I Don't Read Directions

My first day, walk in the door activity was the classic Directions Quiz:

My teachers did this to me in elementary and being the OCD person I am, I actually did read all of the directions and sat back watching my classmates do silly things. This one is  less silly since high schoolers aren't very willing to take risks in class in front of their peers.

It really set the tone for the year and in my supply sheet I handed out, I informed them that I do not read directions for them. So far, so good.

As you can see, I also asked students to text my Remind101 app to subscribe to my classes so I can send mass messages while protecting everyone's privacy. I encouraged students to sign up and didn't receive a great response. So I sent out a text asking them to write down a math problem and bring it to me for candy. Interest seemed to increase but ironically, no one else has subscribed.

I have small classes and a good mixture of students I've had before and new students. Even after the first week they are still super quiet and kind of stare at me awkwardly when I talk to them.

More first week activities to come!

First Days 2013-2014

As one of my first week activities, I used the Marshmallow Challenge.

The website explains it all but basically students are in groups of 4 and have to build the tallest freestanding structure with a marshmallow on top out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, and 1 yard of string in 18 minutes.

I thought this would be a great way to get them feeling more comfortable working in groups and I was right. They were all engaged and no groups quit when their towers fell over. They naturally fell into group roles which will make our next activity of creating those group roles a lot easier.

My tallest tower of the day was 21.5 inches. The average is 20 inches and the all time record is 39 inches. There is a TED talk that sums everything up but basically kids do better than adults because they play and build prototypes and use the marshmallow the whole time. Adults spend most of the time planning and use the marshmallow at the end which leaves them no time to fix it when it falls.

After the video I asked the students why they thought I chose to do this activity in a math class and I was happy with their responses: to make them think, team work, to help them communicate, help them be independent, to problem solve, etc.

I felt like it a was a great representation of the things I try to accomplish in my classroom throughout the year. It took up about 40 minutes and it was fun.

I got to be hands off while the students got to be hands on.


Bell Ringers (The Other 4/5)

In my last post I linked to my pacing guides. Those are for me. This is what I give the students:

They are called Math to Know Sheets and they list everything I hope to teach my students written in student friendly language. The rows shaded a light gray are my priorities and are the concepts that will appear on the end of course exam.

Every Friday I will randomly choose 5 concepts from these priorities to quiz students over. I've already made a powerpoint of problems that corresponds to my priority concepts.

Students will answer the questions and graph their results individually as well as a whole class and track our improvements from week to week. The three columns next to the concepts on the Math to Know sheets are where students will write a + if they got the problem correct or a - if they did not. The idea is that the students will be exposed to the priority concepts three times through the year as an informal cumulative review. We will celebrate 'all time best' scores for students and class periods.

This is called L to J if it is something you are familiar with- the idea that in the beginning the graphs will look like L shaped bell curves and over time progress to a J shaped bell curve. No longer is the bell curve acceptable but we push towards a J curve as we constantly compare ourselves only to ourselves and the progress we've made individually. That is 2/5 of my bell ringer plan (see the first 1/5 here).

Now for the other three days, I'm being a little more flexible. Referring back to my Survivor Games post, I plan to have my students seated in teams that compete all year long. Monday and Friday bell ringer activities are done on an individual basis. So that means the other three days are team time!

I've decided to use my pre-algebra bell ringer powerpoint from last year to begin with but I will present it differently.

This year I will print out each slide, one per team. I will put it in a page protector so I can reuse it for different periods. As a team, students will work the bell ringer problem(s) and write their answer on the board. The team with the most bell ringer problems answered correctly at the end of the week (in each class period) will get to draw a game piece.

I'm using a new textbook series that the publishers sent as samples- they have some good activities and vocab exercises that would also make good bell ringer activities. But the presentation will be the same.

I think there will be more buy in to work together with a team, especially if it might advance their team in the competition. Last year I noticed a big difference when I asked students for their answer and wrote all of them on the board. I'm borrowing off that idea and channeling it into team mode.

Obviously I had to create all of this stuff but at least it is already created. That means no prep work for me other than make a few copies. Students will have a pencil bag zip tied to their desk with a dry erase marker and eraser so they can work on the desk and erase.

Less paper = less waste

Less prep = happy teacher