Saturday, August 5, 2017

Goals for 2017-2018

At the start of every year I always set some sort of goal for myself and this year I find my goal area needs to be on mistakes.  As teachers we always say "It's okay to make mistakes", "Mistakes mean we are trying" and "Mistakes are how we learn" but for me that's about as far as it went.  So are we really saying mistakes are ok?  Does this really encourage students to take more risks and to make mistakes?

This past school year I cam across the video below on how this teacher grades her tests.  It is worth watching but if you don't have time here is a quick but "does no justice" recap: She highlights the mistakes that students make on their tests, no grade is put on the test, grades are put in their online grade book the day AFTER they have received the test back, and she celebrates her favorite mistakes.  Students work together to recognize where they have made mistakes and work to correct them.  


I just love the idea of only highlighting the mistakes made on the test.  This way students are more focused on the learning and content rather than what grade they received.   She said it perfectly when she talks about how students get their test back, look at the grade, and then throw it away never to look at it again.  When this happens I feel we are saying that the material we taught really wasn't that important, and that the grade they received is acceptable, even when it may not be.

My most favorite part is how she celebrates mistakes.  She displays a photocopy of a mistake that a student or many students made, and calls them her favorite mistakes.  The class works in their groups and then together as a whole to identify the mistake that was made and then how to correct it.  She also brings to the students attention parts that may be wrong by highlighting them, but she doesn't necessarily take points off for it.

I've been teaching for 10 years, this will be my 11th year, and this past year when students only focused on their grades it really started to get to me.  I knew I needed to change something about how I was running my class.  Standards Based Grading was something I brought into my room about 5 years ago and it helped get the kids to focus more on the learning but the level put at the top of the paper was still sparking the conversations I was hoping to eliminate.

So my goal for the 2017-2018 school year is to highlight mistakes, enter grades in the following day, celebrate my favorite mistakes, and hopefully get my students to focus more on the math and less on their grades.  Wish me luck and we will see how this year goes!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Candy Land

So about 2 maybe 3 years ago I was trying to come up with some new ways to keep my students engaged in math class on the days where...well frankly...they just need to practice.  We all have those days and honestly, they are the days that both my students and myself dread.  It's boring for me, they get cranky, and everyone is just off task.  To them it feels like "busy work", which it's not, they need to master the skill before they can apply it, but that's how they feel.  One evening by some miracle I came up with life-sized Candy Land.   Before you get all excited there is no Mr. Mint, Princess Lolly, Lord Licorice, or Queen Frostine.  I laminated colored squares of paper that I put in the pattern on the floor.  There is a start and finish square, and the students get to pick their own game piece (I'll talk about those later!).  They draw cards out of a bucket with problems on one side, and either a single colored square or double colored squares on the other.  If the students answer the problem correctly they move ahead that many colored squares.  If they answer it wrong, they don't move at all.  The team to make it to the end wins!

Here's how it looks...


It's pretty basic but my students absolutely love to play it.  I have watched students jumping up and down to come to math class because we are playing it. When I first started the winning team would get candy bars of their choice.  After a few years of playing, I have made a few adjustments to the game.

I have added chips that can make them advance or have to go back, and if they are super lucky they get a go back to start chip.  Instead of just the winning team getting candy I decided to put chips on specific squares around the room.  The first team to land on that square after answering a problem correctly removes the chip and turns it in at the end of the hour for candy.  This way those students who might are further behind won't give up so quickly.  

The game pieces are the best part of this whole game, and the part they will race to class and fight over getting.  They are just random things I have in my classroom and many of them I have no clue where they came from.  The bucket of pieces keeps growing each year and they are getting better and better. 

The colored squares have been used by a ton of teacher in my building.  What's funny is what game pieces they come up with to use.  Our Nursing Program borrowed it and used fake organs as their pieces and it was AWESOME!  I hope to add to the game the Rainbow Trail and the Gumdrop Pass, it's what they keep asking for.  

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