Sunday, August 19, 2012

First week and new ideas for the year

One week down!  The first week of school went by so quickly, and it was pretty fun.  I enjoyed getting to know the new Freshman class.  A few of us 9th grade teachers decided we have a crush on them.  The sophomores did their first homework assignment!  As a class, they really struggled with homework last year.  I made tearful remarks to the Juniors about how I won't get to have them in my classes anymore.

Classes went well the first week.  All of that planning and preparing over the summer paid off.  I thought a lot about how I wanted my classes to run, and how to introduce that to the students, and I think it is going to work out!  I've never felt this way at this point in the school year - super-confident, pleased about how the year started, and more excited to keep it going than ever.  I mean, I've had good starts to the year before, but something about this year feels different.  Of course, this is the most experienced I've ever been, but I think this year will be so much better than previous years, more than just typical "I've got another year under my belt this time around" better.

A couple of things I'm going to do differently.  Or just plain do.

1.  Homework Sets.  In my Algebra classes, I am going to give the same amount of homework, but make it due less often.  I still plan on assigning nightly homework, but I will just hand out and collect a week to a week and a half's worth at one time.  That's actually another change - collecting homework.  In the past, I've checked for completion, and given a kid a grade without ever collecting his work.  Less paper I have to deal with, right?  But I found that it made kids start to slack a bit on their homework.  And not care as much if they didn't get things right.  I think 9th graders are still pretty young, and need some more accountability.  So, I'm collecting and grading homework.  (Just a few problems from each assignment.)  But I also like the idea of giving them more than a night to do it, so that they have time to come and ask me for help before it's due.  And, truthfully, I'm not good with organization and keeping track of papers. So I decided that I would give them a packet, and give them lots of time to complete it.  One possible drawback:  The kid that waits until the day before it's due to attempt a week of homework.  To prevent this, I'm still going to assign nightly homework ("Do page 3 tonight...") and get parents on board.  And I'm sure I will also have to make some accommodations for some students.  ("Your homework is due everyday.")  Last year's Freshmen were not good at doing homework, so I've decided to not try this system with the Sophomores.   I'll keep you posted on whether I like it or not.

2.  More Problem-Solving.  I want to make kids think!  I've been wanting to include more problem solving days in my classroom, making kids figure things out and then share their solutions.  I am going to do it this year!  I found quite a few ideas over the summer, and I'm getting better at "being less helpful."  I started out my Algebra class with a problem-solving lesson and it was a hit!

3.  Common Core (-ish)  I didn't dare touch Geometry this year, but I am doing a cross of current Arizona standards and Common Core standards in Algebra 1.  I feel like the kids won't be prepared for a full-on Common Core curriculum, as they'll be missing quite a few pieces.  But I tried to get some of the major ideas in, and took out Arizona stuff that will not be on Common Core.

4.  Super Good Projects.  My school is a believer in Project-Based Learning.  Last year, I tried to do a few projects, and they were mediocre.  They didn't have a lot of meaning or purpose, and weren't executed well.  But I learned a lot, did some research and planning over the summer, and have some great projects coming this year.  I'll be sure to blog about all of them.  One involves students doing an experiment to see if two quantities have a linear relationship.  I can't wait!

5.  Blog more.  Duh.


  1. I feel you on the problem-solving. Last week was my first week and that's all I did. I get my problems from You can go to the archive and get sets from previous years. Remember with the common core you SHOULD have transitional standards to integrate in case the kids weren't exposed to it last year. We've been programmed to make absolutely sure we hit those transitional standards so you still might be able to tackle the CCSS stuff. I just re-invested my energy into blogging some more so I'll be right there with you!

  2. Sounds like you're off to a good start and are making some great changes! I also am working on being less helpful with students and having them work in groups to help one another. Interesting thought on the HW situation. One idea I have been toying with is Homework Checks. Once a week you give out a short 4-5 question quiz with page and problem numbers from previous assignments...they use their HW showing all work. This could eliminate the paper problem in that you are collecting once a week. Just a thought...keep up the good work!