Keep, Change, Start and Stop – Pondering the beginning of a new year

Seems I only post once a year these days!  At any rate… here’s where my mind is going right now.  Hoping that writing it down will help my mind focus a bit more!   I am quite anxious for thoughts, comments and ideas – so please feel free!! You all are my PLC!  I’m depending on you to clear my fogginess!

Keep – 

Standards Based Grading at all levels – I can’t begin to describe how liberating this process has been.  My kids love it – they know exactly what they need to work on and they really appreciate the opportunity to improve.  I love that I can look at their work with new eyes.  No more – “should I take off a point for that silly error?”  Looking at their work from this perspective has actually helped me focus more on their overall understanding and less on the individual pieces.

Math Forum Problems of the Week and peer-to-peer mentoring – I actually simply-orange-and-purple (1)want to use these even more this year.  Hopefully add them to my academic level (maybe this should have gone under “change”.)  My kids last year reported that the peer-to-peer mentoring really helped them understand and better express their mathematical thinking and I saw a big improvement in their writing from the beginning of the year to the end.  (See our presentation materials on this project HERE!)  Super excited that NCTM has partnered with Math Forum too!  Anxious to see where that partnership will lead!

Change – 

Interactive Notebooks for my academic level – I’ve used INB for the past two years but this year I let them slip.  I didn’t check them as often and that didn’t force kids to keep up.  I also want to add in more practice within the notebook as opposed to on separate sheets of paper.

– kids just don’t do it…. at almost any level.  How can I changeit so they might actually do it?  How can I limit it so it seems more doable but also gives them enough practice to solidify ideas and (unfortunately) procedures?  How can I set 418602591up homework to spiral content?   I think practice over a longer time would help the content “stick” better – just my thoughts.

Grading homework – Do I grade it?  Not grade it?  Kids assure me that if I would grade it they would do it – that’s a bunch of hogwash?  Do I give them just a work ethic grade for it?  Check it only if they want to reassess.  Or focus on classwork in their INB for a work ethic grade?  I know …lots of questions that I think we all have.

Group work – perhaps this should be expand instead of change.  I already do some of this but I want to expand it.  Similar to last years goal of “Talk less.”  Perhaps using Math Forum problems, Exeter problem sets, classwork and homework review as the bouncing off point for this work.

Start – 

A review at the beginning of the year – preferably one that doesn’t suck!2015-08-05 10.15.31

Interactive Notebooks in my honors class – How do I approach this with my honors kids?  Many already know how to organize at least somewhat.  How do I not make this seem like an “elementary” task?  I’m really drawn to this idea but want it to be a great resource for them but not make a ton of more work for me.

Big Blue Button Hangout office hours – I want to use our learning management system, Canvas, to host some Online office hours for my kids in the evenings.  Can someone add some hours to the day?

Stop – 

Homework review in class – spending 10 – 20 minutes reviewing homework that many kids haven’t done is just a waste of everyone’s time.  They aren’t getting anything out of watching/listening to me solve problems.  They need to solve problems.  I think I’m going to provide answers and give them 5-10 minutes to review in groups.  Perhaps having them decide on 2 or 3 problems that they want to review and assigning them to the groups to present.

As I mentioned previously, I have so much running through my head that its a little overwhelming.  I have lots I want to start and change but I know, from more experience than I care to admit, that I can’t do all of these.  I must prioritize and focus otherwise I’ll do none of them well.   HELP!  Kids come back in two weeks!  Can’t wait and I’m not ready all at the same time!

Again – would love your thoughts, comments and ideas!!





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  1. I noticed that “peer-to-peer mentoring” is a keeper and, in particular, I noticed WHY. I wonder if any of that might transfer to the “homework” dilemma.

    As I read the “homework review in class” section under “Stop” it sounds like you’re already going in that direction. The idea of providing answers and giving them time to talk. I wonder if giving the answers up front as the homework is assigned might be an additional twist? Or, maybe one kid in each peer group (pairs, threes, fours?) is given just answer, another has one solution, another has a different solution and that is what they come to class prepared to discuss? It would be a pain to prepare all that but I’m thinking of PoWs and then I’m thinking how the Teacher Packet could be cut up and used.

      • lbburke on August 6, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Suzanne! Giving the answers to the homework is definitely where I’m heading. I used to assign a specific homework problem to students in a rotation. They had to present about that problem in class. The problem I had with that was that the kids didn’t do it if it wasn’t their turn. I think I’m going to just “pull” a name or group to present this year. Also going to work on limiting my time talking in class and increase their work time – in order to take advantage of time in class to do practice. That way they can practice new skills in class and I can give them limited homework that will spiral/review earlier content as well as practice current things – I’m thinking 5-8 problems. Just so much to think about!!

    • Trey on October 4, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    re: HW. 10th grade Honors Math.
    For the last 3 years, I have not graded HW. Reluctantly, I’ve started. But with a twist. I’m really looking at completion and process. Takes 5 minutes. HW is 10% of their grade, and I use their HW grade in a unit to help them see/justify their assessment grades.
    1. All assigned HW has answers with it. When practicing, students need to have instant feedback. Heaven knows I don’t want them to practice it wrong. Even for the students who don’t know how to get started, they can sometimes work backwards from the answer. Isn’t that still learning?
    2. I grade HW while students are in 360Math warmup mode (whiteboard screwed to every wall). They leave their notebook open to HW, and I can walk around 30 desks to see if they did all of it, some of it, worked out the process, or are trying to pull a fast one. I’m giving 10 for all work done, 5 for about half, and 0 for anything less. 3. Students may ask about specific problems at the start of class. I usually take their notebook with me to the board or at least look over their shoulder to see (a) that they did do it and (b) see if I can spot check a casual math error (“careless mistake” is verboten in class; I don’t believe they put forth effort without care). Typically, HW review is 2 minutes, and I’ll sometimes use it as a launching pad to introduce the next topic.

      • lbburke on October 5, 2015 at 11:40 pm

      Thanks for sharing! I’m using a similar process. I have them add the answers to the board to review it and then collect it once a week. When I collect it I look for work shown. They can’t get by with just an answer. I’m using interleaved homework so they are constantly reviewing old concepts as well as new. So far so good! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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