Last week I stood glancing at a shelf of books left behind by my colleague. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice it before – but there on the middle shelf was a Kagan Geometry book.
Two days this week I’ve smiled at the end of the day and it felt great. Becky Bride has compiled simple to implement, engaging activities. I’ve read snippets about the Kagan books – but never really sat down to read/do any of the activities.
One of the activities this week was using a strategy called Boss – Secretary. Students work in pairs. The boss tells the secretary what to write, explaining their reasoning for the steps/work. IF the secretary sees the a mistake, he/she respectfully points out the mistake to the boss and praises her/him when they corrects their work. If they work through it correctly, the secretary is asked to praise the boss, vice-versa. After completing a problem, they switch roles.
The students have been funny with this simple, yet VERY effective activity. Speaking of resumes, tough bosses, etc. One asked today – do I really have to praise them when they do it correctly? I’m really not a praise-y kind of person… I said a high 5 would suffice.
Here is what I love about this – Students are talking/explaining their work so the secretary can do it. Secretaries are listening, following directions, hopefully picking up on any mistakes. I’ve heard multiple times – student exclaim – oh, now I get it. They’ve all said they like this activity – its helped them really figure out “their thinking” – having to say what they’re doing – is difficult, and sometimes what they say/tell the secretary to write it not exactly what they meant.
This is a great formative assessment activity to observe / listen to students. I’ve learned a lot about their thinking this week and I believe they have as well. When students, notice plural, ask to do an activity again because it really helped them, well – isn’t that what we’re here to do?
INB LHP assignment
As a left-hand page assignment in the INBs, I asked them to pick one problem they completed as a secretary – and they had to write out the boss’s diaglogue to solve the problem. (midsegments or isosceles triangles this week).
Another activity in the Kagan book was something I have completely taken for granted… Processing altitudes. Students draw one of each type triangle, and are asked to draw an altitude. Pass their paper to the next person, who then draws another altitude, etc. Even after a couple of examples / illustrated definition for reference…they still struggled with “drawing” it. What? If they cannot draw an altitude, how can they actually know what one is in order to use it to solve problems?
Applying Some Brain Research
Its been many, many years since I taught geometry – but I always remember students confusing medians, altitudes, perpendiuclar bisectors and angle bisectors of triangles. I remember attending a David Sousa How the Brain Learns training several years back. An example was shared how students often confuse concepts that are closely related because they are often times taught on the same day. Concepts are stored by similarities, but are retreived by differences. When we teach similar things on the same day, they are stored together, at the same time – when students are asked to retrieve that information, there’s not enough distinction between the two – therefore, they are often mixed-up, confused. Hmmm.
So do I choose to teach each of these similar concepts (special lines/segments in triangles) on separate days – but is that even enough space between? Should I skip a day between them? Anyone with experience pacing it out this way – please share successes / need to make adjustments! I really think this is an opportunity, by using Bride’s processing lessons – to make a difference, giving students the chance to build concrete understanding of these other-wise intertwined concepts.
If you’re not familar with the Kagan series – I think its definitely worth checking out. There is very little prep time – other than working through the lessons yourself. All blackline masters needed are included in the book!
I am soooooo excited about using more of these strategies in the weeks to come! 🙂
I used that book last year and loved it. I have most of the Kagan books, but that one is the best. Unfortunately, I don’t get to teach Geometry this year. I really liked the sorting proofs. It really helped my students.
I was just looking at the proofs this week – thinking how it would help students “get the idea” – I really like using these types of activities – I think they’re great for the students – can’t wait to try more!
The information on storing and retrieving is very cool. I’ve never thought of it, but I think that explains a lot of the issues we have in math. Thank you!
Sousa has a book out How the Brain Learns Math – may be a good title to use for a future book chat???
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