Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Last year with my Algebra 2's and SBG didn't seem this frustrating to me. We are in our last week of the grading period right now and of course kids seem to now care because they are in that lovely point chasing mentality. We had a quiz yesterday - same format I have been doing all year - grade 3 learning targets and feedback on 3 (although I only did two because if I waited for the third one it would have been so long since we did the earlier 3 that I don't think they would have done well). The 3 graded were graphing linear equations (slope-intercept form), write equations given 2 points or 1 point and slope of the line, and write equations given a point and a line either parallel or perpendicular to it. The 2 feedback were solve a system of equations by graphing and solve a system of equations by substitution (both 2 equations 2 variables systems). As I have been doing since the second quiz, I did give them a review page with answers over the three to-be-graded learning targets before the quiz.

The students did okay on the graded learning targets. They didn't knock it out of the park, but my real sense about this group is they are not going to be knock-it-out-of-the-park students unless they do more preparation on their own. When I got to grading the feedback portion, most them had no clue on how to graph the two equations together. Same kids who did pretty well on the graphing one equation on a coordinate plane. Same kids who were able to solve for y to get the equation in slope-intercept form couldn't do it on the back. Directions said to graph and students were trying to do substitution (most unsuccessfully). Or in several cases (way too many to count and way too many for my comfort), students didn't even attempt the feedback only problems.

It's like they don't even see the connections between material we have done previously to what we are doing now. And they certainly aren't retaining things well. Today we worked on more substitution problems, which we did Thursday and Friday (and I gave them a notes page to try to guide them to either take notes or fill in what was important) and I would say from what I saw about half still had no clue what they were doing and most of the other half was struggling to remember where to start.

I am frustrated at this point on many fronts. I am frustrated that I am teaching Algebra 1 stuff to my Algebra 2 students. I am frustrated at how long it takes them to get concepts. I know I can't change that one, but I need to find a way to deal with this better and quick or I am going to be one really frustrated teacher all year. I am frustrated at how dependent my students are. I am frustrated that I haven't done or felt like I can do my goals of incorporating reasoning and sense making materials or being less helpful (see this post for details). There is a part of me that thinks that if I tried to bring in reasoning/sense making activities that it would help my students. Then there's the other part of me who looks back at days like today where I see my students so dependent and not willing to think or try something on their own and I wonder if it's really worth trying.

Getting back to the SBG bit - with getting back their quizzes today and the end of the grading period being Friday, I had several students wanting to reassess. Most of the ones that came up knew what they had done wrong. Those who didn't, we worked through their problems and I think they better understand it. But part of my concern at the moment is that my students are working to just learn the three learning targets they are getting graded on and not working on the big picture. I don't know if that's because of the system I'm using (grade 3 - give feedback on 3). I'm not sure if I'm helping by giving them review problems on just the three learning targets being graded. Well, I guess I'm helping some because they are preparing, but I cannot continue to spend lots of time reviewing if I am quizzing every 5-8 class days. I'm not sure what the answer is to this one.

At this point I just have a bunch of questions and no answers. My thoughts are still pretty jumbled on all of this. I'm hoping that just getting some of it out here will help straighten my thoughts eventually. @cheesemonkeysf probably said it best - my subconscious has to be working through this somehow even though I don't feel like I have any answers. Hopefully it comes to me soon.


Anonymous said...

I know I work with a different set of kids (jrs and srs in calculus) but I don't really spend much time on review because of how frequently we assess. In a way this forces them to review on their own. Unfortunately they don't all do so.

Are you grading the 3 new LTs and feedback on the 3 previous LTs? Or the other way around?

I have been having 4 concepts on each assessment, 2 newest, 2 randomly selected previous concepts. I grade all 4 and always keep the most recent score on a concept. This has encouraged many of my students to actually study. They at LEAST review all of the previous assessments I've given.

Lisa said...

@agktmte - The new/most recent LTs are the ones I give feedback only on. The previous/older LTs are the ones I grade - they have already received feedback on them. Another thought I have had was to grade all of the LTs being assessed and if they've mastered it the first time, they don't have to do it a second time. Another possibility is to add the two scores together. I haven't decided if that's the route I want to go.

I started out the year not reviewing at all and they didn't do very well. By at least giving them a review to work on in addition to whatever practice problems are given. They at least practice some review then.

Kamilla Higgins said...

I agree with @cheesemonkeysf's words. Just wait some time and this will come to you. I had the same situation some years ago, and now I'm absolutely ok! So, don't lose any sleep over this, it's a temporary problem.

Anonymous said...

I have the same frustration about students no seeing connections. I recently gave a quiz on slope-intercept form which about half of my algebra students failed. This is a few weeks after a quiz on slope that they all did fairly to very well on.

I think the main reason that they didn't see the connection between these two ideas--I mean how much more connected can you get? slope, slope-intercept--was because I told them the connection, I pointed it out to them, but I didn't get them to grapple with it and figure out for themselves what the connections were. I think if I had made them explain it, instead of explaining it to them, more of them would have been able to access their prior knowledge and be successful. We're reassessing at the start of the next trimester in a few weeks, so we'll see how it goes!