Monday, October 24, 2016

Post It Challenge Review Game

I am PICKY when it comes to review. I have a very long list of "must haves" that make it almost impossible for me to be happy with a review activity. I want an activity that....
  • is competitive enough to get kids invested, but not so competitive that it turns struggling students off to playing
  • holds every student responsible for their learning, not just the person whose "turn" it is
  • covers a variety of representations, from graphs to tables to written expression
  • reviews a variety of question types, not just MC
  • discourages guessing
  • minimizes embarrassment if you happen to be wrong
  • promotes debate and teamwork
  • allows me to clarify misconceptions early and often
  • likes long walks on the beach
  • etc
I've kissed a lot of frogs (Chutes & Ladders, I'm looking at you) with review activities that just didn't work for me. I've been in classes observing games that don't meet all of my criteria and some teachers make it work so well, but I know without my buy-in it's not going to look so pretty in my own room. This idea was adapted from my amazing mentor my first few years and has blossomed into one of my favorite review activities that ALMOST meets all my criteria.  

Post It Challenge!
Teacher Set Up
1) Make a presentation of questions (any type, any sort of answer, anything subject area!) that are relevant to the topic you're reviewing. No need to do any crazy formatting....the goal is to go over each question after you do it anyway. Not have the answers available adds to the suspense of seeing if your group was right. 
2) Think strategically about how you want students grouped. Heterogenous are 100% the way for me here....get kids with different strengths talking. Never set up a group to be behind! 

1) Your presentation
2) Sticky Notes
3) Whiteboards for scratch work (optional)

1) All work must be shown on the sticky note
2) One answer per group; make sure your answer represents your whole group! (Teamwork is an important part of this rule)
3) You must turn in your answer within the allotted time for that question
3) After each round, the sticky notes get passed so a different person writes for each questions
4) You must put your group number on your sticky note or your group will not be eligible for credit

Game Play:
1) Assign each group a number. Make sure they write it on the top of each sticky notes, 
2) Put the first question up on the board and let students know the amount of time they will have. I use this time to circle around the room encouraging groups and helping out the strugglers. I also use Traffic Light Cups here to make sure I'm hitting the struggling groups. 
3)  Collect answers from groups as they finish, making sure to keep groups informed of how much time they have remaining. 
4) After collecting all answers, actually go over the problem. Create suspense. They might not care if they got the math concept, but they care if they got the points.....let it build. 
5) Put the next question on the board and repeat. As the groups work on the question, put up any sticky notes that were correct next to that group's number. You can also give half credit by ripping a sticky note in half.

This isn't perfect, but I tend to find that it gives me a lot of control of variables. I can control the group size, game pace, types of questions, and have the flexibility to add in "bonus questions" quickly if I see something the kids need immediate help on. No one is being put on the spot up in front of a group...if they get something wrong, their sticky note just doesn't get put on the board. 

Another simple post to get my blog train rolling again. Happy Monday! 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Derivatives of Trigonometric Functions

I. Stink. At. Blogging.

I have been working hard to get to know my new kiddos, my new colleagues, my new town, and still walk my dog and talk to my husband occasionally. Oh, and I've slept in my own bed exactly 0 of the last 5 weekends (#weddingseason). Unfortunately, that meant blogging was the first thing to go. 

This post is NOT groundbreaking, nor is it going to be long, but you have to start somewhere. This is me at least showing up at the gym and walking on the treadmill. It's no spin class, but it's a start back to getting in shape! So here goes.....


I have always believed in allowing kids to discovery something whenever it's developmentally appropriate for them to do so; it's a pillar of my educational philosophy. My very first year of teaching high school, I had a student who would stay after school with me to derive formulas that I'd deemed not worth deriving with the class as a whole because it would bother her to not know "why." She understood that these formulas weren't "magic" and that math should make sense and I still think of her often when I am working to discover something with my kiddos.  

One of the issues I had my first time as a Calculus teacher was students who had been good at the "skills" of math, but hadn't always been great at the conceptual part. They really say math as a list of things to memorize and as long as they could do that, they would do well. So much is lost when we approach Calculus this way, so I've worked to build more conceptual understanding into a curriculum that an all to often be skills-based. 

In the past, I've built up my arsenal of awesome Desmos and GeoGebra activities since I was working in a one to one environment with technology. And while I am loving my new district, it was a jolt back into the real world of having to share computer carts and wait 5-7 minutes for PC's to boot up before an activity could start (I know....I sound spoiled. I am aware I lived in a technological fantasy land for the past 3 years of my teaching career).  Sometime, it's just not worth the 7 minute boot up time for a 5 minute activity. So instead of breaking out some Desmos wizardry, I wrote a good old exploration for the graphing calculator to derive the derivatives of trig functions. What I wound up loving about this was the ability to introduce some new functions of the calculator, since that will be their trusty friend during the AP exam anyway. 

First I had the students use the calculator to graph the derivatives of y=sinx and y=cosx.
Then, I had them use the quotient rule and trigonometric identities to derive the other 4 trig derivatives.  

Like I said, not groundbreaking, but it got them talking and thinking about the magical fact that Calculus is, in fact, not just magic. It should all make sense!