Goodness. I think this is where I fall apart. I have so many favorite things I’ve used in my classroom, at times I cannot focus and choose one. I become distracted, thinking I have to use EVERYTHING. I have to pause, think about the learners in the classroom and what will be best, most effective for them.

Our second week back after Christmas break was very productive. I chose to combine 2 ideas and focused my energy with them. One goal I had set was to use open questions. (Older posts – first attempt, more good questions – about strategy from Small / Lin). Rather than giving students more inequalities and asking them to graph. I gave them a point and asked them to create an inequality whose graph would “capture” the point. Students had to think differently in order to create their response rather than following a procedural step by step or copying a classmate’s work.

The other was an idea someone had tweeted that caught my attention and I wanted to see how it would work in my classroom…level-up quizzes. Since the target involved graphing inequalities, I gave each student a paper with 4 empty graphs and space in margins to write inequalities and verify. Here is a sample of the criteria I gave them:

I told students I wanted everyone to be at level 3 by the end of the week – Level 4 was using multiple measures to verify their responses. If students were at 3 or 4 early in the week, I posed a challenge to them to create two inequalities that would both capture the point.

This task accomplished several things for me. It was obvious where students got stuck, it allowed me to give feedback or have a conversation about the symbols, which direction to shade, helped point out when/why to use the = if the point was on the boundary line or not, could quickly address issues with graphing key points of the line. It allowed students to move on without waiting on their peers.

There were a couple of students in each class who continued to struggle-mostly students who had chosen NOT to put any time/effort into practice the prior week or who had been absent, but the rest of students made gains and improvements with this skill. By the end of the week, majority of students were at or above the level 3.

The big thing with verifying I saw was students using (0,0) to test in their inequality algebraically as opposed to the actual point we picked. I feel this was due to us graphing inequalities the prior week. This year, I opted to encourage evidence of their claim by having them test a point to determine direction of shading as opposed to just saying above/below.

With only 1 response for every student each day, I was not overwhelmed, but able to give feedback. I made notes of most common errors and addressed them as a whole class prior to passing the quiz back. For many, I simply wrote a number corresponding to the Level-Up criteria. Students knew the first couple of tries “didn’t count” but were opportunities to learn and level up by the end of the week.

My concerns after reading about Rubrics in Embedding Formative Assessment – have I made it more of a skill-ckeck list? By presenting it as an open question, is that enough to allow for student thinking? Thoughts on how to improve are welcome!

I love giving that you gave them a task and ample time to explore/tinker/adjust on their own. I really think that’s the way to go. I know it takes a lot of time… But the depth you get is (to me) worth any loss in breadth. I particularly like that students could come up with lots of different answers that might all be correct, rather than focusing on just one “right” answer. I think kids are afraid to try stuff because they don’t want to look dumb. When kids ask me “how” questions, I often refuse to answer. I tell them they have to reframe in the form of a “why” and then I’ll discuss with them. Better conversation and better understanding, while emphasizing that the conceptual aspect is at least as valuable as the process.

Your how and why questions remind me of David Wees’ post about proximity, start thinking and stop thinking questions. Thanks! I often don’t get as much as my colleagues “covered” because I prefer to dig deeper, but I’m okay with that.

Dunno how to fix my typo in the first sentence… Still at the beginning of this blogging learning curve! Oh well, oops, sorry. : )