Sunday, August 29, 2010

Week One in Algebra - Introducing Stats Unit

So, I have my plans in place with a little bit of detail for our first full week of school. We gave our class pretest on Friday. I looked at an overall grade (i.e. percentage) so I’d have something to compare it with when we give Posttest (which will require a single holistic grade), but then I also disaggregated the data from the first unit we will cover (statistics) into SBG type scores. The scores were drastically low (highest score was 26 points out of 105) but that means our posttests should look fabulous. ;)

Anyway, we are heading into this new week with a few overall objectives in mind:
· Help them understand our expectations for Weekly Blogs and Collaboration.
· Introduce our first unit of study.
· Get them started on their major group project.
· Give them a fairly thorough understanding of how to avoid (or detect) bias in statistics samples

So here is the plan:

We have a brand new math lab at our school. In fact, I believe we will be the first to use it. So we are going to start class by going over the Computer Rules.
Then we will head over to the lab for the first half of class. Once we head over to the lab, we are going to help any students who don’t already have an email account sign up at gmail or yahoo. Then we will all head over to our class website (which we showed them briefly last week). We are going to show them again where to access the Writing Rubric on our website and then direct them all to respond to the first blog post. Anyone who finishes early can just spend some time surfing the links we have on there (the videos will be primarily blocked because of YouTube links).
After that, we will head back to the classroom where we have placed them into groups of four based on their performance on the Statistics portion of our pretest. Each group is heterogeneously grouped by prior knowledge. They are going to work on a TeamBuilding Activity that we have modified. Basically, each team will have 25 popsicle sticks, an empty toilet paper roll, half of a paper plate, two mini-cups, a Styrofoam bowl, and a roll of masking tape. They have to work in complete silence for approximately 10 minutes (depends on our time at this point) to build the tallest free-standing tower they can. We are then going to debrief. If we have time, we will work as a class to develop a collaboration rubric. If not, we will use the one I’ve already put together (Collaboration Rubric). I’m also going to encourage them to obtain contact information for their group members at this point, and have a discussion about group accountability and attendance.
Hopefully, we will still have time at this point to distribute the Study Guide for Unit (formatting problems on GoogleDocs) so that we can talk a little bit about the Learning Targets we will be focusing on for the month ahead. I have considered writing on the cover of each Study Guide how they did on the pretest on certain targets (only if I saw some evidence of background knowledge) but I’m not entirely sure.
After class, I plan to add links to the Collaboration Rubric and Study Guide on to the class website.

We are going to have our “TRUST NO ONE” Powerpoint on the board as the students arrive. We are then going to open class with a mini-lecture/discussion about the way statistics are often misused in media for the purposes of advertising and propaganda. We will then detail that a bit more with ways a Discussion Introducing Statistics about the ways that Bias can show up in surveys.
We are then going to have them work in groups on a sheet from the textbook that has them critique a planned survey by a travel agency and look for bias. We are only giving out one sheet per group and so we are going to have a discussion at that point about finding out who in your group are the strong readers, the neat writers, etc. to encourage them to assume roles and tasks within the group dynamics.
We will then discuss the group project a bit and have them discuss the options from the Topic List with the group to choose what they will be investigating. They will then work together to complete and submit a Planning Sheet. I am really afraid I’m going to forget to emphasize to them that they need to record the exact age of each person they survive. I’m writing that in bold so that it will help to remind me if I look back at this throughout the week. We are going to need that second variable in a few weeks when we get to Scatter Plots.
After class, I plan to add links on our website to the 1968 Trident commercial that we discuss in class, the Powerpoint Notes, a Video from Khan Academy on Samples/ Surveys, and a link to some data on Media usage where I obtained a lot of the info on their Topic List sheet.

We are going to start class with some statistics on the board from Opener Stats from Kids Count for discussion. We want to start introducing a theme we will be using as we look at stats this month: “What do you notice? What do you wonder?” in an effort to make them think more critically about what they see.
We will then have them work with their groups to see what data has been returned for their project and what still needs done. I may make up a guiding sheet for this but haven’t decided for sure yet. They will discuss and plan how to ensure that they have all of the required data by Thursday for our the project.
We are going to then talk a bit more in depth about sampling methods (cluster, systematic, etc.) and they will work with their groups on the Running Down a River lesson from @druinok (whose name, I think, will show up in my lesson plans a lot this year).
After class, I will add a link on our website to the site which was the source for today’s opening data.

During our opening day discussion, we garnered a bit of information about our students; personalities and interests. Several expressed interest in art, several in the military, and several in the health care field. We are hoping to tap into those as much as possible throughout the year. We talked briefly that day about a colleague whose son is on the front lines for the Marine Corps in Afghanistan right now. I mentioned that we could gather some stuff to send over from our class. In line of that thinking, we will use our “What do you notice? What do you wonder?” discussion approach with today’s Opener Stats from Military. We are then going to discuss things that my colleague’s son needs and make a plan to gather supplies to donate.
We are then going to head over to the lab to begin Phase One of our project reports. We are going to discuss with them how to access their Personal Drive on our network, as well as how to create subfolders for their classes or subjects. We are then going to have them open a Word Document and go over the creation of Headers and tables. We are going to have them write a few introductory comments about the topic of their project and embed a table with all the raw data. We are going to then have them explain how their group when about obtaining the data (sampling method used) and discuss what bias may exist in the approach they used.
The planning for this day is a bit light because we are always surprised at how little they seem to know when it comes to using Word. We also wanted a little bit of a catchup day in case we are behind on parts of the lesson that were integral. This document that they are starting is something we will be adding to after each mini-section of this unit until they have a full report including a histogram, box plot, etc.
After class, I’m going to add reminder and supplies list for Jack under notes in left margin of our class website.

OK, so I still have no freakin clue of the details of what we are doing here. I’m going to meet to plan more details with my partner before Friday. I know that we are going to start discussing methods of displaying data and begin with an introduction of Histograms. I’d like to do a Venn Diagram of sorts by showing them a series of bar graphs and a series of histograms and having them note or report out the similarities and differences. The determination of intervals was the biggest difficulty with our students last year, so that’s what we will need to practice the most. Also, we have TI-NSpires so we may want to do a little bit with that. I think we have three days planned with Histograms before we head back to the lab to add more to their project reports.

So, those are my plans. I have to find a way to spend a bit less time on all the details. I hope this gets easier/smoother as we go. As for assessment and SBG and all that stuff…I’m thinking of making a checklist to observe their collaboration, and I’m going to give them some feedback on their first Blog Writing…but nothing to be formally graded/assessed at this stage.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Class Website

OK, so here is my thinking on our class website. We have named it Success Site for obvious reasons. This is the first year we are attempting to integrate it, and I know to those of you who are more proficient with technology the efforts may seem quite infantile...but you have to venture forth at some point. Here is the plan:

Writing Component: We are being asked to require more written expression across the curriculum. In fact, all classes (PE, art, whatever...) must include one written assignment per week to be graded for spelling and mechanics. Even on our block schedule, I find that we use every spare second in class on activities and instruction so the idea of cutting a portion of time a way for writing, especially when there is such variance in writing abilities and speed isn't something I was thrilled with. Additionally, we don't give a lot of math homework in our class because many of our students' parents are unable to help them with Algebra. So, our thinking was that we would outsource the writing part. So, we plan to assign a journaling type of question each Monday with the requirement that students complete it by Friday, but allow no class time. Assessment is a bit trickier. We included a "Writing About Mathematics" component in our SBG target skills. Then we took our state's Writing Rubric and whittled it down a bit. The idea is that during the first nine weeks, we would focus exclusively on assessing the Mechanics. Then we plan to add another criteria each nine weeks. We put access to this abridged rubric on the website. Now, I'm leery about actually reading and providing discrete feedback to each and every post. And I'm also terrified that I will log in and find that only one or two students complete the blog. I will just venture forth and see how it goes. I have considered allowing them to privately inbox me their blog post for those who feel uneasy about their writing being public, but I am hesitant because I'm eager for them to learn from one another's examples. We shall see.

Resource for Parents: Well, we are sending home a letter the first day to parents that discusses the site. We have posted that letter on the site itself because it also explains the grading process a bit. In addition, we have posted the Learning Targets list on the site and plan to use the Notes section on the page to list current units of study, upcoming assessment dates, major projects, etc. I think we probably need to link our Edline grading system to the site and vice versa but I need to run that by my partner first. I want students to be responsible for their own learning but I would like parents to be more aware and engaged in discussions with their children about what we are doing. I'm hoping this might help.

Resource for Students: In addition to everything mentioned above (Learning Targets list, Writing Rubric, etc.), we are linking to some websites that might provide additional assistance (Khan Academy, TutorVista, WolframAlpha, Virtual Manipulatives) and just general interest (TED, WorldoMeter, etc). Some of those we will be adding as we move through various units of study, simply to keep the site changing and interesting. We have links to a scientific calculator and a graphing calculator. I also wanted to try to make the site a bit adolescent-friendly so we've linked to some Facebook quizzes like "Which branch of Mathematics would you be?" and such which they can only access from home and if they have a Facebook account. We are planning to post videos up as we go through the lessons that serve as reteach options for those who need additional practice...stuff from Khan, or United Streaming. I'm not sure if they will use it, but at least the resources are available at their finger tips. Perhaps halfway through the year we will start pushing them to seek out resources of their own, even assigning them to find a video and discuss its strengths and weaknesses in their weekly journal or something. I avoided the chat feature because I'm a little leery of monitoring it at this point, but perhaps in the future.

I don't know. I have high hopes but I could be hitting this in all the wrong way. Do you guys have any thoughts, suggestions, ideas for improvement?