Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Parent letter update

Here is an update I sent to parents on our current class structure and the changes they may be seeing since the start of the year. 
It's far from the perfect plan but it is my reality right now based on some adjustments and continual reflection of what I'm teaching students (intentionally and unintentionally in class).

Parents (and students),
I wanted to update you on some changes you may have seen in the way students are working through each unit. I have tried to make our learning more focused on the big ideas for Geometry. Instead of textbook assignments, students are completing 'learning target packets' when we get to the point where they are ready for practice. The textbook can still be used to look over examples and get extra practice problems.
Our learning cycle now consists of:1. An introductory activity or investigation in class. We do this so students have some context to rely on when we get to more difficult problems within the learning target. A more hands-on approach makes the Geometry more real and interesting for all of us.2. Video lessons. Different than in the past, I don't assign videos to be watched until I feel students have been exposed to enough of an understanding in our class period. This allows them to have the context they need to be able to understand what they will see instead of introducing new ideas through the video.3. Additional practice or activities in class. We have used this time to do some more indepth problem solving, additional practice, work time for those who are ready and small group work for students identified through our warm-up question that still need some extra help. These days are often labeled as our work days and students receive instruction closely matched to their current level of understanding. Students also have the option of completing extension projects for each unit. If done well, the extension can be a way for a student to earn an A for the unit independent of their test scores.

Classwork, retakes and gradesStudents are given the solutions to their practice problems, either online or in a classroom binder. I do not collect the homework but students are to check their own problems and ask questions if they do not understand after seeing the worked out solution. The learning target practice is not entered into the gradebook. I was finding I was spending far too much time recording practice problems that weren't for grade and not enough time preparing meaningful learning activities for our time together in class.Online you will see a simplified gradebook for math. The only grades that will appear are quizzes and tests. If a student is missing a quiz or test they will be zapped, I will no longer be zapping for tests that should be retaken. (Any quiz score below 80% should really be retaken after additional learning and demonstration has been made of their understanding to me.)If a student needs to retake a test they need to:1) Complete a 'ticket to retake' worksheet, 2) rewatch the videos, 3) correct their missed test questions and 4) show me their notes they've taken from the videos.The grade at the end of trimester 2 will be the first grade used on the high school transcript. If you wish to have that grade be changed to a P that is an option now available and you can let me know. A grade of P will not affect their high school GPA but for college entrance it may be possible that the course should be taken again in high school for a letter grade to be present on the transcript.This got to be a long update but hopefully it helps in knowing what is taking place in class. Thanks for reading and please let me know if you have any questions.Sincerely,Andy Schwen

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