Monthly Archives: May 2014

Journal 6: Rank the Solving Methods

Journal 6 asked students to rank the three quadratic solving methods they’d been working on: factoring, graphing, and the quadratic formula. This was the most heavily curriculum-related writing they’d had to do, which is probably why they struggled to describe the math with any specificity.

I liked having written evidence that preferences for solving methods differed, so I posted opposing excerpts in the classroom (for example, one student talked about preferring the factoring method, while another described how he hated that method the most).

Editable version: Ch. 7 Pre-test Rank Solving Methods Journal

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Journal 5: Script of a Lesson

Journal 5 was inspired by this fun post by Ben Orlin over at Math with Bad Drawings (it’s a script of trying to teach students that some ideas take time). I provided the text of his post for us to read/act out together, then asked students to come up with other lessons a math teacher might want her students to learn (I had to help the ideas along a bit). Finally, the assignment was for each student to pick one of those lessons and write a script of a teacher trying to teach that lesson to students.

The idea of a creative writing assignment in a math class is pretty cool already, but one that gets kids to consider the big-picture lessons they’re learning and engage in some teacher role playing sounds like a real winner. The kids were genuinely excited about this journal, and the scripts they turned in are some of the most enjoyable student writing I’ve ever graded. I made copies of them, and in my end-of-year nostalgia I’ve already flipped back to read them twice.

Some highlights:

  • A script that showed Niall Horan of One Direction learning that coming in to ask for help is not so bad after all.
  • A couple scripts that took all the personalities in our class and played up their characteristics.
  • A couple scripts that seemed like therapeutic coming-to-terms with past math class experiences.
  • Scripts that revealed different student approaches: some chose lessons they’ve already mastered and could make a good case for, while others chose those they need to work on.

Download an editable version of the assignment here: Ch. 5 Part 2 Post Test Journal. Write a Script

*The optional math problem for students to include in their scripts was suggested by my co-conspiring SLP to provide students with some solid framework to hang their ideas on. Most students opted out of using it. For some it was essential.

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Journal 3: Try Something

Journal 2 should have been counted as a regular homework assignment, so I’ve jumped to Journal 3, where I started trying to change the anxious, mistake-fearing culture of the class. The text I excerpted from the Pacific Standard was difficult for students to digest, so we spent a good piece of time pulling the meaning out of the text. An editable version of the assignment can be downloaded here: Try Something Journal Prompt

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End of Unit Routine

  1. Vocab Day: vocab review games, with emphasis placed on words from the current unit, although other words are included as well.
  2. Study Guide, Day One: The study guide begins with a list of concepts, terms, or skills students will need for the upcoming test, then provides practice problems. To start things out we always read through the list of skills one by one, with a pause for self-assessment after each. The students discreetly show how confident they feel with each skill with a thumbs-up, thumbs-down, or thumbs-somewhere-in-between. They can use the rest of the period to work through practice problems.
  3. Study Guide, Day Two: Open for continuing practice, checking answers, asking questions, etc.
  4. Test Day
  5. Journal or Project Day
  6. Students get Tests Back, Begin Test Corrections

Goals for the Future

At the end of last year I posted a handful of goals I had for improvement. Here is this year’s version.

  1. Create clearer expectations for the logarithms unit — or at least make sure the unclarity is purposeful.
  2. Improve scientific notation materials.
  3. Revise the vocab lists for my word wall.
  4. Be careful about continuing instruction while students are still taking notes on prior info.
  5. Plan for more “discuss/work with a partner.”
  6. Provide examples of written work by previous students — practice critiquing them as class starter activities or as a way to get the writing juices flowing before a journal assignment.