Vocabulary Homework

I posted a while back about my Homework Brainstorm and converting homework to be more about writing and vocabulary.

At the end of the school year I made my pacing guides for next year and included essential questions, vocabulary, and CCSS math practice standards.

Here is mine for Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry.

It was great to have my vocab words all laid out but what to do with them?

I stumbled on this post on Pinterest last night and I think this is what I want to do. (Go to her post to download the template!)  I'm going to borrow her picture so you can see:

I like her idea on the right where the bottom is folded up and fits 6 on a page. Right now I'm going through and typing my vocab words from each unit in my pacing guide into the glossary template. I'm also numbering them. 

I'm thinking that I will pass out all the templates for the unit at the beginning of the unit.  They can cut them out, fold them, and paste them on paper. My students will all have binders and at first I thought I would have the vocab be a section of their binder. But after thinking about it, I want the binders to stay in the classroom at all times. 

So now I'm thinking I will ask them to have a vocab notebook. If my whole vocab idea is homework then I kind of need them to be able to take it....well, home.

I'm thinking it will be my anorexic version of an INB. I'll have students to paste the vocab words on the left hand page only and then the right hand page will be where I can ask them deeper questions or things that relate to the unit essential questions. 

Here's the plan:

At the beginning of the unit I pass out the vocab templates for all the words in that unit. Students cut apart, fold and paste on the LHP of the vocab notebook.

Each day at the end of the lesson, I will assign them the 'vocab homework". That will be to fill out the vocab templates, using their notes, oh dang...if they have to use their notes then it still can't be homework. Unless they take their binders home. Ugh.

And they will probably just copy.

Well crap. I thought I had a great plan.

To be continued.


Ok I'm back.

Thank God for mothers!

Mom suggested I give them a handout to take home with definitions on them. They can use the handout to complete the vocab template and then toss it. I don't have to worry about them bringing it back or turning it in and theoretically it's something I could make ahead of time.

I kind of hate the idea of giving them a handout with the definition on it and having them just rewrite it. I wanted them to use their notes to form their own definitions. I know rewriting it isn't the best idea but I think having to develop their own examples and non-examples will be the true test of understanding the definition.

So then should I go ahead and type in the definitions? I wouldn't have to create a handout if the definition is already there. Then the only thing they have to write is the examples and non-examples. Is that enough?

Or should I give them the definition with blanks in it? They have to fill in the blanks and write examples and non-examples?

Please comment and give me your opinion!!


Ok I'm back. Again.

Thank God for instructional coaches!

Here's my best plan:

 At the beginning of the unit I pass out the vocab templates for all the words in that unit. Students cut apart, fold and paste on the LHP of the vocab notebook.

As we go through daily lessons, I will have a cute little glossary graphic in our notes. Whenever we see those, we stop and go to our glossary and develop our definition- as a class, in class.

Their homework will be to then go home and create the examples and non-examples on the LHP. On the RHP, I will have a slide with 2-3 questions that they will have to answer that takes them more in depth. 

I will stop early enough that they can copy the questions down into their notebook. That will help me stay on track and the questions can help be a closing.

I will collect notebooks once a week to grade. We have early dismissal every Monday for students so I think I will collect them on Mondays. That gives students the whole week and weekend to complete all the vocab assignments.

Grading: I think I will give them one point for each example and non-example they write and 2-3 points for each question they answer. They will have a weekly vocab grade but the amount of points will be different each week.

The questions will help feed into the unit essential questions which I hope to give as a summative assessment and have students help create a grading rubric.


The End


Classroom Motivation: Survivor Games

I've been thinking of ways to motivate students who do not care about grades. This is foreign to me because I always care about grades. Always.

What students do care about is competition, winning, and beating their friends. How can I incorporate this into our every day classroom life?

I give you....

Here are my thoughts so far:

Students are put into tribes/districts that will last the school year. Everything they do matters to the tribe. The tribe will decorate a flag/banner to represent their tribe. How can I hang this somewhere as a marker where students can't advance themselves unfairly?

Each quiz will have three levels of questions: easy, medium, hard. Each member that gets the easy question correct gets to pull a game piece out of the food/drink category. Medium earns you a weapon. Hard earns you a luxury item. So I would literally make game pieces on three different colors of paper and have three containers for students to draw from.
Once a week there is a scenario from the faceless society/trial council/capitol such as "There is an extreme drop in temperature. All tribe members must relinquish a parka." Tribes where all members turn in the piece advance while teams who can't stay in place.

So everything that normally happens in the classroom: group work, discussion, problem solving, quizzes, tests, neatness, homework, good questions, good behavior, good attendance, etc is now a chance to win game pieces.

There could be a theme for any given time 1/2/3 weeks where we focus on one thing like 'asks good questions', 'perseveres in problem solving', 'perfect tribe attendance', 'no referrals', etc to earn luxury items.

Logistically, I need some type of game board for students to move along whether physical or technological. Something everyone can see but no one can touch. Ideas?

@heather_kohn suggested an immunity necklace for individual honors. That student may win no homework, honor of tribal leader, immunity from a scenario, sitting in the teacher, chance to randomly advance their team (dice) etc.

I haven't decided if students should move up certain levels like health levels (since I don't want any team to die out on purpose) or move around a map of perilous places (more like The Hunger Games, literally).  Or both.

@TJTerryJo suggested 'extra energy' days where students could do work to catch up and advance their tribes...sounds like reassessing in SBG right?

I also thought I could incorporate bell ringers. Give one problem to each tribe each day and the tribe with most points at the end of the week gets to choose a tool/weapon?

Is this something feasible to keep going for the whole year? I've thought of possible monthly prizes such as: go to lunch early for one week, eat lunch outside for one week, team t-shirts, free snacks for a week, lunch of their choice with the teacher, etc.

But what can I use to motivate students to last through the year? If I give monthly prizes then I have to have an end of year prize. If I don't give monthly prizes, will the idea of winning be enough to make them last the school year?

I'm teaching mostly sophomores and juniors, 15-17 year olds. I'm teaching Algebra II and Geometry. Should all tribes compete against each other regardless of class? Or should Geometry compete only with other Geometry classes and Algebra II with Algebra II? Should I hold out for one overall winner or one from each period? Each class?

I think if I plan enough to last the first semester that suggestions will naturally happen along the way and I can use student input to improve it for the second semester.

I could also offer extra credit like interesting problems for students to solve outside of class in order to earn a luxury item or advance their team.

Overall, I want to promote team work, asking good questions, and persevering in problem solving for students who don't care about grades or doing well in school.

What do you think?

Note: Some ideas came from coolmath's Survivor Algebra.


FCS in Math

So....it's been a while.

My reasoning is swinging back and forth between "I've become less co-dependent on everyone else to do my job" and "Am I closing my door and isolating myself again?"

Anyway, school has been done for so long that I don't feel the need to sum up what you've missed. Here's the short version, I finished my fourth year, heading in to my fifth, finished my Master's Degree, and for the first time in my career, am not teaching Algebra I. Algebra I is my baby so it feels quite strange to step back from the class I feel the most comfortable and most prepared for. But it feels nice to know I only have 3ish preps: Geometry, Algebra II, and RtI Math (whatever that is).

I also have a middle school class. That same class nearly made me quit my job last year. I hated it. And was dreading it again for this year. Until....Contextualizing into CTE.

This was a conference I went to with my FCS (family and consumer science) colleague. She invited me to go months to go because she couldn't go without a math teacher. I said yes in passing and then vaguely dreaded it until time to go.

It was awesome. One of the best conferences I've ever been to. FCS teachers are way more friendly and way less socially awkward than the math teachers I usually attend conferences with. They love to talk and eat! Two of my favorite things.

The conference was ran by two guys who took their geometry class and construction class and turned it into a Geometry Builds a House class. It is a double block class where about 40 kids are in one classroom with two teachers who team teach. They spend 90 minutes doing math in the classroom and then 90 minutes working on the construction site. They've been doing this project for 7 years and have built and sold 7 legit houses. They're motto is that CTE (Career and Technology Education) classes drive the project and math enhances it. Students literally go outside and apply math to the real world. On test scores, they beat out the traditional geometry class and the classes from neighboring schools, even AP classes. The outcomes they saw were increased attendance, higher homework completion rates, increased enthusiasm (student & teacher), decreased disciplinary incidents, and allies in the core areas.

Here is their powerpoint:

It's a hook for students in Algebra I to do better since it is a prerequisite. They are now wanting to develop an Algebra II Auto where they will take a standard car and convert it to electric. Basically, during the summer they travel and talk to teachers about their project.

So with us and a bunch of FCS teachers, it was a little different. We don't know how to build houses. But we do know how to build lessons. We were given time to talk and collaborate on a lesson that the FCS teacher already does and how we can enhance it with math. It's amazing, even for this math teacher, to see how much math is naturally a part of their world.

For example, we came up with the idea of converting a recipe for a class to a recipe for the whole high school. What FCS teachers call 'conversion factor' is what we call 'scale factor' in the geometry world. Each pair came up with a lesson and then attached 'naked math' to the end of it. Basically, the math taken out of the context of the lesson so students recognized the connection between the two content areas. We all presented our ideas to the group and others suggested extensions. Then we went through the whole process again.

It was a great learning experience.

Here's what I think makes a good conference/classroom experience:
  1. Set the spark 
  2. Give people time to actually do it 
  3. Share results 
  4. Discuss, debrief, think ahead
I left the conference feeling excited and satisfied...which is what I wish I could say my students feel when they leave my class. I got even more excited when me and the FCS teacher realized we both have a middle school class during the same hour. As per usual, hers is a 'fun' class and mine is supposed to be extra math. So we've decided we are going to combine our classes for that hour, team teach, and try out all the new lessons we received from the conference.

Oh yeah, we have a flash drive with all of the lessons from 20 pairs of teachers- 40 lessons already done for us. Number 5 on my list above would be 'useful free stuff'. I'm so excited to have a vision for this class and fun things already planned! You would think someone giving you a class and saying do whatever you want would be fun and the easiest thing ever...but it's incredibly hard without a vision. You never know if you are doing the right thing, if you're making a difference...we already feel that enough.

I thought that this conference was so odd for pairing math with FCS teachers but now I think we should be paired up with every teacher! Why should I search the internet for word problems when applications come to life in other content classrooms?

I am eager to try something new and different and with some resources for once! I was surprised by the higher level of math found in a lot of FCS lessons such as systems of equations, exponential functions, and exponential growth and decay.

So being the teacher that I am, I'm going to share all the lessons we made. I don't know how valuable they will be and I can't promise high quality but maybe they will help you set the spark!