Monday, September 27, 2010

Being Less Helpful

So today in class, I presented a problem on using prime factorization. (We had spent the past three days learning how to do prime factorization and then the students created games or how to booklets on it to show their understanding) Anyhow I presented a hypothetical situation where a student used prime factorization to find the Greatest Common Factor and the Least Common Multiple and then asked the students to determine how the student did it (with some help/ prompting but not much) and use that method to determine the GCF and LCM of a couple other sets of numbers.

Well, in my class of 23 I had about half who got started right off trying stuff, experimenting... I loved to see that. Unfortunately, I couldn't see much of that because the other half either had their hand up or were out of their chair in front of me wanting to know "what to do." I once again channeled my inner Dan Meyer and (as he so eloquently put it) vowed to "be less helpful." I simply refused to answer any questions. I looked at the students and said, "yep, I see where you are coming from... so what are you going to do?" I refused to answer any questions. I ended up with a good quarter of the class quite frustrated. I viewed this as a major success. This class is a genuinely talented math class and these students have, for the most part, skated through math. I think today was not like that for a number of them... and I'm proud to say that I did that to them!

By the end of the class, almost all of the students had worked out some sort of way to use prime factorization to find the GCF and LCM and I was able to do the notebook item with them and most of them got the exit card (and I'm fairly certain will be able to do the homework.)

Overall, I was very happy with the experience. I'm looking forward to more chances to "be less helpful!"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

First Progress Report and SBG

So I've dived in pretty deeply in the SBG borg this school year. I've created math skills lists (along with the KUDs I have always used) and have shared these with students, talking in depth about why I have them and how I am going to assess the students on them. I also talked about the process of learning and how it isn't something that happens for everyone at 8:30 AM on Tuesday and thus how students will have the chance to reassess on skills they haven't shown proficiency in. Dealing with 6th graders who up until this point have never received any sort of grade, I'm not sure this has sunk in. I've used a Google Form to have students sign up for extra practice and reassessment but only a handful of students have done so, a couple of whom were taken aback that I would suggest they need some more practice prior to reassessing. I think this is a culture thing and something that will work its way out as the year progresses. In fact, I think progress reports will help with it. So....
I sent home my first progress report on Friday. It was exciting as I entered the grades into GradeQuick (our online gradebook software) and the only heading I had was "Skills." In the past, I have used a "tests and projects" heading and a homework heading. Truthfully, this didn't tell me, the students or their parents much of anything. The new heading of skills and the breakdown I've done of specific skills I want kids to know and understand when they are done with 6th grade gives so much more information in my mind. Students can now see that based on two or three assessments of each skill they either have a good grasp of divisibility rules, factors, prime & composite numbers or they don't. I'm hoping the progress report will get them to really look at what they don't know and come to me (with some prodding of course) to re-examine those skills they are lacking in and then allow me to reassess them. I'm excited to see if (again with some prodding) I'm going to get kids asking about skills not particular letter or % grades on Monday when they come into school.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Alright so its a couple weeks into the school year and I've already broken my vow to blog about my day to day goings on in my classroom. I could say its been a super busy start to the school year with 7 new kids added to our team in the first few days. Or I could talk about the extra work that I'm doing as the technology adviser for my son's kindergarten. But really those are just excuses and the fact is I just haven't made the time to reflect and blog.

That being said, I'm excited about how math class has started. I've never been a worksheet/ text book type of person and in fact I try to have the kids play games and create activities/multimedia pieces to learn and reinforce their math concepts and skills. However, I don't think these games/ activities have done enough to get at my students' higher level thinking and problem solving skills. Therefore, I've channeled my inner Dan Meyer to a small extent and started using some teacher created multimedia to create more engaging problems for my kids to learn and practice problem solving skills. I gave them the first of these today to work on. You can find it here. I've got back a number of responses from students (I had them work on it in Google Docs and share their responses with me) and I'm excited by some of the questioning and thinking I'm seeing. The problem itself is not the best for getting kids to question but I think its a good introduction for the students to get started on this type of activity. I've got a couple more lined up for the next couple weeks including a video of the "Locker Problem" in which I'm going to use students of mine from two years ago. I'd love to hear what people think of this activity so far and ways that I could improve it.

Thanks in advance