Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Extended Algebra 1

I am REALLY excited for our new year-long Algebra 1 block!  It is roughly 90 minutes/day, all year long, for students who have previously scored low in math.  I am co-teaching the course with Ashlee, a special ed teacher, who is also excited to see something different that can meet her students' needs better in the math classroom.

Thanks to the extended timeline, this course is going to be a neat merger of our mastery-based units/assessments and the #MTBoS's amazing resources and ideas.  We are starting with a week of building up our class culture: name games, forming class and small group norms, utilizing random seating each day, and reflecting on our life story around math (Justin Lanier's Automathography assignment).  Half of each lesson will be guided by Jo Boaler's lessons that help students think about math differently than they have in the past.

By week two, we will jump into the content units, but a significant amount of time will be spent in group activities and multiple-entry group problems.  We will start each class with something that is not necessarily unit-specific, but builds on the big themes of the course.  These include turning patterns into functions (think Fawn's and estimation problems (based on Stadel's Estimation180).

When teaching topics for the first time, we will use short lectures in class rather than flipped videos.  With two of us, we can split the class into separate rooms or separate parts of the room to do this in a smaller setting.  However, we will keep the existing video library available for students to get more help on demand if they need it and a teacher is not available.

For space, I have come to the conclusion that my current classroom is just not a good place to learn math.  It is a computer lab with huge, unmovable desks in a large U around the room.  I LOVE having the computers for Stats and for our online (ALEKS) credit-recovery course, which is a big fraction of my schedule, but for this Algebra class all year we need something different.  Ashlee's room only holds about 15 (we have 33 students), so we need to go somewhere.

The only room in the school not being actively used has a bunch of old computers that are on the way out.  With a little re-arranging, moving in an unused projector from another room, and *hopefully* whiteboards of either the cheap/portable or expensive/wall-mounted variety, we could have the ultimate collaboration zone.  Following the model of my teammate Rob, we could also put in a row of desks along one wall for students to use during mastery quizzes (usually about once every other day for this class).  Students quiz as they are ready during work time.  As a lecture space, the room isn't great, but we can have students rotate their chairs and face forward or do it elementary school-style and just sit on the carpet in the front-middle area.

A non-artist's rendering of the ideal state of the room.

The most important reason for this blog post to exist is to serve as some context for our planning doc <-- (click on that one please!).  We have a rough collection of ideas by unit and a detailed plan of the first couple weeks.  I would love to get feedback and ideas to come pouring into this doc in order to question us, suggest new ideas, or encourage us as we try a whole bunch of new things this year.  Thank you in advance!

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