Things A-Changing…

I’ve got some changes to make for second semester in both classes, and I’m going to write about them in the hope that I can solidify some of my own ideas about them before committing to them. In Algebra Support, I was always intending to make some changes second semester because my plan for the class was for different goals and a different structure in the spring vs. the fall. In Financial Literacy, I have realized that I am being WAY too lenient with my classroom management and expectations, and it has caused significantly lower grades than I had last year. (The average final exam score was 13% lower than last year, and I had 6 students fail the semester as opposed to 2 last year.)

Financial Literacy

The changes I want to make in FL are targeted toward in-class participation and homework.


Up to this point, I have graded homework solely on completion – if it looks like you did all the problems that I assigned, you get 2 out of 2 points. While very easy to grade, this grading policy introduces two major issues: First, there is no accountability to get the answers correct (or not just copy them off of someone else, which I already know is really common). Practicing the skills incorrectly negates the whole purpose of doing homework, so I need to fix this. Second, I had a pretty low homework completion rate last semester in general, so I need to find something that will encourage completion in the first place.

This semester, I am going to require work to be shown to earn credit, have the students grade their own work during class and make corrections (for credit), and grade homework out of 5 points instead of 2. Since I do category weights, the number of points that each assignment is worth does not matter to the grade, but it might help students to take it a little more seriously. I don’t know if this is common at most schools, but at my school, students struggle with the whole concept of category weights and just ask how many points assignments are worth in order to weight their importance in their minds. This leads to conversations like this:

Question Student Asks: How many points is this test worth?

(Question I Hear: How seriously do I have to take this test?)

What I Say: Uh…it’s going to be graded out of 56 points, but tests are worth 30% of your grade.

(What I Mean: Very seriously. Quit asking me questions and start studying.)

Student, looking very confused: Ok…but how many points is it worth?

(In My Head: What’s a nice, high number that’s believable?)

Me: …100 points.

Student: OH! [Now they look worried, which was ultimately my goal]

Anyway, I’m hoping that if homework assignments are worth a few more points, I might get some students to actually attempt them. This is really only a side benefit, however. Grading homework out of 5 points makes it easier for me to grade for on time vs. late, showing work, and making corrections in class.

This means I will need to allow time during class to make those corrections, and decide how to do that. I’m thinking I might do: 10 minutes for corrections, students can work together, students can ask me for assistance or to do problems on the board, corrections have to be done in colored pen, can’t just write down the correct answer and call it a day, should also write an explanation of why you got it wrong if the work doesn’t show it.

I know I will have students attempting to just do the homework during the 10-minute corrections time, so maybe I’ll stamp the homework assignments before I put the answers up? Then the ones that have the stamp plus all questions completed, plus corrections to wrong answers will earn all 5 points.

Big question: What do I do about students who turn in late work, or students who are absent on the due date? Still haven’t figured out a good solution.

In-Class Participation

When I do the example problems on the board during lecture, I also assign practice problems to be completed on individual whiteboards during class. Last semester, very few students completed these problems, and I generally shrugged and told the class that if they wanted to screw themselves over, that was their decision. This semester, since they are not holding themselves accountable for participating in class and learning the material, I will need to do so.

I’m going to track their in-class participation according to whether they answer the whiteboard problems during class (accurately, since I don’t let them stop working until they have the right answer). I did this in one or two of my classes last year too, so I have a system that works – checking off students in my paper grade book as they complete each assigned practice problem. Usually I just enter the whole week’s attendance into the electronic grade book as one assignment, then if anyone wants to know why they didn’t get full points for the week, I can check my paper grade book to be more specific. (I only got asked that question one time last year – they generally seem to know when they deserve or don’t deserve the points.)


I’m also considering allowing quiz corrections. I would require them to be done on the students’ own time, outside of class, and for students to correct the problems and explain the correction on a separate sheet of paper. I haven’t decided on this yet, which is ok because our first quiz isn’t for a couple of weeks.

Algebra Support

Ooh, so many things to discuss.

First, I’ve been promising the kids that we would be learning about the same things that they are doing in their Algebra 1 class, instead of completely different things (last semester was integers and fractions). I’m just trying to decide how to do this.

The SBG system that I had going last semester worked really well. We learned 7 standards during the semester, and the students had ample opportunity to learn, practice, assess, practice more, re-assess, practice more, re-assess, etc. This worked well for these classes, as everyone showed improvement and mastered the skills over time. I’d like to keep that structure, but I don’t know if that will allow me to keep up with the Algebra 1 classes very easily.

I also want to use Algebra Tiles the entire semester to model polynomials (we’re doing factoring this semester) so I will need some time at the beginning of the semester to introduce these tools and give the students time to become familiar with them.

I’m also having trouble deciding how to structure their notes for Algebra Support. Ideally, I’d like to just use their Algebra 1 notes and add my own things in where appropriate. If I’m supporting what they’re doing in Algebra 1, I should be able to tell them to turn to their notes on graphing quadratics and add a comment to the page. But then where do we put the Algebra Tiles notes? In the middle of all the other Algebra 1 notes? Actually, this could be REALLY COOL because I could give the kids little paper Algebra Tiles in an envelope in their notebooks and they could use them to model stuff in Algebra 1 as well…which one of the A1 teachers thinks would be cool…

Ok. I’m going to start with Algebra Tiles. I’m going to have them take all their notes in their Algebra 1 notebooks. (I’ll have them reserve a few pages for the Algebra Tiles notes so the section can be consecutive pages.) We’re going to start by using Tiles to model expressions and polynomials, then model and solve equations, then adding/subtracting and multiplying polynomials, then factoring. This plan should put me at factoring right around the same time one of the A1 teachers is getting there (I don’t know about the other teacher).

So factoring expressions, factoring to solve a quadratic equation, completing the square, quadratic formula. Then we have some statistics concepts to prep for the state test, then nothing on the calendar for the rest of the semester. (I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.)

I’m going to use Class Dojo to track and reward behaviors. I set up my classes and positive/negative behaviors already, and I like the look of the interface. Seems like it should be easy for me to track the things I want to track and reward.

Ok, I realize my writing has gotten really ramble-y because I’m doing other things in addition to writing (like figuring out what we’re doing on Monday). I’m going to leave off here and really focus on detailed planning. Since Monday morning is like 2.5 days away.


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