Thursday, March 13, 2014

Run Forest, Run!!

     I love that I can get my students to run to class on test days.  I was discussing with my students about their test tomorrow and as we were reviewing, I put 6 of the formulas (they were supposed to memorize) up on the board.  I then proceeded to have them tell me what those formulas were.  As expected, they can collectively tell me with no problem.  However, many of them commented with "If we had only had the formulas on the group test, we would have done better." (more on the group test to follow)  I then told them, "by the way, remember: if you get to class early tomorrow, you can start the test early.  These formulas will be up on the board."  Someone then asked, "will you leave them up there until the bell rings?"  GENIUS IDEA!!  I wish I had thought of it myself, but no matter, I am definitely stealing it!!  So I said, "Sure!!  I will erase it when the tardy bell rings."  You would have thought that I had just opened up a treasure chest and everyone was able to dig in!  My 6th period welcomed that news eagerly as well.  Honestly, my intent had been to leave the 6 formulas up all period, but why spoil a good suggestion?!  So, again tomorrow I will have my students RUNNING to class to take a test!!  And, after all, it benefits them by giving them a few more minutes.

     Group tests:  Several years ago I was exposed to the ideas of group tests.  I am so grateful for the days that we taught CPM (College Preparatory Mathematics) because of that concept.  Fortunately that "gem" stayed with our school and most of us use it for every chapter.  I found that group test days were one of THE MOST POWERFUL learning days.  Recently one of my students said, "if it weren't for group tests, I would probably fail this class.  I learn so much on group test days."  Sure there are students who gain a good grade from those tests, but it is such a small percentage of their grade, that it cannot compensate for what they are able to display on individual test days.  However, I have learned over the years, that there is SO MUCH POWER in the mathematical conversations that they have.  I always enjoy when they get into a debate and have to use me to help guide them to a resolution.  It shows that they have passion about what they are learning.  That's a scored point for me!  So as I have tried more collaboration in the classroom (in my preparation for flipped class), I am so enthused to hear the students comment on the value of those discussions for their own learning.  This "new level" has been begging to be used the whole time.  I just didn't have the technology, nor the savvy to unleash it.  I am excited about letting kids converse more in math.  Perhaps I will be able to make more of them fluent speakers!!


  1. Paula

    Can you tell more about your grading structure regarding group tests? I have used group quizzes on occasion but I have never used them as a regular tool for fear of knowing how to adjust grade-wise.

    1. I grade them like this: Students staple all 4 papers together (might be 3 if I have to adjust for evenness in the class). I then randomly select which one is "on top" and turn to that one. I usually go through the pile and do this first for each stapled set. I then grade whichever paper is on top of that set, turn stapled set over and grade the one showing in back (the back side). Then everyone in the group gets that combined score. I put the grade into their quiz category which is a lower percentage than the test category. This way it doesn't affect their grade too much. The best part is that the group test scores are almost always higher than individual test scores, so it is a benefit for students. I've NEVER had a problem with this, although once in awhile (good) students complain about the score, but when I remind them that it is a very small percentage of their overall grade, they usually are satisfied. Hope that helps. Feel free to ask more questions if you like.