Thoughts from the Semester

As the first semester winds down, there are several things I have been reflecting on in my mind. I spent one class period of semester exams organizing a drawer full of manipulatives I created this year and it feels great to be clutter-free…so, I think organizing my thoughts about this semester in a post will double that feeling. Before my mind goes to winter break, here’s what I’ve been thinking…

  1. SBG Grading: I have continued to do a lot of research on this topic as I find my right path in standards based grading and I have a lot I feel confident about but also still have a lot of growing to do in this area. 
    • Disaggregating Quizzes: The main thing I am proud of that has worked really well is disaggregating my quizzes. Each quiz I give might be on one standard or it might be on multiple. Instead of giving one grade on the multiple standard quizzes, I give a grade for each standard. This has helped students (and myself) pinpoint exactly what students are mastering and what they still need to work on. Students come in to correct and retake only that portion and are using the language of the standard when they need to retake.
    • Self-Evaluation: I also like having students reflect on how they think they did on each quiz. I made this much simpler than my original plans (1. because it took up too much space, and 2. it saved time). At the bottom of each quiz is a simple question, how well do you think you mastered the standard ____________ of of a 1, 2, 3, 3.5, 4. Then there is a space for any comments for me to read and respond to. This adds an extra piece for them to re-read the standard, self evaluate, and provides a communication tool between me and the student.
    • Two areas of growth that I need to continue to work on are disaggregating tests and possibly being more standardized with my grading. I reverted back to 0-100 because it was easier for me and easier for students, but I still have thoughts about using a 4 point scale.
  2. I want to make reviewing for the Algebra 1 STAAR engaging and worthwhile for students. Sometimes when reviewing for several days (like for semester exams), I must admit, there are days where I feel like some students work and some students just waste time. I know if I don’t do a good job of planning the days, it will not be beneficial for students. I don’t want this to happen with STAAR review next semester. I have some stations I can use, I know I want to do a test taking strategies mini-lesson, and students need to continue to see past tested problems..but, in what ways can I make this enticing to students?! So…any ideas for standardized test prep is more than welcome here…leave a comment!
  3. I want to explore the Desmos activity builder more ( I saw this parabola activity on Twitter the other day and it looked really fun! It could be a great intro to quadratics for my Algebra 1 kids…or a follow up…I need to look into it more.
  4. I had an idea the other day while I was working with students on word problems and I realized students were reading from the middle of the sentence, jumping around to find key words, and then trying to answer the problem. As warm ups next semester, I need to include more lengthy problems and focus on reading strategies. I thought about starting out by covering up random parts of the sentences like they do in their minds and asking them to solve the problem…nearly impossible! Then with that hook, we can talk about more reading strategies to solve math problems throughout the following weeks…perhaps I can collaborate with our English teacher on the team.
  5. I planned a Julia Robinson Math Festival to be held at a local university for students at our school and a feeder middle school, but unfortunately we had to cancel it because of a huge flood back in October. We are rescheduling for February, but it is still not solidified and I just hope it can work out and be something extra for students to become more interested in math.
  6. I got accepted to present two sessions at CAMT, but soon after applying, I found out I was pregnant!! 🙂 🙂 With my due date only a couple weeks before the conference, I decided it was best to turn down the opportunity to present. I hope I can make it to the conference at least for a couple sessions in between baby time to continue learning this summer.
  7. Lastly, I want to continue to help my students become nicer and more thoughtful citizens. With bullying and hate so prevalent in this world, I as their teacher, want to instill a sense of kindness in my students that goes against high school stereotypes and promotes inclusiveness and compassion for others.

If you’ve gotten all the way to the end of this post, thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful holiday!!  



Tiered Lesson Plan

A few weeks ago, our administrative team presented ideas on devolved writing and tiered lessons to benefit student learning in our classes. They encouraged us to try one of them out and reflect on the strategy. I decided a tiered lesson would fit really well in my Algebra 1 classes because the these students have such a varying background knowledge and the new material of parameter changes would enable students to build off of their previous knowledge and/or help students start from a baseline understanding to develop the necessary skills.

My lesson began with a pre-assessment I created on Desmos ( which allowed students to visually see parameter changes of a function (I love Desmos…see this post for more Desmos!) I showed students a parent quadratic function and then used the sliders to manipulate the function with horizontal and vertical changes. Then, I asked a series of questions about the effects h and k had on the function. After answering independently, students self-assessed their answers and based on their accuracy I put them into tiered groups to work on the parameter changes assignment. In the assignment they investigated the h and k effects on both linear and quadratic functions, graphed the parameter changes, and wrote sentences summarizing the effects. The higher level tier gave fewer examples and required students to infer the information more quickly. Furthermore, this tier also asked students to summarize their learning in an open response format rather than with sentence stems and a vocabulary bank that the lower level tiered group had.

Several things went well in this lesson:

  1. Students felt a sense of ownership with their group. I was worried students might feel that they were put in the lower “dumb” group and feel defeated, but my lower level group was actually the hardest working group and they really bonded together wanting to .  improve upon their knowledge.
  2. Students relied on each other more than normal instead of myself to learn the material. I think this grouping process allowed for more transparency to students and they felt a sense of purpose in why they were with other students.

Revisions I made from class period to class period which helped:

  1. In the first class I did this lesson with, I was pretty lenient on the specificity of the answers from the pre-assessment, which made more students be in a higher tiered group when they really were not prepared with the language and understanding I wanted them to have. So, in the next classes, I was more particular on if students got their answers correct with vocabulary, language, and detail. For example if a student said the k made the graph move along the y-axis. That wasn’t fully correct for several reasons. I wanted students to verbalize that the graph moves up or down depending on adding or subtracting from the function and not always on the y-axis.  When I was more specific with student’s responses and language, it made students be in a more appropriate tier where they could learn and use the higher level vocabulary of parameter changes.
  2. Finally, with the appropriate grouping, the struggling students were able to use more sentence stems and vocabulary banks to write their summaries. The upper level tiered students then had the background knowledge and were able to write more open ended responses with their more advanced language.