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 (https://teacher.desmos.com/). 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!!  

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Open Middle

After joining the Twitter Open Middle conversation last week by Michael Fenton, I was intrigued to try out some Open Middle problems in the last few weeks of school. To kick off our review for the final exam, I posed one problem to Algebra II and one to Geometry. My students reactions were great, starting with one kid saying, “nope, Mrs. Taplin, it’s impossible.” After explaining the concept of “Open Middle” and encouraging them to have some grit and resilience with the problems, my students really got into it. Some proudly held up their whiteboards for me to check when they got their answer, many requested just a bit more time so they could finish it, one excitedly jumped out of his seat when he got the answer, and another claimed, “this is my greatest accomplishment!” I would say that means Open Middle was a success!

Here are the problems I used and if you haven’t checked out Open Middle, it’s a great resource…here is the site for even more information on these types of problems: http://www.openmiddle.com/.

Algebra II: Create three equations that produce the exact same parabola by filling in the blanks with whole number 0 through 9, using each number at most once.

OM Alg 2

Geometry: What is the longest chord in a circle that has an area of 25pi square units? 

What I like most about these problems is the conversation that unfolds with students. For the Algebra II problem, I started with vertex form, but several students started with factored and/or standard form. One student said she went from standard to vertex, but another argued that she did both factored and standard, then graphed to get vertex (something I didn’t even think of doing, but what a great well rounded way to review this concept). In geometry, I thought this problem might be too easy, but with the different way of thinking from more straight forward problems it created a challenge to students. I loved the conversation focused around vocabulary, the “good mistakes” (as I like to say) students made, and the corrections they did. Several students got 5 units for their answer, but forgot that the question was asking for a chord, not a radius. It forced students to reevaluate their answer and not stop too early.

I like to do Mental Math Monday’s (I got this idea from my mom…the teacher verbally says a string of arithmetic problems and students try to quickly get to the correct answer in their heads) for warm ups into class on Monday’s, so maybe I can add this to the week rotation next year and try Open Middle Wednesday’s (since it’s the middle of the week). Thanks again, Michael Fenton, for some great ideas!