Friday, October 28, 2016

H2O + ? (Days 50-51)

Learning Module 5 of the Illinois State text is called "H2O + ?" -- and this is the first learning module that differs in the three grade level texts. As usual for the blog, my focus is on the eighth grade text.

In this project, students learn about large numbers such as one million. They count out grains of rice in order to estimate how much space a million grains of rice will take. Then there are discussion questions regarding other millions of objects (such as staples), which leads to the notion of scientific notation and powers of ten. Finally, students are to learn about the notion of "parts per million" concentration in water -- hence the name of the project.

Notice that this is the project that lines up better with scientific notation. Recall that I began the year by having a weekly period for eighth grade science. On Wednesdays, I would give a lesson from Sarah Carter's blog -- and she started the year with a unit on scientific notation. That weekly science period fell by the wayside when the music schedule was changed (as I mentioned in Tuesday's post).

Obviously, it would have been more logical to wait until now for the scientific notation lesson. But at the time, I was at a loss regarding what to teach during the science period.

Meanwhile, the sixth grade project is called "Time Travel." In some ways, this is a misnomer, since the part of the project where students create a time line about the history of transportation is the least important part. On Wednesday, Dr. Brad Christensen of Illinois State told me that I could just give the second part of the project, where students create paper/cardboard wheels of various circumferences and roll them simultaneously in order to find the least common multiple of their sizes.

I mentioned yesterday that I delayed the seventh grade quiz to today. This meant that the seventh graders won't begin their project, called "Orienteering," until next week. In this project, students basically create a scavenger hunt in which compass directions are used in the instructions. According to Christensen, this is best done outside. Part of my decision in delaying the quiz and thus the project was the threat of rain today. As it turned out, it rained a little in the morning when I had the sixth graders, but it seemed to taper off by the time the seventh graders arrived.

Today I found out a little more about the upcoming Benchmark Test. First of all, all the Benchmarks are to be found on the Illinois State website -- so they're not identical to the August Benchmarks. And each Benchmark covers five standards, one from each strand. Here are the standards covered on the upcoming eighth grade Benchmark Test:

Know that numbers that are not rational are called irrational. Understand informally that every number has a decimal expansion; for rational numbers show that the decimal expansion repeats eventually, and convert a decimal expansion which repeats eventually into a rational number.

Know and apply the properties of integer exponents to generate equivalent numerical expressions. For example, 32 × 3-5 = 3-3 = 1/33 = 1/27.

Compare properties of two functions each represented in a different way (algebraically, graphically, numerically in tables, or by verbal descriptions). For example, given a linear function represented by a table of values and a linear function represented by an algebraic expression, determine which function has the greater rate of change.

Understand that a two-dimensional figure is congruent to another if the second can be obtained from the first by a sequence of rotations, reflections, and translations; given two congruent figures, describe a sequence that exhibits the congruence between them.

Construct and interpret scatter plots for bivariate measurement data to investigate patterns of association between two quantities. Describe patterns such as clustering, outliers, positive or negative association, linear association, and nonlinear association.

The idea that all three trimesters should contain standards from each of the five strands is tough. To me, it's a little easier if all of the, say, Expressions and Equations standards are either all given at once or at least split logically (for example, exponents in one trimester, systems in another). There's less continuity if all five strands are squeezed into one trimester.

Again, I had no warning of this. You'd think that since Illinois State provides both a "pacing plan" and the Benchmark Tests, the pacing plan would correspond to the tests. But they don't -- Statistics and Probability appear late in the year on the pacing plan yet also on the first Benchmark! Oh, and notice that the Statistics and Probability standards lean more towards stats here, so the probability song I'm singing now (Ghost of a Chance) doesn't really help the students here either.

Notice that so far, I've already taught two of the standards -- it helped that the Number System is a short strand, and so I was able to get into exponents. My plan is to squeeze in the other three standards once each day next week -- Functions on Wednesday, Geometry on Thursday, and then Statistics and Probability on Friday. This is not ideal -- it takes much more than one day to master any of these standards.

We're actually much better off in eighth grade than in sixth or seventh grade. This is because Ratios and Proportional Relationships is such a long standard that I never started a second standard. So now I'm forced to squeeze in four standards next week for these students, beginning on Tuesday with the Number System.

This now means that I have less time for the seventh grade project -- contrary to my belief yesterday that we're further behind in eighth grade than in seventh. It doesn't help that coding on Mondays takes away my ability to cover standards this Monday and next. This also means that I must cut off the sixth grade project.

In fact, this Monday is Halloween, and each class is supposed to come up with an idea for some sort of a carnival booth -- but I'm stumped for ideas. Well, perhaps I could come up with a scavenger hunt that requires compasses. This solves both the seventh grade project problem (allowing me to give the project on coding Monday) and the booth problem. I just hope it doesn't rain that day!

This is a two-day post. My next post will be on Tuesday, November 1st.

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