What is important? What message do I want to convey?
A year back I found myself presenting on some assessment tools I've made. As I looked at the room full of people I thought to myself,
"Is this who I am? Have I become the guy that's excited about testing tools?!"
I wanted the answer to be "No!" but my presentation topic and blog posts would probably say otherwise.
From that day on I have decided two things:
1) I'm really tired of presenting on assessment technology at conferences
2) I want to invest more time in content development and not content assessment for my students
In recognizing that I've been writing a lot less this year, I've decided I need to update The Internet on what I'm really about. I could either say what I'm about or I could give some examples of what I'm trying to do so here we go...
The more I follow and read stuff from Dan Meyer, the more I'm influenced as a math teacher. I find myself going to YouTube and looking for ideas, capturing way more math with my iPhone (there should be an educator tax credit for math teachers that have iPhones) and scouring Pinterest for the perfect picture for our next activity.
A recent one I've found is this video where these guys flood a bathroom in a house. The video is actually two years old which on YouTube is like an antique.
I have embedded it into a presentation and plan to use it today to introduce our volume unit. In one picture I layered a before and after image to actually help in finding the final height of the water before it crashes through the floor. On the last slide is a linked student handout.
What I love is that I was able to pull out some realistic answers based on some reference points in the video itself and with the ideas of bathrooms, flooding and ultimate destruction of a house I'm thinking it will be a hit with the 8th graders.
Extension projects for students
I've been continuing on with the idea of developing new ideas in class first with my students. As often as possible we are using physical tools, drawings, constructions and media to scaffold our learning. I do not introduce new things to students when they are away from me. When video is used, it is to review or reinforce what has taken place in the classroom. Students are reporting often that our activity in class replaced the need for the video altogether and that's great.
As an option for demonstrating understanding students can complete a unit project that is a deeper application of our learning. I love seeing the student creativity and individual choice as these are being completed. I have one student who has told me that he is now doing them "not because I have to but because they are just fun!". How cool is that? For more on that and an example you can check out this post.
In another example of a project students created a powerpoint based off of a flowchart they made. The flowchart consisted of "Yes" and "No" questions that would identify special quadrilaterals by their properties. In the end of each path, the quadrilateral present in the user's mind should be identified correctly. In transitioning to the powerpoint, students made links for a "Yes" and "No" response to individual slides that would be next in identification of the shape.
What I loved about this project is students are required to think as programmers as they design and test their product to make sure it works without the need at this point to learn any computer code.Still working on it
I hope that I don't ever come across like I've figured it out. Each year that I teach I feel like I'm starting all over or realizing there is a much better way of doing something in class. What I do find myself thinking more this year is that what we are doing in class seems to jive more with what I hear research is telling us to do--differentiate, provide choice for students, allow the students to develop their understanding, require them to do the reasoning.