Wednesday, May 28, 2014

End of year

I cannot believe how fast the end of the year has come.  My oldest child is graduating high school, and if I wanted one school year to end slowly--this was the one.  I'm busy trying to prepare myself for changes I want to make next year.  I want more engagement by the students.  I'm not sure how best to do that.  I teach algebra 1 and calculus.  I'm not looking to make any changes in calculus.  Algebra 1 is the only state-tested math class, so I am a little afraid to go out on a limb and try a brand new class structure.  What if my students' scores go down because I tried something new?  I'm okay with failure if I'm the only one who suffers the consequences.

Some of the changes I've decided on are:
1. I got a grant for NewPath Learning, an online algebra review/remediation game-based program.  I'm excited to have something "different" to use with my students.

2. I used Livebinders all year with my calculus class.  I finally found a way to record lessons and save them on Livebinders for my Algebra classes.  In calc, I only scan documents and put them in a livebinder as a resource for my students.  I wanted a way to record "video" of me teaching and put it on a Livebinder for students to watch.  This is my solution:  With my iPad, I can take a picture of the notes/problems.  Using the "ShowMe" app, I can record my voice and any annotations I make to the picture.  After I'm done, I can email it to myself (very easily) and with the link in the email, I just cut and paste it into the Livebinder.  Super simple, quick, and easy.  I'm so grateful to have found something so easy and efficient.

3.  I want to use the Livebinder to semi-flip my classroom.  I want to have the students watch a preliminary video at home and then work on activities in class.  I want to change the structure of lecture-worksheet.  Students absolutely need the practice in algebra, but I think a lot of that practice can be done in class where I know the students are doing it themselves and not copying off their friends.

4.  I really am bothered by the grading structure for my class.  Currently it is 60% tests, 20% quizzes, and 20% homework.  It's the homework portion that bothers me.  Homework is just practice.  Why do I grade their practice like it is a test?  Is accuracy the only thing that counts?  What about effort and improvement? What about those students who make a simple mistake on every problem, get a 30% on their homework, then I find their mistake, fix it and they never do it again?  Does the 30% reflect their knowledge?  It that fair?  Is it important to penalize them for mistakes they used to make?  I want to change to a standards-based grading system for my homework grade.  I need to figure out a way to translate standards-based grading into a numerical grade, but I think I can come up with a fair way.  Next year I will rely more heavily on tests and quizzes and treat homework like the practice it is.

I'm excited for next year, but I'm glad I have a long summer ahead.