Monday, May 14, 2012

Bellringers - Next Year

As the year is winding down, I start to think of things I want to change. Last summer, one of the things I wanted to put together was some sort of organized bellringers/warm-ups for students to work on when they got into class. Although I like having a theme for each day, my students really don't do the bellringers as I would like. So, of course, that means some tweaking.

I am still going to keep to my Testing Tuesdays/Thursdays I think. I think it is the best way to expose my students to OGT style questions and since the OGT was done in March, I have been using practice ACT questions on those days. This website has been very helpful. I would like to have a better way to ensure they actually practice them and I am considering having half sheets of paper for students to work them and turn in. Maybe that will get them actually doing them...

I am debating still what to do about Mondays and Wednesdays. I may still keep Mental Mondays - I like the brain teasers and trivia questions I have put in front of them. They do make them think, but again, I don't think they take it as seriously as I'd like. What We've Been Doin' Wednesdays may also stay or become some sort of a flex day. The biggest issue is getting them to actually do the problems.

I think the biggest change I am going to make is on Fridays. With just having finished radicals, it is incredibly apparent that their basic math skills are sorely lacking. I still don't get how students do not have a concept of what a perfect square is, even after (re)explaining it and giving them a list (plus telling them how to re-create the list). If the list isn't in front of them, many cannot come up with perfect squares. It also bothers me immensely how calculator dependent students are for basic integer operations.

So, here's my solution: Fact Fridays. Students will come into class on Friday and get 5-10 index cards with basic facts on them - all four operations with integers, perfect squares, perfect powers they should know, square roots, cube roots - whatever facts they ought to be able to recall quickly. They are to go up to another student, or once I've done attendance, me, and he or she will show the student a fact. Either they can answer it (I'll put the answers on the back) and get the card, or they cannot and the quizzing student keeps the card. The student with the most at the end of a set time (probably 3-5 minutes) will get a (candy) treat. I'm not 100% sure on this, but this is as far as I've hashed it out. Any comments or suggestions are welcome.

I realize that students have become this way because of the lack of emphasis of having basic facts memorized in the previous (Ohio) curriculum and the tendency of previous teachers to emphasize the use of the calculator when a student is stuck. I'm certainly guilty of the latter. At this point, I want to encourage the fact fluency that the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics is pushing. I'm hoping to be a part of the solution rather than perpetuating the problem. I hope this helps.


misscalcul8 said...

I had a similar problem with perfect squares as well.

I used Julie's Cheez-It idea for the first time and it really helped. I wrote a random number on the board and the students had to arrange that many Cheez-Its into either a rectangle or a square. They quickly figured out that to form a square they had to have the same number of columns and rows. Once they started to figure out if it was a square or rectangle in their heads, I knew they were understanding.

I also use this Perfect Challenge where our goal is everyone in the class can write the perfect squares 1-20 in less than one minute without a calculator. We do it at least once a day, sometimes twice and I time them. I let them use a calculator the first few times and then wean them off of it. I write their time down every day and they really seem to like trying to beat their own score. My fastest kid's time is 33 seconds.

These have worked well for me; I guess the kinesthetic and visual part really help.

Fawn Nguyen said...

Hi Lisa. I think most of us teachers want to revamp and improve our lessons/routines year after year. (I'm still working on my homework policy! @Fouss is too, her new post out today.)

My warm-ups, however, might be the only thing that I'll be keeping as is. I wrote a post about it
Maybe there is something there or a spark of idea for something else?