Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Seating

I originally had my room set up just like the rest of the math teachers in my department... rows with students in pairs. When I went to high school, my desks were set up like this and I thought this worked well. However, I recently attended a workshop on Cooperative Learning. This workshop was one of the most inspiring things I have heard in a long time. The workshop has had the wheels in my head turning for the last two weeks and on my 2 hour drive to work this morning I finally decided to re-arrange my desks. My students are now sitting in groups of 4. Who would have thought, groups in math class?! It really threw the students for a loop today when they walked into my room and the desks were totally different. We didn't do any cooperative learning today, but I wanted to get the students acclimated to the new set-up before I jump into a new style of teaching. So far, the students handled it well, and really weren't chatty the way I feared they might be. I am nervous about my other 3 classes. They are lower ability level classes, have more discipline problems and are more talkative, so groups will be a big challenge. I will test it tomorrow, see what happens, and if I need to, change seating arrangements daily. I am excited to see what wonderful lessons and experiences this seating change will bring for myself and my students.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Grading Changes

It's been a while since I've posted... a long while. I have been having a pretty successful year, and have been making some major changes to my teaching. First are re-tests and corrections... I have been changing my views a little after reading other math teaching blogs. My goal is that by the end of the year the students know a certain amount of information about Geometry, so does it really matter if they get it on the first try? I'd have to say no. So, for my Regents Geometry classes, I have started letting them re-take unit tests. Quizzes are still one shot only, but they tend to be short, easy and single topic. Any student can re-take a unit test (different version than they originally saw) as long as they complete the following: 1. correct their unit test 2. stay after for 2 activity periods (or one Learning Lab) to study. I will take the higher of the two grades. This shows me that they are studying and also ensures that they are not just blowing off the first test. So far very few students have taken advantage of this, and it certainly hasn't been the students I would have thought should be doing this. I have read that other math teachers break their tests down into sections and you can retake just parts of the test, but I'm not entirely sure how that would look/be executed. In my Trimester Algebra II/Trigonometry course, I have given those students an even wider latitude. Any in-class assignment (warm-up, classwork, etc) that is collected can be re-done for full credit. Any quiz can be re-taken (again, a different version) with corrections to the original quiz and 5-10 practice problems completed. Unit tests are treated the same as for Regents Geometry. So far only about 3 kids have taken advantage of this... mind you, I only have about 5 students passing this class right now. I don't have quantifiable data yet that this is making a difference for my students, but I have to believe that it does. How can giving students a second chance to learn something not be beneficial to their learning? This has created a massive amount of work for myself, but I believe that in the long run the students will benefit from this. To those that offer re-tests, have you found that they help the students? How do you handle the process?