Visitors and Commenters? Woohoo!

I’m amazed anyone reads this blog, and even more blown away that people have posted so many thoughtful comments. Shortly after my long-winded sky-is-falling post, I added a quick note about launching an activity with as few words as possible. There were a few great comments on this shorter post about how to improve one particular activity (matching equations, intercepts, and graphs of quadratics).

The comments that caught my eye include:

Could you build on the task with an addition to the end where they create their own quadratic and then write up a key for the graph, intercepts and factors? They could switch it with another group and verify their answers? – Dan Anderson

One thing I’ve done occasionally with matching activities is deliberately leave one out. So they end up with an equation that has no graph, or vice versa, and have to generate the missing one. For added chaos, leave out one of each – just let them know that this was done… – Gregory Taylor

Love this activity! I think the concise written directions are a good idea, too. On my first day of Algebra 2 class, I had a similar but less pretty handout where each quadratic has a graph, an equation (in some form or other), a table of values, and a word problem. Each kid as they walk in the door gets one, and they need to find the others who have the same quadratic in order to form their groups of 4. – Joshua Zucker

Activity Revamp

So tonight, while standing guard next to the boys’ bedroom door (they have a tendency to leave their beds when they should be drifting off to dreamland; my wife calls it whack-a-mole, probably because of this)… Where was I? Oh yeah, standing guard…

So while I was standing sitting guard next to the boys’ door I revamped my rather unassuming matching quadratics activity to include some of the suggestions above. (Disclaimer: My activity doesn’t include Joshua’s table of values or word problems, but I think those are awesome ideas, and will probably find a way to include them in another activity, either for linear or quadratic functions.)

For reference, the old activity handout is here. And for what it’s worth, the new one is here. My game plan is to start with an entire-class matching activity and follow it up (either on the same day, or on another day for review/additional practice/to beat a dead horse) with a small group activity (groups of two or three students, matching at their tables). For my students who don’t hate school and who think meaningless competitions of an academic nature are enjoyable (read: third period, not fifth period) we might play three quick rounds of “fast as you can” matching. Fist bumps to the fastest group in each round, and fame and glory for the fastest time of the day.

I think the new wrinkles make it a much better activity. We’ll see what my students think/how they respond. If you use it with yours, let me know how it goes.

P.S. The handout no longer includes directions, as I’ve included those on a slide that can be displayed for the entire activity. (Once we start cutting up the old handouts, the directions made their way to the blue bin by the door pretty quickly.)

Launching an activity: Cut to the chase!

Howdy. If you’re reading this and you haven’t read my super long post from last night (technically, it went live early this morning), this post might not have enough context. At any rate, I’m aiming for a better day today in fifth period (Algebra 1) and my game plan is this: When giving directions for a group activity, cut to the chase.

The original activity is here. In the past, I’ve introduced this activity with a minute or so of verbal directions and then cut the kids loose. I fell on my face yesterday using that approach (verbal directions as the means of launching an activity), possibly because I haven’t spent the necessary time clarifying in my own mind both the goal of the activity and the directions for students.

My attempt at more concise directions (in non-verbal form) comes in the form of these slides:

I’ll probably let you know how today goes in another post. I’m hopeful that this new wave of constant reflection will provide my students (at least in the long run) with a better teacher. In the meantime, feel free to comment on what you like/dislike about the activity and the “launching” (key question and directions) of the activity.

Thanks!