Saturday, February 4, 2012
Saturday, November 26, 2011
I just started to teach an alternative to Algebra II, called Applied Math III, this year. The students I have are those that do not enjoy math and thus do not enjoy math homework. Each one of them has also failed Washington State's standardized math test, the HSPE, required for graduation. My school also has a high population of English Language Learners (mostly Hispanic) and our current Free/Reduced Lunch level sits at 60%. Not that students who fall into these two catagories are doomed to failure in math, but they are an indicator of a population of students who may struggle with math.As you can imagine, they use their class time to do some work, but as soon as the bell rings, they put their assignments in their bag and don't touch it again till you ask them to pass their assignments forward.
Three weeks into the semester, I had the highest amount of missing assignments per student than I have ever had in all the years I have been teaching. I knew I had to come up with an idea that would get them into doing their work (outside of bribery). Even with the threat of not graduating because they are seniors and that if they did not pass my class, they would not graduate, they still seemed unmoved. I also tried allowing them to turn in all late work without penalty and having missing homework marathon days where all they had to do was turn in missing work. This was my carrot to positively motivate them and while it did get some work turned in, it was not enough to get us out of the red.
I started to look into some alternative ways of ensuring that they meet the standards, without throwing them into the same old pattern of demonstrating a skill and then giving them the remainder of the period to work on their assignment. What I came up with is hardly a new idea, Standards Based Assessment. We all sit through staff meetings where someone may throw out terms like Standards Based Assessment, Formative Assessment, or Summative Assessment, but never apply them in our classroom. I am here to tell you that this strategy is working for me. I have some of the hardest students to motivate and they love this new approach.
Here is how it works. I demonstrate that day's new skills. At the point where they feel that they understand the skills enough to work on their own, they can begin working on the "suggested" problems. I will continue solving problems under the document camera while the others, who still don't get the new skills, follow along. The reason why I have suggested in quotations is because I do not require them to turn in this assignment. They are to do as many problems as they feel necessary until they get it. I do tell them specific problems to look at, so that they are sure to understand all the different forms of the skills we have just covered.
The catch here is that while I do not have them turn a paper showing me what problems they did, I do give a daily quiz (formative assessment) on the previous day's lesson. Now, right there you may think I have lost the class. But, when I tell them that these quizzes replace the chapter test, they are all the sudden excited about this idea. Many of them have anxiety about summative assessments (test's that sum up all that they have learned in that unit) because of the pressure of having to remember all of the concepts from the previous 3-4 weeks.
Now I know the next thing you are going to say. "What about the state standardized tests?" "Isn't this setting them up for failure for a test that sums up all that they have learned in math?" Well, yes and no. Yes, their math standardized testing is a summative test that covers many skills, but that is why they still must pass a mid term and final exam (both are summative). These tests do not change their grade dramatically, but they must pass them to pass the class. They can retake them, just like the state standardized test. So, no, this doesn't set them up for failure in the long run.
That is only the first part of this strategy. That is where Bloom comes into play. I utilize 5 levels of learning to grade each student on their level of mastery of the skill.
The first level, Knowledge, is covered by my instruction and their work on making sure they understand all the different forms of the skills. It is then assessed by my daily quiz. Their quizzes are graded by a rubric that I have included in this post.
The second level, Comprehension, is assessed by requiring them to demonstrate a problem, and label it step-by-step, for each type of skill that was covered. This is graded by using the included rubric.
The third level, Application, is assessed by requiring them to solve 3 word problems or write 1 of their own and then solve it. This is graded by using the included rubric.
The fourth level, Analysis, is assessed by giving them a lab that goes along with the skills they have learned in this unit. Not every lesson includes a lab, so this level is often skipped. I am blessed to have a curriculum that provides labs and the worksheets that go along with them, so for me, this does not require further development of a lab.This is graded by using the included rubric.
The fifth and final level, Synthesis, is assessed by having them go back to the vocabulary in the lesson and redefine them into their own words. This is one of my favorite levels. It allows me to see what they are hearing and seeing from that day's lesson. Very cool!!!
In order to get points for a level, they must have attempted the previous level. So for example, if I did Level 5, Synthesis, but have not attempted Level 3, Application, I do not get credit for level 5. If a student wishes to pass the class (meet the minimum standards), they must master the skill to a Level 3 on all lessons in the class and pass the mid-term and final exam to receive at least 60%.
So there you have it, my blueprint for alternative teaching for students who may or may not enjoy math. What makes this tool so powerful for students who aren't in search of an "A", is that this method spells out what they MUST do to if they wish to pass the class. I will try to answer questions though your comments on this post. Please excuse any delay of my response. I don't get a direct email when one is posted, so I will only see it when I check this post.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Looking for a teaching strategy with an interesting name? Well step right up and hear about the Brain Flush. This one is a variation of Think-Pair-Share, but with a twist. Think of it as flushing the toilet in your brain. All of what your students learn gets flushed out in a 60 second one-way-conversation. My students like to call this Brain Dump instead...You can imagine the side jokes.
After 10-15 minutes of teaching on a subject, pair students together in sets of two.
Have them identify each other as either 1's/2's or A's/B's.
1's/A's are first up. They have 60 seconds in which they must talk nonstop about what they just learned. At no point are 2's/B's allowed to talk. They are to just listen. I suggest using E.ggtimer.com as a visual timer for this exercise.
It is now the 2's/B's turn to talk nonstop for 60 seconds about what they just learned. Here is where it gets hard. 2's/B's cannot repeat anything that 1's/A's just said.
After they are done, continue on with your lesson for 10-15 minutes.
Repeat steps 3 and 4, but this time the 2's/B's go first.