Sunday, December 30, 2018

But Do You Ever Give Them a Chance to Write!?

The junior high I used to teach at was working to become an AVID National Demonstration school while I was there. That school, and really our entire Boise District, loves AVID. As a result, I was privileged enough to attend many AVID trainings and even went down to San Diego one year to attend the National AVID Conference. There are countless things I admire about the AVID program, and really love that the high school I am at now also has a strong AVID program. One of the biggest reasons I love AVID is the WICOR teaching method & strategies. 

"AVID’s proven learning support structure, known as WICOR , incorporates teaching/learning methodologies in the critical areas of Writing to Learn, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Reading to Learn. WICOR provides a learning model that educators can use to guide students in comprehending concepts and articulating ideas at increasingly complex levels (scaffolding) within developmental, general education, and discipline-based curricula. Furthermore, the WICOR model reflects and promotes the expertise and attitudes that will serve students well in their academic lives and careers."

I had a huge "ah ha" moment while at the AVID National Conference when a trainer asked me to share (in front of everyone at the training) how I incorporate the "Writing to Learn" component in my classroom. I was only in my second year of teaching when she asked me that and I immediately froze, realizing that my students NEVER write in my class. They write numbers, and solve problems, and we do a lot of discussing (which is great) but when do I ever give them a chance to write? Shoot. Slap my wrist. I didn't. 

It totally changed the focus of my instruction to always find a way to get them writing in full, complete, beautiful sentences as much as possible. We write when we practice, we write when we assess, and we find ways to articulate our thinking by writing on a regular basis. The result is beautiful. Check out a few of these answers from one of our chapter assessments this past semester: 

Guess what? One of these students is on an IEP and one of these students is on an LEP. Bet you can't tell which one, and that makes me insanely proud! 

Fill That Space!

The week before first semester finals can get REALLY boring with review worksheets and final preparation. It's necessary, but it can be rather tedious and not very entertaining. I teach a math support class to go along with the Geometry class, and we (as a class) decided to take a break from final prep and try out a new game I saw while scrolling through Twitter. We made a few adaptations to fit our needs and what we were trying to practice and named the game "Fill. That. Space" and you have to say it like how Ty Pennington said "Move. That. Bus" on Extreme Home Make Over. That's a mandatory rule. 

Image result for move that bus meme

Here's how it works: 
1. A person rolls two dice. The numbers on those dice form a two digit number of your choice. So, let's say you roll a 2 and a 4. You can use the number 24 or the number 42. 

2. On your grid paper, you have to draw a rectangle with an area of either 24 or 42. Students are forced at this point to start listing out all the factors of both numbers to make their rectangle. We have been factoring trinomials this semester and trying to come up with the factors during that process is always the hardest part for my struggling students. This game was a GREAT way to practice this skill. Additionally, I made a rule that students had to write the equation to find the area of each rectangle inside the rectangle just reinforce the idea of area and also keep track of each roll. 

3. The goal is to fill the ENTIRE page with rectangles. Any square unit that is not colored at the end counts against you. The goal is to entirely fill your grid paper. So, students also have to think about how they want to break down their area to create a rectangle that best utilizes the space they have left which turned out to be a great exercise is spatial awareness too! 

The winner at the end of the period was the person who had the LEAST number of unclaimed square units.

There were a few road blocks along the way we had to sort out:
Road Block Number 1: Prime Numbers. Some times you get double prime numbers like when you roll a 1 and a 3. 13 sucks and so does 31. So if students could fit a 1 x 13 rectangle, they had to do that. But if the physically didn't have the space to make ANYTHING work, then they could roll again. That was a big issue we had to clarify. 

Road Block Number 2: End of the Game. At the end of the game there is such limited space that many rolls won't work. So, at the end of the game, if students physically can't make any of the factors work for the roll they have, then they can roll again. 

Moving forward I would love to get some spinners that have numbers higher than 1-6. The largest number we could work with was 66. I think a few spinners with 1-9 would make it a little more interesting. 

Overall, I loved this game to practice multiplication, division, factors, rectangular area, or prep for factoring trinomials like we were doing. What other variations could you see adding to the game to make it more interesting? Any ideas? 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Quizizz: Everything I Wish Kahoot! Was

When I first heard about Kahoot I went into full on obsession mode and found reasons to use Kahoot as much as I possibly could. It was awesome. Kids thought it was awesome. And the novelty of the activity had my students engaged...

Image result for kahoot

...for a few weeks. And then, like most things, it got old quick. It probably didn't help that all the teachers in my building had heard about Kahoot! (mainly from me not shutting up about it) and for a few weeks students were subjected to the fast past multiple choice game multiple times a day. I still think Kahoot! has it's place and time in the classroom, but recently I have been researching lots of different websites that work similarly to Kahoot! trying to find the best out there! 

The first one I tried is a website called Quizzizz. 

Quizzizz promotes itself as "free self paced quizzes to review, assess and engage -in class and at home". 

Here are a few things I liked about Quizzizz:

1. Log in with Google. There is nothing worse than having to create a new log in with a new password to write down on a sticky note that I will surely lose. I don't do well with passwords. It's my Achilles heel of classroom organization. 

2. Search public quizzes. I even found a wide assortment of quizzes that connect to the curriculum that our district uses. That's neat! 

3. Live vs Homework. You can start a quiz live for the classroom setting or you can open a window for students to be able to complete the quiz at home. My students have a lot of absences. It sort of just comes with the territory in a low SES school. The homework option is fantastic for students who miss class or want to take it again at home. 

4. Pull Individual Questions. You can start making your own quiz and then just pull individual question from public quizzes. So helpful! In Kahoot!, sometimes I don't want to duplicate an ENTIRE quiz and then have to edit what I want and don't want, and so having the ability to just copy questions over is very flexible. 

5. Self paced. This was HUGE for me. For my students who work a little slower or need more time to get started on each question, Kahoot! is pointless. They quickly give up when they realize that they aren't going to be able to work fast enough to answer. But with Quizzizz students can go as fast or as slow as they want. You can even put up this live feed of how each group is doing, showing progress and accuracy. My students liked the live feed and the desire to not get red chunks in their progress bar was pretty motivating. We have created a pretty solid class culture where we don't fear mistakes or feel embarrassed by making them, so I wasn't worried about publicly displaying this live feed. I think it's important that that kind of culture is there before you post up the live feed. 

6. Immediate feedback. As soon as the student answers a question in Quizzizz it lets them know whether or not they got the answer right. Kahoot! also let's them know but for some reason the instant feedback seemed to be more beneficial in this platform. 

7. Reports. The reports section was awesome. I can go back days later and pull up the report from the quiz. They are easily organized and made entering grades from this quiz super fast and efficient. 

8. Mastery. I had a few students finish the self paced quiz (I had them complete it in partners) and then go back and play again, wanting to get a better score. Once the quiz is live, students can go take it as many times as they want. They just re enter their names and go through the questions again. I had the settings set so that every student's questions were shuffled and even the answer choices were shuffled so that they couldn't just go back and hit "B" instead of "C". I liked the ability for students to try again, especially since this was just a quick formative assessment that was mostly for students to know where they were at, and for me to quickly evaluate who was really struggling. 

9. Answers on Student Device. I have almost 40 students in every class and due to limited space, many students sit far from the board. In Kahoot!, student devices only show colors and symbols, and they have to look up to the board to see the answer choices. There are always complaints about students not being able to see the board or choosing the wrong answer because they couldn't see the answer choices. With Quizzizz, the answer choices also show up on the student device. Hallelujah! 

10. Quick and Easy Formative Assessment. Overall I really liked Quizzizz and will use it again. Grading takes a lot of time, and the ability to immediately know where a student is at in their understanding is rare, and nearly impossible in a class of forty students. This, although it has it's flaws and isn't a perfect assessment measure, is a very quick and easy way to get a decent gauge for where your students are at. 

Have you tried Quizzizz? Is there another platform I should try? 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Instant Feedback for Instant Learning

Something I have always believed in is the need for every student to get some kind of feedback about their work every day. My worst case scenario would be that students come in to class and work for 45 minutes on an activity or a project and leave, never knowing if they did any of the problems right or if they could have improved their work either in organization, efficiency, etc. Providing students with feedback can be tedious, especially if that feedback is hand written notes from me on homework or an assessment. One hundred and twenty tests take a long time to grade, let alone give personal feedback on. Finding opportunities to easily and authentically build feedback into the day's lesson has become a mission of mine this year. I never, ever want a student to do 20 quadratic formula problems incorrectly before they find out they are all wrong. And now, heaven forbid, they just solidified a misconception 20 times. 

One of my favorite strategies to provide feedback quickly is matching answer partner worksheets. For this one, students pair up and choose who will be Partner A and Partner B. For each problem, the partners have the same quadratic function but are each tasked with solving it in a different way. One partner does Quadratic Formula, and the other partner factors. Obviously, they should get the same answer. 

I have done this before where each partner has a different problem entirely (like two different multi-step equations) but their answers will be the same. Students cannot move on until their partner is finished and they have agreed upon the answer. This also allows for some awesome peer collaboration to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it to make the answers match. 

I told the girls to act like they were agreeing upon the answer. This is what I got. High schoolers crack me up. I am really enjoying this age. While there are still days I miss my middle school students, I definitely feel like the opportunity to come up to the high school has forced me to grow so much! 

The thing I love most about activities like this is that in the first five minutes student knew whether or not they were on the right track. As they were working, they were provided with instant feedback about the accuracy of their answer and immediately able to go back and correct mistakes or misconceptions. 

For this specific topic, students were also able to compare which partner had the easier solving strategy and as a class we had conversations about when factoring was faster or when the quadratic formula was faster. 

Instant feedback. What do you do on a regular basis to ensure that each student gets feedback every day? What other content ideas could you see being used for an activity like this? Do students ever leave your class and have no idea whether or not they actually understood what was going on? How can you fix that?