Thursday, September 08, 2011

Slowly Adjusting

We are just more than a week into the new school year. Things are moving along slowly but steadily. I have been wanting to blog for about two-three days now, but things have been a bit busy at home. Our bathroom remodel started today. It's getting late, but I need to get a couple of things out of my mind before heading off to sleepy-land.

Advanced Algebra 2
Numbers in this class are up to 18 - I had a late switch of a student from Algebra 2 to Advanced. So far, not too bad here. As usual for this class, the students are delightful (personality-wise) and fairly disciplined workers. I am hopeful that we will get to do some great things with this class this year. I did discover the lack of fraction skills with this group - which is a concern. We spent the good part of a class period reviewing how to deal with fractions. I am hoping that for the moment, that will hold off some of the problems with fractions and that their skills will increase. I have set up a Moodle for them, but students haven't signed up yet for it. I am hoping that will get remedied this weekend. This class looks to have some good potential.

Math 1
For the first time in quite some time I think, I only have one section of Math 1. This section is half IEP students (LD primarily) and half regular ed students. As is typical of this type of class, it is a chatty bunch and there is a potential for some discipline issues. I am still waiting for the population of this course to shake out - it looks like I may lose 3 more students yet (1 IEP, 2 regular) and I think that will keep the balance at about 50-50. I do have an aide in this class with me and I am very familiar with her - she was in my Algebra 2 class last year with an autistic child. She does a super job and I work well with her. So far, things are going pretty well. I have been impressed with how the students have worked and they have done well so far I think. I do like having only one section of Math 1 - it allows me to proceed at a pace that I feel works for the class and I am not having to be concerned with keeping pace with the other section of Math 1 (which a different teacher has). In the long run, I think that will allow this class to flourish.

Algebra 2
I was a bit worried after Wednesday's pretest last week. Between having discipline issues in my last class and the lack of effort on the pretest, I was concerned that I would not see good effort out of these classes. For the most part, they have been working pretty well. Last period is going to have some issues and they will stem around 2 students (both of whom I have had twice previously). One parent I have already talked to, the other I think I will be talking to shortly. This class also has the largest percentage of juniors and seniors - these are students who are taking Algebra 2 later than the "normal" track, which means they have definitely had issues previously in math. Some of these students are doing a super job (including a couple of last week's discipline issues), some of these students, not quite as well. Should be interesting how it plays out. I have also been rather impressed with how well my first class has done. They have been very honest in their self-assessments of where they are at mathematically and they have worked exceptionally well this week.

Some New Things (for me)
So far, the bellringers are going okay. I do like having a "theme" to work with - it has helped keep the idea fresh for me. We've done more than our fair share of testing review over these two weeks - I am looking forward to having a full week to shake things up a bit. My "Free-for-all Friday" warm up tomorrow is 2 3x3 KenKens. I'll be curious to see how they do with it.

I have been getting kids in all three preps up to the board to show selected problems. This is new for me - not something I have done very regularly (or even at all) in my teaching career. I think, so far, this has gone well. We'll see how this continues.

As far as being less helpful, that's a bit of a struggle for me. I am working on asking more questions instead of automatically diagnosing errors, but this has been difficult. It is especially difficult because I really feel that these students (in Algebra 2 especially) are so low and behind of where I would expect them to be that they need to be guided to get them up to speed. I'll have to keep working on this one.

I did my explanations of solving equations a bit differently this time around. I'm not sure why or what light bulb went on as I was doing the explanations, but I think it's helping. Since students come to me with the perception that they are moving variables/numbers and/or "cancelling," I have really tried to hit home with them that they are supposed to be getting 0x's (or whatever variable) on one side, then 0 for the numbers on one side, and finally ending up with 1x. I think it is helping and hopefully when we get to assessments next week, I'll see that.

I think that's about it for the moment. I haven't delved into rich problems as I want to yet. I'm still thinking about how I want to go about that first. For Math I, our next unit deals with reviewing the operations rules for integers. I am hoping to find something that will work there. For Algebra 2, I am looking at doing something similar to what Kate Nowak developed. Next up for them is graphing linear equations and the related materials (slope, writing equations given certain information, parallel & perpendicular lines).

Also up next are the first SBG quizzes for them. I am trying to figure out how to incorporate some review without giving up too much class time. In the past, I would spend 2 or so days at the end of a unit reviewing and give a unit test (even with SBG last year, I did that). This year I am trying the "teach 3, quiz (3), teach 3 more, quiz (6)" method and giving only feedback on the newest 3 concepts. Any help from my readers who use this basic method of testing as far as how to handle reviewing would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks for taking the time to read - I am a better teacher because I take time to reflect and many of you have commented or tweeted me with suggestions or things to think about, which has also helped me to be a better teacher. Thanks!

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