Week 1 Update

Quick update on the first week of the spring semester.

Algebra Support

I introduced the kids to Class Dojo on Monday, and allowed most of the kids to set up their accounts (read: customize their avatars) on Tuesday. They are obsessed with earning points, and fascinated by the immediate feedback I can give. I keep changing the behaviors that I can award and deduct points for as I realize what things I need and don’t need, but they already know me well enough to know what kinds of things I reward and what kinds of things I can’t stand. I’m still snickering about this one:

In a REALLY whiny tone of voice that makes him sound like a three-year-old: “But MISS!!!”

Immediately followed by:¬†“I’M NOT WHINING!”

(Whining is one of the behaviors I can deduct points for. So is arguing. I’m getting so much mileage out of these two.)

My behaviors lists, as they currently stand:

I love that I can add and deduct points from my phone. I love that when I leave the website open in the browser on my computer, the kids can hear the sounds through the classroom speakers and know that I just added/deducted points. I love that I’m seeing some immediate changes in behavior (like realizing that they’re¬†whining and immediately stopping).

Class Dojo – I’m a fan.

I’m also a fan of Algebra Tiles. We learned about how to represent a polynomial using Algebra Tiles on Tuesday and Thursday, and then practiced the concept on Thursday and Friday before taking a quiz on Friday. I don’t know if it’s because they find the tiles to be easy, or if it’s because they like them (I haven’t asked yet), or what, but I’ve never heard them work as silently as they did when they were practicing creating polynomials with the tiles on Thursday and Friday. Some kids actually started complaining that the class was too quiet. (It was too quiet. It freaked me out.)

Frankly, it could be that they just like the fact that I’m letting them color their notes. They like coloring. This has also led to the realization that I really need more than just 6 sets of colored pencils (one of which is missing the yellow pencil), so my Target trip today included the purchase of 4 or 5 more sets. They’ll be thrilled.

They also did incredibly well on their quizzes on Friday. I grade on a 1-5 scale (SBG-style) and almost everyone got 4s. This is a significant improvement over the usual 2s and 3s that I saw last semester on a first attempt. (The kids are disappointed they didn’t get 5s, but this is a prime opportunity for me to remind them to check their work before turning it in.)

One student who struggled a lot last semester and never actually mastered anything relating to integers actually got the hang of Algebra Tiles right away, and earned a 5 on her quiz. I’m hoping that introducing her to zero pairs this week will help her make some connections with integers – that maybe this is a better representation of the concept for her than number lines were.

So far, the tiles are looking good. I’m excited to use them.

Financial Literacy

We did the lecture about how I’m changing things for this semester because of their low performance last semester, and they seemed ok with it. (It was Monday and they were all still basically asleep, but I’ve decided that sleepy resignation is better than outraged scoffing.) I started grading them on their in-class participation, which led to excellent participation rates (yes, I know that some of them probably just copied the answers off of someone else’s whiteboard) and also led to the discovery that my “class set” of whiteboards, which used to include 30 boards, now includes 13 boards. (…Plus the two that have gum stuck to them and are proudly displayed at the front of the classroom as an object lesson for why gum is not allowed in my class.) So today I went to Home Depot and bought 2’x4′ sheets of whiteboard to get cut into smaller sections.

They turned in their first homework assignment yesterday, which I have not yet graded, but I think the opportunity to make corrections during class was helpful. I think this because I heard students talking about the assignment, and I also had a couple of kids ask me questions about it. That’s a good sign – usually they don’t ask me any questions and then wonder why their quiz scores are so low.

I’m optimistic about this semester.

I’m also better-rested this week because we decided not to start our after-school programs (which I’m in charge of) until this upcoming week. Being able to leave school before 5:30 is a severely under-appreciated luxury (that I’m not going to have again until May).

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