Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trimester 1 Review and Trimester 2 Preview (Days 59-60)

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day. Remember that here in California, Vets Day must occur on November 11th no matter what day of the week it is. Fortunately, this year it falls on a Friday, so it does result in a three-day weekend, unlike the past two years.

This is also a two-day post, so the second day included in this post is Monday. As you can see, we are approaching Day 60, the one-third mark of the year, so this marks the end of the first trimester. And there are several things going on now.

Recall that I teach at a K-8 -- and like most elementary schools, the end of the first trimester is immediately followed by Parent Conferences week, During this week, school is out early -- we are on Wednesday "schedule" the entire week. I put "schedule" in scare quotes because we haven't really had a Wednesday schedule at all. Indeed, I can't recall even two consecutive Wednesdays this year when we've followed the same schedule both days, and now we'll have an entire week of Wednesdays.

Our school policy is that teachers need to be available for conferences one day before school (as early as 7:00) and one day after school (as late as 6:30). Originally, the other middle school teachers and I selected Wednesday as our long day. But some middle school parents requested early conferences on Monday, and so it appears we'll be there early both Monday and Wednesday. On the other hand, one parent wanted a 5:30 PM conference on Tuesday, but we plan on delaying that until Wednesday.

Of course, the end of the trimester means giving out grades. As it turns out, none of my eighth graders is failing this first trimester. There were a number of easier topics this first trimester -- and I've said before that I like the idea of giving the students grades before the hard topics come up. This way, students can feel good about themselves and believe that they can succeed in the new trimester on the more difficult topics.

The lowest student in the class managed to scrape barely with a C (recall that there are no D's). I know that she worked hard to pass the last quiz on exponents -- I'm so proud of her! Meanwhile, one guy has emerged as the new top student in the class, and so he easily earned an A this trimester.

Today in class I have the students play Fraction Fever again -- just as I squeezed in Fraction Fever right after the Benchmarks in August. This is the first time I had the eighth graders join in -- last time only sixth and seventh graders played the game. And of course I sing the Fraction Fever song again -- as I've said before, the seventh graders especially like this song:

Fraction Fever:

Hey, if you never
Played Fraction Fever
To get in the action
You gotta get the right fraction!

Choose the wrong one and down you fall
(Down you fall!)
Through the hole and that's not all!
(That's not all!)

If you find the right one later
(Right one later!)
You'll go up in the elevator!

When you get to Floor 20
(Floor 20!)
You'll win plenty!

Fraction! Fever!
Fraction! Fever!

And so now I must look ahead to the second trimester. I will make sure that we don't arrive at the second Benchmarks having failed to cover all of the covered topics. At least now I know how to access Benchmarks on the Illinois State website, so I know what to expect.

As usual, the blog will focus on eighth grade, so let's look at the eighth grade Benchmarks.

First Benchmark:
1. The Number System NS.1
2. Expressions and Equations EE.1
3. Functions F.2
4. Geometry G.2
5. Statistics and Probability SP.1

Second Benchmark:
1. The Number System NS.2
2. Expressions and Equations EE.2
3. Functions F.3
4. Geometry G.4
5. Statistics and Probability SP.2

Third Benchmark:
1. The Number System NS.2
2. Expressions and Equations EE.3
3. Functions F.4
4. Geometry G.2

Recall that my grading scale is based on 1000 points. Of these points, 400 are for Formal Assessment and Projects -- and I'll have three 100-point tests and five 20-point STEM projects. So in a sense, each trimester is divided into five units -- and there are five standards to cover on each Benchmark, so this is convenient. Each unit can consist of a project and a STEM project.

The Illinois State pacing plan tells us how the projects correlate with standards -- except, of course, for the first four projects, Tools for Learning. I haven't written much about those correlations because I was waiting to get past Tools for Learning, only for it to be Benchmark time.

Next year, when I can start again from scratch, I'll be sure to follow the above pacing. But this year, I can only worry about the second trimester and Benchmark. For this Benchmark, notice that I've already covered NS.2 and EE.2, so I can replace these with G.2 and SP.1, which I should have covered during the first trimester.

Let's fit in the standards like this:

Second Trimester:
1. Statistics and Probability SP.1 (Days 60-69)
2. Geometry G.2 (Days 70-79)
3. Functions F.3 (Days 80-89)
4. Geometry G.4 (Days 90-99)
5. Statistics and Probability SP.2 (Days 100-109)

I like the idea of covering stats before geometry for several reasons. Recall that eighth graders are supposed to learn how dilations and similarity (geometry) leads to slope (functions), and so this pattern fits. My focus on transformations may be heavy on graphing and the coordinate plane, considering that some graphing appears in that first stats unit.

Recall that the way that I want to teach eighth grade geometry should reflect my vision of geometry as expressed during the first two years of this blog. Again, eighth grade math (Common Core 8) is nearly identical to Integrated Math I at some high schools. I want readers to see this website and compare this to their own Common Core 8 and Integrated Math I classes.

The "Day in the Life" poster whose monthly posting date is the tenth is Elissa Miller:

Yes, I've mentioned Miller's site before. No, she hasn't made her November 10th post yet -- but somehow I missed her October 10th post last month:

As it turned out, October 10th was Columbus Day, which her school observed as a day off. Still, Miller gave a full "Day in the Life" post about her day off from school. Naturally, her post on her off day is full of reflection. For example, Miller writes:

I spend so much time putting together notes, practice, and quizzes from my curriculum. It's mostly formatting and copying and pasting. As soon as I feel accomplished for having everything prepared, I start questioning if it's the best way to teach it. I can't feel content.

Like Miller, I'm always concerned with how I'm teaching the material. I don't like the way I missed several topics during the first trimester. I also hope that my plans for second trimester will work as I cover the three strands of Functions, Geometry, and Stats. Let's see whether this order (Stats, Geometry, Function, Geometry, Stats -- weird, but supported by Common Core) will be successful.

This is a two-day post. Due to the Veteran's Day holiday, my next post will be on Tuesday.

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