I don’t give a damn about points.

3320584734_ec4188ea71_b

I check homework daily for completion at the beginning of each class. This serves two purposes for me:

  1. To ensure that they’re doing it. In other words, to give them points.
  2. To meaningfully assess their level of understanding on the mathematics involved and use this knowledge to facilitate a class discussion.

My problem is with 30 students it takes me forever to walk around during the Bell Ringer and complete this process each day. Because it eats up so much time, the entire process is rushed and places much more focus on #1 rather than #2.

So, in an effort to combat this, I’ve started having a student go around with my clipboard and check homework for completion. It’s a different student each day. This frees me to drop in on groups and gauge understanding, feel out the class, and answer some questions in the process.

I’ve discussed that the honor system is in place when it comes to the homework check. I expect them to give credit where credit is due, only. I want them to get that I trust them to do what’s right.

Some teachers may push back and mention that there’s bound to be some students that earn credit for the homework who don’t actually deserve it. That’s probably true. Other than my occasional spot check, I’ll never really know. But I’ve realized that I don’t care anymore.

I want them to be accountable to each other, not me. And besides, if my students are concerned about compliance when it comes to homework, then they’re less concerned about learning mathematics.

I don’t give a damn about points. HERE, take all the points you want. The value is in learning…and I hope this is clear to my students.

 

bp

The day after

london_underground2

I don’t like review days before exams. I’d much rather spend that day after an exam analyzing mistakes and relearning. I find this to be crucial in promoting a growth mindset in my students. My struggle has been how to structure these post-exam days. Here’s a formative assessment idea that I’ve used a few times this year.

The day after an exam, I set up the room in 3-5 stations. Each serves as a place to study a particular concept that was on the exam.

My bell ringer asks students to check their exam performance on the bulletin board in the back of the room. It lets them know for which concepts they earned proficiency. I also email the kids their performance immediately after assessing the exams, but many don’t check.

I hand back the exams and they move to a concept that they need help with based on their performance. If they have earned credit for every concept on the exam then I ask them to float and help others. At each station they use notes, each other, and the feedback I provided on the exam to analyze and learn from their mistakes. I also have practice problems at each station so they can make sure they understand the concept. I float around the room and help. Of course, the SBG data allows me to sit with students who need me most.

After a student feels they have successfully relearned a concept, and I usually check in to confirm, they can retake that concept. The retakes are in folders in the corner – students grab one and do it anywhere in the room. They submit it and begin working on another concept, if necessary. It doesn’t matter how many concepts a student retakes during the period, but it usually works out to be 1-2.

Before I did this activity I was concerned that since the stations would be full of students that struggled on a concept that they would all sit together and get no where. This hasn’t been the case. The kids are diligent to relearn. This may be because they like retaking exams and earning proficiency during class time, as I usually make them come after school to do this. It helps that the relearning is targeted and individualized to each student. Plus, it’s all formative. They go wherever they feel they need to. They assess themselves, but use one another in the process.

It can look and feel chaotic. But that’s the point. Improvement is messy. It’s also amazing – especially when it happens amongst your students.
bp

Thank you hint tokens.

Steps

A few weeks ago I stumbled across the idea of a hint token. Think of it as a get out jail free card, but for the classroom. While working on a task, groups can trade one for a hint from me.

Loving this idea, I immediately went to implement it. This, I thought, would be a great way to give students more ownership over their learning and hopefully learn to rely more on one another. The first time around we were studying sequences and I gave each group two hint tokens in the form of Jolly Ranchers (thanks Sam).

What happened was something unexpected: no tokens were used.

They may have simply wanted to eat the candy afterwards, I’m not sure. I wouldn’t doubt it. That said, what was most impressive was how they worked interdependently to solve the problems. I was essentially ignored.

Afterwards, I realized how empowered I was. The kids need me far, far less than I think. Understanding something and feeling something are very different phenomena. I’ve always known that my students should need me less, but I now know how that feels. It’s incredible. I even communicated this to the kids and saw the realization in their faces. They felt the same way.

This experience has had a dramatic affect on my teaching. What’s ironic about this is that you’d think I would move to incorporate hint tokens every day. The thing is, I’m not. Instead, I ensure that students have the opportunity to own their learning and sit longer in each other’s thoughts. It usually consists of 10 minutes of focused, small-group discussion and productive struggle during every lesson (I have 42 minutes class periods). During this time, I provide no any assistance of any kind.

As a result, it’s common for me to pull up next to a group, watch and listen. Before, they would be inclined to ask me something simply because they could. Now, they forget I’m even there. I silently assess their thinking the entire time – which reminds me of a live version of video-based PD.

It’s a win for everyone. They purposefully and interdependently think through a problem, which spurs engagement and ownership, and I get valuable insight into their thinking that serves as a driving force for the rest of the lesson…and beyond.

Thank you hint tokens. Thank you for facilitating this change in the culture of my classroom.

I’m left thinking that this shift may be directly related the class chemistry I’ve developed this year – which has cultivated a willingness to learn and explore amongst the kids. In other words, the tokens could have simply been what I needed use in order to realize the new path that learning is taking in my class. I don’t know. Maybe next year I will need the tokens. We’ll see.
bp