My mantra this year is: TAKE YOUR TIME which is so difficult for me! Last year I implemented standards based grading swiftly and even though it was better, if I had taken a bit more time, it would have been much better. So, this year, I went back to the good old days when I was an elementary teacher and concentrated on taking time to establish procedures. Not that I had not done that with my middle schoolers, but I had become a bit complacent since I only had my kiddos for 47 minutes. What I realized is that procedures are as important or even more so because of my limited time. I want to utilize each and every minute and make sure I provide meaningful learning experiences for my students. I also want to make sure that I am gleaning valuable information on student understanding or lack there of during this time.
The overall instructional goal for my math classroom this year is: Authentic Literacy - purposeful reading, writing, and discussion as the primary modes of learning content, thinking, and problem solving skills. This is driven by the fact that my district uses College Prepatory Mathematics as our Algebra 1 - Calculus math programs. CPM as we call it is extremely reading intensive, there are many pages in the book that have fewer numbers than words. So, I began my year using Marcy Cook's book - Numbers Please! Questions Please! and Lane County 7th Grade Problem Solving and Lane County 8th Grade Problem Solving. All three of these resources provide an opportunity for me to introduce reading to understand mathematics and to begin the process of teaching students to translate words into mathematical representations. It also allows me to establish a thinking environment that allows students to take chances and make mistakes. Thanks for hanging in so far... Now for some nuts and bolts!
- Head Problems - My quiet signal
- When I want students to focus on me, I use a head problem to pull them out of whatever they are doing. "Start with the number 10, double it, divide by 5, triple it, add the digits, show me on your fingers... This is a mental math activity that makes the students stop what they are doing and focus on what I am saying. At the end when they show me the answer, I tel just so the students who werew so focused on tl the students who got lost to copy what they see the other students showing. We go over the problem quickly. I can use these problems to introduce upcoming skills or reinforce mental calculations.
- Standards Tracking Sheets - The tool that I wish I had used last year
- Pre-Algebra Standard Tracking Sheet Chapters 1 and 2 this tool has taken standards based grading to a new level in my classroom. It has the standards listed (gotta love California - God I wish I could move to Canada) then the concepts, and then the variety of assessment columns.
- I give the students a pre-test at the beginning of each unit. The student record their scores I have given them according to Kristen Beck's Grading Rubric.
- The students know that they have to prove understanding and this sheet allows them to track where they are in their understanding of each standard.
- The beautiful part of this process is in the formative assessments. Any time there is some sort of formative assessment in class, the students record the skill/standard that was assessed. I included many columns because not everything is assessed each time...
- The students are actively using the grading rubric to understand their standard scores on the pre-test and weekly formative assessments.
- Instead of "trashing" their quizzes, they are voluntarily correcting them and writing explanations about where they messed up.
- They are taking responsibility for their understanding or lack there of and telling me "I know how I messed up, or where I messed up, or I don't understand this standard" knowing that they will not be punished for not knowing and that I will be there to provide the guidance they need to learn and prove they understand the math standards.
Will be writing more about the purposeful writing and discussions very soon!