Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 5

As a reminder, this is day five of my class, but it will be Monday of the second week since my class only meets four days a week.

The opener today is designed to build off the work we did on Friday as well as the video they watched for homework.

As they are working on the opener I will be walking around and looking at their notebooks to make sure they have the "Self-Check" problems from the video written down. This is somewhat of a philosophical dilemma for me. Last year I made the philosophical decision to not check whether they had watched the video. I explained to them that I expected them to watch the videos and that they needed to watch the videos in order to be successful, but that I wasn't going to look over their shoulder to make sure they did it. I continued to talk about this throughout the year, and it worked well for some students, but unfortunately other students had real difficulty completing these videos without me "checking up on them." So this year I've decided to backtrack a bit and check that they're watching the videos/completing the self-check exercises, at least at the beginning of the year. Then hopefully gradually back away from that throughout the year as they internalize that the videos are helping them. We'll see.

After they work on the openers individually, and then in their table groups, we'll discuss them as a class. Then today's lesson is to look at ratio, proportion and percent in the context of a sampling problem. We'll begin with a 3.5 minute video from Discovery Education on the Capture-Recapture Method of estimating animal populations. After watching the video we'll simulate the capture-recapture method using paper bags and two colors of beans (in the context of sampling fish at a nearby reservoir).

After working through the simulation, we'll then see if it took hold by completing three sample "application" problems. Assuming that goes okay, we'll then talk about how we could sample our class to try to predict answers for the entire school (or a class across the hall). The "freshmen" question is designed to get them thinking about what a good sample might look like (since my class is majority freshmen, this is not a good sample for the school, but might be for an Algebra class at the school). (Note: On all these images keep in mind that they are on a smart board and I'm using the window shade to control how much is visible at one time.)

If we have time, we'll then conclude with a quick skill review..

We'll then talk briefly about their homework for tonight, which is to complete the Solving Proportions and Percents Online Pre-Assessment. My plan is to use these in a very similar way to the way I did last year. Usually two class periods before an assessment I'll have the students complete a sample online pre-assessment. This gives them an idea of how they'll do on the actual assessment and gives them some time to get help/figure it out before the assessment that "counts." I ask them to write down the problems in their notebook and work them out, then click on "Check Your Work" to see how they did (and correct if necessary). I'll also give them an optional link if they'd like more practice, but it is completely optional.

A second piece of homework, but one that's not due until Friday (four days from now), is their first reflection piece:
Looking back at your first week in Algebra (and, for some of you, your first week at AHS), how are you feeling? What's going well or you're excited about? What's challenging or are you concerned about? Then I want you to set three goals for yourself for this semester. One goal specifically related to Algebra, one goal related to AHS in general (can be related to classwork, sports, activities, or something else at AHS), and one goal outside of AHS. Make these goals fairly specific, not just "I want to get a good grade." I'll be asking you to revisit these goals toward the end of the semester and evaluate how well you're doing on them, so make them be worthwhile and achievable.
Last year we did this in Google Docs, but this year I've decided to go ahead and have them blog them. I debated about whether I wanted these private (in Google Docs, so that they could perhaps be more honest and share more information), or public (Blogger, where they might feel somewhat constrained because it's public). Last year I really didn't have anything shared that I think wouldn't have been if they'd been public, so I want to open this up for all the usual reasons for why blogging can be powerful. I'll also let the students know that if they have anything they'd like to share but not publicly, to just let me know.

I'm a little worried that's too much homework, but I figure the pre-assessment only takes 10-15 minutes and the reflection isn't due until Friday (and they have Thursday "off" of Algebra), so I'm hoping it's not too bad.

As always, I'd appreciate your thoughts/suggestions on any of the above.


  1. I realise belatedly that you're planning for next school year - different school terms here Down Under. :) --> now that's thorough - and that is a compliment...and anyway, I've always believed that an insult is only one if taken as one...I digress.

    I love that you're encouraging reflective practice on their learning; I hope you keep this going on specific topics/units as well.

    I'm neither here nor there about Google Docs or Blogger - kids will be honest if they choose to do so and will be so if they think you are listening. That said, I've seen kids more reflective in a blogging platform, particularly when they know there's more than their teacher listening (read about my experience as a peer coach on this)- you can open it up to #comment4kids (Twitter) if they're comfortable with it.

    What your last few paragraphs above reminded me of is something I haven't had a chance to implement in a classroom - the practice of "Give yourself an A", which I read about in The Art of Possibility by R & B Zander. Here's a quick synopsis. I haven't done this because I'm too scared to do so in a maths classroom but you seem braver than me.

    What do you think?

  2. Malyn - I intend to continue to have them reflect throughout the semester, but last year I didn't do it as often as I wanted to simply because there wasn't enough time (and even though I believe it to be really important, I didn't want to give them "one more thing" to do). Hoping to do better this year.

    Yes, I'm familiar with the "give yourself an A" idea. I helped a Language Arts teacher in my building try that last year in some of his classes. We had mixed success and I haven't talked to him about whether he's planning on doing it again this year or not.

    I, too, am not quite ready to try this in a math classroom, although I think my assessment plan tries to come at that from a little bit of a different angle.

  3. Ah, the fish sample-resample problem - one of my favorites! This is one that I didn't teach well at all on my first few attempts, but got better and better at with experience. I hope they all grasp the importance of your question #7!

    As a proponent of stats ed, during this activity I'd be on the lookout for students' understanding of sampling and variability. I don't think you need to do anything formal, but just listen to your students and see if you get the feeling that they have a conception of a sampling distribution. If variability and sampling distributions are topics you expect to get to later in the year, it might be good to save their sampling data for future use.

  4. Raymond - Yeah, questions like #7 are ones where I felt like I (or "we" as a class) didn't do so well on last year. They seem to follow along with what we're doing okay, but not really get to that deeper understanding.

    We only do a very little bit with statistics in first year algebra, but I figure a little is better than none.