Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Assessing my students . . .

I assess my students in several different ways. I am continually doing informal assessment with my kids through questioning, observations, and conversation. I have a good bit of dialogue with my students on a daily basis. Of course, this applies to those kids who actually wish to talk. Some are too shy. Some just choose not to engage in a conversation.

I use several of the "traditional" assessments in my math classes as well. My kids take test and quizzes. We work on the occasional project. They work collaboratively and have even worked on a collaborative quiz or two. Occasionally, my kids will do short journal entries or free writes. Unfortunately, I probably rely on the tests and quizzes too heavily.

Working on the assessment module in this course has made me think about how I do assess my kids and their learning. I have to admit that I usually do not have the kids participate in creating assessments. I think this is a great idea, and I hope to incorporate this into my teaching in the future. I think if kids have a stake in something then it becomes more meaningful to them. Also, working through this unit has made me realize it would probably be beneficial to get some student feedback about the assessments I create and they complete. I do think with my middle school students, you would have to given them some parameters in terms of feedback and input, so that I would actually get some meaningful input from them.

I would love to have the time to create more projects and assessments like we have developed in class. That always seems to be the problem, though . . . time. Who has enough of it???? I would have to say that my lack of time is my biggest deterrent in developing new lessons, projects, and assessments. Hopefully, I will be able to figure out how to be more productive in my time management . . . we'll see!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Internet Tools & Our Project

In reflecting on the module we covered in class today, I really did learn some helpful things. I enjoyed the time we had to share with our small groups, as I always gain helpful insight from my peers. There were 3 folks in our group, and I think we all took away some good ideas for our units - ideas that we hadn't thought of ourselves. The input I received from my group will certainly help my craft my project that the kids will complete. So, I appreciate that time in class!!!

I also liked being reminded of the Open Mind software that is available to us. I am going to plan on using a "Mind Map" like we looked at in class today as a means of helping organize my kids' thoughts and layout for the projects. I had forgotten how easy it was to export into Word and PowerPoint. And, I am favoring my kids completing a PowerPoint presentation for the project summary.

The time we were able to spend on the survey sites was of interest to me as well. I was actually able to draft a survey that I plan on using as an interest inventory for my classes at the beginning of the year. I thought this would be a wonderful way to compile the students' thoughts and approach to math, before we are too far in the year for it to matter. Instead of having them complete the good 'ole "paper and pencil" inventory I typically have them do, I am going to go this route. Then, we can use the results in an organized way as a talking point at the beginning of the year. And, hopefully, by the end of the year, we will have changed a few minds.

As far as the internet goes, I think for my 8th graders, supervision and monitoring is the key. Being up and about in the room while they using the computer will be a must! And, I think a list of sites would be a good idea for them, too! I really liked the spreadsheet we were all able to work on last night in Google docs. I would just have to try to figure out how to keep a few of my kids from deleting or adding information.

Good class tonight . . . learned lots!!!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Quick Unit Summary & Curriculum-Framing Questions

The focus for my unit is relating slope and linear equations to real-world situations. Students will be able to calculate slope and interpret its' meaning, as well as use slope to create a linear equation. Throughout the unit, students will explore linear relationships, connecting these linear models to the real-world situations they represent.

Listed below are the curriculum-framing questions that will be utilized in the unit:

Essential Question: Is Algebra (math) more than numbers and graphs?

Unit Questions:
  • How can graphs and equations help me to make predictions and/or conclusions?
  • How can my understanding of slope and linear equations be useful in life?

Content Questions:

  • How do you calculate slope?
  • What does the slope of a line tell you?
  • What is the difference between positive and negative correlation?
  • What information do you need to write an equation of a line?
  • How do you graph a line, given the slope and the y-intercept?
  • How do you formulate an equation for a “best-fit” line?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Intel Class

In reflecting on the first couple of weeks of the Intel Class, I have to admit that it is a bit different than what I spelled out in my mind for the class. But, I think that is a good thing.

I took a "break" from teaching for almost 5 years. So, when I walked in to the classroom in January of last year, things had certainly changed! I was handed all of this "equipment" and shown how to navigate all of the technology the district had to offer. Needless to say, this was a big change for someone who had been used to utilizing the overhead projector and the blackboard to teach math. And, I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant at first to jump-in and try some of this new stuff! As the year progressed, though, so did my comfort level with all of these new tools. And, it was my students who helped me learn a great deal about how to be comfortable with all the new gadgets. They weren't intimidated by them - they really taught me tons!

I say all for this reason . . .

I believe this class will help me to think about how I teach my kids. I know what we have to teach because that is laid out in the state standards. But, it is the consideration of HOW I teach these standards that can make a difference for the students.

Project-based learning is something that will be a work-in-progress for me. I have done a few projects here and there with my kids, but none that I have thought about in as much detail as we seem to be doing in the class. (By that I mean taking a long look at how meaningful a project is to the students' understanding of a particular concept(s).) I am enjoying the challenge of developing a unit that includes activities that really make the math "make sense".

I think the two most challenging concepts for me in the class so far have been looking at a concept/standard with the "end" in mind and framing the essential question. Because I like math, I can certainly get bogged down in the details. It is very easy for me to itemize and list specific skills, but thinking in more broad terms can sometimes be difficult for me. So, right now, I am looking forward to trying to overcome some of these hurdles . . .

And, I am sure the more I allow my kids to explore the "big picture", the more I will learn, too! I am sure they will teach me a few things in this process - just like they did when I returned to the classroom last year.

I guess we will just wait and see . . .