New Year, New Focus

Yesterday was my first day back.  We also started our new semester. I do love that we end the semester before Christmas break and come back fresh in January. It also gave me the opportunity to think about how I would like to do things differently or re-focus this semester.  My Algebra students will be working on geometry topics, transformations, triangle congruence, the basics. We are going to be changing to the Integrated Pathway next year so this semester our focus is to get all students where they need to be to step into an Integrated course next year. Tall order.

I am also auditing the Mathematics Vision Project textbook in my algebra classes. We are currently working on the functions, because my students have never seen or dealt with this before. The lessons we worked on yesterday and today are here. We worked on pages 3,4 yesterday and 5,6 today. I decided to put these students in new groups, which caused a little bit of ruffled feathers, but not for too long.  Yesterday we worked as a class on page 3. We talked about what order we should put things into our graph, and “why”. I explained that the “whys” are going to be especially important as we focus more on geometry. We had a wonderful discussion, almost everyone participated and had great reasons for their ideas. We built the graph, talked about how it could change depending on what order the tasks were done, it went well. I then had them work in their groups on the graphs on page 4. They did the lines, and gave up immediately on the exponential graphs. Even when I suggested making T charts, it was all over. We finished those today together, because HW never gets done.

Today in groups I assigned one graph per group and had them discuss which situation their graph described, and “why”. They had really great discussions, came up with great conclusions, challenged each other when they didn’t agree with a group’s decision, and were able to assign all the graphs to situations. In groups again, they did page 6, finding similarities and differences for the given graphs and using words like discrete, continuous, positive, negative, parallel, all appropriately.  I can only hope the rest of the semester goes this well.

In geometry, yesterday I had groups discuss what we had learned last semester and to share out what they recalled and questions that came up from topics.  They were well aware that I was activating prior knowledge before we started again, and told me that it was because student brains “melt down” over breaks, their term not mine. It seemed to put them in a good mood.

After going to the GAFE summit, I am really trying to change my ideas about utilizing cell phones, etc. in the classroom. I told the students that as long as they are being used appropriately, to do their work, that I would like to be able to incorporate them into our class. This brought out cheers, and I thought, “uh oh”, but when I told them to come up with definitions for bisectors, medians of triangles and altitudes, then went right to work. I was actually surprised at how many of them went for a book to look it up, even the ones who will try anything to have their cell phones out during class. Class was quiet, but not silent, while they searched, wrote out definitions, shared them with their group mates, and double-checked the definitions they found on-line with the book. I was impressed. After they found their definitions, they constructed perpendicular bisectors, angle bisectors, altitudes and medians of triangles with compass and straight edge. They said they all felt that they really understood the terms, and thought it was a great day. I would say that engagement was 98%, awesome for these groups.

I’ve got to keep finding ways to encourage them to be involved, but as long as the technology thing keeps working, I think that will help. It is much more natural for them to use technology to look things up, and makes them happier to do it the way they are comfortable. I just hope I can stay on top of it.

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