Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Teach 180: Plickers (Day 12)

Today in Calculus we did some review for our test on Probability by using Plickers.  I use it as a type
of formative assessment - a way for me to get a sense of what the class knows and doesn't know.  Plus it is a way for students themselves as individuals to see what they know and don't know.

There are several benefits to Plickers.  First,
students aren't on a computer with other tabs or windows open to distract them.  Second, it is easy to encourage them to work together.  When we use Kahoot, it is about competition and getting your answer in first, even if that means guessing and not really understanding the problem.

When I scan the class using the app on my phone, I can immediately see how students did.  Green means the student answered correctly and red means the student answered incorrectly.  I can say something like, "It looks like many of you understand what you are doing", or "We may need to review this one." as I scan the room.  If a student changes his or her answer, I can quickly scan that student's plicker card again.  A second chance to re-enter an answer can't happen in Kahoot.

Finally, I can print off individual student results based on the plicker number I have assigned to him or her.  And here is a partial summary of my results from today.  Notice that some students did very well (their names are cut off the left side of the screenshot, but you can see the scores) and some questions were easier for the class as a whole than others.

Tomorrow I'll give students their individual one page report that shows how they they did on each of the seven questions.  They can use these results as they study individually for the upcoming test.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Teach 180: Games Day (Day 13)

Today there is just one class.  It is D period and I don't teach D period.  So, today I have no classes.  What am I doing today?  Today is Red and Gold Games Day.  It is a tradition that started in 2000 as the Millennial Games.  The entire student body (grades 1 - 12) are split into two teams - red and gold.  We play field day type games, like sack races, tug-of-war and 100 yard dash.  First grade students are paired with twelfth grade students and the twelfth grade students cheer on their first grader buddies as they race and help them with getting lunch.

What happens after lunch?  This year I have mandatory child abuse recognition training from 1 PM to 4 PM.  (There is required training for teachers once every 5 years.) Students will be participating in various activities including sports practices, scholastic scrimmage, working in the community garden, coda red music rehearsal, working in the art studio and my favorite - Who Wants to be a Mathematician qualifying contest!

Teach 180: Dealing with Student Absences (Day 12)

One of the most challenging parts of teaching is handling student absences.  Although it can be challenging for a student to get caught up on new content that was missed, it is even more challenging to get them to make-up a missed assessment.  Students can be absent for a variety of reasons – a dental appointment, a college visit, being sick or an early sports dismissal.  

On Tuesday, I gave a quiz in PreCalculus on solving quadratic equations.  All of the content onthe quiz was review from Algebra 2.  There were 3 students who were dismissed early for sports.  One student took the quiz early, one student took the quiz during a free period the next day and a third student did not have any free periods to take the quiz.  Rather than have him wait another day to take the quiz, I had him take it during class on Thursday.  (Note: With our new bell schedule this year, we did not have the PreCalculus class on Wednesday.)  This was less than ideal.  The student missed going over a review of the content he missed after the Tuesday quiz.  In addition, he did not do well on the quiz despite the fact that I told him that the most commonly missed question was the one on solving a quadratic equation by completing the square.  He earned 1 of 5 points on that question, because he got the right answer by factoring, but he showed no understanding of how to complete the square to solve the equation. 

After 25 years of teaching, you would think I would have developed a way to effectively deal with absences for tests and quizzes.  But the truth is that I usually have a list of three or four students that need to make up assessments at the end of a grading period.  Often these students have waited over a month to make-up the assessment.  At that point, they have forgotten much of the material that is on the quiz or test and usually don't do well.  Our school has a make-up policy that allows me to give them a grade of "0", but that doesn't sit well with me either.

If anyone has suggestions on dealing with student absences, please post them in the comments below.  Thanks in advance.