The school year started fairly well, I thought, as I reflected this afternoon. Everyone – students and teachers alike – was in an enthusiastic mood this afternoon, due in equal parts to the drop in temperature and humidity and the upcoming 4-day weekend. The name tents and ‘Ms. Menard in Numbers’ were great introductions in my overcrowded Algebra 2 classes, and the Visibly Random Groupings – accomplished by handing out cards as the students enter the room – were actually met with way less resistance than I would have thought. (I’ve already got kids lining
up to be the Card Shuffler each day.) It’s such a simple strategy that I’ve been using it in all five of my classes, and it’s much less work than maintaining 5 seating charts. I probably won’t mix the seating up every day all term, but I will continue with this procedure daily until the students are completely routinized.
Going over a basic algebra review sheet took more time than I anticipated in my trig classes, but it gave me a chance to see who my most willing participants are. I wanted to distribute iPads and let the students explore Michael Fenton’s Desmos Bingo sheets, but time only permitted me to give a cursory demonstration of Desmos on the SmartBoard; I assigned the Bingo sheets as an exploration for the long weekend, with Des-Man as an extra credit assignment. Even though it’s Friday night, I’ve received three messages from students working; the Desmos magic always hooks them!
In my Problem-Solving classes, we worked on 1-5-2-4-3 yesterday, with predictably high engagement when you give the kids playing cards, and some great empowerment for the quiet students who picked up on the patterns quickly. I was thrilled to see one student, who warned me on the index card I collected with his contact information that he was ‘shy and slow’, become confident in front of my eyes as he took the challenge to successive levels. Today I launched the Race Around the World activity somewhat less successfully; the students were confused by the task, and not nearly as enthusiastic as I had hoped. In retrospect, it would have been more effective, I think, if I had posed the challenge to them as a question, asking “How fast do you think you can get around the world?” rather than distributing a piece of paper. The students didn’t get very far into the task because the introduction was unclear to them, so I am going to continue with it when we return to school on Wednesday, giving myself and them a bit of a do-over; I will work on a hook for this activity over the weekend.
When I left school, I was feeling fairly positively about these first few days, although concerned that with all of my planning and thought, I had missed what now looks like an obvious opportunity to grab the attention of these students – students who are quite clear on the reality of being programmed into an off-track elective rather than a core math class. I have had many of these children as students before – either in three term Algebra 1, or my
Geometry Fundamentals class – and have a good rapport with most, but I know that they are quite ready to give up, regardless of my belief in their ability to learn well in my math class. So my positive reflection had a little shadow around the edges.
And then, at 11 p.m., I received this message from a student in one of the Problem Solving sections:
Score!!! Let the weekend begin.