Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My (underwhelming?) 100th Post

Since I posted last and saw on Blogger that it was my 99th post, I wondered what my 100th post should be. After all, 100 seems like a rather momentous number. There is a part of me that is somewhat in awe that I am writing my 100th post after starting this blog in June 2010. I don't really consider myself a writer and I really don't blog for anyone  or any purpose other than reflection on what I've encountered as a math teacher. Most of the time, taking the time to blog about something helps me sort it out in my head and if that doesn't happen, one of my readers offers a comment that is helpful to me (or in many cases affirms whatever it is that I'm going through is not something I alone am facing). But as I sit here on the last day of November, I still have a nagging issue in my head.

I've blogged about this before (first here, then here, and most recently here). It's the whole quizzing/reviewing thing. You guessed it, today was another quiz day in my Algebra 2 classes and tomorrow is quiz day in Advanced Algebra 2. I'm not through grading the Algebra 2 quizzes. The one class I have graded actually wasn't too bad. However, today I am frustrated with time. You see, I ended up spending most of the class period with my Advanced Algebra 2 students going over questions from the review I gave them (with answers, I should add!) instead of answering a few questions and starting into the next learning target as I had planned. Yesterday I had spent significant class time going over review problems with my Algebra 2 students, but I had pretty much anticipated having several questions from them given how things are going, plus quite a few were out on Monday since it was the start of deer hunting season with guns. I expected that my Advanced Algebra 2 students would remember things better and have a better grasp on it and I was disappointed with that today.

Now, granted, I think part of the reason going over the review took a little longer was the way I did it. Instead of my explaining the problem, I pretty much just wrote what students told me was the next step. After each step, I prompted them with "what's next" or something along those lines. I actually liked this - students had to articulate what to do which helps them to review it and there was some good discourse going on while we were working the problems. One student would ask how another student got something and the students answered it instead of me. I think that helped. I think I'll do that again and bring that more into my teaching and other classes. I liked that the students who knew or mostly knew what they were doing were engaged and reinforcing what they knew as students who had questions were getting them answered.

What I am really disliking this point is that I am spending so much time reviewing. I teach 3 concepts and as we are coming up on the next quiz (which has up to 6 concepts - 3 that were previously assessed, they got some written feedback, and now are being given a score for, and 3 that are the most recently taught concepts where they only receive feedback), I give them a review sheet with answers on the 2-3 concepts that are going to be graded. Students like having the review sheets because it gives them a good idea of what to expect. I get that. But since I am quizzing every 5-7 class days, I lose pretty much 2 days every 5-7 days. Not good. I'm already behind because these students didn't cover as much ground as they should have in Algebra 1 (I've talked about that a lot here) and now I am losing more time reviewing. In my last post about this issue, Damion really hit the nail on the head - like his students, my students don't seem to be retaining well.

In addition, we are coming up on Christmas Break here. Now, mind you, we just had Thanksgiving Break (we were off Wednesday - Friday last week). We have 2 full weeks (this week and next) and the third week, the students have 4 days while the staff has a waiver day on Friday (December 16th). So when students leave on Thursday, December 15th, the next time I see them in class will be Tuesday, January 3rd. Almost three whole weeks! Now, I will be honest, I am totally looking forward to being off school that long. However, being off that long will most likely mean that anything that I teach that last week before break (or earlier) will be mostly forgotten by the time I see them again on January 3rd. I am pretty certain that I am going to need to assess everything before break, which would mean that I would not have a feedback opportunity for them.

So, at this point, I am trying to figure out what to do. I am already contemplating going back to how I used to assess - teach the concepts that form a "unit," actually follow through on quizzing for feedback only every 2-3 concepts and at the end of the unit, have a day or possibly two of review and assess. Just as I typed that, my mind was mentally calculating and maybe I'm not losing as many days as I think... I'll have to ponder that a little later on. (ooooh - squirrel!) Or, I could continue in the same manner - teach 3, assess with most recent 3 concepts getting feedback and the 3 concepts before that earning grades in the gradebook. I'm not sure what other options I have at this point without dramatically changing things and I don't want to go down that road right now. Another option I had contemplated during the summer was to give each concept 2 grades and combine them - that's definitely not something I want to change to mid-year. I'll have to think about that come Summer 2012.

So, here's where you, wonderful readers, come in. I need some help. I can't shake this issue in my head. I'm on my 4th blog post about this issue and I can't work it out in my head. Please offer thoughts, experiences, advice, etc. - Do I keep my assessment system the same (teach 3 - assess 6, 3 graded, 3 feedback), revert back to what I've done before (teach the unit, quiz for feedback a few times, and give a "unit test" with however many concepts are on it), or something else? I look forward to interacting with you in the comments!


Cam in Melbourne said...

While I have no feedback to offer you, I wanted to let you know what I get from your posts. I am a student teacher and will have my own class for the first time next year. Your reflections are giving me pause for thought as I approach my lesson planning, and and your style of reflecting is helping me to reflect myself on my teaching rounds.
Keep your chin up, you we helping many others. I hope you get the feedback you need.

Anonymous said...

Every 5-7 days?! I don't know if that's ever sunk in for me before. That's every week for all intents and purposes. No wonder you're drowning in grading all of the time.

misscalcul8 said...

What kind of questioning do you do while you're teaching?

Questioning is one of my strengths and I don't know if it's a huge help in retention but I think that it has made a difference for me.

On any problem we talk about be it a bell ringer, in the notes, on the homework, etc I question every step. Like you mentioned in how you review, is that the way you question when you teach? Questions like how, why, what comes next, what if you did this, what if this happened, how do you start, what's one thing you know how to do, etc.

For me it helped me to put responsibility on them and an easy way to integrate critical thinking into my daily routine. Also, make sure to ask these questions randomly to random students to get a better feel for how the class as a whole is understanding.

That's my two cents.