Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer's Almost Over

I had envisioned writing a series of blog posts reflecting on my classroom practices.  I made it through my posts on goal setting and started working on one on classroom management.  However, I'm really excited about the statistics class I will be teaching and I'd much rather think about that.  (I will keep calling it statistics, but it really is a data/stats/probability course).

My school has never had a statistics class before,  we do not own textbooks for it, and will not be purchasing textbooks for it.  I have been given carte blanche by administrators.  I can do anything I want.  I have never really felt constrained by curriculum before and tended to do my own thing, but not having a textbook to default to when I haven't planned a killer lesson or to look to for guidance is both empowering and frightening.

What am I going to do with them for a full year?

Well, the students in the class will be juniors and seniors.  The seniors have already taken their state math graduate exam, but many did not pass.  The juniors will take the semi-high stakes test in April (if you don't pass you can keep trying, but you need to pass to graduate).  I had many of the juniors last year, in Algebra II, and know that many students are far behind where the state wants them to be.  The majority of students have computational difficulties (heavy reliance on calculators for anything calculation with positives and negatives), low math self esteem ( "I have no idea how I passed geometry.  I should have failed."  "I don't know how to do anything"), and difficulty connecting concepts.  To their credit, the majority of the students are technologically savy (they picked up excel in a flash and made awesome videos for our review archives).  Moreover, they are willing experimenters and went along with just about everything I asked them to do.  Problems written on the windows?  OK Miss...sounds like "fun".  Taking a test through google docs?  Sure no problem.  They are very flexible, they trust that I am helping them to learn math, and a result will try earnestly.

I'm fairly certain I will be testing their ability to be flexible and try new things with this statistics course.

Rough ideas:

Review of all concepts on the state exam

  • Post a video/smart-board display of me working through a sample problem
  • Have a "pre-test" on Fridays to assess where individual students are with the concept
  • Examine pre-tests over weekend to inform creation of classwork/grouping
  • Use Tuesdays to refresh/relearn the concept
Lingering questions:

  • What order?  Should I post the video before the pre-test so students can jog their memory?  Should I post it after to get a real picture 
  • If the students didn't understand or store the information for recall the first time, what am I going to do differently? 
  • How can I feasibly do this without over-burdening myself with work and grading?  
  • Am I overemphasizing the state test? 
Be Organized, Help Students to Organize
  • Students have two notebooks- 1 for classwork, 1 for the test review.  Last year I let students do work anywhere, looseleaf, computers, anything, and stuff got lost.  The few students that had been using notebooks could flip back to past work easily, find late work, and turn in multiple assignments at once.  On the rare occasion that I mark something as "missing" that really was turned in, it is very easy for the student to find it and show it to me. 
  • Students will create a Stats Class Folder on their desktop and I will tell them how to name notes, handouts, etc. 
  • My prep hour is at the end of the day.  That time needs to be used to grade work and update the online gradebook.  At the LATEST I want to be giving work back the following Monday. 
Lingering Questions
  • How/what am I going to be grading?
  • Am I keeping with my school's paper-free vision by reverting back to notebooks/paper tests?  I really tried to go all digital last year, but it is a hassle to open up 70+ versions of the same assignment, grade it on the computer, switch screens to enter the grade online, and if there is feedback on the document, manually return it to the student's desktop.  Until the return feature is improved, I think I need to stick to paper. 
Standards Based Grading
  • I've always wanted to use SBG.  I have a great tracker and always start off the year using it.  My tests were broken down by concept and I'm comfortable grading in chunks like that.  I allowed for reassessment. 
  • Be more open with the students about SBG.  I was tempted to have a shared google doc between me and each student where we could each update progress on individual concepts.  However that would be management nightmare.  I think I will start off the school year by listing each of the statistics concepts in the online gradebook.  In the front of their notebook they will staple a folded copy of the statistics concepts followed by all of the concepts we will be covering in Tuesday's review day.  
  • Have a firm set of reassessment guidelines.  Students must correct work on quizzes/tests/HW before reassessment.  In one day, I can either work with them to learn the concept,  or give the test, not both.  They can only reassess once per day.  They need to make corrections to the reassessment and pass my verbal pre-test before attempting again.   With some exceptions, reassessment window ends two weeks after the original test was given.  

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