Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An Awesome Day

Today was one of those days.  Everything went well, and even the things that didn't, well I don't even remember them.

My Geometry classes are diving into proofs, only they don't really seem to know it.  Last year proofs went horribly.  The kids hated it and fought me every step of the process. "TWO Columns?  WHY!"  "FLOW CHARTS! Those are stupid. "  "PARAGRAPHS! You want me to write, like actual sentences, in math class?  No way."   This year, we slowly crept into proofs with the points lines, planes project.  Then on Monday, we reviewed the best slides for each one.  Students who had slides selected were beaming with pride.  Students who weren't selected were still trying to argue why their interpretation was correct or why their photo was better.  (I got to them! They cared! In math class of all places. And they cared about whether or not their justification and representation of a postulate about undefined terms was best.  Whodathunkit).

Yesterday, we did some more Always, Sometimes, Never statements and had the "Best of PLP Project" and the list of postulates as a guide.  Explaining that what we are doing today is just like the project, except instead of taking pictures and making diagrams as proof, we have a set of statements that mathematicians have all agreed are true.   It went fantastically. The students who were still shaky after the project were rock solid with the postulates to ground them in what was always true.

Today, we kept with the postulates and added in two column proofs and talked about algebraic statements.  Not one student even made a peep to complain about the two columns.  No one asked why we needed to write a reason for every step.  They just bought into the idea of really being precise and explaining everything.  I really like coming from a place where they are confident (solving for x) and adding in the new things.  I made sure to have a problem set that grew in difficulty.  It started with x+2=9, then added in coefficients (6x+3=15), then multiple x terms on one side, then x's on both side, then some challenge problems of solving systems of equations.  They haven't formally seen solving systems of equations, but the students who reached those problems were able to figure out what to do in order to solve by using their list of properties of equality.  I know they are motivated and engaged learners, but they figured out systems on their own!  That was awesome to see.  And students who did not have a strong algebra foundation were able to pick up on the pattern quickly.  That brought a big smile to my face.

In Stats, a student who I used to have a great connection with has been battling with me all November.  I'm part of the problem, it's probably easy for her to tell that I'm frustrated and angry because I am.  With all the time we've put in together (including several Saturdays), she seemed to be throwing it in my face, with a lot of foul language and attitude to top it off.  Today, magically, it was all better.  She worked all class long, asked questions, and was generally pleasant.

The other students in the class finally saw the point of this cardiovascular project we've been working on all week (will post more later).  "Ohhh this isn't so bad.  The questions are short and help us to figure out what is important in the article.  And the math parts are mostly review.  The only new part is clicking on a different type of graph in Excel.  I guess we have to do a lot of thinking too, but that's not so bad.  We have all the pieces, we just need to decide how they go together."  I couldn't have said it better myself.  Way to go guys!

Last week I was sad about the number of students with missing assignments or who needed to retake quizzes, but this week, they are getting their act together.  Yesterday a student stayed after who I keep trying to work with in class, but he brushes me off with, "I'm good.  No thanks."  We went over a quiz and he said, "Man, if it could just be this fast in class, I'd get everything."  When I said, it can be like this, thats what I'm asking to do when I say, "How's it going?" or "Need any help?"  He got this confused look, and just said, "Oh.  Well then definitely.  Let's do it!"

Similarly, in geometry, I have two students who I can see are struggling, one of whom just get angry and talks about how class sucks, the other comes to class late and avoids work by trying to get kicked out.  All year I've been trying to engage with them but they weren't ready.  Today, both of them called me over and asked for help, and totally got what was going on after some one on one time.  I ignored the other kids for a good chunk of class, but the others were ok.   Those two were on task the entire work time.  

Another geometry student who almost failed last quarter and squeaked by with a D has an A.  He turned in one of the best Points, Lines, Planes projects and came today to study for a quiz that isn't until Friday.  He didn't realize he had an A and was beaming when I told him.  Then it was my turn to blush when he showed me how he was using Notebook and the way I taught him to make 3-D drawings for a history project.  Another student who failed last quarter with about 7% has a 97%!   He finished his homework on time, caught up on the work from when he was absent, and left with a big, smile.

All in all a great great day.

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