Plain Practice – A last minute idea that was not half bad

The other day in my geometry honors class, I had to teach special right triangles. I knew that I just needed time for them to practice and didn’t have time to create some type of interesting way for them to practice. I grabbed a couple of worksheets to bring with to class. I decided at the last minute to make copies of the answer keys. As students worked on the practice problems, I placed my answer key copies up around the room. To my surprise, my students were working really well and only asked me a question when they critically needed it. My last block of the day would probably have kept going if I didn’t stop them to move onto something else.

One thing that made this more effective than I thought was also having two worksheets. One was simple practice with the special right triangles and the other was tougher with application problems. It was nice that students could use this and differentiate a little. Allowing them some movement didn’t hurt either. I think that I just need to give my students time to work and ask questions and I don’t always need something flashy and exciting to help them learn. I was feeling kind of bad about this and now I feel, even though I could still always update the worksheets for next year, that it was pretty solid and the students seemed pretty strong on the homework that I assigned. I needed to write this to remind myself of these things.

Dividing Daredevils

With my regular geometry class, I wanted to have an activity that they can get started with right way on the first day of school. I came up with them dividing shapes into similar figures using this worksheet below:

I think some students will divide into four congruent shapes while others will divide into four similar shapes. It can generate discussion about what the difference is and motivate some discussion on how these will be two huge concepts for the rest of the year.

Enjoy your remaining summer while it lasts!

Midsegment Madness

I have been trying to structure my geometry classes this year with a problem to think about so that they can discover something. I believe that if they learn something without me, they take ownership of it and actually remember it. I gave them this triangle midsegment problem the other day in class:

As you can tell, it is nothing fancy. Maybe because I have been doing things like this all year long but my students dove in and tried to figure out a whole bunch of stuff. After they made their conjectures, I drew another one on the board and they had to figure out everything again and see if their conjectures worked. Some did and some didn’t…which lead to some great discussions. After 30 minutes, we were done discussing and everyone was convinced that this always worked. I threw a sketchpad up on the board and played around with it and they double checked it always worked (they love watching these things fly around on the screen).

I could have easily just told the students to accept this fact and do 10 practice problems on it but instead, I thought that this would be much more beneficial. I then proceeded to give them a few practice problems in different contexts involving midsegments…they rocked through all of them. Love it when kids tell you that this concept was easy when reality, they think it is “easy” because they worked hard to understand the idea behind and not just memorize that it is parallel and half the measure of the base. I need to remember to do more of this as it is so powerful!

Practicing Puzzle Proofs

Last week I worked on writing proofs with my regular geometry students. Some of them have a difficult time coming up with reasons and statements as well as knowing how to proceed to the next step. I wanted something that would help them review for their upcoming quiz as well as help to get them thinking about the logical flow of a two-column proof.

We did the activity below where they had to cut up the pieces and paste/tape them into the appropriate spots. Some of the pieces were not used to add a little bit of a challenge. They were really engaged and loved it.

This is short because I just needed to blog to hopefully get me back into it!

Students Think I Am Weird + Lots Of Fun Problems = First Week Of School


This week’s challenge is to talk about how the first week of school went so here we go!

This school year is different since we are on a Block Schedule but here is what happened on each day. My first week started the week of 8/25.

Monday: Prof. Development Day so I won’t bore you with those details.

Tuesday: More Prof. Development and then freshmen run through their schedule (literally running) and we get to meet them for a few minutes. They have 6 minute periods with no passing period time (so that makes sense right?). I feel so bad for freshmen who show up right when the bell rings to leave and they are huffing and puffing. To entertain them, I put a problem up for them to solve and discuss while we waited for more to show up. Then, I talked for one minute about what to expect the next day…”Expect to be learning and thinking. This will be your favorite class this year and you will have to wait and see why starting tomorrow.” I let them take guesses at the answer for the problem and then I tell them I will reveal the answer tomorrow. I love that in a short span of 6 minutes (even less since most arrive and then RUN away) I can sucker some of them in waiting for the next day. Since all my freshmen are in geometry and geometry honors, this square problem is perfect. Here is the problem below. Tweet me @jomalleyiv if you think you know the answer!

How many squares are in the figure below?

How Many Squares In The Figure

Wednesday: This is a gold day and I teach two sections of regular geometry and one section of honors geometry on this. (G for gold = geometry so I can remember when I am teaching stuff!!!!). When students walk in, they are instructed on the board to grab the worksheet at the front of the room. Everyday, they have an opener to grab so I like to start the routine immediately. It is an info sheet they fill out while I am waiting for stragglers. I let them go for about 5 minutes and then I put this problem back up on the board and I have them all take a guess and write it down. Then, I have some kids offer up answers and we discuss (usually someone counts all the rectangles). We talk about the answer and some other things that will reveal the answer so I won’t add anymore onto that. Then, we did the activity that I have posted about in the past here: After that, we used that motivation to talk about points, lines, planes, etc. Not the most exciting “lecture” but they were eager to learn from our “game” that we just played so I think it was okay. We even got to talking about the segment addition postulate. I let them try some problems and they figured it out by themselves!

Honors geometry was similar. I did the same geometry vocab game and the same square picture. After we talked about points, lines, and planes I gave them some t/f and always/sometimes/never questions for them to discuss in their groups. What is awesome about this group in particular, is when I say I want them to discuss they ask how and what they should say and then do it. With regular, they need more guidance on how to work in a group (I have all students in groups of four) but these students jump at the chance to discuss and debate. It is pretty awesome.

Thursday: Blue day so I teach two sections of Algebra II Studies (lower-level). I start with School Fever and it is a success as it has been in previous years. I blogged about it before here: Then, I gave them a whole bunch of graphs that I hand-drew different models on and they had to highlight the model that would be appropriate for the situation (some examples were time vs. distance, time vs. height, days vs amount of water used). I like that I force them to use a highlighter because you can’t erase so it forces them to stick with something even if it turns out to be a mistake in the end. It was great and we had some awesome discussions. We then did a little algebra practice and the day was over…so fast!

Friday: See my geometry kiddos again. I am getting tired of typing at this point but we did more practice (in both classes) with points, lines, and planes. I had a lot of problems for them to try and practice/struggle with before I would jump in and help. We talked about unions and intersections with points, lines, segments, and rays. I gave them highlighters and had them color in the parts we were talking about and it seemed to really help make a big difference. Lots of practice this day but they seemed to enjoy the time to gain these skills and work together. I did not do much talking and I loved that.

This year will definitely be interesting and a lot of hard work but I really have amazing kids in all my classes and I am so excited to work with them this year!

Pythagorean Theorem Jungle Hideout Practice

Summer school is over and I have a month before school starts up again. With going to block scheduling, I have been thinking a lot lately about how I will keep my students entertained. For me, a juicy problem that has multiple entry points with multiple paths to a solution can keep me busy for quite awhile….but I know students don’t always see it that way. I don’t like doing activities for the sake of doing activities but I do see the value in students being able to practice their skills in a way that doesn’t seem to be another worksheet.

Below is something I used last week to have students practice their Pythagorean Theorem skills. They all said they already knew this before so I wanted to see how much of this was true as well as let them to show off their ability. I believe the original idea of this is something Dan Meyer once used and I modified to fit my needs.

As students walk in, I give them all a card from a deck. I only used all the 2-8 cards and students wondered what they were used for. They kept asking and all I did was smiled and said “you’ll see”. They hate that….and yet it builds anticipation so they secretly love it. When it was time for the activity, I had students go to the appropriate problem (either 2-8 depending on their card they received earlier), and begin. When they answer the question, they had to then find the next question and answer that one. All the problems are multiple choice while I walk around the room monitoring progress. At the end of the document, I put the answers to the correct route that I carry with me. I usually put them up before class or since I share classrooms, while the students are working on their opener or some other task. It doesn’t take long to tape 12 problems up around the room.

To add to the suspense, I tell them that they have to find me in the “Jungle”. I tell them how I grew up and it was hard to find places for hide and seek because I am so tall and that a jungle helps me since their are a lot of tall trees. They all laugh, think I am weird like any other given day, and then get to work. I also have them keep track of their work and make a big deal about turning it in so they will actually show all their steps and blah blah blah. You get the picture. Keeps them moving, on task, starting at different spots, and finding out if they are correct or not. Lots of things I like about practice all rolled up into one little package.

Teaching Schedule For 14-15

I was able to see which kids I have in my classes next year. Since I was an aide in all sorts of different classes last year, I will be have a bunch of kids that I have been with before in my lower level Algebra 2 classes. This was true this year and it was great so I am really excited to have another bunch of them again this year. Here is what I will be teaching this upcoming school year:

Regular Geometry (Mostly freshmen) – 2 sections

Honors Geometry (All freshmen) – 1 section

Lower Level Algebra 2 – 2 sections

This is the exact schedule I wanted since I taught regular geometry 2 years ago and honors geometry this last year while having the lower level algebra 2 for 2 years in a row. Since we are going to block schedule, I feel more comfortable with having classes that I have at least been through once before.

What are you teaching in the upcoming year (if you know). I would love to find out what you are teaching and maybe we can chat throughout the year!