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Posts Tagged ‘Homework’

I focused on surface area this week with my juniors in my catch-all-test-prep-this-should-definitely-be-illegal class. (To put my two cents in on forcing students to take Algebra 2 as well as a PSSA prep class… well a post for another time I suppose).  The past two weeks we were covering area and perimeter and I was astounded at the lack of understanding. Many misconceptions were evident but the most alarming was the inability to use the test prep formula sheet. For example, many students were unable to identify the triangle on their paper and match it to the triangle on the formula sheet and thus find the correct formula. I thought it might be because they were using a right triangle and the height was measured different, but when the test came and I matched the shapes to their formula sheet I was still surprised at the number of students who could not match the shapes. Thus the test on area and perimeter became a test on something totally different.

Only about 5 students in each class were still struggling with identifying parts of a shape and the rest of the students were starting to get frustrated and bored. I decided to move forward and try to squash area misconceptions during surface area, since we would still continue to use the area formulas for the shapes again and again.

Why I believe this unit worked so effectively had to with the use of scaffolding in their warm-ups, manipulatives, and lots of classwork practice time with limited homework. For each day I focused on two shapes and had the warmup focus on finding the area of the 2-D shapes that would ultimately make up the 3-D solids. For example, for the rectangular solid their warm-up was to find the area of three rectangles that later in the lesson we would put together to build the 3-D solid.

I made sure that for each shape they saw the deconstruction of the solid into their familiar shapes and I had cut out my own nets and taped and colored them to pass around the classroom for further understanding. What captivated the students most was asking them what shapes they believed made up the 3-D solid. For example with the cylinder they all noticed the two circles for the bases but most did not guess that the “middle” was actually a rectangle. When we got to the cone it was pretty cool how excited they were to guess what the 2-D shape would be. I used that as a great moment to say, “This is a funky shape- which is why it has a funky formula.” So the students didn’t really moan and groan at the obnoxious cone formula because they saw (sort of) where it came from.

Finally I made sure to have a practice sheet for the last 15 minutes of class everyday. I wanted students to practice the formulas in front of me and immediately after learning about it. I also read this blog about Results Only Learning Environment and the role of homework. Since homework completion and cheating are two huge obstacles to overcome I decided to focus on classwork and if students needed more time they could complete the rest of the worksheet at home. This way I could monitor who is doing their own work, the struggles they are having as well as ensure they are getting the practice I desire.

Overall I was very pleased with this unit and hoping to follow some of these teaching themes that worked to help me in the Volume Unit I start on Wednesday.  All suggestions, resources, and what you’ve done in the past for surface area and volume would be greatly appreciated as well!

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I need a new plan for Monday

There are so many little things that matter in teaching that I knew but didn’t really know. One of those things is homework; assignment, collection, grading, and answer checking. Another is warm-ups/do-nows because for some reason in my mind they go hand in hand.

At my school students are not used to having homework. They have become accustomed to 5-10 extra minutes at the end of class that is optional time to do homework (or hell it’s just not assigned at all). All last week when I was passing out worksheets (remember they don’t have textbooks to take home) the moaning and groaning was louder than any participation or disrespectful name calling I’d heard all day! But here’s the issue with homework – they copy, they cheat or they don’t do it. I realize none of this is in my control exactly but I’m wondering if I can provide meaningful incentive to complete this (hey, like knowledge?! no, bad – that’s bitter).

Since Monday is a new week I was hoping that I could start with new routines, expectations and goals since this past week I’ve been throwing together random routine ideas and seeing what works. I observed another teacher who collects homework, grades for completeness and returns the next day. She also has 4 problems very similar to the assignment on the board as a warm-up. Students complete the warm-up each day, go over the answers as a class and on Friday turn in their sheet with all their days work for credit, “Easy points to earn, easy points to lose.”

I have been putting warm-ups on the board but they do not always lend to the previous nights lesson (for example, does my text message count as a warm-up?).  Also, I have not been asking students to complete these for credit and I’m wondering if that would increase the number of students actually doing it. I don’t want to impose points on the warm-up to set these kids up to fail or to threaten them and I’m not sure if credit is enough incentive anyway (But maybe worth a shot!).

The procedure I’ve been implementing is taken directly from Mr. M. I have students do whatever I have up on the board while I go around and check the homework for completeness, not correctness. The problem with this is I do not get to see the common mistakes, I do not get to see what is tripping up every single student and I’m wasting time by going around to each student and marking done or not done. Plus, the last kid I check always gets more time to scribble some stuff down and make it look like he’s done his homework (I watch them do this). Then I’ll go over the warm-up or ask about homework questions. This whole procedure seems like a time-killer and ineffective. I read this post by square root of negative one about homework and providing solution banks to students and I think she’s onto something.

So basically this is what I want:

  • Meaningful homework assignments that are used as practice and assigned almost every night (Do you give homework on Fridays?)
  • A fair way to grade homework that allows students to get credit for effort and allows me to identify common misconceptions
  • A meaningful warm-up – NOT busy work so that I can finish checking homework. I don’t know if I want it graded or not.

One thing I was thinking for a “warm-up”  for this upcoming week is a challenging root/irrational problem to put on Monday’s do now and have the kids work on it every day for the first 5 minutes and get further and further as we move along in the unit. They would use what we’re doing in class each day to help them get closer on the warm-up the next morning. But to grade it, not to grade it… oy vey…

Most importantly I would love to outline my routines and expectations on Mondays so these kids can kvetch when I hand out homework but already know it’s coming. I don’t want to surprise them with challenging do-nows and I don’t want to collect homework one day and not the next. I really want to provide them with structure.

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