Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Matching a Verbal Description to a Graph

Last week we were studying matching Verbal Descriptions to a graph.  Some students are naturally good at this, and others really struggle.  Despite my best efforts to teach this topic, when looking at a Speed v. Time graph that increases and then decreases, many students will invariably choose the answer choice that indicates someone is walking up a hill and then down a hill.

I decided to try an interactive approach this year and selected twelve graphs and 18 verbal descriptions.  I had the students cut out the verbal descriptions and then work together in groups to match the descriptions to the graphs.  This activity turned out to be quite difficult for many of the students and looking back, I decided that having six incorrect answers was just too much and made the activity unnecessarily difficult.  I reworked the activity to include only three incorrect answers in an effort to make it a little less time consuming.

You can download the activity here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Function Vocabulary Journal Entry

Can't take any credit for this one.  One of my colleagues did this journal entry with her students to help them keep all the function vocabulary we are learning straight.  I like how hers came out, so I'm gonna have to try it myself.  Thought I'd show you her pictures. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

All The Cool Kids Will Be There!

Hey guys, if you haven't joined the Global Math Department yet, you don't know what your missing.  Every Tuesday night, you can find a bunch of us chatting, learning, and collaborating about different topics. 

Anyway, come out tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern Time and join me and a group of fantastic ladies as we present our favorite Review Games.  Don't be left out!  Join the Global Math Department so you can start to put names and faces with all your favorite bloggers. 

Tomorrow's agenda:

Lisa Henry will lead a panel of presenters who will share their favorite review games. Presenters include Lisa Henry (An Old Math Dog Learning New Tricks, @lmhenry9), Kim Hughey (Math Tales from the Spring), Julie Reulbach (I Speak Math, @jreulbach), Alisan Royster (@G8rAli), Remi Smith (The Math Smith, @reminoodle), and Sue VanHattum (Math Mama Writes, @suevanhattum).

If you are unable to attend, the sessions are recorded and you can download and watch at your leisure.  Hope to see you there!

Graphing Calcualtor Cheat Sheet

Here in the great state of Texas, Algebra I for all has been a mantra for the last fifteen years or so.  When we first started down this road of requiring Algebra I for HS graduation (and now algebra II), many of us wondered how we would ever get some of our students to pass Algebra I.  We were told that the graphing calculator would be the great equalizer and allow us to teach Algebra concepts to students who were behind mathematically. 

I'm not going to get into my views about the role of the graphing calculator in Algebra I.   Like any tool, it can be used to help or hinder mathematical maturity depending on the teacher.  I try to take a balanced approach and teach everything by hand and then on the calculator.  This enables my 9th graders to be very proficient with the basic capabilities of the calculator by the time they finish Algebra I and increases their chances of success on our state End of Course Exam.

In my old school where we had a student population that was over 70% economically disadvantaged and about 60% of my students had failed their 8th grade state math exam, we gave out calculators the 2nd day of school and never looked back.

In my new school, which is only about 30% economically disadvantaged, we teach our first unit (functions) without the calculator and then begin to use them in our 2nd unit (Solving Equations).

On the first day of using the calculator, I pass out this cheat sheet and let them play around with the buttons while I go over some of the basic features.  This cheat sheet pretty much covers most of the basic features that we will use in the first semester.  The students are expected to keep this cheat sheet all year in the Reference Section of their binder along with their formula charts and other important information I give them.

Here it is if you'd like a copy.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Translating Verbal Phrases into Algebraic Expressions

I'm a little behind in recording my INB activities.  Wow, the first two weeks of school have been a whirlwind.  I finally started to get a little caught up yesterday since I gave long quizzes and was able to organize the piles of paper that were EVERYWHERE. 

This INB activity is actually one I did the first week of school.  Our first lesson in Algebra I is on Translating Verbal Phrases.  We then extend this lesson on the next day by learning how to take a verbal phrase like "The set of y-values are three less than twice the x-value" and create function rules, mappings, tables, and graphs.

The lesson went well, it was short enough to keep their attention and then the INB activity allowed them to practice in a hands on way.  I then assigned a puzzle page  for homework that had a corny joke at the top.  When I handed it out, I was surprised to hear kids say things like, "I love these things".

Here are the files if you'd like to download them.  One thing I have found about cut and paste activities.  Give the students the page that they have to cut out first and give them about three or four minutes to get started cutting.  By then almost everyone will be done or almost done cutting.  Then pass out the "answer mats".  If you don't do this, some just want to write the answers down on the mat and skip the whole cutting part.  This may sound strange, but I think the whole act of cutting and pasting the answers seems to make the material stick in the brain better than just trying to write down the answers as quick as you can and get it turned down.  It is a deliberate effort on my part to get them to slow down and THINK.


Translating Verbal Phrases into Algebraic Expressions Cut and Paste

Puzzle Page Translating Verbal Phrases

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Domain and Range Cut and Paste Activity

My Algebra I students have been working on domain and range for the last couple of days.  I'm not completely satisfied with my lessons and really need to tweak them, however, we did do a cut and paste activity today that worked well.

For this activity, I had the students work with a partner, but they each had their own cards and answer mat.  The purpose of the partners was so that they would help each other and not rely on me to answer every little question they had.

I passed out the domain and range cards first and had them cut them out.  When everyone was almost finished, I passed out the answer mat which was made up of eight different graphs.  I asked them to place the domain and range cards onto the appropriate graph but wait to do the gluing until they checked their answers.  After about 10-15 minutes, I put the answers up on my document camera and let them start pasting their answers.

As I circulated the room, I heard lots of students say that they were finally "getting" domain and range.  In the past, one of my biggest struggles is teaching the students how to properly write the domain and range.  I will get lots of answer like -3 > x > 5 or other answers that don't really make sense.  This activity provides a way to scaffold the instruction so that they are able to focus on the concept and not worry about the correct notation.  Tomorrow, my plan is to give them eight more graphs but no answers and have them come up with the domain and range on their own.

The activity is here if you'd like to download it however, if your state requires your Algebra I students to use interval notation, you will have to edit the answer cards.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Student Graded Binders

Yesterday I posted here about my binder set up and my plan to have the students grade each other's binder.  I am happy to report that the process went fantastic.  The students did a great job using the rubric to grade their partner's binder and all I had to do was walk around and see if there were any questions about the process.  When the students walked in I had a slide up on the projector that gave explicit instructions as to what papers should be in which section.  I gave them about five minutes to do any last minute organizing and then we spent about 10 minutes grading. 

Here is the best part, 91% of my students showed up today with a complete binder including all their dividers and a decorated cover.  Tomorrow, I will begin to call all the parents of the students that did not bring binders.

I think the key to success is making this grade a major test grade.  In the past, I have not enforced the binder requirment and so I got about 70% participation.  This year, the binder is going to play a huge role in making Algebra I interactive so I feel that the time I spend making sure they are set up properly will pay off in the end and ultimately result in increased student learning.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Binder Project

In my last post I discussed the organizational system I will be using this year.  Students are required to have a 3 ring binder dedicated solely to Algebra I.  Their binders will have four dividers labeled reference, notes, quizzes, and journal.  Because having their binders every day will be such an important part of the class, I decided to create a project that involved setting up their binder and creating a cover with "Numbers About Me".  This Binder Project will count as a major test grade.

I gave out this project description on the 2nd day of School (August 28) and gave them until the Tuesday after Labor Day to complete the binder set up.  Every day for the first week we discussed the binder and the importance of getting it set up as soon as possible. 

The reference section will contain a student progress sheet, a syllabus, bell schedule, monthly calendar, State formula chart, a plastic sheet protector containing a coordinate grid that we will use as a white board and anything else I can think of to put it in there.

The notes section will contain the notes for the current unit only.

The quiz section will contain all graded and corrected quizzes

The journal section will contain a table of contents, warm-ups, journal entries from given prompts, activities we do like card sorts, matching activities, frayer models, foldables, and anything else that will summarize our learning for each unit.

If you are interested in my project description and grading rubric you can download it here

My plan is for students to grade each other's binders.  I know, I know, this may or may not go well, but I will find out tomorrow (the day after Labor Day).  This is the rubric I intend to hand out to the student's to help them grade their classmate's binder.  I plan to walk around the room and monitor this process. 

Interactive Notebook Woes

Okay, I've gotta come clean with something.  As much as I was pumped to begin Interactive Notebooking in my classes this year, I have not really jumped in with both feet like I wanted to.  I backed off after talking to the other teachers in my department and looking at a few challenges that were going to take a lot of time and effort on my part to overcome.  So I'm doing a form of interactive notebooking called journaling.  My entire department is on board with this endeavour and I'm going to try to blog and reflect on our journaling activities this year.  Next year, who knows, we might be ready to fully jump into the Interactive Notebooks.  In the meantime, we have created a new section of our notebook called "Journal".  In this section, we are pasting in activities we do, foldables, graphic organizers, frayer models, writing prompts, and even warm-ups

These are the challenges that swayed me into staying with the traditional binder:

1.  Our department uses common guided notes for each topic.  These notes were created by us as a department and they are formatted to fit into a 3 ring binder.  The thought of reformatting these notes for a composition notebook or even taking the time to paste them into a spiral seemed like  a precious waste of class time.  Goal for next year would be to get away from these altogether and create my own interactive notes for the RHP of a composition notebook.  Downfall for this goal is in my current system, I am easily able to give out copies of notes to my many students who have special accommodations that say they must be given a copy of class notes.  Not sure how to do INB's with these students.  I teach 2 inclusion classes with kids that have disabilities of everything from blindness, to autism, to severe dyslexia.  Meeting these accommodations is not a choice, but is my responsibility.  My current system is also so wonderful for absent students.  I fill out the notes under the document camera and then copy them at the end of the day for everyone absent.  I am also able to easily upload them our online student website.

2.  Our department has lots of schedule changes.  All of us currently require a binder with the same exact setup so that if a student transfers from one teacher to another, their notebook should work for any class.  If I do composition books and a student comes to me from another teacher who uses the binder system, how will I catch them up?

3.  The third challenge is personal.  Many times, I get this great idea and jump in with both feet.  Often times I learn my great idea will require more time and organization that I was prepared for and my great idea fizzles.  I was so fearful that INB's would become something that I was gung ho about for awhile and then gave up when I discovered they were requiring more than I thought they would.  I think, I am second guessing my ability to stick with something.  I think the approach I am taking this year is a good compromise.  I'm staying with a system that has worked for me for the last few years and adding a piece that will hopefully make student learning come alive and be more engaging.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Addressing the Behavior and Not the Student

During our inservice meetings before school, we had a great speaker who was not only humorous, but was full of helpful advice that could be applied to any classroom.  One of the things I took away from her presentation was a discipline technique that is simple and effective with any age of student.

Over the years, I've learned it is best to avoid direct confrontation with teenagers and to not put them in a position where they have to defend themselves in front of their peers.  Although I do my best to avoid this type of nasty situation, there are times when for one reason or another, I find myself having to confront unwanted behavior in my classroom.

The technique the speaker presented is simply to avoid conflict by addressing the behavior and not the student.  She demonstrated several situations and did a great job by using dramatic pauses as she addressed the evil deed doer.

So this week when I saw headphones in Johnny's ears, I didn't say a word to Johnny.  I simply gazed out into the classroom and said, without looking at anyone in particular, "If you (dramatic pause) currently have earbuds in your ears, I am going to need you to take them out at this time".  The entire class looked around trying to figure out who had the earphones and the guilty person sheepishly took them out while I continued teaching.

When charming little Ashley had her cell phone underneath her back pack and was busy texting, I stopped my lesson and calmly said, "If you (dramatic pause) currently have your cell phone out, I am going to need you to put that away".  Again, instant compliance and I don't think anyone other than the offender had a clue who it was that had their cell phone out.

In one class after lunch, I looked out and saw several heads on the desk, so you guessed it, I simply said "If you currently have your head down on your desk, I'm going to need you to lift it up right now."  Every single person complied without a single argument.

I literally used this technique every day  last week without a single problem.  The flow of the lesson was not interrupted by someone trying to defend themselves by saying "I'm just checking my phone to see what time it is or "my earbuds are in, but my music is off".  There was no need to defend themselves because I never pointed them out in front of the class. 

I can't believe I've been teaching fifteen years and no one has ever shared this technique with me before.  It is so simple that I can't believe I didn't think of it myself.  What kind of techniques do you use to put a stop to unwanted behavior?

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