Thursday, January 26, 2017

Student Journal: Pythagorean Theorem (Day 88)

Here is today's Pappas question of the day:

The equation of a trajectile y = -12x^2 + 12x + 23. What is the maximum height it reaches?

This is a more complex Algebra I problem, approaching Algebra II level. To me, a good way to solve it is to complete the square: y = -12 (x - 1/2)^2 + 26. The maximum occurs when the expression in the parentheses is zero. That height is 26 -- and of course, today's date is the 26th. I didn't my students this problem of course -- again today's Warm-Up comes from the Illinois State text.

Speaking of Illinois State, today is the day that I was supposed to begin the "centers" -- you know, the extra components of the Illinois State curriculum that I'm to include in my lessons. Thursdays ought to be a good day for implementing the centers as my support staff member and Bruin Corps member are both present, this allowing to divide the class into three learning centers.

But as it turns out, the learning centers were not to be. My support staff member is only present for the first block of the day as she, like all the support staff, is involved in Playworks activities. (See my November 1st and 9th posts for more info on what Playworks is.) So she ends up leaving before my Bruin Corps member arrives, so there is never all three of us present.

Meanwhile, someone else is present in my room today instead -- the instructional assistant. (I mentioned her in my January monthly "Day in the Life" post.) She has returned to help me meet my goal of becoming the ideal classroom manager.

With the assistant present, it was probably a bad idea to have centers anyway. She begins each block by reminding the students of the general rules and consequences. Many of her ideas derive from the Responsive Classroom training that we've had recently. This is followed by the main lesson -- which ends up being a traditional lesson -- definitely nothing like the Illinois State learning centers.

Will all this extra assistance work to make me reach ideal classroom management? I'm not sure. I know that many students don't respect me as a teacher for several reasons -- some of which is related to my problems with teaching science. (I know -- we're still one day away from finally reaching that science post I keep talking about!) Once a student decides not to respect a teacher, there's virtually nothing a teacher can do to change that.

Still, it was always my goal to improve my classroom management, and change everything that is within my power to control. The assistant has already worked with our English teacher, who tells me that so far, the new plan has improved her classroom.

Our new consequence hierarchy begins, as usual, with a warning -- and recall that by my own definition of ideal classroom management, the majority of consequences issued are warnings with the higher levels rarely reached. The second level is a 150-word essay explaining what the student has done, and the third is a parent phone call. As a last resort, students are sent out of the room.

In all classes, I end up continuing the lessons I started yesterday. For the eighth graders, this is the Pythagorean Theorem lesson. I think that I did an okay job explaining the theorem -- and I did use my lesson from last year where students use a puzzle to prove the theorem -- but many students are confused due to the classroom being too loud during the lesson. (This is what necessitated the visit by the instructional assistant in the first place.) I think that today, with the assistant enforcing the new discipline plan, the students understand the lesson better.

But all of this time explaining to explain standards G6 (the proof of the theorem) and G7 (application of the theorem) meant that there was little time for G8 (the Distance Formula). Notice that the lessons from last year's blog posts also combine the Pythagorean Theorem and Distance Formula.

I'm almost certain that a Distance Formula question will appear on the SBAC. Of course, our new schedule allows extra time for SBAC prep, but I hate the idea of the students seeing a standard for the first time during SBAC prep time. So far, there's already two topics (dilations and distance) that I couldn't cover during the lessons. This is a major turn-off for students when it appears that I'm always reviewing and testing topics that haven't been taught, especially in light of the science fiasco.

Part of the problem was my makeshift pacing plan, which was driven by the STEM projects. Often more than one standard is covered by a Learning Module, so if I cover one project a week, it also means that I must attempt to teach several standards per week. The real Year View pacing plan provided by Illinois State teaches one standard per week. It counts standards, not learning modules.

In sixth grade, the problems are worse because the current module covers both EE4 (equivalent expressions) and NS3 (decimal arithmetic). It seems dirty of me not to emphasis decimals in a sixth grade class, but officially EE4, and not NS3, is considered major content (MC). Of course EE4 is a challenging standard for sixth graders who are seeing variables for the first time, so between this and the management issues, I had little time for decimals at all.

I actually thought that all the MC standards for sixth grade were in Volume 1 of the Student Journal, so I was surprised that the EE standards are in Volume 2, (On the other hand, the EE standards for seventh and eighth grades are in the respective first volumes.) Holding out hope that I could reach decimal arithmetic and not wanting to jump between volumes, I ended up having the students just take notes and not use the Student Journals at all -- yet another deviation from the pacing plan.

The sixth graders will probably see decimals in my SBAC prep class -- just because a standard isn't MC, it doesn't mean that it won't appear on the SBAC. The first question on the seventh grade practice test, for example, is on statistics -- and no SP standards are considered MC!

By the way, here's the link to the practice SBAC test. (That's right -- I've always written about the PARCC on this site, but the actual Common Core test in California is the SBAC.)

The seventh graders are working on converting fractions to decimals. I'm not sure whether I'll ever use learning centers in the seventh grade class. For one thing, seventh grade loses a day because I don't see them on Wednesdays on the new schedule. Notice that Wednesdays are supposed to be for traditional lessons -- those aren't really the lesson I ought to skip. Moreover, seventh grade is first block on Thursdays, and my Bruin Corps member usually arrives after first block. So there will never be three adults in the room to do centers in the first place.

By the way, my Bruin Corps member isn't looking forward to implementing centers at all. It seems ideal to divide the class into groups and place all the struggling students together -- but the kids who struggle are often the students who not only misbehave, but fail to get along with each other. (So again, it all goes back to behavior.) The Bruin Corps student tells me that he'd rather move from group to group than be stuck with one.

Perhaps it would have been better to try centers out last Thursday, the 19th. That way, if the centers cause problems, at least it would be the day before a Dren Quiz, not a real test. Of course, the Illinois State pacing plan states that centers should be the day before assessment -- yet it's difficult for me to see how the learning centers could be effective as actual test review.

For music break, today's song pertains to the sixth grade lesson on expressions -- but of course, eighth graders also need to plug in values of a, b, and c into the Pythagorean Theorem.


Plug it in, plug it in!
The variables are the letters.
Plug it in, plug it in!
That's where you put the numbers.
Use PEMDAS to simplify,
After you substitute.
To reduce the number of terms
You may need to distribute.
Plug it in, plug it in!

Tomorrow will be the math test in all of classes -- but not on the blog. Instead, it will be my Week 4 topic for the Blogging Initiative on my biggest teaching failure -- science.

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