed to answer their own questions using this handy new skill they learned (plus maybe a few others).
Ugh, it’s getting hard to keep up this blog. I’m working hard to keep trying new things in class, while still making my tutorial videos, and now I’ve got the Daily Desmos blog taking up half my planning time! So this one’s gonna be short. Here goes:
I have an assessment that basically asks students to describe the effects of the variables “a” “h” and “k” on the graph of the function y = a(x – h)^2 + k. I was thinking that this would be great because it is so open ended (I’ve heard this type of thing referred to as a “goal-less” problem). The idea was that students would have to not only know what the effects of the variables would be, but also be able to describe it to me using graphs and charts.
For some students it worked out great. They clearly understood what I was asking of them and were able to demonstrate that understanding by comparing several graphs and their equations. But then some students were completely stumped. I’ve figured out that they were afraid of this assessment because they didn’t understand the basic principles.
I think the solution is to create a separate assessment that is lower level. Maybe a few multiple choice questions where they have to compare two graphs, or even a constructed response, but one where I give them the graphs to compare. That way, students who only sort of understand the skill can at least show what they know.
So I feel like the lesson on this one is that having a “goal-less” problem as an assessment is great, but it shouldn’t be the only assessment of that skill.
What do you think? Do you use goal-less problems?