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.
- 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.
I’ve already talked here about this journal assignment , which I based on clips from Jo Baoler’s lesson about making mistakes, so I’ll just post the document. Here’s an editable version: Ch. 5 Post Test Mistakes Journal
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
At the end of last year I posted a handful of goals I had for improvement. Here is this year’s version.
- Create clearer expectations for the logarithms unit — or at least make sure the unclarity is purposeful.
- Improve scientific notation materials.
- Revise the vocab lists for my word wall.
- Be careful about continuing instruction while students are still taking notes on prior info.
- Plan for more “discuss/work with a partner.”
- 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.
I remember drafting this post in May, but I guess it never made it out of my drafts folder. Until now, that is!
05/23/13 Here are some goals I jotted down for improving Trigonometry next year.
- Set better sections for student notebooks. The notebook sections I required this year were basically useless. Here’s what they should be:
- Notes and Classwork
- Quizzes and Tests
- Journals and Projects
- Trigonometry is not bathroom and drinking fountain time (yeah, it was a problem this year)
- Support the “function box” concept better*
- Make better intro learning activity for quadratic functions**
- Emphasize slope as a rate of change
- Contrast rate of change vs. accumulation
- More “discuss/work with a partner”
- Follow through on promise of notebook checks
7/10/13 Of course there are others, it seems hundreds more. Tweak that activity. Improve those notes. Allow them to critique their own presentations. Make sure homework assignments are worthwhile. But at the end of the school year, the bulleted eight were the goals that seemed big, essential.
*7/10/13 After coming across the illustration of inverse functions that I featured here, I’m not sure if I’ll continue to use the function box. I might.
**Number 4 is my primary curricular goal. At the end of last year I set a primary goal to improve the way I taught logarithms, with the result that this year the logarithm unit was one of the best of the whole year. Quadratics are the first non-linear functions my students study so their introduction deserves to be genuinely meaningful. Thus, it receives “primary goal” status.
Early last fall the speech-language pathologist I collaborate with suggested occasionally starting class with a short pop quiz for extra credit based on the material from the previous night’s homework. I don’t recall what issue it was meant to address, but I think it had something to do with students needing additional incentives/reinforcement to practice solving the problems accurately.
Here’s how they worked. The quizzes were usually 4-6 questions, with each question worth half-a-point added onto their homework score. Since they were worth extra credit, I didn’t guarantee plentiful time to complete them; when I needed to move on, it was time to pass the quizzes in. (Again, whining from the mathematically anxious crowd. And the chronically late crowd.) We didn’t discuss them together, but I passed them back, marked, the next day.
From a class management standpoint I liked that the quizzes helped get class started and reminded the students what kind of information they would be held accountable for. It also succeeded at giving students who completed their homework an extra chance to show what they had learned and boost their grades.
Because I didn’t want to offer extra credit all the time but I still wanted something to help get class started and give prepared students an extra chance to show what they had learned, I started doing “problems on the board” on off days. For these I simply spread problems of varying difficulty levels across the board and told the students to find one they felt comfortable solving, grab a dry-erase marker, and solve it on the board. Unlike the pop quizzes, these we did go over together after everyone was done. A couple additional benefits of this technique were that it started class with a bit of self-assessment as each student determined which problem to volunteer for and a little full-body motion as they went up to the board and solved it.