Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Which One Doesn't Belong? Never Gets Old!

The right answer should not be all we care about in math class. As teachers, when we only focus on being right vs being wrong, we send the message to students that being right is all that matters. The process, the thinking, the struggle, the journey to get there... all of that is majorly important in addition to finding the right answer. So we have to pause and reflect. Do our activities align with this idea? If students are going through an activity to practice or reinforce a skill, are we only having students find the answer and then move on? Where could we grow from here?

This is why the idea of Which One Doesn't Belong, and the thinking and justification skills that go along with it, is one of my favorite ways to get students looking at their work and their answers and talking about more than just the answer being right or not. I have posted about this before, so check this out first. 

In working with a team of Integrated High School Math II teachers this month, I designed an activity about factoring quadratic trinomials using the WWDB framework. 

Check out this first station: 

At first glance, you could start by saying that A doesn't belong because it's the only quadratic trinomial with a positive b value. That's true! And if a student said that to start, I would be thrilled that they are able to identify the different coefficients in a quadratic trinomial and recognize that the sign belongs to the b value and matters. Let's keep diving in....here are the factored forms... 

Next, you could say that C doesn't belong because the two factors are not identical like in A and B. If a student was using their new vocabulary from this unit, they might say that C is not a perfect square trinomial, which would just about make my heart burst with joy. 

You could also say that A doesn't belong because it doesn't have a factor of (x-3) like B and C do or that B doesn't belong because it doesn't have a factor of (x+1) like A and C do. 

Here's the thing, you can say any of them don't belong for any reason that mathematically makes sense.

I want students talking. I want them making a claim and backing it up with mathematical evidence while using academic vocabulary. This activity not only allows students to practice factoring, but explore and engage with quadratic trinomials in addition to finding a right answer. 

Here is a link to the entire slideshow. The trinomials get more interesting with more complex differences. Make a copy and edit as your heart desires! 

Monday, February 27, 2023

I Have Who Has: Let's Talk!

I am always looking for ways to intentionally engage with vocabulary. One of my favorite strategies to get students speaking and thinking is an activity called I Have Who Has. Each student gets a card (see the example below). The teacher starts with the start card and reads it aloud. The student who has the answer to that question responds by reading their card and asking the next question. The game continues in this way until the end card. 

Things I love: 

1. Every single student speaks out loud. How often does every student get a chance to speak whole group in your room?
2. Students have to really focus and listen to the definitions as they are being read. Speaking and listening are two language domains that can easily be overshadowed by reading and writing but are equally as important in language development! 
3. Students are somewhat forced to engage because if they check out or stop listening they become the weakest link in the chain.

It is important to acknowledge that ELL students may be super overwhelmed to read out loud whole group but that doesn't mean they shouldn't get the opportunity. A little pre-teaching or scaffolding may be needed. Set them up for success!

As part of my work as a high school learning coach (instructional coach) I was fortunate enough to work with an AP Human Geography teacher who was looking for more ways to purposefully plan and engage with vocabulary. We created a deck of I Have Who Has cards for all of her 7 units for the year and placed visual cues or hints on the back of each one.

In addition to doing the whole group read through of the cards, we also had students work in small groups to race to make a chain of cards (like dominos). The discussions, arguments, and excitement as students worked together to define the words and find the matches was loud and super engaging. 

Another goal of the teacher I worked with was to implement ways for students to think about the connections between the vocabulary words within a unit and between units. To do this, we handed small groups a mixed up set of cards from multiple units. We told students not to worry about the I Have Who Has part, and instead just focus on the I Have term. Students were instructed to write a complete, content related sentence using as many of the cards as possible, with at least 2 terms for different units. 

The time and effort required to make the cards may seem laborious, but once the cards are made there are so many ways to use them in your classroom to purposefully engage with vocabulary!

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Two Truths and A Lie

1. I lived on Kodiak Island in Alaska for a few years.

2. I am one of 6 children.

3. I am not a huge fan of horses.

Two of the statements above are true and one is a lie... can you guess which one?

I think we have all been somewhere and used this strategy as an ice breaker or get to know you game. When talking about myself I actually dread this activity because I never know what to say. My lies are usually way too outlandish, and I don't have many deceptive truths about myself. If you guessed #2, you are correct. I am one of 4 children. Horses are not my jam. And my father was stationed on Kodiak Island for a few years when he was a pilot in the Coast Guard.

As much as I don't love this game outside of the classroom, I LOVE it in the classroom with students. It's a fantastic protocol for so many different content areas. Here's two ideas!

Language Arts Example:

Have students read a piece of text. From the text, have students write two true statements and one false statement. Share whole group or switch papers between small groups and have students figure out which statement is the lie. I love this as a way for students to engage with the same piece of text multiple times. Each new set of three statements creates a new purpose for reading. Students continually have to reference the text to check or dispute a statement.

Here’s an example of my three statements from this text:

Math Example:

Give each group 3 problems to solve and tell them to solve 2 correctly and 1 incorrectly on purpose. They definitely need to show all their work during this activity! Share whole group or switch papers between small groups and identify which one is solved incorrectly. I love this as a way to reinforce the process of showing work and creating conversations around common misconceptions and errors!

As an exit ticket, you could give an example set you create and have students independently identify which one is solved incorrectly and why and justify their reasoning. This is a great way to hit on the math practice standard “critique the reasoning of others”. Here is an example of how this could look.

Which one is solved incorrectly?