Friday, November 15, 2013

Week 12 Reflections - AND lots of student blog samples!

Another great week!

WSQ chats - 
Giving students more structure is definitely working.  This week, they were given a different handout every day to discuss and work on in their "small groups" of three students each.  What I think is best is having a handout gives students more accountability and it gives me proof of what they have talked about.  Here is what we did this week (see all the handouts here):

For more details on any of the blog posts I talk about below, go to

Tuesday - Matrices day 4 (handout 3-4d) -  The goal of this discussion was for students to understand what "infinitely many solutions" really means - that it's not just any numbers, but any ordered triples that follow the qualifications of the solution formulas.

Students also made sure their Student Video #5 was done and good.  See student samples at any of the links below:

Wednesday - Matrices day 5 (handout 3-4e) - I had students do this activity in their small groups and spent the period meeting with each table to discuss their answers.  They had been working on matrices for a week and now I wanted them to know exactly what their solutions looked like visually.  Each table is made up of two groups of three, so I looked at both group's answers and we talked through them.  I used the app QuickGraph to show them a 3-D visual of the graphs (you could move it around and look at it from all angles).  It was awesome to see students so engaged and interested in seeing the 3 dimensional graph.
It took me about 30 minutes of the class to meet with each table, so that means I spent about 5 minutes per table discussing their answers, what they thought, clarifying misunderstandings, and showing them the visual.

Thursday - Partial Fraction Decomposition Day 1 (handout 5) - The actual discussion part was purposely short (about 2 minutes) because I wanted students to focus on working through their Student Problem 4 (see video directions here).  However, it was a good quick check to see if students understood and could explain the main point from the video lesson the night before.

I thought the student problem day was awesome.  I purposely made this one pretty tough for them, because I wanted them to show me that they understand the forwards ("composing") and backwards ("decomposing") of the partial fractions.  I really wanted them to see that what we were learning was just the reverse of what they learned in Algebra 1 and Algebra 2.

It was also great because every student was working on a different problem (since they wrote it themselves), and so they all had to work individually yet support and help each other with their different problems.  They couldn't just rely on someone else to do the work and then "get help" by copying them - they actually had to do it.

Want to see some student examples?  Of course you do!  Here are the 24 that have already been turned in.  I haven't seen them yet, so I'm sure there are awesome and not-so-awesome examples.  But, take a look, and feel free to comment!

Setting up and solving this Student Problem took about 30-40 minutes of the period.  However, I have started to become more of a fan of students working longer on really hard, conceptual problems rather than spending a shorter amount of time on easier, procedural problems.  Well, I still do see the benefit of both but this week I have had them do the big conceptual one first even though it's more time consuming and then they can follow that up with as much practice as they feel they need.

Friday - Partial Fraction Decomposition Day 2 (handout 6) - Same as yesterday, the actual discussion time was short, just to make sure they knew what I meant when I say "count up the powers" for repeated linear factors.  The focus was on choosing one of the three problems to do for their Student Problem 5.  #1 on the worksheet was "hard", #2 was "medium" and #3 was "easy".  They had to choose their difficulty level.  I had about half of every class choose #1 and the other half choose #2.  It was interesting to see most of my D/F students choose #1 because 3 bonus points were offered for doing the hardest one!  However, after discussing with some of them, they also just really wanted the challenge.  I love that!  I hope they aren't in the D/F range much longer...

This isn't due until the end of the period Monday, so I only have four turned in so far... but here they are!  The first 3 are all the "medium" problem and the last one is the "hard" problem.

Ask your questions!
We did have an issue this week with students asking questions.  Every night on their WSQ, they type their HOT question into the google form.   They are supposed to label their question as one of three things:
"Confusion"  - they ask a question about something they are actually confused about
"Discussion" - they ask a good discussion question (and they are supposed to provide the answer as well)
"Example" - they make up their own example (and they are supposed to solve it as well).

Then, they jot the question in their SSS packet so they can remember it the next day.

On Tuesday, I knew there were a lot of good questions from skimming through the WSQ submissions before class.  As I went around from group to group, I asked the students what questions they had.  In my first class period, I made it all the way around to all 33 students and I had ONE student tell me they had a question.  I then projected the WSQ submission spreadsheet on the screen and counted down the question column for period 1, and counted NINETEEN actual "confusion" questions.  We had a little discussion in class about the need to ask questions and clarify confusions.  I then made my way around the classroom again, group by group, and got to answer and explain about 15 or so questions.  They were great questions, and good things to ask and discuss - but I think it really is easier for students to say, "Oh I get it, no problem".  I need to continue to work on encouraging and reminding them to ask their questions.

Grade Improvement!

This is the end of the 2nd grading period. 29 of my 105 math analysis students raised their grade by at least one letter in the last 6 weeks, which is awesome!  Students have been re-assessing, learning material they didn't understand before, and showing so much improvement.  Right now, the only students who are failing the class are ones who haven't showed up to re-assess on anything consistently.  However, I hope in the next 6 weeks even more pull through and come show me what they've learned!

I am SO PROUD of so many of my students who started the year struggling with both the content and the technology and have persevered, asked for help, and are now succeeding greatly in the class.  I hope they realize that hard work and dedication do pay off!!!  Now, I just have figure out how to help the students transition better/faster at the beginning of the year so it doesn't take some of them 3 months to come around :)

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