Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Similarities and Differences-A Smartboard Activity

If you have a smart board in your classroom, here is an idea I used today which worked wonderful. I think you could adapt it to a wide variety of lessons. I was introducing polynomials and monomials today in Algebra I and since it is their first exposure to these topics, I wanted to give them a good background before I just rushed into teaching multiplication properties of exponents.

I put up a slide that said "Monomial" on the left side and "Polynomial" on the right side. In the middle, I put about eight or nine algebraic expressions that were either monomials or polynomials arranged in a column.

The directions at the top of the slide said to slide each expression to the appropriate side of the board. I had no shortage of volunteers who wanted to come to the board and "slide" an expression to the appropriate side of the board. The students absolutely love playing with the smartboard and got a big kick out of doing this. After we had finished sorting the expressions, I was able to ask some critcal thinking questions like "What would you say the difference between a polynomial and monomial is," or "How would you define a monomial and polynomial based on these examples." The kids seemed to enjoy the discussion and correcting each other on their ideas.

I think the idea of sorting things based on similarities and differences is an important concept and allows a mental folder to be placed into the brain so new concepts have a place to land. So many times we skip this introductory step in learning and our students suffer for it.

I think this smartboard activity would work great for so many things. I had a few ideas today like putting linear equations in standard form in the middle column and sort them based on positive slope/negative slope or maybe positive y-int/negative y-intercept.

How about sorting different functions to determine whether they are linear or quadratic?

Maybe use it for function transformations. Which functions will produce a stretch or a shrink. The possibilities are endless and it needn't be a time consuming activity. Ten minutes is plenty to sort and then have some type of discussion.

If anyone else has an inspiration, I'd be glad to hear it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The 10-24-7 Rule

One useful thing I learned in professional development this summer was the 10-24-7 rule. The rule says that in order to get information to go from short term memory to long term memory, a new concept must be practiced within 10 minutes of learning, again within 24 hours and then again within 7 days. I have tried my best to put this into practice this year. I made several posters for my room illustrating the 10-24-7 rule, not only to remind me, but when students start to complain about homework or warm-up problems, I point out the posters and tell them I'm just trying to help them process the information from their short term memory to the long term memory.

This is not a novel concept, but students must practice something on their own or summarize the concept in words or pictures within ten minutes of learning. There are so many strategies to accomplish this. It might be a homework assignment, it might be cooperative learning, it might be a quick write, or simply having a student summarize verbally what was learned. For the 24 hours, I try to do a warm-up (Do Now, Bell Ringer) every day to practice the concept learned the previous day. For the seven days, I try to include review problems on my assignments that cover material learned the previous week. For some reason, students don't take these problems seriously. I think in their brain, they say, oh this is just a review problem, I'm going to leave it blank, or just guess (since a lot of them are multiple choice TAKS type problems). The way I've solve this is I now include these review problems on unit tests. I keep telling the kids not to skip the review problems because they'll see them again on the unit test. Some take me seriously and some still haven't gotten the message.

With all the distractions a teenagers faces it is sometimes a miracle they learn anything, but for me, the 10-24-7 rule has been a very effective way to help my students retain information. Try it, you'll like it!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Gender Separation?

By now, I am hoping many of you have read my post about my
love-struck freshmen boys
who are now working great and whose grades are improving now that a certain little 14 year old heart throb has withdrawn from my class. One thing my daughter and I were discussing tonight over several glasses of wine is whether or not this situation might make a good case for gender separation in core classes at certain age levels. I'm thinking maybe 7th, 8th, and 9th grade?

I've always noticed a huge difference between 9th and 10th grade boys and sometimes you start seeing more maturity during the second semester of the freshmen year for some boys. So I think the 10th grade year might be a good time to end the separation.

Might it be the case that both sexes could learn better if separated into gender groups? I don't know the answer, but we were enjoying kicking the idea around for awhile. What do you all think?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Power of Love (or lust) is Now a Scientifically Proven Fact!

If you read my post yesterday about the Power of Love, you will appreciate this article sent to me by my friend Riccochet! Because it was so short, I'm just going to cut and paste into this post. I'm sorry that I don't know the proper ettiquette for giving credit for the article so I'll just give you the link to the story HERE.

Men suffer from significantly reduced mental agility after a conversation with attractive women, a new study suggests.

Dutch psychologists had males and females talk to strangers of both sexes and tested them on word games before and after the interaction. When men spoke to men, or women conversed with either sex, their mental abilities remained unchanged. However, a man gets markedly dumber after he talks to a woman -- and the better looking the woman, the stupider he becomes.

The researchers posit men can't help but mentally exhaust themselves trying to pick up an attractive woman.

This is why, if you value your money, you should never even look in the eyes of the cocktail waitress at the casino, the bikini model at the boat show, etc.

Now I finally know why my 3rd period class has such a high failure rate! Their IQ's have been severely impacted by a 14 year old siren!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Power of Love (or is it lust?)

I teach one class of algebra I that drives me crazy. Nothing like what my good friend Pissed Off Teacher is going through, but it's enough to make me crave a strong margarita at 9:30 in the morning.

In this class of 9th graders there are 14 boys and 3 girls. That is there were 3 girls. One of the girls withdrew from school yesterday to enroll in a private school. That leaves 14 boys and 2 girls. For an entire year, I have dealt with all types of mischief in this class. One day during the passing period, I entered the room to find one of the boys had put hand sanitizer all over the door handle. I have lots of running, horseplay, getting out of their seats, loud talking, strange bodily noises, and on and on. A lesson that takes 15 minutes to teach in my other algebra I classes, takes 30 minutes to teach in this class because of all the interruptions. On top of that, only about 25% of the class passed for the semester. Isn't that terrible? A 75% failure rate! See, Pissed Off, there are worse things than being the 60% teacher!

I cannot get these lovely children to do a bit of homework. I call home, I send letters, I counsel. I do everything I can possibly think of but no matter what I do nothing changes. I've resigned myself to the fact that whatever we do as a class is all they are really going to do.

But today something strange happened. I was teaching the lesson and I looked out and every single person was writing down the examples on the hand out I had given them. I didn't believe it so I took a stroll around the room in between examples, and sure enough EVERY SINGLE student had written down the first three examples.

I stopped them all right there and declared that the entire class was going to get 5 bonus points on that days assignment because I was so excited that the entire class was on task.

Here is where it gets interesting. This one boy (who is quite outgoing) says to me, "Miss don't you get it?" I said, "No, get what?"

He said, "That girl, that cute one with the curly brown hair isn't in our class anymore. I just couldn't think straight when she was in here. She was so hot that it just took my breath away!"

Immediately all the boys began talking at once. They all chimed in agreeing with the first boy. I heard comments like "She made me dizzy every time I looked at her." And "I just couldn't stop staring at her." This went on and on for about 5 minutes with nearly every single boy making a comment on the mesmerizing powers of this young lady.

By this time I was cracking up. I said, "You mean to tell me that this is why you boys have been acting like idiots since August. Do you mean to tell me that all this foolishness was just to get this one girl's attention?"

The first boy piped up, "Yeah, pretty much."

Now, I don't know if anything will get better or not on a permanent basis, but I sure did enjoy the fact that for one day every single person was learning.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gettin' Lucky

So yesterday we were learning to factor trinomials of the form ax^2 + bx + c in my math models class. I've taught this topic so many ways, but I have come to realize all of the little "tricks" to help them are useless, because the following year, they can't remember the "tricks". So in order to help them really understand the process, we are doing good old fashioned guess and check. This process was murder for my MMA kids because if they can't arrive at an answer within a few steps, they immediately proclaim "This is way too much work miss, " and you lose them for the rest of the lesson.

Anyway, on each problem, I would write out the possible factorizations and I was getting each row to check a different possibility. The first example went well and our second answer choice was the correct answer. On example two, the first answer choice ended up being the correct answer and I proclaimed, "wow, it's my lucky day!" "I can't believe I picked the right answer on my first try!" Then on example 3, I accidently did the same thing, I picked the correct factorization as my first guess (even though I really didn't want to). I then proclaimed in a very dramatic voice (because I was trying to keep their attention) "I can't believe I got lucky twice in one day!" A hush fell over the room and then laughter ensued. The whole class was beside themselves with laughing. It took me a few minutes to figure out what in the world was so funny. Then one brave student said, "Miss, think about what you just said."

I'm not sure how much they really learned yesterday about factoring. I can see that I will need to spend several more days on the topic. I'm going to try a little group activity today to avoid another "boring" lecture and hopefully more slips of the tongue.

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