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.

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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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.