Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kids say the BEST things!

Calc class today:

They changed seats today:
Student 1: I have a hard time figuring out where I sit because I can't tell on the seating chart where the front of the room is.
Student 2: Um, I mean where's the front of this classroom? There's boards everywhere.

That was the best compliment I've gotten this year!  Exactly what I want my students to think: there is NO front of the room.  This is their LEARNING environment.  I think it's actually working.  I'm now called "the spotter" because while they "work out", I spot them. I had a student call me over today to "spot him" because he was stuck and needed help.  I love when my analogies actually stick!  I heard a student say (when his group called me over to assist) that they were trying "something" and it didn't seem to be working, could I help? Wait, is that music I hear? Well, at least music to my ears.  Kids working and asking for help only when they got stuck (and had a lot of work already shown).  It was JUST SO AWESOME today!! It felt like that scene in Good Will Hunting when Matt Damon is working on the board in the hallway and the professor comes along and looks at it (only to find it is correct)!

Let me tell you what we were actually doing:  finding the slope of a tangent line using the definition.  The problems were HARD and the kids were just eating it up.  I had to pinch myself! They even were enjoying the challenge because I had warned them that we would be "bench pressing 300 lbs today". To see them all get up and work together on THEIR board (reminder: no front of the room) was another BEST DAY EVER!

Stats class today

Student: I don't guess and check in this class because it's too hard to do that in here.

That put a smile on my face.  While guess and check in (math) class can be a viable option for getting to a correct solution, it is true that guessing and checking is a useless strategy in Stats.  You actually have to know what you are doing.  It kind of fits the old adage: you can't BS a BSer!  The students do quickly figure that out (no use trying to fool Mrs. Torres because she can tell that I didn't know it).

Let's start by saying that if you had walked into my room during the first 10 minutes, you would have wondered what was going on.  Students were (mostly) in a state of confusion trying to figure out what they were supposed to be turning in today (Chapter 1 assignment packet) because this is the first time they have done this (probably ever).  After resolving everyone's "issues" we moved on to talking about what it was that they read. I made a worksheet to guide their thinking and for them to respond to in their notes.  I've never done this before and I REALLY LIKED IT!  Normally I would write down the notes on the board and they would (take their sweet time) copy them down.  This was a complete twist.  Now the notes would be in their own words, but in reference to questions I present them with.  I'm going to try this for a bit to see how it works out.  I'm being optimistic!  We'll see how they do on the problems I assigned tonight.  That will help me decide how the first day of that went.

I will end by saying that I had a GREAT discussion with one of the "overachievers" after class.  When he saw his test, he almost passed out from shock.  But I did get to thinking that he did in fact know a lot of "stuff" that we had talked about, but my points were assigned to other more specific things.  Sometimes it is so difficult grading with objective mindset as opposed to subjective.  However, I know what the AP test is looking for.  So I think I have a solution that I am going to comes my thoughts about SBG.  I'm going to let them "do over" the free response portion and see if they can write better.  After-all, that is exactly what I am after (making them good technical writers).  This solves my dilemma of getting them to LEARN and their dilemma of improving a grade when they feel like they really did know it.  If I want to get them to keep trying, I have to provide them the feedback and another opportunity, right?


  1. I really like the idea of having a chance to revise their work for points. I want to hear how it goes- I have always found that students who care about their grades will spend the time to rework the information.

  2. Paula, can I ask how (or if) you grade homework? With your students working on the boards often, do you assess their work there, or are they required to complete problems in their notebook as well?

    1. I do make sure their answers on their white boards are correct, but I haven't gotten to the point of formally awarding points for any of it. I need to do that (well, at least assess who knows it and who doesn't) based on what I am watching. In the past I have collected their HW on test days (an entire chapter packet). I haven't figured THAT out for this year yet either. Now its the notes, but I don't have time to go around and check it while we/they are working because I'm helping them as needed. So I still don't know WHAT exactly I am doing....other than recording quizzes and tests. Also, I don't want to make them copy stuff down on their papers that they worked on the whiteboard just for times sake, even though it would be beneficial for them to have it. Think the reality is that they would seldom go back and look at it anyway, and the conversations they have are so awesome, it seems like it might be a bit of a time killer to have them stop the conversing/working just to write it all down AGAIN. I encourage them to take pics with their phones and many do.

      If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them! I know it will take me a while to work through all these problems/solutions and get a more formalized approach. So far, it just seems like there is so much learning going on that I hate to slow that down for the sake of making up points. I'm hoping it will be reflected over time on their assessments.