Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 3

Day three is when I give the common assessment over the Math Skills (this is the only thing all year where they are not allowed to use a calculator). I plan to start with an opener that has several problems that involve the four skills areas on the common assessment. The basic structure of my openers is that they are projected on the smart board as the students come in to class. I ask them to be in their seats and either start them before the bell rings or be ready to start as soon as the bell rings. They work on them individually for a certain amount of time (varies depending on how many and the complexity of the openers), writing them down in their notebooks. Then I ask them to take a few minutes and discuss their results with the other members of their groups (again, typically four in a group, with one or two threes to make it work out even). Then I ask for volunteers to come up and work them out on the smart board (which I then post to the class blog - sample from last year) and explain then to the class. (I go back and forth whether to ask for volunteers or just pick randomly making them all responsible for being ready and "forcing" them to come up - your thoughts?)

After we work through the openers, I'll then give the common assessment (roughly 15 minutes, although I remember last year it took some students significantly longer than that). Then, based on Dvora's comments on the previous post, I'm considering shifting some of the culture/class expectations piece to today. I'm thinking that after the assessment I may take them to the computer lab (assuming MAP testing hasn't started yet and I can get into the lab) to help them get into their Google Accounts. All of our students have Google Apps accounts, and for students that were in my district last year they may remember how to login, but I also have three students who are new to our district. Once they get logged in I'll help them with their basic Blogger setup (mostly display name and creating a reflective blog for my class), then have them read (and eventually comment on, although we may not get that far) a post on the class blog talking about culture and expectations. This may enable some of a conversation online even if they aren't quite comfortable enough yet to engage in a face-to-face discussion.

Their homework will be to check the online portal for the results of their assessment and, if necessary, make plans to re-assess over any of the areas they did poorly on. (While I'm probably going to tweak it some, here was my assessment plan for last year.) Students sign-up online to re-assess (again, here's last year's sign-up form), and they only need to re-assess over the area(s) they did poorly on (so I'll divide the assessment grade into four portions: adding and subtracting fractions, multiplying and dividing fractions, integer operations, and order of operations). In addition, depending on how far we get in class, I may ask them to comment on the class blog post about culture and expectations (perhaps not "due" until Friday as we don't meet on Thursdays).

We would then be setup to really begin "Algebra" on Friday.


  1. Curious, if they are allowed to use a calculator for everything else for the remainder of the year, why are you giving this assessment without it? And if these are important skills to know how to do w/o a calculator, how do you expect them to remain fluid w/o practice through the year?

  2. @Jackie - The thinking of the math department is that students are much more successful in Algebra (and beyond) if they have some basic number sense and are able to compute some things without a calculator (i.e., fractions and integers). Ideally students would come to us with these skills firmly embedded and this is just a way to catch a few students who need extra help. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

    The math department decided to not allow a calculator on this assessment. I decide on the rest of the year.

  3. I agree about developing number sense without a calculator (although it can be done with one too). My views of calculator use have changed over the past few years.

    I take it your department has no set policy on calculator use aside from this initial assessment? How does that effect students as they move through various courses?

  4. Jackie - No set policy, but pretty much everyone allows them to use calculators. A few teachers will occasionally have an assessment where they can't use them, but it's pretty rare.

    I agree about number sense, but I wonder by the time they get to high school what are the chances that that's going to increase by making them do manual calculations?

  5. By only doing manual calculations? Probably not. But by discussing the various methods one can use, asking if answers are reasonable, approximating,..., I think so.

    Thank you for sharing your process/plans here. It has helped me think about my own classes.

  6. Volunteer responses versus "random" selection. While I've never been a fan of making students respond when they're clearly uncomfortable and/or unprepared to respond to the whole class, I feel like taking volunteers can set a bad precedent -- from the start, the class will recognize which students answer, and which stay quiet. I think I'd try a strategy where I take some volunteers (enough to set the example that volunteering is valued), but try to get others involved whenever possible.

  7. Raymond - That's pretty much what I've settled on. I'll let them know that I'll expect (call on) everyone to come to the board and share/explain, but I'll start by taking volunteers. I'll also let them know that if this is uncomfortable for them, then they really want to pay attention and volunteer early on a problem they feel comfortable with, instead of waiting and perhaps getting called on when they aren't quite so confident in their work.

    I'm also thinking that after one time through the class that I may try to screen capture/record their voices as they work through the openers, then post that to the blog (instead of just the static pdf). We'll see.