Entry Cards for Review

I can’t take credit* for this idea, but it is one I am loving and want to share…it’s quick entry question cards. Here’s how they work: I made about 10-12 cards and as each student came to the door, I stopped them, showed them a card and asked them the question. They told me their answer and if they were right, they got to come in and the next student behind them got a different card. If they were wrong, I told them a hint to help them answer correctly and then after they did, they were showed a new card with another question until they got one right and could come inside (if you have a long line of students, you could send them to the end of the line). Just be sure the questions are quick enough to answer in a few seconds. Kids liked this as another way to review before the test and to quickly check for understanding, I even had kids say, “ask me another!” I’m definitely going to start doing these more often with spiraled material and also on quiz/test days like today with the material for the test. capture-1

*Credit: A teacher from my team saw another teacher do this a few years ago.

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 (https://www.desmos.com/calculator/pn26rqzsje) 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.

Desmos and Functions

In Algebra, we just finished our unit on functions and a colleague of mine had been talking about Desmos, so I decided to explore it a bit and see if they had any resources on functions. I discovered Function Carnival and thought it would be a perfect mini project for applications of functions. The activity has students watch three videos simulating different carnival activities (a cannon man, bumper cars, and a Ferris wheel) and then asks students to draw the scenarios as functions. After each scenario, the students are also prompted to help find errors in a provided graph and explain how to fix it. Before creating their own scenarios, I wanted to be sure students fully understood the situations they had been practicing on Desmos. I thought it might take some students more tries than others to get their graphs correct (and it did), so I also added to the project by asking students to redraw their graphs on graph paper after they completed the Desmos portion. With their hand drawn graphs, they then had to correctly label the independent and dependent axis with names and units, and then find several key features of the graph such as domain, range, y-intercept, and extremas. That way, the concepts were reinforced and they were able to analyze correct graphs before creating their own. (Below are student examples of graphs).

cannon bumperferris

I am so happy with how this project turned out for several reasons:

  1. Every student was engaged in the Desmos activity. Giving students real world scenarios to physically see and digitally manipulate peaked students interest. The technology was easy for students to understand, but the scenarios were complex enough to capture their interest. Furthermore, students had the ability to self check their answers and when they weren’t exactly right, they wanted to go back and fix their mistakes to get the simulation to work precisely. It was tricky for some to understand why their path wasn’t matching, but I liked letting them have some time of productive struggle. They often called me over when they got their graphs perfect and wanted me to see their accuracy…I loved that!!
  2. Desmos incorporated a writing component for students to synthesize their learning. I really liked seeing how students interpreted the given scenarios and how they explained the errors that they were asked to correct. It gave students a chance to write in their own words about the mathematics of the situation. Telling students that I can also see this portion on my teacher view in Desmos perked them up to write in more complete sentences and will give me a chance to evaluate their grammar and mathematical vocabulary. Below are some examples:
    1. “The graph says that cannon man will have no suspension period in the air and that he will fall at the same speed going down without deploying his parachute. He should try adding a still period at the apex of cannons man jump and then making him fall fast. Afterwards he should slow him down before he hits the ground.”
    2. “The bumper car would end up going backwards because its going back towards the start. she needs to make it into a straight line.”
    3. “The graph says the bumper car goes back in both time and distance. To help her, I tell her to measure how far along the road the car´s traveled, NOT draw the car´s path.”
  3. The additional portion I added required students to create their own units for the graph and reflect on what was happening in the scenario. When students had to create their own axis, they had to logically think about what would make sense…some started to write that their cannon only shot up to 5 or 6 feet tall…that wouldn’t make for a very fun carnival event!! After understanding this, they fixed it and were able to justify more appropriate units. They also realized without units, they could not accurately state their domain and range.
  4. Vocabulary from our unit was reinforced at several points throughout the project. Several students quickly noticed when they drew extra lines in the Desmos window it would make more cannon men or bumper cars appear…which was quite fun :)…but beyond that, they explained to me that it was no longer a function because their graphs did not pass the vertical line test and there were too many outputs for one input. We also talked about the slope of the lines when the cannon man’s parachute deployed, when the bumper car crashed and stopped, and when the Ferris wheel ride had a constant speed. It brought meaning to the lines and why they were less steep, flat, or constant.
  5. Lastly, I got to use this super cool half graph and half lined notebook I requested for our math department!! 🙂 notebook

I’m looking forward to more Desmos projects! If you’re interested in the additional pieces I added to the project, Desmos Carnival Project.

Lions, Tigers, Math, Biology, World Geography, English, and DIM, oh my!

Okay, I know that title is cheesy…

We took our freshmen students to the zoo last week for their first class field trip and I loved how it wasn’t just a field trip related to one content area, but in our planning we managed to relate it to every class. Here is the link to the assignment: Zoo Student Handout and the explanation is below…just in case you’re going to the zoo anytime soon with students and want to do a similar activity. 🙂

To begin the zoo experience, the biology teacher asked students to research one animal that is at our local zoo and find out how much land area and resources the animal needs to live a healthy life (they have been studying health and wellness recently in biology). Then, in math I had students do this Estimation 180 as a warm up to review how we could estimate lengths and sizes. I explained that at the zoo, they will be using their estimation skills and area calculations to confirm or deny that their chosen animal has enough space. When we got to the zoo, students split up into groups to explore the zoo with the land and resources in mind. The math part of the assignment at the zoo also had students draw the enclosure using points, lines, planes, rays, and line segments if they were in geometry, and write/solve a linear equation about their day at the zoo if they were in Algebra. For the WorldEng (World Geography and English) portion, students were asked to reflect about borders and responsibility of the zoo to protect animal’s habitats. When we returned to school, students read an article about the city’s limitations of our zoo and the historical implications of the area. The next day in their Digital Interactive Media class (DIM), students wrote a blog post about their experience. They were asked to summarize the experience, discuss the area calculations and findings, and respond to some challenging questions about the zoo which forced them to consider multiple perspectives.

I’m looking forward to more opportunities that we can create interdisciplinary learning for students.

First Week Highlights

I just finished the first week of school and looking back, it was one of my favorite starts to the year. Normally I’m not satisfied with my first day of school activities and either feel that they’re too cheesy or too boring. This year, however, I finally feel really happy with how the first day went because I had a high level of engagement from my students and the rest of the week followed in the same way. So, to recap the week, here are a few highlights, including many protocols for certain activities that can be used throughout the year and not just the first days of school!

Monday (first day of school part 1): After scouring the internet for great first day of school activities, I was so excited to see that my favorite blogger started school a week before me…so I could thankfully steal one of her brilliant ideas!! I used her idea of having students complete a “quiz” about me as they entered the room. Most of them did not know any of the answers, but I brought in some hints like a water bottle from Trinity University which was the answer to the first question. So, looking around the room helped students complete the quiz and familiarize themselves with the classroom. After about five minutes, we checked the quiz. I realized they were all so much more engaged in learning about me because they wanted to be right (and win a prize) as opposed to previous years when I just told them about myself right away. There were cheers, claps, and sighs as they found out each of the answers with a Powerpoint I created showing corresponding pictures. After that, I had them create their own quiz, just like the Math=Love blogger. I decided to make it number answers only for the first few classes, but realized many of the answers were really hard for me to guess correctly and I would be learning about their lives wrong. So, for my afternoon classes I let them do word answers or numbered answers. I loved completing their quizzes; It gave me an insight into who they were and it gave me an authentic chance to practice their names on the second day of school by passing back papers (I’m still so bad at names…gotta keep practicing!!) In almost every class, several students asked about the quizzes with questions like, “did you do our quizzes yet…I can’t wait to see if you got mine right…” Clearly, this was a memorable activity for many and not boring…success! 🙂

Monday (first day of school part 2): After completing our quizzes, I explained our last activity: 31-derful. I found this activity from another favorite blogger: “Everybody is a Genius.” I displayed the same instructions she did and then let them go for it in groups. I loved seeing and hearing their thought processes with their groups. It gave me an insight into their problem solving and communication skills. Every class had 1-2 groups complete the puzzle and the other group were super close! Just like the activity above I knew this one was successful because on Tuesday (and Wednesday) several kids came into class asking if they could play the game again saying it was so fun!

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Tuesday (part 1): I saved setting rules and going over the syllabus for the second day because I didn’t want to rush through either one and I knew the first day class times would be shortened. Normally, when going over my own rules and setting classroom norms I have done a chalk talk. I like chalk talks, but students don’t understand the value of silence during this activity, and it’s hard for me to facilitate without saying to stay quiet every 5 seconds when they are hyped up from the first days of school. So, I thought I’d save introducing chalk talks for later in the year…or maybe one of my fabulous colleagues will do one before me and be better at keeping them quiet :). Instead, I did a four corners activity to facilitate setting classroom norms. I loved how this went for several reasons: It got students up and moving, but in a structured way. Also, as we discussed agreements and disagreements, students were standing, which at first I thought might be a little chaotic, but in every class, they actually listened really well while standing…somehow it made them more self aware to who was talking and what they were saying. I also liked hearing students voice their opinions about how they learn best. I think students felt safe sharing how they felt because they often had someone else beside them that felt a similar way.

Tuesday (part 2): After we set norms and before we went over the syllabus, we jumped into a discussion of our summer assignment (a reflection about their own math understanding after reading the freshmen assigned book, Bamboo People). With the suggestion from a fabulous colleague, I used a Microlab protocol to facilitate discussion. This went well because it gave all students a chance to speak while keeping the conversation flowing in a productive manner.

Wednesday: We started the day with a WODB warm up that I’m going to do this every Wednesday…I love this activity! With it, students had a chance to communicate their thinking while producing some really interesting debates. In geometry, I used “shape 5” which gave students some new language and facts that they will be using later in geometry such as a dodecagon, polygon requirements, and composite figure. In algebra, I used “number 1” and a couple students gave an argument for something I didn’t even see…9 didn’t belong because all the others made 7 when you added together their digits. After the warm up, geometry played TGT to review algebraic concepts before moving on to geometry (I’ve posted about this game before). All students were engaged in this game because it was competitive, but safe. I think having students choose their comfort level with the material helped them feel at ease and confident in their competition teams. In Algebra we completed a KWL chart with a preview to their first quiz. I think this helped set the tone for why they need to know what they will be learning the next few weeks. Then, we reviewed patterns by doing this lesson. It was a great, low prep activity that helped students review patterns and formulate their own thinking without me directly telling them the sequence. The next couple days we did some book work from our Springboard textbook. I am really liking the reading required from the textbook, but I realized I need to work on my facilitation of teaching from a textbook (this is my first year directly using one). I’m not going to use it every single day, but definitely more than I ever have in the past because I think it is a really good resource for STAAR type of materials.

Friday: After taking some notes and doing practice on Thursday about points, lines, and planes, geometry played this sketch game. It was great to hear students communicate their learning again to each other. Many were saying the process was so hard, but kept at it and saw that the more specific they were, the more accurate their partner’s drawing would be. Algebra had their first “standards check” before moving on to non linear patterns. Geometry will have one Monday. I think the format of the SBG checks are going to be really good for myself and students. I especially love having students know exactly what their learning goal is and having them self assess their learning.

One last highlight: So far, students are doing really well with my grading breakdown of homework/classwork counting for 0%. I know it’s only been one week of school, but students seem less concerned about what counts for a grade and whenever I assign a task to complete, they all jump into it knowing it’s for them to practice their learning…hopefully the rest of the year follows the same way!!

I’m so thankful for all the great resources I’ve found through other blogs and am ready to take on the second week with a little finalizing of plans tomorrow…for now, time to relax! 🙂