Monday, November 26, 2012

Tales from Zombie Flip-Class: Volume 2

Hey all you Math Zombies out there! It is finally feeling like Minnesota, here in Minnesota. Thanksgiving day was a season in and of itself; the morning dawned at 45 degrees or so, warming up to nearly 60 by lunch time, and then the thermometer proceeded to tank for the next ten hours until it settled around 25 degrees. Huge white snow flakes blanketed the grass on our way home, reminding me that, "oh yeah, I still haven't brought the deck furniture in for the season". Oops. 

So what's new in Zombie land? Well, Flip Class is going strong! So strong, in fact, that as we start another "Week with No Homework", the kids are all super confused that we're actually taking notes IN CLASS!!!  "So yeah, it's like, you take notes on your flip lesson, and then, like, you correct your guided practice... and then if you 'get it', you start the class work... and then, like, you correct that too... and if you get that right, then you start the next flip lesson when you're ready! like awesome!"

Correcting kitty is not impressed with your lack of grammary. Or this orange pen. Or these multi-colored papers sitting in my desk spot. How rude. And where is my food, by the way???

Anyhow, Barbie 2.1 was a "smashing" success... and by that, I mean, a SMASHING success. We had an all-time high number of Barbies hitting the floor... which I attribute solely to the new brand of rubber bands we used this year that were, just, WAY too stretchy. So here are a few do's and dont's we cleared up that might help all y'all math teachers out there have a more successful jump. 

#1: BUY STURDY RUBBER BANDS. We used a 19-weight band and it was just too stretchy and too light. Which "bites" (har har) because I literally have three kleenex-box sized containers of them still left. Maybe I should start a rubber band ball.

#2: Designate a responsible rubber band buddy for each group who is in charge of wearing them on his/her wrist at all times, dispensing one at a time when needed, and NOT playing with them. AND returning them to the box at the end of the hour

#3: Designate a Barbie dropper and a Data Recorder who will perform that job the whole time. The rubber band buddy can eye-ball the initial drop depth so s/he has enough to do. But do NOT allow groups of four. You can get away with groups of two, on the other hand, by doubling up Rubber Band boy with Barbie Dropper as one job, and eye-baller / data recorder as the other. 

#4: Add a spot on the front of the packet for a silly doll name. (Yes, they spelled it like that on purpose ;)

#5: Model the foot loop slowly and repeatedly until all the "loopers" have got it down. This saves time later. AND make sure the loop around the feet is good and tight. We had one come loose  this year and the Barbie smashed right into the concrete. Which of course they found extremely hilarious. 

#6: Add some data scaffolds to Page 2 of the packet. The directions do elude to the necessity of a few 2-rubber band trials, but the space is not provided for them. So I had them try 2-4 times and then average the distance. Then we solved a simple proportion. 

**CCM, DBTLG stands for "Criss-Cross, Multiply... Divide By The Lonely Guy!*** which demonstrates how to solve a proportion. The top-right box of the proportion was empty until the student entered in the other 3 boxes of the proportion.

**Also please note, our school balcony was 531.5 cm high, so we corrected all the packet notations of 4 meters right off the bat. And even then, I told them to go with 525 cm for some added buffer length. Not that it did us much good... 

#7: Amend the data table to serve your rubber band size ahead of time. If you use the teeny tiny ones, then skip-counting by 2's is probably fine. But for our super stretchy bands, we were able to see noticeable differences in jump height with every rubber band added. We actually over-amended, as you can see at right, by adding a lot of extra data spots. We should have probably just added a second column instead, since I made them duplicate all their drops before adding another band. 

#8: Lots of scaffolding is needed for seventh graders (even accelerated ones) as to how to set up a decent scatter plot, what scale to count by on the axes, reminders of where the independent and dependent variables go, and how to plot without "connecting the dots". The data is discrete, after all. 

#9: To help students infer the y-intercept is the doll's height, without just flat-out telling them, I asked, "What would happen if Barbie bungeed with no rubber bands? But her feet were glued down?" And then I modeled it, standing her on top of the meter stick, and slowly flipping her over until her face SMACKED right into the 30-cm line. Most of them figured it out right away, once they saw it in action. 

#10: I modeled the statement for the relationship question, "I add _____ rubber bands, and Barbie goes ________  ________ cm.

#11: As this was an introductory slope-intercept unit, we did the back page together; talking about each part of y=mx+b and how it related to the experiment they had just concluded. They used a slope step on their graph to predict the rubber bands they'd need for the final jump, which in most cases was far more accurate than the 2-rubber band prediction. 

#12: Don't bother doing the "Regression Equation" step unless you've already taught them how to solve 2-step equations. I had a few that didn't remember doing this earlier in the year, and therefore couldn't solve for x in this situation either.

and lastly... #13: Take LOTS of pictures! Best day ever. 

P.S. My rubric on the first page is modified from the one provided at the Illuminations website listed above. 

So now that Barbie is over, what else can entertain us in the land of Math Zombies and snow bunnies? Well... Exponential fun is upon us! I have made a brand new Pythagorean Menu for Chapter 4 that covers exponential arithmetic, square roots, the Pythagorean Theorem, special triangles, and sine/cosine/tangent. It's a beast... but also super fun working in degrees. I have to reprogram my brain to stop marking in their homework as "2 points", but as "20 degrees". 

Note that the Flip Homework on the left is not included in the menu points. I still mark them in as 10 points per homework as either done or not done. But the bulk of each student's homework grade is his or her choice points. They have to have something from each lesson to demonstrate mastery, but once the basics are covered, the sky is the limit! Literally... my previous "highest grade ever" record of 126% was shattered this fall and now stands at 139%!!! 

It really does continually amaze me, that if we let students go above and beyond, and not set boundaries, they can really soar. This student literally took everything on every menu I gave out this fall, plus did a ton of online math gaming at one of my favorite drilling sites...  

And the funny thing is, when the high students go so much higher than the required points, the low and lazy students feel just that much more silly that they too didn't attempt some more extra credit. I keep telling them, "the more work you put into practicing math, the better you'll get at it!" and they roll their eyes, like this is some novel concept. Well, I don't find it a surprise at all, that those students that are over 100% in math, ALWAYS do really well on their tests, because they've spent so much extra time learning the material! In puzzles and word-problems and straight drill-and-practice worksheets, and review games.

One more thought on Flip-Class to leave you with... we have started "grading our flip lessons" nearly every day now. I got fed up with the shoddy notes that some students were taking, and started grading every individual part of the lesson that I'd expect them to record. So that's what they're doing tomorrow. Another "Best Flip Notes Ever". We did our first one right before conferences, and it was a fascinating performance document to show to parents. 

Here's an example of what I look for: 

+1 point - Name, date, day of week, class hour
+1 point - Number and  title of lesson, page numbers from book
+1 e.c. point - Record the lesson objective from the margins
+1 point - Summarize the real-world example that introduced the lesson
+1 point per vocab word identified 
+1 e.c. point - for any hints, tips, tricks, reminders they record from the margins
+1 point - Writing down the sub-title for each example
+1 point - Summarizing the math concept in their personal learning style 

And that usually gets to a grade of 15 or so points for the flip lesson. 

Ungraded additions (just to determine level of difficulty of class work to pick):
+1 point - each "Think & Discuss" higher-order thinking question
+1 point - each Guided Practice problem 

This gives a pretty realistic picture to me, and to the student of where they stand on concept mastery. The problems I continue to run into, are with those students who don't take good notes, even after two months practicing as a class. And those who refuse to do their homework, even when it's just reading. And those who WASTE half their class work time EVERY DAY, not doing what they're supposed to be doing; thus, leading to more real homework to be doing, when they're not done with class work by the very generous due date.

Sometimes you just have to remind yourself, "they weren't doing their homework before anyway, you just didn't see it because they weren't doing it at home, and now they're not doing it at school either." Which I guess... is better? Hmmm....