These are a Few of my Favorite Things.

As a part of Week 2 of the ExploreMTBoS 2016 Blogging, I’m sharing a few of my favorite things!

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My Favorite App: PLICKER

plickersWay back in September, I wrote about some new things that I was trying this year. Among them was using PLICKERS (paper clickers) for formative assessments and providing students with on demand feedback. Almost 5 months in, they are going strong and plickers are one of the tools I use ALL of the time and my students love them too! I can easily scan their answers using my phone and students can see the frequency for each choice. I can choose to reveal the answer or not. However, it’s not about getting the correct answer! Here is why I love plickers!

  • Plickers have been a kick off point leading to conversations about strategies used.
  • I especially LOVE it when the answer that was most frequently chosen by the class leads to a conversation around misconception or common error that is made.
  • Students get to debate! Sometimes I have students justify their answers and try to convince each other why their answer makes the most sense.
  • Inspired by estimation180, sometimes, we use it to reason about the “reasonableness” of the choices and decide why a choice is “too high”, “too low” or “just right”

My Favorite Product: Clear Neon Lights (as known in Ms. K’s class but aka C-Line Ticket Holders)

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I use these almost every day. They’re clear pocket inserts with unlimited uses from impromptu mini-whiteboards, collection folders, instruction/guideline holders, protection sheets, etc.

My favorite review/practice activity: Add ’em Up!
add em up

Like most things I do in my classroom, Add ’em Up is something I’ve taken from someone in the #mtbos community. Thanks to Sara Vanderwef, I now have a go to review activity that really gets ALL of my students engaged. Whenever I do an ‘add em up review, I never have to worry about any off task behavior which in middle school land is pretty awesome! This is the gist of the activity modified from Sara’s blog. (which you should totally explore because she has some really amazing I-am-totally-gonna-do-that-because-it’s-freakin’-awesome kinda stuff)

  • This task is used for math problems that have one number solution.
  • Students are placed in groups of 4. (I also have students work in groups of 5 and have two students work as a team)
  • Groups get the large whiteboards (2′ by 2.5′) and 4 colored dry erase markers.
  • Each group also gets 4 task cards. Each student solves ONE card in their section of the board using their colored marker (but they can help each other).
  • As students work, I go around and write the sum of all four answers in the middle of their board.
  • After everyone has gotten their answers, it’s time to ADD ’em UP and if the questions were solved correctly, their sum should match the one written in the middle.
  • If it doesn’t match, students go back and determine where the mistake was made and correct it.

It’s really easy to prepare! I’ve been using them a lot on percent problem tasks. I usually create 2-3 sets with each set being more challenging than the prior set and that has them going for about 40-45 minutes.

My students are still getting used to communicating as they are working, but once they get their sum and it doesn’t match, it creates this ITCH in them to determine where the mistake was made and they begin collaborating (and sometimes arguing, but how cool is that?!). What I love about this activity is that it is MORE than just getting the correct answer. While that is a part of it, it forces my students to work together and help each other. I hear students explaining their thinking process to their peers. I have students ask each other clarifying question or tell each other, “that doesn’t make sense!” I have students refer to each other and their interactive notebooks before I step in, so it allows me to focus on students that are struggling a great deal and offer them one on one support.

And while we’re talking about my favorite things, got to include Miloh. My favorite reliever of stress and frustration!

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New things in Ms. K’s classroom: WODB and Plickers

This is my third year teaching the same 6th grade curriculum. This is the first year that we’re trying block schedules at my school. This brings up my time with my students to 76 minutes per day instead of 45 minutes. I’m excited to be able to do some of the things that I’ve wanted to do in years past, but was reluctant for a variety of reasons. Feeling like a newb and time among them.

Which one doesn’t belong?

We’ve been having 3 day weeks due to holidays. Even though school started September 9th, my first actual math class (where we weren’t doing advisory or giving benchmark assessments) was on Thursday, September 17. I decided to allot the first 20 minutes of class to have students determine which one doesn’t belong? I first learned about this website at TMC15 and was eager to use it throughout the year.

I posed the following set to my students. My classroom is set up as quadrants, so I had students move to the quadrant that corresponded with their shape. I figured that most students would gravitate towards quadrant 4 (bottom right), but I was shocked that almost all of them chose that shape. In my first block all, but ONE student chose the pentagon. What was more surprising, is that some students refused to accept the reasoning of the sole student who chose the top right shape as the one that didn’t belong. His reason that it was the only shape that “had designs” inside was not mathematical enough for some of the students. Other students responded by going back to the original question “which one doesn’t belong?” and gladly accepted his reason. Thinking back, I wish I had them pause and reflect on what it means for evidence to be “mathematical enough”.

I changed the task for my second and third block. First I gave students 5 minutes to independently decide which one doesn’t belong. Then I assigned quadrants to them. When they moved into their groups, there task was to come with as many reasons why the shape did not belong. The groups that moved to the top and bottom left struggled the most to come up with reasons, but someone eventually was able to share that the top left was the only one where all the sides weren’t of equal length.

We reflected on the this exercise for a bit after everyone settled back in their seats. I asked them what there take away was from this exercise. Students in all my blocks shared that each could have a reason for not belonging or that there was more than one correct answer. There were still a few students who were convinced that there was only one lens through which to look at these shapes and that there was only one right answer. Others acknowledged reasons why the other shapes didn’t belong, but believed there was one shape that didn’t belong more than the other, (the pentagon in this case). I didn’t push too much because that is a notion that has been reinforced for much of their math experience and one exercise was not going to change that. I’m eager to try this again next week with another set and see how it goes.

Plickers

I’ve decided to use plickers for a quick midpoint check-in. Plickers are essentially “paper clickers” that can be scanned through a mobile device. I tried them once last year, but made them mistake of laminating them with glossy pouches and they were a total waste. This year, I had them laminated on matte and so far I’m happy with them. I was a bit nervous it would take a while to scan them, but here is what I learned the few times I used them:

  • I can scan them by standing in one spot as long as students don’t block each other. To make this easier on me I’ve asked my students in the back to raise them up high, the ones in the middle to cover their face, and the ones up front to hold them low so I can scan in one or two swipes across the room.
  • It scans so much faster than I expected and the students are really excited to get the immediate feedback. I use the graph to reveal the answer.plicker2
  • Yes, it’s multiple choice, but having this immediate feedback is a kick off point for math discussions. In the above example, it led us into a discussion analyzing student error.
  • Use “live view” (love live view!) to keep track of which students have been scanned. As soon as their card is scanned, their name is checked off. Now I know after my second swipe, I need to focus on scanning student #14’s card.

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I learned that there is a class set of electronic clickers somewhere in the building, but I like the fact that I don’t have to pass/collect the plickers. It saves time. The students put it in the flap of their binder which never leaves the room. I’m able to give every student their own plicker which I wouldn’t be able to do with the electronic clickers. I’m planning on using a sound cue that indicates, “It’s plicker time – take ’em out” and another to tell students to put them away. We’ll see how this goes and if it doesn’t work out…I guess I’ll have to try out the electronic clickers.