Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Practicing in Class Update

Over the last few weeks,  I have been complaining about my students' lack of practice and being able to work on their own. I did want to give a quick update, but first I need to give a shout-out to my great twitter friend @druinok for her blog post on practicing that she put together after my complaining. I have tried some of her suggestions and I am grateful to have had a one-stop resource to start looking for ideas.

My Math 1 students had a test today and I used the colored folders activity from Mrs. Graham's Math with them on Monday. I took some 12" x 12" card stock and cut it into 4 6" x 6" squares and wrote review questions on them. Each color had the same type of problems on them. With my Math 1 students, I put the answers in the folder they would get next so they wouldn't just copy the answers. I felt my students worked very well with this review activity. Almost every student was engaged and some of them were helping each other. This is my inclusion class and it allowed both me and the aide in class to get around and help students. My only complaint (and it's my own fault) is that some problem sets didn't take as long to do as others did, so there was a little too much down time. I think if the problem sets took around the same amount of time, this would work well. I did Speed Dating with them again (they did it before the previous test) and also did fairly well with it. The one thing I have found with them is they tend to take the problems they are comfortable with rather than challenging themselves to work with one they are not as sure of. Overall, it's been a successful week with them and I think I'll be looking to do more of these type activities with them.

My Advanced Algebra 2 students also had a test today. Instead of giving them a review sheet like normal, I broke it up and used the same colored folders activity I used with Math 1. I did put the answers in the same folder as the problems because they like to know they are correct as they are working on it. I think they were a little more engaged than if I had given them the worksheet to do the problems, however, their test scores today were not good. I'm trying to figure out if they didn't learn the learning targets very well when they were taught and it's catching up with them or if the different way of reviewing is the issue or what. More on that in another blog post, perhaps.

My Algebra 2 students did the notecard activity that Mimi blogged about on Monday - I had originally planned this for last Friday but didn't have time. We did a new lesson Tuesday and since today was our last day before Spring Break, I put together a relay activity similar to what @druinok mentioned in her practicing blog post. I set up 6 sets of cards and made duplicates so I had 12 sets of cards. I used the Random Word Chooser to have students choose partners (or in one class - 1 group of 3) and had them get whiteboards. Once they were settled, I explained the rules: They would each begin with a card (face down to begin) and work out the problem on the card. When they thought they had the correct answer, one team member was to bring the whiteboard up with their card and I would check it. If it was correct, they would get the next card. If it was wrong, they had to go back and fix it. (In most cases, I gave them a hint as to what was wrong to keep them moving along.) The first 6 teams to successfully get through their cards (I did 9) would get to pick a plastic egg from my basket (they all had candy in them).

At the start, most of my students were engaged. When they got stuck, some of them got really stuck. (The first 2 problems had GCF factoring in them -  I have no idea why they don't "see" it, but that's another story.) In all three classes, there were 2-3 groups that basically seemed to give up after struggling for a while with the problems and those groups got through maybe 2 problems each. However, most of the classes were engaged and working - and it was the last day before Spring Break!

Here's what I am struggling with: although I am seeing more students who are engaged with practicing the math when I do this in class, it takes a lot of work to set these up, even when I am taking problems from worksheets (and not creating them from scratch). I probably have about 2 1/2 hours invested in the set up of the relay activity. Right now, I don't have a lot of extra time to give to keep setting up these kind of activities. However, it does mostly pay off since the students are doing the math and seem to be somewhat enjoying it. I am still seeing an issue in terms of them not completing homework or worksheet/book problems. How do you get the students to realize that they still need to do outside work, especially now when the weather is nicer and we are getting near the end of the year? I'm not sure what that answer is right now.

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