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.

Marker Magic – Practice @ The Board

Trying to get back into blogging now that grad school is completely over and I don’t feel like every minute of my life has to be scheduled!

Going off of the MTBOS 2017 Blogging Initiative and talking about a “My Favorite”… the first thing that came to mind is my favorite way to get students up and practicing. Their are days where I just need students to practice some skill (solving inequalities before break comes to mind) and I need to know how they are doing. Their are lots of ways to get this done but one way my students enjoy (and by enjoy I mean they don’t complain and will do it for a reasonably amount of time before they get bored) is standing at the whiteboard. Not just one or two of them, but all of them at the board at once. Thankfully, my rooms have three walls of whiteboards so I can fit a bunch of kids nicely. (In my larger classes I give some of them mini whiteboards and then trade off who is sitting and who is standing).

I usually prepare a bunch of problems ahead of time with their answers on a piece of paper (though I have just made them up off the top of my head before) and I read the first problem out. They all write it down and then begin working. I stand in the middle of the room and get to watch it unfold and see who is struggling immediately and who is flying through the problem. I encourage students standing next to each other to assist as if they were sitting and working together in their groups.  It is a great way for me to see a snapshot of everyone’s abilities. Then, we repeat with another problem. A cool thing I learned throughout the years doing this is that when I say something out loud, students actually have to know how to write it correctly and helps with understanding (less than, log base 2, etc.)

To make my life easier, I always have markers and little erasers sitting around the room before class so we can grab them ahead of time. I also only have the standard color markers (blue, red, black, green) for students to use and use a purple or orange marker for myself in case I need to write something down to show a student something.

It is surprising to me that once a student gets out of their seat and everyone is at the board, they are more willing to try and work on something instead of just another problem on a worksheet. This works especially for my lower-level students. Try it and see how it is different than just using mini-whiteboards!

Krazy Kahoot

I now put it in my calendar to blog with an alarm….I am really going to try and stick with this once a week…

Since it is Summer I figured I should start the blogging thing again and I found this post sitting in my drafts. I also had another teacher ask me when I was going to post something again because they thought I was helpful….CRAZY! Now I have to blog again if it makes a difference only for one person (even if that person is me). Anyways….

Kahoot has been this crazy phenomenon at my school. The world language teachers started this trend and then it seemed like my whole school jumped on the bandwagon. In case you never heard of or used Kahoot, it is an application that the students all sign into on their phones or computers or ipads or whatever. As the teacher, I create multiple choice questions with answers and they have to choose the answer. The questions are projected on the board and they just choose their answers on their phone. The students who answer correct earn points. Here is the craziest thing about it and causes mayhem when playing: the faster you are, the more points you earn. Now, I am usually not about speed in mathematics but their are a few things I can see this being good for but first…

A typical classroom day using this looks like following:

1. Me: We are going to do a Kahoot today. Students: YAYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!

2. Students pull out phones and put in their names. (I make them put their initials and then whatever bizarre name they want. Nothing inappropriate or we don’t play….unfortunately that has happened before.)

3. Question # 1 appears on the screen and the kids all punch in the answer.

4. They see the leaderboard (top 5 people appears after every answer) and get excited and even more competitive.

5. This continues until the end and they ask if we can play it again….which makes no sense since they all know the answers now.

 

I did this with exponential growth and decay functions with some basic equations and identifying things like percent increase, start value, etc. You can use the quiz if you follow this link: https://play.kahoot.it/#/k/3e1b8673-47b4-40ea-a412-60d944cfb039 (Note: I have random questions like my favorite pop thrown in so you might want to update that)

If you have never used kahoot you should go to  https://getkahoot.com/ and try it out. Then you can snag mine and use it or make your own. You can also search for lots of other ones teachers have made and modify to your hearts content. It is pretty fun when you are looking for a quick activity and you want to just test if students can recall. Don’t expect to ask hard-hitting questions here or kids will just quickly answer to see if they can be first and not try the problem (learned that the hard way).

 

Lucky Lottery

One of my favorite go-to activities is to do a lottery in class because it has my favorite elements…

  1. Students have fun and enjoy doing it
  2. Students work at their own pace and it is okay if Susie finishes first…goal is learning
  3. Students get to check their answers and receive feedback
  4. I get to see where their level of understanding is at

Basic Premise: Students complete a worksheet. After they complete x amount of problems, they get it checked by me. If they get it correct, they get an entry into the lottery.

Setup: Before class starts, I put up numbers 1-100 on the board with enough spacing so students can write their names. Before class, I also use some worksheet that has enough problems for students to practice what we are learning. 10 usually seems to be sufficient. I also decide if I want them to go solo or work with a partner.

During The Activity: Students will complete a problem(s) in any order they like. Once they get a set of problems completed, they must come up and show me (I am usually sitting near the board with the numbers but off to the side an out of the way). If they are incorrect, I may simply say “Try again” or provide some guidance…depends on the student of course and whether or not they have a partner, etc. If they get it write, I either stamp it, sign it with my initials, etc. to verify they got it correct. The student gets to go to the board and pick any number they want and put their name next to that number. Students continue doing this for as long as you deem productive. (Make sure you let them know when their are a few minutes left or they will be mad they didn’t get a chance to get one more name down). Then, after time is over, I use a random number generator (ti-nspire on the board so they know I am not cheating) and pick something from 1-100 (if you need more than 100 i tell students to put up 101, then 102, etc. for as many more as we need…but they don’t get to pick anymore just whatever comes next). I usually have some lame prize (eraser) to something amazing (extra credit, high-five from me). Make it whatever you want!

Below is a worksheet I used recently with this when practice exponent notation and some basic function operations with my lower-level Algebra II students. They had a blast and worked really hard. Such an easy thing that doesn’t require much set-up! Also, below is a picture of part of one of my boards with the students names on it. Let me know if you try it and how it goes!

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Paper Punchers

I know when you get back from break that it is hard for students to get back in the motion of things (and for me too!). I made this activity for students our first week back and brought in a few helpers to make it successful. Everybody got both punch-out worksheets and I let them choose where to start and which ones to tackle. This was more solo-oriented but students are always sitting in groups of 3-4 so they are free to talk with each other on problems. Here is what they looked like:

 

Students were busy working away and then running up to either myself or a helper and got the box hole-punched if they got the problem correct. If they did not get it correct, either guidance was given or I asked a question that might lead them to think about how to solve the problem and they would go back and try again. Students thought it was fun, they got to practice, students got to move around which, imo, helps learning, and I got to see who knew what was going on and who didn’t. Win, win, win, and win.

I know they did better on their quadratics test the following class because some of them realized things they “thought they knew” and were able to have a lot of time practicing as well as asking for some 1-on-1 assistance if needed.

Shading Struggles

I worked on graphing inequalities with my students earlier this year and they have a very difficult time determine which side to shade. The idea of a test point makes many of them groan because of two different reasons:

  1. It requires extra work
  2. When substituting numbers, they sometimes get confused with negatives and do it incorrectly.

While struggling through, I decided this year to whip up this worksheet:

In my mind, this was going to be a quick review of shading since I knew some were struggling…little did I know this was going to blow up in my face (Boom). What I thought might take them 5-10 minutes was taking much longer and many were confused. Only after many seemed even more confused, I realized that the main thing that threw them off was that their was no coordinate grid. The students who liked the test point idea had no clue what to do. Vertical and horizontal lines also through some of them a curve-ball because we had not practiced as many of those at this point. Because it was not what they normally saw (always given a 10×10 grid and said to graph) they were confused.

Even though it was horrible at first, we talked through it and they made lots of progress. This ended up marking the turning point for the class as the day many students started having that light-bulb moment and went on to having much success on the chapter test. It is funny how things that seem easy to me can really take a long time for some students to grasp but getting them out of their comfort zone can really make a big deal in helping their understanding when it is all said and done.

 

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!