4.07.2014

Parent Support


I often hear about parent volunteers in the elementary grades but I can't even imagine what I would have a parent volunteer do if I had one.

I always hear schools and teachers ask for parent involvement but I never know what that would look like for me.

I've been reading these pamphlets from The Master Teacher from 2005 and I really like them. It listed nine things all parents can do. I think it's a very practical, concrete list that could build positive relationships between parents, students, and teachers.


  1. Help students be in class and on time every day. 
  2. Urge you child to show their "best side" at school; have a positive, "will try hard" attitude all the time.
  3. Emphasize that listening and learning to take directions pays off.
  4. Stress organization and tidiness.
  5. Urge your child to be teachable; insist  that they not waste opportunities or reject advantages.
  6. Help students to not waste time denying mistakes but to learn from them.
  7. Encourage your children to work at getting along with others.
  8. Treat others as you would like to be treated; showing respect and concern for others will improve their own chances of success.
  9. Expect them to think- think before acting, apply what is being learned, solve problems.

I feel like I should make a handout and mail it to all my students' parents. How many would actually read it or keep it? How many might take offense to it?

Or maybe I should make it a handout for students? But then again...see aforementioned questions.

How do I make stuff that hits homes with me hit home with others?



4.01.2014

Test Corrections


I've been doing SBG for a few years now but for me it only makes a difference in my grade book. Each year I have less than a handful of students who come in to retake any part of their test. It's more of an organizational tool for me than it is for the students. I don't know how to change this.

In reference to my last post on interventions, I'm thinking test corrections may be a better way for students to earn credit. I was reading through some of my old posts and found this link from @crstn85's blog. I like what she does a lot and I plan to use her idea and template.

There are some questions I'd like to pose to you. I've read about two different methods.
  1. Test corrections earn back half of the points missed. 
  2. Test corrections raise their grade to a 70% which is passing but not proficient.
  • What if corrections are not correct? It seems like it would be easier to determine a grade using method 1. Or should I not accept them until they are correct?
  • Are test corrections a way to show student learning? I'm working off this paragraph from an earlier blog post from a conference with Randy and Sue Pippen:
 "Their policy on grading was to make it count. Don't punish them for practicing. If I collect,  then they should have the opportunity to correct. They pointed out that the United States culture has taught kids as long as it's done, I'm done. Work is not done until it's correctly done. They did mention that they thought homework was important (which I am agreeing with less and less) but that it should be recorded and reported, not graded. They hit upon the fact that we all have students in our class who cannot do math. How did they get there? They have been passed along on their inflated grades thanks to homework completion and participation points. These types of grades are not informative. "  Would test corrections inflate grades too?
  •  Would more students participate in this method rather than retakes? I like the idea of correcting our tests together as a class the first time so they know how the process works. But maybe if I would have done that with retakes, I would have had more participation. I like that this method can be done outside of class without me but then again they could just copy someone's test that got the problems correct. I could avoid that by keeping all the tests but that requires more of my space and time.

  • Would this method motivate students to do work correctly the first time? I'm thinking if I required test corrections from students who did not pass, it might help them try harder the first time since I'm sure they will hate writing explanations. On the other hand, they might try less because they know they have a second chance. But the second chance is for only half the points.
  • How would test corrections increase learning? One way is being able to analyze your own work and identify errors. A second way is being able to communicate those errors in writing. A third way would be redoing the problem a second time. But if they still redo it incorrectly, will that have more of a negative impact?
 

3.29.2014

Memorization


I've written quite a few times about bell ringers in my classroom. Generally, the smartest student in the group does the bell ringer while the rest of them stare blankly in the general direction of the paper.

In the past couple weeks I have tried something new.

It's called the perfect challenge and it tests students on perfect squares 1-20.



I did not create this file but it is an Excel file with seven tabs. Each tab is two half sheets with numbers 1-20 squared on it and they are in a different order on each tab. I added the eighth tab as a chart of how I record my students progress. We start with a goal of the whole class scoring 100% in under two minutes with a calculator. We work down to eventually the whole class scoring 100% in under one minute without a calculator.

The students have liked it a lot better. Everyone is participating, everyone is engaged, and everyone is working on memorization. Also, since I am timing it, the whole process takes less than 3 minutes compared to 10-12 minutes with the bell ringers. We trade and grade with a student reading the answers out loud. I collect them and record the percent of students who made a 100% and that what goes into my chart. Once they reach 100%, we move to the next category. A lot of students have started competing with themselves, trying to beat their own time.

I've liked it so much that I've decided to do perfect cubes next. There is just something about an entire class flipping their papers at the same time and eagerly writing that a math teacher comes to love.

And of course, being the all or nothing person I am, I've already been thinking about doing this all next year instead of bell ringers.

What are some other things high school students should memorize?
  • Perfect squares
  • Perfect cubes
  • Decimal equivalents of fractions
  • Common formulas
  • Reducing fractions
  • LCM and GCF

This is all I've come up with so far and I would love your input!


3.28.2014

Interventions


One of my huge weaknesses as a teacher is letting students fall the crack. I'm going to be real vulnerable here and say that my default feeling is that students who don't try or don't show up or do nothing in my class, do not deserve my extra help.

That sounds bad. But part of that comes from the fact that I don't know what to do for those students. I feel like students who consistently try and show up don't fail. So that leaves me with those who don't try and so I solely place the blame on them. It's easy that way, right?


I have two  students who have been failing my class all year. I keep feeling shocked that no one has done anything about this without ever putting the responsibility on my own shoulders. I've talked to both students' parents one time during this year. Somehow I've convinced myself that that is enough.

I always give students the opportunity to come in and retake tests and very few do. And the ones who need to do it never do. They don't come in for help, they don't come in and retake tests, they don't ask questions in class, and therefore I don't know what to do for them.

Obviously you will fail if you don't try. I have to make myself see beyond that and question why they aren't trying.

What kind of interventions can I do in the classroom?

One elementary teacher mentioned working with a small group within the class that are not understanding. Which I don't do. I feel that if they are too lazy to even ask for help, why would I devote my time to them? Bad, I know.

Another teacher mentioned preferential seating which I don't really do either. I rotate each group to a new group of tables each quarter and that's about it.

How do you get past feeling like they don't deserve help?

What do you do for students who put in no effort? What do you do for students who can't even begin problems or are missing middle school skills like reducing fractions or knowing factors of a number?

What interventions do you use in your classroom?

Update: I asked some more teachers about interventions and here's what they said:
  • Parent Contact (early and often)
  • Recommend for tutoring (narrow down specific areas that need to be worked on) 
  • One-on-one
  • Small groups
  • Modified tests/quizzes
  • Test/quiz retakes
  • Break students into groups, send group to library to work and work with struggling learners in classroom
I feel like I need a form to fill out to document student behaviors and easy interventions. Does anyone have something simple? Our old forms are pages and pages long. I'd like something easy to use and easy to read that shows a lot of information at once.

3.24.2014

Even More Classroom Routines


Somehow this idea turned into three posts...

Make Up Quiz/Test: If students are absent on the day of a quiz/test, I write their name on the board under the heading Quiz/Test. Then I check the attendance to see if their absence if excused or unexcused. If unexcused, I erase their name and give them a 0 (school policy). If excused, I take their quiz/test and write their name on it and hang it on a clipboard. I remind them the next day to come in and make it up. If they don't come in that day, I put a 0 in the grade book. If they never come in, then the 0 stays and I don't have to worry about a missing grade. Some students see it and then it reminds them that they have something to make up.

Hot Dog Style: I only grade quizzes and tests and I have a green basket that all papers are turned in to. The papers are folded vertically with the white side showing and their name written on the outside. Then I can grade it and write their score on the inside. A student can pass out papers to the class while respecting everyone's privacy.

Seating Arrangements: This year I'm attempting survivor games, which is a year long competition among groups of students. I picked the groups at the beginning of the year and they have stayed together all year. Not my best idea I suppose. Each quarter I rotate the students to a new group of desks. Within those four desks, they get to choose where they sit.

Questioning: I feel like this is one of my best teaching strategies. My most used are: "How do you know?" "Because why?" "Are you sure?" "Can you explain?" "Can you be more specific? "Can you give me an example?" "What would happen if..." "What is the easiest part of...?" "What is the hardest part of...?" "What do you think?"

Some questions that I need to use more often: "Can you explain that in another way?" "Can you draw a diagram that explains this idea?" "What is a common error a student might make on this concept?"

What are some of your favorite classroom routines?