Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kinesthetic Geometry Vocabulary

As an ongoing initiative to further integrate technology, mathematical vocabulary, and fun into the math classroom, my Basic Geometry students created a series of multimedia presentations utilizing the various terms being used in a learning unit on special pairs of angles. For this activity students were required to plan, communicate, rehearse, and execute organized arrangements of students on the gymnasium floor into representations of geometric objects. Hopefully through the kinesthetic nature of this activity, students can achieve better recall of the geometric terms used and even greater understanding of their properties. Here is a sample of their fantastic work:

Special thanks to the Physical Education teachers that helped me organize this activity, and Mr. Brain Gannon (twitter @bpgannon) for sharing this great idea via twitter.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

PSSA Testing Week

Well our high school is at day two of our state mandated testing - the PSSA's. So far the PSSA testing has gone quite well.

The students have been very cooperative with the promise of early dismissal and entry into a contest based upon their levels of success. I'm not sure the prize drawing has the intended effect due to the fact that this is not an immediate reward since kids have to wait for thier score to be determined, but perhaps it can serve as a motivator for next year's juniors when they see the prize drawing - time will tell. I'm not a big fan of prizes as motivators, but it seems to have positive effects in some arenas.

-- Posted From My iPhone.

Location:Great Bend,United States

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Checking out the features of BlogPress - an app from Apple's App Store that allows the posting of blog entries from a mobile device. It has features that include:

-moble posting to multiple blog platforms
-auto video embed through YouTube from video library
-shoot instant video and post
-insert videos from camera, device photo library
-linking to picasa and flickr accounts
-Twitter and Facebook integration

Here is a video of my daredevil daughter:

My son getting his teeth cleaned by Aunt Stacey.

-- Posted From My iPhone.

Location:Lincoln St,Dickson City,United States

Monday, September 28, 2009

Something, but I'm not sure what...

Today my 4th period Fundamental Geometry kids were playing an online game called "Banana Hunt". It entails estimating the measure of a given angle which can be anywhere from 1 to 359 degrees. The assignment was to go to the site, play the game until a total of 35 bananas was gained within one 10 turn session - not easy. After this they take a screen shot of their score and "turn in" the file as part of an Edmodo assignment.

Now to say that to achieve any sort of positive educational experiences with this group of kids is difficult would definitely be an understatement...but anyway. Two of my students in the front of the room (both of which are not taking this course at grade level and they're not gifted) were playing the Banana Hunt game and doing quite poorly at first until one of them finally got 37 bananas. This success infuriated the other student.

"What? No way! I hate this game!" he said.

I asked, "You wanna cheat?"

"Really? Can I? How?"

"Here use this?", as I handed him a protractor I cleverly had on hand.

"How do I use this?" he uttered.

"I'm not sure; you'll have to figure it out." I replied as I left his side to help another student whose browser had frozen. A few minutes later I hear "Ha, 47 bananas." from the student I just have the protractor to.

"No way!" was the exclamation from the "protractor-less" student. "Give me one of those!"

So I gave him one, and the competition continued. Other students took interest and naturally asked the same. It wasn't too soon before the general buzz in the room was: "This is so much easier!", "Why didn't you just give me one of those to begin with?", "What's the highest number of bananas now?" They were motivated, challenged, and accomplishing the learning goal: measuring an angle up to 360 degrees with a protractor. What had just happened? I must admit, I ended the period very proud of the students and somewhat proud of myself. If I could just figure out the recipe of the instructional "tricks" that were somehow implemented and repeat it again...What a great year this would be...

I know it could have just been a good day for the kids. Sometimes luck is on a teacher's side, but what if...

Here is the link to this activity should you wish to check it out:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Homework: The Trials of Best Practice (Part I)

So what is this set of homework procedures I mentioned in my last post? Well here it is, and the story behind its development.

As I believe homework is meant to be used, I initially wanted to assess the students ("formatively" speaking) on their ability to practice whatever mathematical techniques I desire them to posses at an independent level. With knowledge of their capabilities, I could then scaffold the intensity of instruction from this baseline. So I thought that giving students a short assessment at the end of the week containing all of the main goals of each of that week's homework assignments was the way to go. There were several problems I and other colleagues saw with this set up that lead to an improved final plan.

Initial concerns regarding the fact that there were several issues developed by assessing students on a Friday. In our district, the Friday schedule for students is shortened by one hour to allow for common planning time for staff at the end of the day. Although offering an end of week summary has its merits, adding a weekly assessment at this time made me feel that new or continuous instruction or student participation in ongoing projects would take a back seat to this initiative. Also, I've always felt that assessing within the week something was taught drew too much on information stored in the student's short-term memory; a location where content is easily forgotten.

Bump the assessment to Monday was my solution to both of these issues. Since a weekend's time will have passed, now I would be assessing students based upon the content that was stored within their long term memory; a place where thoughts tend to "stick". Of course, what about content that never made it to long-term storage? Since I wanted a procedure that would give the students an academic incentive to do homework beyond getting a simple check for completion; I thought, why not let them use their homework solutions to take the assessment? This would then offer them a chance to use homework as an assistive tool. Additionally, this would allow the students to utilize their homework to associate forgotten information with whatever bits and pieces of last weeks content made its way to long-term memory storage. Since brain research has shown that associating new or forgotten information with long-term memory improves retention, I thought I had a winner. Still one issue remained.

A colleague pointed out, "What if a student learned the content so well, they didn't need to utilize their homework as a crutch to demonstrate mastery on these Monday assessments? Would they just simply stop doing their homework?" I thought, "So what; as long as they learned the content, what does it matter if they do their homework?" After some debate, I was eventually convinced that accountability for timely completion of individual out-of-school assignments was an important goal of assigning homework. So now while students complete the Monday homework assessment, I have the time to check their assignments for completion and enforce accountability.

So in short, here are the procedures:
  1. Assign homework.
  2. Next day give the answers and allow time for questions.
  3. The following Monday give an "open homework notebook" quiz based upon the prior weeks assignments. "How did you get..." journal style questions work best.
  4. While the students take the quiz, I will visually check that the necessary assignments are complete which will contribute to two points on the assessment.
  5. Give back the assessments the next day and modify instruction as needed.

As the first summative assessment for my students slowly approaches, I plan on reflecting on the continuing successes and/or failures of these procedures in a later post. Right now, the Monday night grading is a bit much, but I think it seems to be worth it. I am already farther ahead in content than I was in previous years which will hopefully allow more time for experimenting with new methods of teaching and learning that I've been wanting to try.