Sunday, September 2, 2012
Third Time's the Charm!
They say that the third time's the charm and I really believe that if students can successfully complete problems on a new concept three different times, then they are on their way to mastery. The first time is guided practice in class, the second time is independent practice at home and the third time is reviewing the concept the next day during the Do Now or homework review.
I have read many interesting and thoughtful posts on the homework and homework policies. It seems that many math teachers believe that independent practice is important but struggle to find the best system that works well for both students and teachers. I have definitely had that struggle. I have tried many different strategies--some have worked well and some not so well and some have worked well but have taken up too much class time or too much of my time outside of class. Once again I want to try some new things this year in order to find the best system possible.
1) Assign fewer problems. I usually assign odd problems from the textbook and remind students frequently to check their answers in the back of the book in order to see if they are on track. I am thinking about assigning fewer problems this year (10-15 instead of 15-25). In fact, I LOVE the idea of assigning just one problem that is very rich. For example, I really like this surface area problem from Accessible Mathematics by Steven Leinwand. "Doctors estimate the amount of skin each person has using the formula S = 0.6h^2 where S is the number of square inches of skin and h is the person's height in inches. Use the formula to determine a reasonable estimate for how much skin you have. Then validate your result using a a referent such as an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper and using surface area formulas. Discuss the reasons for the differences among your three estimates." (pg. 51)
2) More Productive Homework Review. By assigning fewer problems, I hope to make homework review more productive by asking students to show and explain their solutions to the class. I am starting school with a unit on problem solving and after working on one strategy in class, students will be assigned a few problems for homework. Students will also be asked to pick one problem and write out a detailed solution to show and share with the class. Then when we review the problems in class I can quickly ask students to bring solutions up to the ELMO to show the whole class and explain. And then I can ask other students if they have other ways to solve the same problem.
3) "Flipped" Classroom. I would like to experiment with using some ideas from Flipped Classrooms. Of course teachers have been doing a low tech version of a flipped classroom for years by assigning some reading from the textbook before a topic is covered in class. Any student who does this kind of preparation can gain so much more from the classroom presentation/lecture/discussion on a new topic. I want to encourage students to come to class "ready" to learn something new by having some previous exposure to the topic. As part of the homework assignment I plan to give students a link to a video on the topic we will be covering the next day in class. Khan Academy is one resource that I will use for these videos.
1) Daily homework check. Continue to check homework very quickly at the beginning of class by walking around the room and initialing or stamping homework that has been completed. I want this process to take less than a minute or two and so I don't "grade" the assignment at all (I do that later) and just give them a stamp if they have the homework on their desk at the beginning of class.
2) Weekly homework check. Collecting all homework assignments on Friday and entering a weekly homework grade based on effort and completion of the work and following the homework guidelines. When I "grade" homework I look for a proper heading, completion of all problems assigned, effort, marking problems right or wrong, making corrections and showing work.
1) Grading every assignment every week. Last year I though to myself, if I still collect all homework assignments, but only look carefully and assign a grade to half of them I could save myself a lot of time and students would still know that I expect homework to be completed and would still get the benefit of independent practice. And since students are fairly consistent about doing or not doing homework, a homework grade based on only half of the assigned work would be an accurate reflection of their effort and homework completion. I plan to randomly decide each week if I am going to check homework and assign a grade or simply give them a check in the gradebook for turning in the assigned work.
I love my new homework board. I got the idea from Math = Love. THANK YOU. I plan to invite students to come up with quotes and math expressions for the calendar for bonus points. I have wanted for a long time to include motivational quotes about life and math and calendar math in my classes and I think I have finally found a way to make that part of the regular classroom routine.