Summer Research – less direct teaching!

The new school year is just around the corner and I have begun to put together new ideas.  I have been lurking into many wonderful blog posts and now want to take the leap into following math teachers on Twitter.  I just feel like I am not worthy enough to share ideas, they have so many great ones.  Here goes…

Our school district has been very proactive in moving toward CCSS.  We have been implementing it in the elementary grades for the last 2 years.  We are implementing it in 6-12 this year but the state department will not count test scores until the following year.  They are giving us one year to get our feet wet and the kids will take the old high stake test (which won’t count) this year.   Last year I volunteered to pilot a CCSS textbook for Algebra 2.  There were 6 of us that piloted the book but we were all at different schools.   

A few years back our district jumped into the Kagan method of teaching.  That was right up my alley.  I haven’t never liked teaching in straight rows where you can hear a pin drop during the entire class.  I want to the kids moving around and talking about math.  

So last year our district found this book that promoted discovery before teaching.  I jumped in with both feet.  I was not completely successful with it the first semester and I got a little better the second semester.  The book series is called College Prep Mathematics (CPM) and it covers 6-12 grades.  The book series is big on discovery, discussion, communication (including presentations) and the lessons spiral throughout the entire series.  Most of the problems involve real-world connections, even in an abstract subject like Algebra 2.  They even have cooperative learning suggestions for all the lessons.  There is so much already planned that is was impossible for me to do all of it the first time through.  

Our high schools are on block schedule so I got to start over second semester, whew!  And it was nice to have 95 minutes to work on a lesson.  Here is what a typical day looked like last spring.  My students have homework every night.  I gave them a calendar at the beginning of the unit that listed all their homework.  They turned homework in before they could enter the classroom.  The students who would be pressured to allow someone to copy their homework loved this!  They would then enter the room, pick up their calculator, and start their bellwork (hopefully).  Once the bell rang I would take attendance and quickly check homework.  They would receive 2 points for full completion, 1 point for partial, or a zero for not doing it.  I usually had a student who was finished with their bellwork pass them back out.  I would then go over bellwork and any homework questions.

NOTE:  I am changing the way I start class this coming year.  I have been reading blogs today and really like how Mathy McMatherson does his bellwork.  I am still sitting on the fence about homework.  I have tried both extremes in the last 16 years but have not found the perfect solution yet.

I then introduced the lesson.  Because the students I had last year were blind-sided with a completely new method of learning we took baby steps.  If I thought it was a topic they would struggle with I made sure that the bellwork was made up with refresher problems.  This textbook does not look like a math book.  It looks more like an English book.  There is a lot of reading.  So we would all read the intro problem together.  I gave them guidance of where I wanted them to go and then had them work the problem with their group.  The majority of the class was spent having them work with their group.  I spent the time circulating, listening, asking and answering questions.  I did more prodding then directly answering questions, this was a mental shift for me.

The last 10 to 20 minutes were spent on closure.  This didn’t always mean that I was standing at the front of the room talking.  The book is designed so that they create presentations and talk to their peers.  These were informal to formal presentations.  

NOTE:  This summer I am going to take my old portable web cam and make my own “elmo” so the kids can use them to show their presentations.

The last thing I did was have them fill out an exit ticket.  They were not allowed out the door without handing this piece of paper to me.  I keep quarter sheets of paper (recycled old worksheets, etc) on every table.  I called them Thinkpads (Kagan) and this was what they put their exit ticket on.  During class change I stood in the hallway and separated them into right and wrong piles.  Those that were correct were stapled onto the bulletin board (one of their fav things) and I wrote feedback on the others and handed them back the next day.  I stressed that these where not for a grade.  And that if they copied then they were telling me that they understood the lesson and I didn’t need to help them.  My goal was to see who got it and who else needed more help.  They were allowed to ask for help but not to just copy.

Now all of this sounds great when I type it all up but it didn’t feel so great when I was living it.  There is many things that need improving.  And this year all the Algebra 2 teachers at all of our schools will be teaching with this book so that is lots of heads being put together.  Oh and our district is actually implementing the entire book series, 6-12, this year. It should be exciting.


About acuteangle89

I am blessed to be the new librarian at Southaven High School. I taught math at SHS since 2003 and in 2016 became the librarian. I am going to use this blog to document my transition into this new and exciting part of my life.
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