Sunday, April 20, 2014

Reflections - I think it's week 10?

Algebra 1

I posted about the tweak I was making my my Algebra 1/Course 1 class this week here.   We are one week into it and I'm liking it MUCH better.  I think it's easier to manage, a little less chaotic, and I'm able to work with more of the students individually.

One rule I put in place is that students were NOT allowed to work ahead.  If they were done early, they could work on their "Problem of the Month" or play one of the Algebra games on the iPods.  This meant that every day students started in the same place.  We were able to do a warm-up or class review each day to get everyone on the same page and then the students started their "rotations".

I started each day with Group A/B (my lowest group) to make sure they were getting started and on the right track.  During that time, Group C/D (my middle group) started on the iPods.  Once I was done with Group A/B, they continued the activity and/or used the iPods and I moved to work with Group C/D in person.  It was nice to be able to do a little summary of what they should have learned and make sure they were on the right track.  Group E/F (my high group) did great - they (with one or two exceptions) worked great and were focused.  I spoke with each of the tables in that group on the first day and told them they were placed here because they have shown that they can work without me babysitting them and that I can trust them to be getting their work done.

The results from the quiz this week were fantastic.  In 2nd period, I had 17 of the 32 students who took it get 100%!  I think that also has to do with the amount of time we spent on the concept.  In years past, when solving systems of equations, we would spend 2 days on graphing, 2 on substitution, and 2 on elimination.  We spent all week on graphing.  We spent a day reviewing 1 line graphing, 1 day on an intro/exploratory activity with graphing practice for homework, 1 day on explicit teaching on graphing systems, and then the last 2 days with some application activities and more practice for homework.  By the end of the week, it was well drilled in their heads.  I'm interested to see how elimination goes this week since we will have 5 days on it as well.

Math Analysis

I feel like this has been a really rough year in Math Analysis.  I feel like I get much more easily irritated with these students and I'm not sure if it is due to personal reasons (lack of sleep, not dedicating hours upon hours outside of school to their every beck and call like I used to), placement issues (there are way too many kids who were not successful- meaning A or B- in their last math class and thus should not have been put in Math Analysis HONORS, but a variety of reasons allowed them to), or something else.

I feel like last year, especially at this point of the year, the students were really enjoying their blogs and were submitting quality posts.  This year, it seems like it is such an "annoyance" and many students have hardly done any of them all year.  Since they go in the 20% weighted category, that means some students have a much lower grade than they should simply because they won't do their blog posts.  I've also never had students NOT want to come in and retake quizzes to get a higher score.  I feel like I'm pulling teeth begging the students this year to come in and do the simple things to show me their proficiency (and thus raise their grade).  The same thing goes with retaking tests - I've made it so much easier (in my viewpoint) this year - students don't have to retake the whole test, but just the concepts they did poorly on.

I also feel like I have gone back and forth so many times on what is required vs. what is optional.  I have not been able to find the balance between student freedom and responsibility, and what is needed in order to succeed.  If I give them the choice "do what you need to in order to learn", they won't hardly do anything and they will fail the test.  If I tell them "this is all mandatory", they will write crap down or copy from someone else.  I don't know what to do!!!

In addition, I feel like I have a lot of students who aren't really learning much from the video lesson because they are just going through the motions.  I get the online WSQ submissions via a google spreadsheet so they are timestamped and I have 50% of my students doing them after 10pm at night on most days and 25% of them doing them from 7am until class time (many from my after lunch classes do them during lunch).  They go through the motions to get the WSQ submitted but I'm really not sure how much they learned from it.  I would think that when they come to class and don't understand the class discussion or can't do the practice problems, they would take responsibility and go back and rewatch the videos or watch the extra examples or even ask me a question, but they don't!  Even with my encouragement and reminders, they don't!  This particular unit we are on can be quite confusing - graphing and shifting trig functions.  The required videos were just one of each function (there are 6 of them), although there were 2-3 more for each function available for extra.  Some students are good with one example, but most students need more.  And hardly any of them, despite reminders (almost to the point of pleading) every day, they will just say "I don't get it". "This confuses me".

At this point in the year I have gone back and forth in my head what I want to do or what I want to change.  I have so many ideas for next year but I don't think now is a good time to implement them.  Students have AP tests coming up in 2 weeks as well and that doesn't help - my class is one of their few non-AP classes so I know it's not a big focus right now.  I'm just trying to hold on, stay positive, and hopefully push as many students as possible to finish strong.  And then, start fresh next year.  It's not the ideal situation but that's where I'm at right now.

Speaking of staying positive, I think that's where my struggle is.  I don't want to be overly strict to the point that students hate me and my class.  I also don't want to be overly caring and nice that I don't hold them to rigorous standards.  I don't know why, at 7 years in, I'm starting to struggle with that balance.  I don't feel like I've had the struggle before and it seems to be all over the place this year.  I know that it all comes down to relationships with the students.  Building trust and rapport so they want to work for you.  However, I also know I've put in more strict personal boundaries this year that have affected my normal great rapport with my students.  I am not available after school except one or maybe two days.  If students don't show up on time for test retakes (they must arrive between 7 and 7:15), I make them reschedule instead of continually saying "it's okay".   I also don't have as much patience as in years past, and my sarcasm has come out in not-so-positive ways.  When students ask for the 3rd or 5th or 11th time how to do something, love and patience definitely does not shine through.

I know that none of us are perfect, and that's why I wanted to share that I'm not either.  Having a baby and trying to figure out how that changes the way you do things, your priorities, and your demeanor is tough.  It's definitely been the hardest year of my career by far, but I've learned a ton (a lot of which is still swimming around my brain trying to make sense).  I'm looking forward to starting fresh but what's most important is making sure that every day I still come in with a positive attitude, ready and willing to help, support, listen to, and challenge all of my students.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Trig is...

According to this year's students, Trig is...

More specifically,
What was your FAVORITE part about Trig (Units N-T)? Why?

My favorite part about trig was the formulas for example the tan=sin/cos. It was my favorite part because they were easy to remember.
I like unit t cosine and sin graphs. They are simple :)
the unit circle because it was easy.
My favorite part about trig is unit Q, verifying because it's challenging , but I feel accomplished when I solve one.
using sohcahtoa because it was something i was familiar with from algebra 2
Everything makes sense and is somehow connected with each other. Unit circle, identities, etc... In addition, its going to be useful later on,
perhaps in calc or certain careers.
My favorite part was the easy parts. (trig ratios)
My favorite part of trig would be the unit circle because it was probably the most basic and easiest to wrap my head around.
My favorite part was using the ratios to find missing pieces of non-right triangles. It was my favorite part because I liked doing the problems
 to find all the missing pieces
i love graphing trig functions
my favorite part about trig, was unit p, we solving sides and degrees of triangles.
My favorite part was Unit Q concept 5 because it was like a puzzle and I enjoyed taking it apart and replacing with things that still make
sense but still mean the same thing.
My favorite part of trig was probably Unit Q because we were able to convert different trig functions into other ones; it's like they're all
My favorite part about Trig was identifying and verifying because it was simply like algebra. My other favorite is also understanding the
 graphs why it looks like a certain way.
the unit circle. because everything relates to it.
My favorite part were the identities because they were extremely helpful during the test and it might seem like a lot to memorize but
after tons of practice, it gets drilled into your brain.
Unit O was my favorite because it was so easy and I learned a lot from it.
My favorite part about Trig was Unit Q. Unit Q was more like a puzzle trying to verify trig identities which seemed fun to me.
My favorite part about Trig is the unit circle because it connects with everything.
Well, when you work on the problems, you see every concept come together.
When we did triangles.
I liked the Unit Circle because I saw how there are so many things that end up tying back to it.
the unit circle and how it comes into play in so many other things. I didn't know what it was used for before, i just memorized it.
the trig on how r equals 1 and how it relates to the unit circle all of it.
Finding all of the parts to it before graphing
unit N, because i understood the material a lot better because it was less complex.
I like the little chant of radical three over two, one half,etc. because it help me remember the ordered pairs.
Unit N
Unit N with the unit circle because it was interesting finding all the derivations,
Actually understanding what I was looking at so I could do better on the test.
My favorite part would be actually understanding this unit a bit more than I have but it would also have to be seeing the connection
 among these units.
The Unit Circle
the ratios and how they all somehow relate to one another such as secant and cosine.
My favorite part was seeing certain parts of trigonometry connect with other parts because I like when things connect together.
My favorite part was using the ratios to get a certain value on the unit circle.
the unit circle!!! patterns are your friend
working out the different concepts like verifying them and now graphing it because it really brings everything together
I like unit t concept 1-2 because it is simple and easy to learn.
unit n-putting- using the ratios and finding the degrees because i thought it was easy.
i like how in unit n everything seemed confusing but as we went on it had a lot of shortcuts and got easier
My favourite part of Trig is finding the domain and range because they are mostly very simple.
i like that unit T was short ^.^
My favorite part about Trig is how to draw the graphs because all you need to find is the labels and values and then you can just graph it!
I liked learning about how they are all connected. It was interesting to see how certain things like the unit circle related to future concepts.
i liked unit n a lot because i thought it was pretty cool with the unit circle and stuff.
Unit n concepts 8-9 although they were a challenge I enjoyed converting between radians and regular numbers to fins what quadrant
 the angle was in.
Seeing the colorful parts is my favorite part and understanding what is going on and the relation between the unit circle.
My favorite part was graphing tan and cot trig functions. favorite parts were the ones that i actually understood because it feels good not bbeing clueless
it was challenging
I like how it relates to each other. For example triq function is all relates to the unit circle and the graph
I like unit t very much because we basically do the same thing in each graph but we do different steps in each of our graphs. They
are all similar in a different way, if that makes sense.
My favorite part was actualling understanding the ratios. And most parts of unit circle.
Simplifying the equations by using the identities was easy and was not at all hard to learn
My favorite part of Trig is learning how the Unit Circle relate to the graphs.
Favorite part was learning new ways we can use the unit circle
Verifying or simplifying
Unit Q because everything correlates together and you can cancel or simplify.

What was your LEAST FAVORITE part about Trig (Units N-T)? Why?

My least favorite part was the graphing. The graphing was really confusing for me because of the marks.
I HATED UNIT N. I don't know.. I think because I'm not good at doing math when the methods are ambiguous. I like using a system.
this part because it's hard to explain how it relates to everything else.
My least favorite part is Unit N, finding the exact value of trig functions because it easy to make mistakes.
using identities because it was difficult for me to memorize them and manipulate them to turn into something else
All the memorization we had to do. At first, it might overwhelm someone with all the information you need to know, but with practice,
 it gets a bit easier.
The identities.
My least favorite part about trig would be the identities and using them to verify trig equations with identities because that was crazy
 difficult to manage.
My least favorite part was Unit Q. I did not get identities much , I found them difficult.
i dislike solvig for all of the needed parts
My least favorite thing about trigs was also in Unit P with solving word problems, and graphing trigs too from unit T.
The least favorite part of mine was unit Q concept 4 because I would get confused with the zero product property and I had to keep
referring back to my Unit Circle.
My least favorite part about trig is NOTHING. Just kidding. I really don't like Unit T right now because I hate graphing the functions
and having to remember all the components of the graphs.
My least favorite was trying to find the asymptotes for tangent and cotangent because I forget what to do easily.
the unit circle. because everything relates to it.
My least favorite would also be the identities because even though I liked them, it was a bit tough to master the problem-solving.
It's a love-hate relationship :)
T is confusing to graph, I can't get the marks right and sometimes confuses me with cosecant and secant.
My least favorite part is Unit T. There are too many different rules for each graph to memorize.
My least favorite part about trig is graphing it. It is kind of confusing.
asymptotes in Unit T
When we did circles
I was not a fan of the whole ASA,SSS,AAS etc because it was just something I found complicated.
Proofs. Because it took different paths to solve them and you could easily get stuck on some.
memorizing it and knowing the whole unit circle because if we dont know the unit circle then you couldnt really do the trigs.
This unit.. unit T. It is my least favorite because there are soo many parts and their really complicated.
Remembering little details because I forgot how those little details because to be so. For example, I forgotten why tan and cot graphs
do not amplitudes.
Unit q
Unit Q because I was really confused by it all and the identities just didn't make sense to me.
i have yet to find a problem.
Looking at the problems at first and not realizing what I was looking at.
The Unit Q test...identities made sense, I guess I need to think out the box a bit more then.
graphing because there are always multiple parts to a graph.
My least favorite part was doing the graphs because I got confused on some parts.
My least favorite part was Unit Q.
verifying them because of the different steps you need to take.
I dislike unit Q because it was the most difficult test by far. The concept was just difficult to catch on.
proofs- i thought that they required a lot of time.
the smallest mistake or number could mess the entire thing up leasing you to frustration
I don't like graphing the equations because the markers can get so complicated.
trying to memorize all that stuff into my brain >.<
My least favorite part about Trig is just how much time put into it. It takes so long finding the labels and making sure it's correct before
you graph this.
The graphing is a little time consuming and can get a little messy. I've always struggled with graphing to begin with, so it was a little
i didn't like unit q because of the identities and how they were so much like proofs from geometry.
Unit q I just never fully understood it.
Learning everything at first because it is very confusing. Learning the small multiple step part that's what i dislike because i feel like
 it just confuses me at some point but then i understand the logic behind it.
Doing the identities was my least favorite part.
My least favorite is the mulit-steps because i just get messed up and have to start over again
a lot of confusing parts to it
having to do multiple steps to graph
The least favorite thing is plotting the graph. I'm OK at solving but once we get to the graph I get confused on which points we are
 suppose to graph.
Graphing them, because im not good with graphs.
Where we had to solve for an answer and the stuff we are doing now with unit T is really confusing
My least favorite part about Trig was learning about the asymptotes for tangent and cotangent graphs.
All the things we had to memorize
Many equations we have to memorize
My least favorite part about trig is unit T, because I can't do it by myself. And I hate graphs.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Blending with station rotation in high school math - my first attempts

I'm going to try something new this next week in my Algebra 1/Course 1 class...  We've been doing a sort of "in-class" flip since November-ish and I am happy but not so happy with it.

Here is what I've liked about the "in-class" flip

  • Students can work at their own pace
  • Class time is focused on them working and learning, not on listening to me
  • The "troublemakers" are not slowing down or affecting the rest of the class
  • It's a more active and engaging learning environment for all

Here are my "annoyances" that I am trying to tweak out by trying this change

  • Many of my students have not been able to handle the self-paced system I've tried.  They will only get about a half day's work done each day and never try to catch back up.
  • Students are grouped each day by how much work they have gotten done, and once they are behind it is very hard to catch back up.  The self-grouping does not work well as they are not at a mature enough level to know with whom to sit within their group.
  • I haven't been able to work with some of my struggling students as much as I want
  • Despite lots of modeling and reminders about being "FIT", some students struggle to stay focused on the video lesson in class. They continue to have it playing when they aren't paying attention to it.
  • Sometimes there are things I want to do as a class, whether it be a review, warm-up, etc and it's been hard not having the students on the same page at all.  This new method will allow me to start class together and revisit concepts as a class if needed before starting the rotations.

Here are my plans:

  • Students are grouped in one of three groups.  They are labeled by the tables they sit at.
    • Group A/B - I've set this group to be my lowest group.  There is a huge portable whiteboard right in front of table A that I can do small group teaching at just with them
    • Group C/D - This is my middle group.  They are students that need some guidance and extra attention.  Table C has the main huge whiteboard right by it.
    • Group E/F - This is my top group.  These students don't need much guidance and will get their work done without much prompting from me.  Many of these students finish both classwork and homework during class time.  They generally get their questions answered by each other and will stay on task without me babysitting them.
  • As it stands right now, Group A/B has about 6 students in each period.  Group C/D has between 10-12, and Group E/F has between 12-15.  I think that works out nicely as the group that needs the most attention is the smallest.  They will be allowed to move between groups if directed by me based on their progress and understanding of the material.
  • My plan is to have about 3 rotations each class period.  Groups A/B and C/D will each have one rotation with me and a second with the iPods.  A/B will start with me because they need more prompting, whereas C/D will begin with an iPod lesson and then meet with me.  The third rotation for both of those groups will be the "Practice" time (PW is Practice Worksheet).  Group E/F will be on their own for all the iPod activities.  They will do a check in with me (not a structured teaching time) when they are done and then move on to "practice" time.  Because of the sessions with me, Groups A/B and C/D will not watch ALL the iPod videos - they will only watch about half of them and get the other half of the instruction directly from me, guided and watched over.
  • Each day will start in the same place.  If students did not finish their PW from the night before, they will move on with the class and have to make up their practice if they want their stamp. 
  • Students will not actually be moving tables/seats.  Rather, I will be moving around the room.  We will see how this works out.  It might be better to have an "iPod station", "Kirch station", "Practice station".  However, the amount of time wasted and distractions present when students have to move all their stuff (because they won't leave their backpacks or purses for one second) is a concern.
  • Here are all my resources, links, and plans for the next week.  I would love your thoughts and feedback if you have any experience with a model like this, or even if you don't have any experience but have some ideas.
  • I will definitely blog about this next weekend to let you know how it goes :)

Week 1 HW chart
Week 1 Student Packet
Week 1 PW packet
Week 1 PW packet answer key (pages 9-16)

Week 1 Desmos Graphs:
page 3   page 4   page 5   page 6 bottom   page 7 top   page 7 bottom   page 8   page 10   page 14

Week 1 iPod activity links:
As’g 1 – page 2
As’g 3 – page 3
As’g 4 – page 4
As’g 5 – page 5
As’g 8 – page 6/7
As’g 9 – page 7/8
As’g 13 – page 10-13
As’g 16 – page 14
*This will be done as a whole class so there is no iPod activity for it.

Week 1 Group Assignments and Rotations
DAY & Goal
MONDAY - Assignments #1-2
→office for hw cards
→ lesson individually on iPods
→PW time
→lesson with Mrs. Kirch 
→ PW time
→lesson on iPods
→ PW time
TUESDAY - Assignments #3-7

→ Activity #3-4 Lesson with Mrs. Kirch (+desmos)
 → iPod activity #5
→PW time
→-iPod activities 3-4
→ Activity #5 with Mrs. Kirch (+desmos)
 → PW time
→ iPod activities 3-5 →Check in with Mrs. Kirch (+desmos)
→ PW time
WEDNESDAY - Assignments #8-12 (PERIOD 6 TBD)
→ Activity 8 w/ Mrs. Kirch
→ iPod activity 9, 10
→ Check in
→ PW time
→ iPod activity 8
→ Activity 9,10 with Mrs. Kirch
→ PW time
→ Activities 8-10
→ Check in with Mrs. Kirch → PW Time
THURSDAY - Assignments #13-15

→ Whole Class Activity
→ PW time together
→ PW time individual
→ Whole Class Activity
→ PW time individual
→ PW time together
→ Whole Class Activity
→ PW time
FRIDAY - Assignments #16-18 + Quiz

→ Activity 16 with Mrs. Kirch
→ Quiz
→ PW Time
→ PW time
→ Activity 16 with Mrs. Kirch → Quiz
→ Quiz
→ iPod activity 16
→ Discuss w/ Mrs. Kirch
→ PW time
Please note: iPod activities are available for ALL students to reference and watch again outside of class.  If you are absent, you must watch the iPod activity for the lesson you missed before you return. 

Using "Multiple Tabs Search" to make your life easier...(student blog reading is now 100% easier!)

My students have math blogs, as I'm sure you know if you are a reader of this blog.  Last year, I subscribed to all their blogs via Google Reader (you can read a lot more about my first year experiences with student blogging here).  There were definitely things I didn't like about it, so I decided this year to have students turn in their blog posts solely via a Google Form so I would have all the URLs for each specific post in a spreadsheet for me to access at any time.

I've liked this better than Google Reader (RIP) - I could easily tell which blog posts were missing due to the script VLookup, and I could access them at any time.  In addition, I could make comments directly on the spreadsheet and use another script like FormEmailer (although I like "Yet Another Mail Merge" a lot better now) and send those to the students to give them feedback - more private and personal than leaving a public comment on their blog for all to see.

My one complaint was that I had to click and open every URL individually.  While I found some quick ways to do this, it was still tedious.


"Multiple Tabs Search" 
- Google Chrome Extension!!
(find the extension in the Google Chrome Store)

1. Have a bunch of URLs on a spreadsheet that you need to open

2. Select the URLs you want to open, I think 10 at once is probably good but it depends on your computer speed

3. Open the extension "Multiple Tabs Search" and paste the URLs into the box.  Make sure at the bottom you click to "Open" and not "Search on Google"

4. Click on "Search" (yellow button)



Thursday, April 10, 2014

I have fallen in love...

...with Desmos


I want to go back and rework all of my curriculum to include more interactive and engaging activities with Desmos - both things that I create as tools for the students but also things that the students create and publish themselves.  I made a few myself and played around and edited a few of the samples they had on their website and am keeping a folder for my Math Analysis course here.

So, how do you get started?

  1. Go to  Sign in with your Google account or create a new account.  You can also download the iPad app.
  2. Look at some of the samples so you get an idea.  Click on the "three bars" in the top left to show the samples.
  3. Check out the user guide and quick start guide so you know how the different buttons work.
  4. Start to play!

Some awesome things about Desmos (this list is far from being finished...)
  • It works on a computer or on the iPad
  • You can save the graphs you are working on so you can go back to them at any time.
  • It allows students to do very simple things like graphing functions, but also to see how functions shift and change as the values in the function change. (i.e. the parent graph y=a(x-h)+k... what does a, h, and k do?  We can tell them over and over again, but it's awesome to SEE it!)

You can check out my first student Desmos activity plan here.  We will be using the school's iPad lab on Monday to complete it. I will let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How I assessed on trig identities this year...successes and lessons learned.

This has turned into a much longer post than I had planned...I always remind myself that I blog for myself and to reflect on my practice, and if others want to read, then good for them :)  I have also come to realize how wonderful having blogging as an outlet is.  I am not blessed, as many are, to have a collaborative partner or a like-minded colleague in person and thus my online community has become that PLC and sounding board that every teacher needs...Thanks for being a part!


I've never really been that happy with how I've assessed my students on trig identities.  The last three years I've just resorted to a take home test where students had a lot of time as well as all their resources.  And, even though I've gone over what is allowed (basically everything on our class website) and not allowed (google and friends), I have come to realize, unfortunately, that expectations of integrity and character just cannot be followed by most teenagers these days.  (That's probably another blog post series in itself, but not something I really want to write about because it frustrates me so).  It's also really hard to grade trig identities.  I recorded my time last year and I spent about 15 hours grading 100 students' exams simply because every problem is complex and there isn't always one right answer.

So, this year I decided to have the test be in class only.  There were several reasons for this - I wanted to give my students a break over their spring break was a big reason.  I also wanted it to be a partner test so they could collaborate and communicate about the material, which I thought would help their understanding.  (Perk of partner test = my grading cut in half!).  Partner tests could only really be done in class.  I also wanted to monitor their completion of it a little better and hopefully limit the amount of cheating that went on.

The test is over, it's spring break, and the test is graded.  Students are in the process of giving me feedback on the process and I am reflecting on the whole thing... Here are my thoughts:

General setup:
  • Students had to pick a partner that was +/- 5% of their current grade.  With a few exceptions, this happened.  That helped with matching students up not with their friends necessarily, but with students who had a similar level of understanding.  Students had the opportunity to pick their partners for about 2 days (with my approval), and then I started to match up the remaining ones based on their current grades.
  • Students could only work on the test when both partners were present.  If they planned to meet at 7:10 but one partner didn't show up until 7:30, the one who arrived on time would just have to sit there and wait.  It was frustrating for them (and me watching them sit there), but it made the partner test more fair so one person wasn't pulling the whole load.
  • Being the week before spring break, I had about 15 of my 105 students not there Thursday and Friday (the two days set aside for in class testing) due to school field trips who wanted to leave earlier than the 9 days already given for break.  (That's also a whole blog series which I don't want to write).  So, they had to finish before they left.  I also had probably 30-40 students gone on Friday, which was a shortened day but still 40 minutes of work time.  Those students also had to finish before they left. (Over half of those gone weren't even told by their club/sport advisor until the day before that they wouldn't be in class).  The plan was that students would be given 2 class days, and then they could come in before school, lunch, and after school for Tuesday-Friday. My room was packed and crazy every day, but students were focused and working.  Students who were missing class just had to make accommodations.  Thankfully, most of them were able to partner with other students who were missing class.
  • The test had some choice in it.  There were 30 questions, but the students only had to do 22 of them.  Most of them were in sets, like "here are 3 problems, pick 2" or "here are 2 problems, pick 1".  This allowed them to still be successful even if there were a couple of "stumpers" out there.
  • So, would I do it this way in the future?  I think so, with a few tweaks.  I would still partner up students in the same way and make partners both be there if they wanted to work on it. I would set aside 3 class days to work on it though, and not have it be the 2 days before spring break (although that is when this unit always falls, so I'm not sure what I would do.  Waiting for them to take it the 3 days right back from break would make them want to study and stuff over break instead of taking a break.  But, maybe that would be a good thing!)
Thoughts about the test
  • The results were decent for what is probably the hardest test of the year.  They aren't as great as I would have hoped, especially considering it was fully open note, partner, etc.  I made 50% the cutoff, meaning if a student scored below a 50%, the grade in the gradebook wouldn't be lower than a 50%.
  • It is interesting to see the gap between passing and failing.  There is between a 5.5-11% jump between the C's and D's.  Meaning, it wasn't like students scored at all percentages.  They either passed it pretty well, or failed it.
  • Here are the results from my 3 classes:
    • CLASS 1:
      • 15 at 68.5 or below (9 of those at 50% cutoff)
      • 17 at 73 or above with 4 A's
      • 70.7% avg
    • CLASS 2:
      • 13 at 66 or below (2 of those at 50% cutoff)
      • 24 at 77 or above with 9 A's
      • 77.9% avg
    • CLASS 3:
      • 10 at 62 or below (6 of those at 50% cutoff)
      • 26 at 71.5 or above with 10 A's
      • 78.4% avg
  • As trigonometry has been getting tougher (i.e. beyond simple SOH-CAH-TOA), I seem to be losing some students.  It is now not in the world of "these are the steps you take every time" to solve the problem.  It requires critical thinking and deep processing.  Unfortunately, some of my students see that and just decide to quit.  It's sad and I can't quite figure out how to reach them.  None of my 50% cutoff student groups asked any questions for the 2+ weeks we were working on this unit or the week they could work on the test.  There were a lot of practice days built in where they didn't have a new video to watch and we just practiced and worked on problems in class, trying to expose them to as many different types of problems and situations as possible.  However, as the saying goes, you can lead the horse to water but you can't make him drink.  33% of the test was straight from their PQ problems or ones we did as a class on the board at the beginning of the period.  Many students, even those who passed the test, did not get those correct.  It's disheartening to me.
  • I really think some of this is due to the students not really taking their WSQs or practice work seriously.  This seems to happen at this point in the year every year (at least it has the last several years since I rearranged the pacing to put trig closer to the end of the year).  I know it's spring fever, getting closer to AP testing, etc, but I'm not sure what the solution is...I just spent the whole afternoon today putting together my trig graph Desmos exploration activity and Big Question discussion prompts/templates for next week and no matter how excited I am, if students aren't willing to put in the time and effort to listen, ask questions, and think... it's just not going to be successful.  Student motivation is key.  It's tough because not only am I not spoonfeeding the content to them, it's content they must think critically about and really try to make connections in their brain.  Those two things come with automatic shutoff triggers for some of my students and I'm not sure how to undo that.
  • Students were able to use the iPods during the test to access the course website only.  They were given strict instructions that they were not allowed to use Google or any site besides what was linked on our course website.  There were things searched on Google (specific problems typed into the search history) on three iPods.  I put a lot of trust in them and am basically relying on their conscience and their character to hold them accountable because there is no way I can monitor it fully myself.  They couldn't use their cell phones, to help them avoid taking pictures and texting each other.  They had to leave all their work in class each day, although they could go home and practice/study some more.  They were instructed they could only talk with their partner about the test even though it spanned multiple days.  Despite these expectations, which my students assured me were fair and reasonable and should be easy to follow, I know I had students who cheated.  And since I can't "catch" them, I can only hope it will catch up to them one of these days.  It is so frustrating for me, since character and integrity are things I emphasize and try to instill in my students from day 1.

Student comments
  • I asked my students what they thought about the PARTNER test, the MULTIPLE-DAY test, and then just the UNIT Q CONTENT.  The five questions I asked them were:
    • How was your experience with a PARTNER test?
    • How was your experience with a MULTIPLE DAY test?
    • How was your experience with the UNIT Q MATERIAL? Did you do enough PQs before the test to feel confident?
    • How easy do you feel it was to follow the expectations of integrity Mrs. Kirch set out? (i.e. not using Google, not talking about the test with anyone but your partner, etc). Were they fair expectations, or not things that Mrs. Kirch can expect her students to follow?
    • What changes would you suggest be made if we were to do a PARTNER and/or MULTIPLE DAY test in the future?
  • Overall, the students pretty much all said they had a great experience with a partner test (collaboration, support, helpful, reassuring, etc), a great experience with multiple day test (less stressful, felt more successful), a hard time with the Unit Q material (even doing all the PQs wasn't enough, it was just that tough), and very easy and reasonable to follow the expectations (then who were my iPod cheaters?!?!?).

  • Out of the 53 responses I've received so far, students said they spent between 60 minutes and 530 minutes on the test, with most of them between 174 and 300 minutes.  (60 minutes was my lowest percentage, but my next time up was 95 minutes and they got a 100%)
  • In terms of suggestions for changes, here were some that were made:
    • I would suggest it not to be within the days a lot of peipke arent there. Because then they get the disadvantage of having less time.
    • I would suggest having different versions for different times to limit the possibility of sharing problems with other students.
      Overall, I thought this test was okay except for the time crunch. I liked that we did the test in partners since the test involved a lot more work than usual. The multiple days allowed some more flexibility in schedules if we were busy for certain times/days.
      Give us about a day more to work together.
      I think that the partner and multiple day test is very helpful to many students. The only change that I would suggest is not to make it an open note test, because I think a partner is the best resource that one can use.
      I would allow students to take the test on any day of the week during class without doing the practice quizzes because it is their test grade and by extending the time period of the test to a week, the students can choose to practice to achieve a good grade or preemptively take it and fail. It is up to them if they want to earn the grade they think they deserve for their hard work or laziness.
      Next time, I don't think we should use the iPods because we already had a problem with it on this test. The SSS already helped tremendously.
      I suggest you have a sign up sheet, first come first serve. So it won't be crowded.
      I think it was good but it was annoying how a lot of people would be trying to talk to my partner during the test and ask him questions.
      I would say that there should be some way to ensure equal preparation on both partners. My partner and I were both prepared equally, however I noticed that other groups seemed to be carried by one person. I think it isn't fair that one person is depended on.
      No technology at all
      I would suggest that more time should be given during class because I felt like 2 class periods was not enough and that all the students had to come multiple times outside of class.
      I honestly think that the system is okay as it is. By requiring both partners to be there, you kind of avoid the typical "one person has to carry the other", and technically split the work in half.
      I feel that the way it was done was fine. The way partners are picked is very efficient and it makes sure that both partners contribute to the test.
      Hm. I would personally prefer that these tests be worked with three partners instead of two so you're able to have more brain power knowledge. But realistically, I say that the changes that would be pretty nice to students would be that having some of the practice problems in the test would be very helpful to students in the future.
      While I think it is absolutely fair to partner students that have similar grades in the class, I would recommend that you provide students with the option to take the test by themselves. From my perspective, it felt as though we were obligated to take the unit test with another student. I felt as though the schedule for the multiple day test was generous and fair.
      It would be convenient to have the test scheduled on a regular week because the week of the test consisted of a lot of school events that meant people were in and out all the time, including myself
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