Tuesday, November 1, 2016

H2O + ? Continued (Day 52)

There are many things on my mind today, but the biggest is, of course, the Benchmark Tests. I'm so worried that the students won't be prepared to pass them.

In my last post, I mentioned that in order to save time, I pushed the seventh grade project up to Monday and made it part of the Halloween carnival and parade. As it turned out, "carnival" and "parade" were both misnomers -- for some reason, we were confined to our small eating area. Perhaps it was because of the public school whose campus we share -- even those the festivities took place during the usual P.E. time and we can use the whole playground at that time.

Oh well -- this meant that the the Orienteering project wasn't much of a project at all. I could only give the students a single instruction -- go 20 yards east. As in most elementary schools (including our K-8 school), I could have worn a costume, but all I had on was a pirate hat, so the map became a treasure map. Still, this might have been a great time to continue the project as written and have the students create a map -- except that I'm still rushed to get to the Benchmarks.

As for the Benchmark Tests themselves, the principal suggested that I can weight the grades so that the questions corresponding to the topics we actually covered weigh more. This is much better than the idea I mentioned in my last post of trying to rush many topics in a week. So instead I'll cover only one standard in each grade. For seventh grade the standard is about integers -- specifically about opposites and how their sum is zero. This is an easy topic that can be covered in a week.

The real problem is the one standard I need to cover for sixth grade -- long division. It didn't help that I lost another day in sixth grade, not due to a project, but to Playworks. You see, Playworks is a recess and P.E. program for elementary schools (including our K-8 school). Once a month, there is a special Classroom Game Day, and today is it. The middle half of the 80-minute block is taken up by the Classroom Game Day, including walking back and forth to the playground (yes, the same playground we weren't allowed to use for Halloween yesterday). I decide that it's too awkward to introduce a topic like long division on a day like this. So it's good that I'm not trying to squeeze in any more standards this week.

By the way, I'm still trying to figure out how to include the test in my trimester grades. One idea, more in line with my original plan, is to drop one of the first three test scores and replace it with the Benchmark score. This will definitely help students who have a zero among their first three tests, but it may be detrimental to students with decent scores on all of their previous tests but struggle on the Benchmarks -- a big unknown due to so many missing standards.

The other idea is -- keeping in mind that the trimester is worth 1000 points and I need 400 points, or 40%, to count for the tests and projects (and the projects add up to 100 points) -- is to notice that each Benchmark contains 20-30 questions. So I can make one of the tests be worth 70-80 points instead of 100 (which would help as all the C's instantly become A's), and then the Benchmark can be worth only 20-30 points -- 1 point for each question. Notice that this is equivalent to simply keeping all three tests as they are and making the Benchmark Test be purely extra credit, with 1 extra credit point for each question. As I said above, this plan will help C students but not students with zeros, as a paltry 20-30 points won't make a zero into a decent score.

There's a strong possibility that I won't decide until the day of the actual Benchmark test and we see what the scores look like. Notice that the eighth graders continue working on the H20 + ? project. I give them an extra day today because I've better prepared them for the Benchmarks than I did the 6th or 7th graders.

This whole problem with Benchmarks goes back to pacing, and the fact that the "pacing plan" (given by Illinois State) doesn't correspond to the Benchmarks (given by Illinois State). Yesterday I made a phone call to my predecessor math teacher. He told me that last year, he followed the Illinois State pacing plan, but had no trouble since in theory, most of the students had already learned some of the missing standards (especially Statistics & Probability) the previous year!

Today is the first of the month. The "Day in the Life" blogger whose monthly posting day is the first is Elizabeth Statmore:


Statmore is a high school teacher from Northern California -- yes, it's always great to read a blog from a fellow Californian. She hasn't made her November 1st post yet, but here is an interesting recent post of hers:


Statmore writes that she's starting her Functions unit for Algebra I -- that's funny, since as it turns out, the missing standard I'm going to teach this week is in the Functions strand! But in this post, she describes a project -- a three-act lesson created by the King of the MTBoS, Dan Meyer:

On Friday we started our Functions unit, and as always, my go-to is to start with Dan Meyer's Graphing Stories.

After they pick up a Graphing Stories worksheet, I give them a brief set-up, explain that the guy in the video is my friend Dr. Meyer (though now I have to explain that this was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, when he was a young Jedi-in-training), and promise them that I will rewind the videos as many times as they want, to whatever point they want, for as long as they want, so we can figure out as closely as possible what their graphs ought to look like.

It might be interesting to give this lesson to my own eighth grade class, but I'm already done with projects and only have time for traditional lessons. In particular, I wouldn't have time to show my students any videos.

Oh, and speaking of videos, the song for today is another Square One TV favorite -- "One Billion Is Big," since the H2O + ? project that I did teach today involves large numbers such as one million:

There are two versions of the video posted on YouTube -- both of them ten years ago. Unfortunately, Barry Carter doesn't provide lyrics for "One Billion Is Big," so I had to get them by hand -- a difficult process, and so I only had the first verse ready for class today.

After the final Exit Pass, my support staff member bought a pizza for the eighth grade class. This is to celebrate the scores on their most recent Quiz #3 -- of the thirteen students, ten students received A's and the other three earned C's. The square and cube roots were fairly easy to memorize -- let's see whether they'll be able to maintain their success as we move on to more difficult topics.

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