Resolving Dissonance

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Online Math Centers

Sunday FundayThank you Julie
for Sunday Funday ūüôā ¬†Helps keep me blogging when someone else comes up with the ideas for what to write about! ¬†This week’s topic: Math Centers!

I use standards based grading for my 9th grade class and every once in a while it seems like they all just need a day to catch up on something – but it’s a different something for each of them.

Twelve different math centers wouldn’t work so well with¬†traditional¬†centers ūüôā So I set up links on the class blog and reserve the mobile lab for the day. ¬†They look up any goals they are missing or have a low score on, then go to the links on the class blog for that particular goal.

The links include tutorials, practice problems, videos, games. ¬†Whatever I can find online that might help them with that goal if they didn’t already “get it” when we worked on it in class. ¬†(or, more likely, if they weren’t here that day or chose not to participate that day.) ¬†Sometimes I will also scan in relevant homework with worked out solutions and notes from in class.

It’s a good way to give everyone time to work on whatever it is that they need to do. ¬†Some students don’t need a catch up day, but almost all of them will have one thing they could work on. ¬†Even students who have perfect scores on all the assessments can still use the game links, Or can help other students.

I want to do something similar to this for my math lab class… but haven’t had time to organize it yet. ¬†This could also be done without computers by having activities/notes/practice in hanging folders. ¬†I also want to get a stock pile of games made for my math lab class. Things like scrabble with math, tarsia sets, math dominoes, math go fish or memory, card matches, etc. ¬†That might happen over spring break ūüôā


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Keeping Students Organized

CAM00398For my regular education classes (not honors) it’s pretty easy for them to keep track of what we are doing. ¬†We just go in order of the book except for rare occasions.

For my honors classes sometimes we will do two lessons in one day, or do them out of order, or take time off from book lessons and do something else.

I’ve always had the students write what we are doing each day in their planner and in their notes (if we took notes). ¬†It’s a requirement in our school that we state an objective for each day clearly for the students. ¬†On my first evaluation one of the things I was marked down for was not having the objective posted, and just when I was projecting my copy of the notes apparently doesn’t count, even though I was told it would when I asked… ¬† I’d get over it a lot easier if that evaluation didn’t impact what I am paid ūüė¶ ¬†Oh well, evaluations = different pet peeve. ¬†So, moving on, not only does the objective go in planners and on notes, it needs to be posted during the full class time.

One of the teachers has an extra whiteboard in the back of his room where he just writes everything at the beginning of the day. ¬†But I only have one white board. One of the teachers writes hers at the side of the white board, but it looks cluttered and messy with 6 different classes listed up there. ¬†One of them has laminated papers on a bulletin board, and that’s kind of where I got my idea.

My solution was to cut out large pieces of paper and laminate them. ¬†I have one for each class. ¬†Color coded of course ūüôā ¬†Everything for my classes is color coded. ¬†6 classes: Pink, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple.

On the papers I have a place for their power up (bell starter), daily question(s), and their homework.  Its working really well!  I have everything written for the students, they know where to find it, they have no excuse for doing the wrong lesson, it keeps my board uncluttered, and it still allows me time to meet the students at the door instead of standing up front writing when they come in.

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Math Lab – a.k.a. Study Hall.

My last period of the day is now a Math Lab. ¬†The class consists mostly of students who either 1) have decided they don’t want to do math homework, 2) they don’t understand it, or 3) they are too distracted by everything and anything to get it done.

My biggest struggle with the class right now: how do I make it meaningful for the students in there? With that class¬†I feel like I’m a babysitter more than teacher.

About half the students are from my math classes, and about half of them are from the other teacher. The class is 6th through 9th grade, WIDE range of abilities. ¬†The class has 15 students. 12 boys and 3 girls. ¬†2 of the girls are there just because they didn’t know what else to take, but don’t need help in math at all. ¬†They often go help¬†other teachers or help the students in my math lab who need help and actually have something to do. ¬†The third girl seems to fall into the “doesn’t want to do it” group, but I think a part of that is that she doesn’t get it and doesn’t want to admit that.

The class structure involves about 5-10 minutes at the beginning of class talking about something to do with organization, test taking strategies, basic facts review, etc. ¬†Then they get homework time. ¬†It’s pretty easy for me to make sure my students have something to do. ¬†I know what they need help on. ¬†Not so easy for students from the other math class. ¬†They always tell me they have nothing to do. ¬†Every day.

One of the other difficulties with this class is that many of the students are very… very, VERY easily distracted. ¬†The tiniest little noise, or comment, anything, is enough to distract them from what they were doing. ¬†And with half of the class (at least) falling into the easily distracted¬†¬†group, it’s like chain reaction anytime one of them gets distracted. ¬†My solution to that has been to allow headphones and music. ¬†It DEFINITELY has helped, for the ones who bring them.

I’m now also making a sort of ¬†“wall of remediation” but in hanging files. ¬†Then there will never be any excuse for not having anything to do.

I think I’m also going to a no talking rule ūüė¶ ¬†I hate doing it because I think being able to talk about math is SO beneficial… but in this environment? ¬†it doesn’t seem to work to allow it. ¬†Maybe once they are used to working quietly and can show me they know how I can have them earn the privilege of talking?

So to summarize… no more talking, available math practice, and headphones. ¬†Hope that all helps the class be more productive for the students. ¬†And helps my head not hurt by the end of it ūüôā


Motivating Students

One of the teachers in my school has her classes compete against each other.  they get points for negative behavior and the class with the fewest points at the end of the term gets a class party.

I like the idea of classes competing but there were a couple of things I didn’t like about her system.¬† The first is that I’d prefer to reward good behavior instead of punishing negative behavior.¬† There’s not much I can do for consequences.¬† They loose participation points (which are only a tiny part of the grade) or go to the office eventually (which doesn’t bother them.)¬† So I want to reward good behavior instead of punishing.

The second weakness I saw was that when one class gets too far ahead of the others, the others become discouraged.   Considering the HUGE behavioral difference between my classes, I could see that becoming a definite problem.

While I was considering how to overcome that problem – I found a game of Chutes and Ladders¬†in the copy room with a paper taped to it that said “free.”¬† Problem solved!¬† Someone who gets more turns is more likely to win, BUT with this game, there is always the possibility that your position, or the position of another class could change drastically.¬† So, even if someone is ahead, you can stay motivated and still have hope that you might win!

I originally wanted to use something with variable interval reinforcement, so¬†about every 5 minutes a timer goes off.¬† If everyone in the class is doing what they should be¬†you get a point.¬† But it’s a variable interval, so sometimes it might be after one minute, sometimes not for 8 or 9 minutes.¬† Or I could do a variable ratio¬†schedule – maybe reward them for approximately¬†every 5 examples of showing the desired behavior, not after exactly five as it is set up now.

I’m sure there’s a way to set that up, but I tried an easier solution for now.¬† I let each class give rule suggestions, then we voted on them.¬† We decided that you can’t lose points.¬† You need 5 points to¬† take a turn.¬†¬†A turn consists of one roll dice roll.¬† I decided that points start over each day (IMO – 1 point each for 5 days is not enough to earn a turn.) Each class voted on what they want their prize to win (my guidelines: has to be allowed by the school and I’m not spending any money.)

Our rules:
– 1 point for starting power up (bell ringer) as soon as the come in
– 1 point for asking a really good question
Р1 point for everyone working during homework time
– 1 point for catching me making a mistake (they love this one!)
Р1 point for doing extra work.  (If I see someone going really in depth on a problem)

Each class gets a different color.  I laminated the paper before writing the rules.  They are written with wet erase markers.  I use dry erase for the daily tallies.

class game

My 6th and 7th period still struggle a little, but the game is helping!¬† 6th period wasn’t even on the board yet when I took the picture.¬† They finally are now though!¬† I thought when we started that¬†5 points might be too easy.¬† But it actually seems about right.¬† Most classes get 4-9 points during the period.¬† Twice a class has had 10 or more.


Math Study Hall: individual work or collaborative?

I teach 6 classes.¬† Four of them are honors classes.¬† One is a “math lab” for students who need extra help.¬† The last is the 9th grade class.¬† We only have about 20 ninth graders in the entire school, so they are all in the same class, no split between honors and regular education.

The 9th grade class I struggle with.¬† I’m not sure what the solution is yet.¬† I keep adjusting and keep getting better.¬† I’ll write more about them later.¬† My most recent adjustment is helping them focus on the goal by grading standards and testing less material more often.¬† Little quizzes instead of big tests.

Today I want to focus on my math lab class.  Typically in my math classes I encourage discussion.  I encourage them to talk to each other, work together, etc.  I actually have a class point system where they compete against other classes, and they earn points if I overhear good questions and explanations.

I started out the math lab class (a new class for second semester) the same way.¬† I teach them good study strategies/habits in quick mini-lessons, then they get the majority of the class period to work on whatever math they are doing in their class.¬† After the first couple days I realized that wasn’t working out this time.¬† Was REALLY not working.¬† They were wasting a lot of time.

The math lab class is mostly students who have a hard time staying focused in their math class, or at home.¬† Many don’t necessarily do poorly in math because they struggle to learn it, but because they are easily distracted.¬† VERY easily distracted.¬† Some diagnosed with ADHD/ADD, some not. ¬†I’d get them all working then one tiny little¬†thing would distract half the class.

If I allowed students to work together it became such a distraction to other students.¬† But if I don’t let them work together, many don’t get questions answered because I can’t make it around to everyone.¬† And they don’t get the opportunity to explain and discuss what they are working on.

I talked to the special education teacher about it to get some suggestions and two of them helped!¬† The first one was headphones.¬† Worked great to help some of them block out extra noise!¬† The other suggestion was give them something quiet to do with their hands, so they aren’t making noises.¬† Both of those suggestions have helped TONS.

They are doing much better at focusing on the math work.  So my final solution? (for now)

They mostly work on their own.  But I have students grouped together with others who are either in the same class or who work well together.  Then if they do have a question they can ask the people around them.

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