Test prep, whiteboards

My most difficult class to manage is an end-of-the-day block of Algebra 2. I’ve been feeling frustrated by their lack of focus, and amazed that even though the class is quite a bit smaller than the other section of Algebra 2, and comes later (allowing me to be better prepared), it consistently feels less successful. Partially it’s the 2:00 start time; also, there is one posse of junior and senior boys in there who love to chat, have not-that-great basic algebra skills, and are big and loud. I hate having to repeatedly ask/demand/holler for attention, but that’s what I find myself doing.

We’re coming to the end of our first unit, with a test next class. So yesterday I split them into groups, and gave each group a different problem, and a whiteboard to work on and present with. When they were ready, I told them that the questions were very similar to what they would encounter on the upcoming test. The presentations went pretty well, with all groups showing complete solutions, but what I was particularly pleased with was how well they did as an audience. They listened and asked clarifying questions, and stayed attentive for longer than I’ve seen so far this year.

I feel a very small amount of guilt for using the threat of a test as a lever to encourage better listening. But I like that they listened to each other.


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We are all born into this world, and at some point we will die and that will be that. In the meantime, let’s enjoy our minds and the wonderful and ridiculous things we can do with them. I don’t know about you, but I’m here to have FUN.
-Paul Lockhart

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

-Yogi Berra


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