Thursday, November 29, 2012


When I was still in the classroom, I had students complete daily mini quizzes (one or two small questions based on the work done in the previous class).  This allowed me to see what they got and what they didn't get right away.  I "assigned" homework each day but told them that they had the answers in the book so they could check it themselves.  If they needed help, they could come see me before school or at lunch.

My students were allowed to rewrite these mini quizzes as many times as needed to get a full 5/5.  Now that I look back, I know that there are a few things I would change.  Number 1:  I would allow students to review with me and then write the new mini quiz right away.  One blogger said that her students can't review with her and rewrite on the same day.  Very cool.  Another teacher has his students email him a request for assessment detailing
  1. What they want to reassess
  2. Reasons why they didn't do well the first time
  3. What they have done (not plan to do) to make sure they get it now
  4. What date/time they want to rewrite
They must complete these steps for each and every reassessment they want to complete.  If a student does not sufficiently answer the questions or they give lame responses (ie. I looked over the mini quiz), he replies to the email detailing where they need to be more specific.  

You can find his specific email form letter on his blog.

I would also have students sign up for a rewrite during class but not actually show up to do it.  grrrr...  This would definitely help.  I can't imagine that they would spend the time writing all the detailed information in the email and then not show up for the rewrite.  Also, I'm not going to call it a rewrite anymore.  I'll be using the term reassessment as I love the connotations that this word evokes.  It even sounds more serious.

I love it!  I will definitely be implementing the email Request to Reassess when I return to the classroom next year.  I think I will add this to the course outline that I stole borrowed from him in yesterday's post.  Either that or put it on my class blog.  Actually, that's probably the best place for it so that students can just do a copy paste and focus on filling in the details.    Oooohhhh....maybe even a google form.  I will have to play with those two ideas and see which one better fits the situation.  (All my students have a google education account so I don't have to worry about creating google email addresses.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Course Outlines

This morning, I spent quite a bit of time looking for activities/lessons on rational expressions.  I got distracted and veered way off topic when I discovered Continuous Everywhere but Differentiable Nowhere's blog.  After reading through a few posts, I found links to his course outlines.  I have only read the first one but absolutely love how it begins.  I definitely plan on stealing borrowing the introduction.  Don't panic...he gives permission for anyone to do this on his blog!

Here's the portion I love but feel free to check out the course outline in it's entirety here.


Howdy! This year we are going to discover beautiful, useful and extraordinary islands of knowledge.  I’m going to be challenging you consistently as you build bridges from island to island – from lines to quadratics to polynomials to matrices. These islands will provide resting places for our adventures, while we explore what great things these paradises have to offer. Still, any adventure isn’t an adventure unless there is uncertainty, unexpected perils. I can promise you that you will not be immune from confusion, wandering dazed and confused.

But don’t worry! Yes, at times it will be hard – all good adventures are – but rest assured that I’m always going to be right there with you. I am here to tell you now: we are in this together and we can conquer all. In fact, I’m going to make sure we make it to the end of the year with lots of sparkling mathematical treasures to your name: graphs of neat functions, complex numbers, quadratic functions, the remainder and factor theorems, compound interest, and other surprises.

teaching goes both ways
With this said, you are now at a point in your education where you are responsible for your own learning. You are old enough to know what you need to do when you are having difficulty. Wait, are you? Pop quiz.

When you are feeling lost in class, you should:
(a) wait until the next class and hope that it will all begin to make sense.
(b) not do anything… it’s only one concept and you know you’ll be tested on a bunch, so it won ‘t be a big deal to not learn it.
(c) ask someone else for help – whether it be Mr. Shah, your desk partner, or a friend.
(d) watch America’s Next Top Model and hope that the concept will be explained during a photo shoot.

You are in this class to learn some math – and even though we are in this journey together (remember: I am always on your side), that does not absolve you of responsibility. For this class to operate smoothly, for us to have a good time, to get all we need to get accomplished in mere months, you need to
… come to class prepared every day
… spend quality time working on your homework daily
… not be afraid to ask questions about concepts or homework problems you are struggling with
… be an engaged participant in every class
… be kind and respectful to the other members of the class

If you keep your end of the bargain, I guarantee you that your mind with be brimming with intellectual riches at the end of the school year. You will have learned a lot.

Just as I expect only the best from you, I want you to expect the best from me. I promise to come to teach class well-prepared, ready to embark on our daily adventures. I promise to try my best to make my presentations clear and interesting. I promise to respect you.

I can't wait to get back in the classroom and add this to my course outlines.  LOVE IT!