Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Communicator Boards.

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!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

An activity that actually worked!

Happy Labor Day weekend to everyone! I hope all of you who have already been in the trenches for several weeks are enjoying your long weekend. To those of you starting school within the next couple of weeks, I hope your year gets off to a great start.

Friday, the day before the holiday, I didn't want to start anything new in my Math Models classes so I played a little game that worked really well. I thought I'd share it with you. I had each student draw a 4 x 4 grid on a piece of notebook paper and number each space randomly with the numbers 1-16. I had a jar on my desk with the numbers 1-16 on little scraps of paper. We have been reviewing solving linear equations of all kinds, so I prepared a list of about 50 random equations to solve. I put an equation on the board and everyone worked it while I watched. I then worked and gave the correct answer. After I gave the answer, I drew a number out of my jar. Everyone who had the correct answer, got to "X" out that number on the grid. We played until someone got 4 "X"'s in a row. Did some cheat, and mark out a number when they really got it wrong?, probably, but for this game it doesn't matter. I was just really trying to keep them on task and doing something productive the day before a holiday.

I thought it worked great because I didn't need any materials. You could do this little game with any topic. All you need are some questions prepared in advance and some cut up numbers. in a jar. Also, the smart kids don't really have an advantage over the ones who struggle because they placed the numbers randomly on the grid. Everyone had a chance to win. They were really into it and wanted to know if we could play the game again sometime. It really surprised me that these classes got into the game so much. Of course, there were a couple who never do anything anyway that weren't really all that enthused, but for the most part, I got excellent participation.

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