This Week In Class – January 8-10

At Free Technology for Teachers, Richard Byrne recently shared a post about blogging more frequently. Over the Summer and at the beginning of the school year, I was blogging at least once a week and felt that I got a lot out of reflecting on what I had done that week, good and bad. When I read Richard’s post, I thought, “I really need to get back to blogging,” then waited a week to do it. I wasn’t really sure what to write about, but figured I could just share what I did this week in class and how it went.

On Monday, my district had an inservice that centered around writing culminating tasks for our Common Core units. This is still something that I often struggle with and did get some ideas of what to do differently when writing assessments. I learned that I often use too much scaffolding and take away the students’ ability to creatively solve mathematical questions. My presenter also shared a great website, the Mathematics Assessment Project, which has tasks, rubrics, and sample graded student work for “expert, apprentice, and novice” level tasks. I am starting a new unit Monday and my goal is to incorporate at least two tasks into the unit.

Due to the frigid temperatures and wind chills Tuesday, my district cancelled all classes, which meant the first day for students back to school was Wednesday. It was great to see the kids again and they seemed pretty happy to be back. We finished up our unit over functions using some examples from Visual Patterns again in order to talk about the ideas of function, linear versus nonlinear, rate of change, writing a function, graphing a function, and evaluating a function. The students did really well with this and it seems like students understood the connection between all of the ideas much better than the fragmented way I taught those concepts before.

Wednesday is also an early release every week in my building and this week we spent some time looking at the learning targets we write each day on our board. This is going to be a transition for many in my building because we are used to writing objectives that say “After completing this lesson, students will be able to:” using technical language when describing the objectives. With the new learning targets, we are now being asked to write “I can” statements for students using student-friendly language. After writing targets for one lesson and discussing targets with other students, I felt that we were getting a better idea of the essential skills students needed and how we were going to assess them. On Thursday, we looked at some distance/rate/time problems and how they related to the patterns we looked at on Wednesday, preparing us for a very important Friday.

Friday brought our Unit 4 summative assessment. After Wednesday and Thursday, I felt pretty confident on how students were going to do on this assessment and the students did not disappoint. I was very impressed with how much students wrote when they had to explain the difference between functions and non functions and also when they had to explain the difference between a linear and nonlinear function. It was nice to see so many students use the phrase “rate of change” instead of “goes up by,” although I did still some some of the latter. Overall, I felt like this was the best Common Core unit I have taught all year and the assessment showed that the students understood many of the concepts. The true test will be when my students take the ISAT as 20-25% of the test will be questions over functions, aligned to the Common Core.

Next week, we will begin our unit on linear relationships beginning with graphing and slope. According to the ISBE Scope and Sequence, this unit should take 9 weeks. I’m not sure how it is going to take that long, but I’ll definitely have plenty of time for reteaching and differentiation. I have started using Countdown for Teachers to help me plan my lessons. If you are having problems unpacking standards, this website does a great job of breaking each standard down to its “conceptual, procedural, and application” objective. Have a great week!

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