Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Making headway through obstacle #1 (algebra 1)

I was incredibly frustrated last night.  I thought I had been making so much progress with my Algebra 1's and was so excited to have them watch their first video at home and the online WSQ submissions were just pitiful.  You can read my frustrations post here, if interested.

Now, my problems are not all solved, but I feel like today was a really good day.

I started off my Algebra 1 classes by reviewing a couple of things and then divided the class into two groups by calling names off who had completed the WSQ and who hadn't.  In both classes it was about 8-12 completions and about 25 incompletes.  I gave directions to the 8-12 students who did what they were supposed to with a "task list" on the board and told them to move to work with each other and get to work.  The rest of the group went to the side of the classroom.

I started off by telling the students, "Today we are going to have a friendly conversation.  But if I have to have this conversation with you again, it will NOT be a friendly conversation."  

I told them there was no talking, and there was NO talking.  I was actually pretty impressed.

Important thing #1 - Homework is not optional.  If I assign it, I expect it to be done
Important thing #2 - You must communicate with me.  If something happens where you can't complete your homework, you must send me a note or GVoice text and let me know, taking responsibility for yourself.

I explained WHY it is important that they come to class prepared and how the plans I had for today, our "first real flipped class" had to be scrapped because so many of them didn't come prepared.

I mentioned the two important things probably 5 times and had them repeat them back to me.

Then, I moved the whole group (yes, 25 kids!) up front where they could see the WSQ completion chart (yay VLookup, finally just inputted my ID numbers by hand this morning!).  I went through them name by name and had them look at me when I called their name (part of this is learning their names, too!) and I told them everything they were missing.  For some kids, it was as simple as "You have turned in NOTHING all week."

Also, I found out that about 5-7 of the students from each class in this group genuinely misunderstood the homework.  Some of them completed concept 3 WSQ but not concept 4 (they had to do the WSQ for concept 3 from the video we watched in class, watch concept 4, and then do the WSQ for concept 4).  Some of them watched the Concept 4 video but didn't quite get that the WSQ comes right afterwards.

So, I told them that today was their WARNING.  Tomorrow if they do not come to class prepared they will receive a consequence (15 minute detention) and a phone call home (in class either Thurs or Fri, depending on how many students there are).  After this second warning, they will receive their first "support card" (that is what I am calling our homework cards now, because students only get them when they beg for them and are saying "please help me I need support" - aka they aren't doing their work).

As of right now (8:30pm), my Chapter 1 Concept 5 WSQ already has 36 responses (almost 50%).  That's more than all of what was received yesterday, and students will probably still (sadly) be up for another 4 hours on their sleep schedule!

Hoping for a better day tomorrow.  Perfection? Nope, don't want to expect that because I don't want to be frustrated.  But, improvement.

One thing I learned today was that I felt much better about myself and my students still felt positive after having the type of talk I had with them instead of getting mad at them.  In addition, instead of getting mad at the whole class like I did sometimes last year, I pulled the kids that needed to talk aside and let the kids that came prepared get on with their day.  MUCH BETTER way to deal with it!


  1. I would be called in to talk to admin for belittling students in front of other students. This has happened to more than one of my colleagues this year. :?

    1. I don't think anything I described could be termed as belittling. I had a conversation with students about expectations and their progress, all with other students who were in the same boat, focusing on improvement. Nothing associated with grades, with the purpose of encouragement, motivation, and "let's get started and caught up".

      After the conversation, students seemed motivated to get started, continued to ask individual follow-up questions making sure they understood what they needed to do individually, and many of them came in during their lunch or after school to continue to work on make-up work - all in a positive, encouraging light.

      Thanks for your comment though!

  2. I wouldn't have thought that what my colleagues did could have been construed that way either. And I was definitely not casting a negative light on your day with your students. Just frustrated with my school.

    It's my 12th year teaching and I've never questioned what I do in any given situation more than I have this year. When I hear the conversations my colleagues had to endure...I don't know what they should have done any differently than they did. I had a couple incidents while quizzing today. I'm holding my breath, hoping I don't get one of the talking-to's that they got.


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