Thursday, October 28, 2010

One Quarter Down

Tomorrow is the end of the first nine weeks.  Today was my cut off day for reassessments, except for Calculus who just had their test today on limits and continuity.  Their cut off is Monday (no school Tuesday and grades are due first thing Wednesday morning). 

Some random thoughts:

I like how SBG gives confidence to my Math 1 students.  Students who have not passed math or passed with D's are doing better (grade-wise) than they have in the past and I think that has kept them paying attention at least.  Problem is, the first nine weeks up until this week was pretty easy content-wise for them - all things they have seen before.  Not doing homework (or much of it) probably didn't hurt them too much.  We got into solving equations this week and now it's becoming more difficult.  They need to do practice in order to be successful.  My classes were fairly engaged today as we went over equations with variables on both sides -  my 3rd period in particular asked some good questions which really impressed me.  However, I am still struggling with the "how do I get them to do practice (i.e. homework) outside of class" issue.  For that matter, it is still a struggle with some of my kids to get them to do practice in class in the last 10-15 minutes of class.  It's like they have used up any restraint they have paying attention to the lesson and participating in that and they have nothing left to work through any problems in class.  Anyone have any suggestions for me here?  Do I go back to checking homework and recording that it's done, partially done, or not done?  I like not having to walk around and check it and I don't know if that will carry any weight with them.  Anyway - any and all comments and suggestions are welcome here.

Calculus is, well, the same struggle it's been all nine weeks.  I have kids coming in for reassessments to "pull up grades" I'm sure - not to learn it.  A couple of them have asked some really good questions as we have worked through the limit and continuity concepts, but it is obvious to me from their questions that this group is so incredibly low for a Calculus group.  There are so many pieces of things they should understand that they have not understood until I explained it to them.  Things they should have gotten in Algebra 2.  Usually by now I have been doing derivatives for about 2 weeks and we haven't even gotten to the definition of derivative.  We'll start that tomorrow.

Algebra 2 and Advanced Algebra 2 are working through systems of equations.  With their quizzes this week it is becoming apparent to me that homework is an issue here, too (like in my Math 1 classes).  The quiz was on graphing, substitution, and elimination methods for solving systems of equations.  In my Advanced Alg 2 class, they did not do well on graphing and substitution but did fine on elimination (which we had covered last).  In my regular Alg 2 classes, they didn't do well on all 3 but did especially poorly on graphing and substitution.  I was especially disappointed iin my Advanced Alg 2 kids because I expect them to work to learn the concept and I feel they were not practicing my class as much as they should have since I wasn't checking the homework.  Again, it's the end of the grading period and these are the kids who want to have all As (and Bs), so you know they are concentrating on making sure they have done what they need to.  I think my regular Algebra 2 kids have similar problems to my Math 1 kids - they aren't using their time in class well at all. 

The State of Reassessments

As far as reassessments go, my Advanced Algebra 2 kids and my Calc kids are the main ones coming in.  I have some Algebra 2 kids coming in as well but as far as Math 1 kids go, very few (if any) have been in.  I know I am not doing the best job of reminding them to come in for reassessments and help.  This is something I am struggling with at the moment.  Part of the problem is that I have been out of class 5 times in the last 3 weeks between meetings, my own personal day, and a sick day since my kids were sick.  (I probably should have taken a sick day Wednesday for myself but with having kids coming in for reassessments plus with Calc having a test Thursday, I didn't want to miss yet another day).  Since I've been out of class so  many times, it's hard to restart teaching and remembering what all I wanted to go over.  Plus, with SBG being so new to me, I'm not quite in that groove I need to be to "sell the system." (I don't know what other phrase to use - but I guess I mean the getting students to buy in to come back and get help on what they haven't mastered and then reassess.)  I want students to take responsibility themselves and come in.  After parent-teacher conferences, I had a couple of students ask about reassessing but then they never followed up.  I'm not their mom - I don't want to have to keep haranguing them about it.  But, I do want them to learn the material.  So, now what?

Overlying Questions

So, here's what's floating around my head at the moment:
1) How do I deal with the homework issue?  That is, how do I get my students to buy in that they need to do outside of class practice even though I am not grading it?

2)  What do I need to be telling my students about reassessing and coming in for help?  How often do I need to mention it?  How do I get them away from playing the grading game and get them to want to do it to learn?  I know I can keep saying it but at some point, they are going to shut me off.  Do I just let it be?

3)  In the current #sbarbook we're reading (Never Work Harder than Your Students by Robyn Jackson), she suggests having a remediation system set up with red flags.  For example, if a student's grade falls below 75%, they have to do (something).  If a student scores less than a 3 on 3 or more concepts on a test, they have to do (something).  Etc.  Has anyone tried this?  What did you set up?  Does anyone think this is worthwhile?  What are some good interventions for students without making my life crazy (in other words, forcing them all to come see me for help)?

4)  The other suggestion that is floatiing in my head from Jackson's book is about modeling.  I don't think some of my Algebra 2 students and most of my Math 1 students know how to take good math notes or how to work through homework.  Today, when I told my Algebra 2 kids to keep their quizzes out and write down the right way to do the problems, they actually did.  When I've gone over their quizzes in the past, I don't think they've done that.  I don't think they have any clue how to take notes or even how to organize homework.  Does anyone have any good suggestions on how to help them take good notes and do better homework?  How about sample "problems" with good examples/good non-examples of what to do?  Or any other suggestions on how to help them in these areas?

An Apology

If you've made it this far, thank you.  I apologize for asking so many questions and offering little suggestions of great things I'm doing in my classroom that you can use.  Right now I am just at the point where I need some guidance and I know the twitter-blog-o-sphere is a great place for that.  Any and all suggestions are welcome at this point and hopefully in the future, I can give you something useable.  Thanks.


Anonymous said...

I am only doing SBG with my calculus classes (seniors), and most of them are so worried about colleges that they do their homework (or they don't need to because they get it). I am going slower this year than last year also -- maybe a consequence of my students, but also I know it has to do with the fact that I take more days in class to assess them than I did before (when there were 3 or so large high stakes tests per quarter).

Some thoughts:

1. I spoke to students at the start of the year, about the grading system, and about 3 times in the first month, we had a discussion about it. Not "do you like it or not" but "what does ___ mean for you?" and "why are we doing this?" and "what are the pitfalls you can fall into, because this seems so beneficial to you...?"

Talking about it explicitly and frequently, I think, was important. I feel I should have even talked about it more.

I think for kids who you don't want to "nag" -- I say, don't "nag" but encourage. At least for the next quarter. Talk to them about how you believe in them, and how you want them to show you how much they know. That they can be math rockstars.

Once they see they can do well, that could help a bunch of them.

As for the homework thing: that's HUGE. Some ideas:

1. Walk around and record whose doing it, but don't count it for a grade. Just knowing that they're accountable, and that you can call them out on it, might help some.

2. Talk to a couple students who DO reassess and do their homework... who might not be doing as well in a traditional class... and if they'd be good models, invite them to talk to the class about what they do, why they do it, and any tips they have to share. (One big one will be DO YOUR HOMEWORK, I'm pretty sure.)

3. Do an exercise with your kids one class where you teach them something hard, but don't let them pick up their pencils. Just watch. That's about 15 minutes. Then give them a short 2 question quiz. Collect them.

Then give them 15-20 minutes to practice, ask each other and you questions, and work through some problems. Then give them another short quiz (similar to the practice problems). Collect them.

Grade both and show them the results. Have them come up with the conclusion. (Hopefully: Math is not a spectator sport. The work you put in affects the work you produce. Yadda.)


Lisa said...

@Sam - I LOVE #3. Definitely going to have to try that one.

On #1 - the more I think about it, the closer I am coming to the conclusion that I am going to need to make them accountable somehow. One fleeting thought I had today was to pass around a sheet where they have to write how much they did of the assignment or if they did the assignment or something like that. Not sure if I am going to do that or not - I wonder how honest they would be (especially my Math 1 kids).

On #2 - I am going to have to think about if I've got some kids that would do that. Good point there.

As far as Calc goes - I had forgotten about the extra assessment time. Like you, I used to give about 3 big tests a grading period. I gave 2 this time plus 3 quizzes (which took up at least half a period), so that slows us down too. But this group is HONESTLY the lowest I've had. There are really some skills they should have that they don't as well as prior knowledge they don't have. I am encouraged to know that someone else is "behind" (for lack of better word). Thanks!

Dvora said...

From some of my reading of other blogs and via Twitter, an idea that might hello is that in order to reassess kids must show you something that shows they have done more work towards understanding. This may lead some back to e hw they might not have done and maybe help them understand why the practice is important.

This year, I am reviewing hw and giving feedback, but there is no grade for the work. I do expect it to be completed and will speak to a student if not. We use the work to begin the next class so it is definitely to their advantage. As you are just getting to new ideas, it may take some a bit of time to understand their need to practice, but most get it.

Also in a class last year, I went around while we reviewed hw and just checked for completion. It was not part of a grade, but something I could use to have a conversation with a student or their parent if needed.

Dan Anderson said...

Good questions, most of which I don't have answers to.
1) But, as to the homework/practice question, I too have started SBG this year and I haven't noticed any dropoff in homework completion so far this year. I treated it exactly like last year, I check it every day that it's assigned, and put down a "grade" in the grade book. They know that it isn't worth anything for points, but the kids are still doing the practices. You could try a warning that they can't try and re-take a quiz until the practice on that topic is completed. It might be another carrot for them to complete the practice. I told them this but I've decided to not abide by it (yet).

4) Something that I've tried that has been somewhat successful when handing back quizzes, is I ask the people who scored a perfect on a specific concept to stand up and put away their quiz. Then I give the class 2 minutes to ask one of those people standing or myself how to fix their errors on their quiz. At the very least, you can celebrate the kids who do well, and then you can see the kids who aren't asking from help from you or their peers and confront them about it.

Anonymous said...

I saw similar problems with the homework, but I've had some success with increased rates.
I started taking a quick hands-only survey on homework. Question 1: who's done at least one homework problem since last class? Question 2: who has done enough problems that they feel comfortable with the topic?

That way I'm keeping some track of what homework they don't do, and reinforcing the point of homework. It seems to be working so far, I only had to have sit-down discussions with 2 students out of 100 about "just because it isn't graded, doesn't mean you don't have to do it."

John said...

I'm a big fan of practicing and demonstrating in class what you want students to do. For homework, maybe try a flipped class (reverse teaching) where they do the lecture (video or textbook) at home, then do the homework in class. Doing the homework there will give you a chance to see how students are doing it, and suggest/model ways to make it more useful to them.

Just an idea!