Entry 29 & 30 – “I Learned More In The Last 45 Minutes Than I Have This Whole Semester”

Didn’t reflect last week.  Had a big, fun retreat weekend and left right after class on Friday.  It was with Sara’s residency program.  I made a fun video that has nothing to do with school that I’ll just place right here:

Onto the school content:

PRE-ALGEBRA

We finished up our ratios/proportions unit last week and students took their summative test on Monday.  Our last lesson of that unit was using proportions to find the missing side of a similar figure.  The opening question ended up being not as effective as I had hoped:

I chose this one because I felt it was pretty accessible, and it was.  Students saw the smaller shape was half as big.  They also saw that you couldn’t just add or subtract to find the missing side; one side subtracts 3 while another subtracts 2.  Where this wasn’t as helpful was when we started making proportions.  I thought ‘this question is great because theres a ton of different possible proportions we could make!’  I then had a board filled with about 10 different proportions and said ANY OF THESE COULD WORK!  I think a more basic example that doesn’t have as many possibilities will be a better starting question, and then move into something with more possibilities like this problem.

Students worked on their math blogs for the unit and I gave time this week to work on test corrections.  One class had an average of 73 with only one A.  The other class had an average of 93 and literally half the class got a 100.  There’s usually disparity between the two classes but not typically this large.  Not sure what happened.  I was even out one day in the class that did well.  The class with the average of 73 needed more time for the test corrections but they said they were glad to be able to work on them in class before moving onto the next unit (as opposed to just having to come to office hours during lunch or do them at home).

MATH SKILLS

Also in ratios and proportions with Math Skills.  Last week I had probably the best class discussion I have every year in that class; the introduction to percents lesson.  I’ve written about it HERE and still use the same opening questions.  One student said ‘I think I learned more in the last 45 minutes than I have this entire semester.’  Hoping to have more lessons like this.

That class had a quiz on Monday and I got some interesting data from my two Math Skills classes.  As with Pre-Algebra, I have one class that typically performs better on exams, but this time, they flip-flopped.  The class that normally does well struggled a bit on the quiz; a good amount of A’s but no 100’s.  The class that normally struggles churned out two 100s and nearly all passing.  Something’s in the water.

I’m thinking this may be our last unit.  We have two more weeks of instruction, then a week of review, then finals week.  That fractions project took up quite a bit of time a few weeks ago.  The two units that I rarely get to with this class are geometry, which I was able to get through last year, and statistics (general central tendency stuff), which I’ve yet to ever get to.  I could try and cram a final unit in there but it’d be stressful and probably useless.  Probably best to spend more time reviewing content and going through challenging problems together.

ROBOTICS

We spent the last two weeks working on our Sumo Bots.  It’s the best project of the year every year.  I always have more students who come and work during lunch for multiple days leading up to the battle, students are rarely off task, and they work together really well.  They have the option to work alone or with a partner.  This year, I taught a lot of them how to control the bot via another bot turned into a remote.  I didn’t learn how to do that until the end of last semester.  I’d like to make a series of instructional videos for them to use as their aren’t a ton of concise and clear explanations on some of the things I want to show them how to do.  Here’s a video of last semester’s sumo bot battles:

They will do a presentation on the process early next week and then we’ll go into our final project- a chance to create whatever kind of robot they want.

FIDGET TOYS

Fidget toys have taken over American schools.  They’re intended to helps students who struggle to pay attention have some sort of sensory input that’ll help them focus.  They come in the forms of spinners and fidget cubes:

I know some districts are starting to ban these.  I don’t think it’s to that point at our school, but I did have a discussion with my 6th graders on the purpose of these tools (toys).  I don’t have any problems with students having them in their hands if they indeed are focused and engaged in the work we’re doing.  The issue came when the students who struggled to focused found themselves VERY focused on trying to spin their little spinner as fast and as long as possible.  I told them I’d ask them to put it away if it was more of a distraction than a tool.  They understood.  Have only had to ask a few to put them away since.

By Thom H Gibson

I help middle school STEM teachers create meaningful & memorable experiences for their students. Teacher, podcaster, YouTuber. Two-time teacher of the year