Do you know what Communicator Boards are? Well, if you have never used them, you should talk your dept. chair into ordering you some. They are like Dry-Erase boards, but they are plastic and you can put different templates inside of them. They look like the plastic things that restaurants put their menus inside to keep them protected. They come in bright primary colors and are packaged in a big rubbermaid tub with cute little erasers and low-odor dry erase markers.
Anyway, I had a set at my old school and I would bring them out every so often. The kids loved them. I asked my new dept. chair if she had the money in her budget to buy me a set (about $100) and she said she did. They came in yesterday and we used them today in algebra I. Let me tell you, those kids were so excited. We are just beginning to solve linear equations and yesterday we did two-step equations so today, after our quiz, we spent the rest of the period doing problem after problem. Kids who haven't turned in a single homework paper this year were happily working the problems and showing their answers to me. It was loud, it was crazy, it was fun! Everyone was engaged and everyone was participating. Several students left saying that they hoped we could use the communicator boards again tomorrow.
We are also making progress on the distributive property. Last week I posted about the difficulties algebra I students have with problems like 4(x - 2) - 6(x - 4). I have decided to put one of these problems on every single warm-up we do until I am getting about 95% mastery. I am also going to put one on every single quiz they take even though it is a topic from Chapter 2. I guess you could call it drill and kill, but I am determined not to have these kids go on to algebra II without the ability to distribute a negative properly!