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Thursday, September 30, 2010

And things were going along so swimmingly...

Well it was inevitable. It was just going so well. Today we debriefed the buggy lab. We got through it fine. Kids seem to think they understand what is going on (of course we know they don't really have a clue yet..). But I am just so frustrated with myself today. Why can't I shut up? Why do I keep asking questions? Why do I keep giving feedback? I would do or say something and immediately give myself a mental slap to the head. O.k. next hour I won't do that... and then I do again. O.k. 5th hour I'll do it right. Nope. Not even close. I am my own worst enemy today. I felt like I spoon-fed WAAAAYYYY too much. I think I just wasn't prepared for the way the discussion was going.

Good thing: Kids are talking more.

Bad thing: Unfortunately they are having lots of mini discussions. Most are on-topic but it is difficult to control the flow right now. They all have good comments but don't want to wait to share. I am going to have to work on that. I think next time I may have to try the koosh-ball of speaking.

Good thing: Kids who have not been participating or even on task are now engaged.

Bad thing: Well actually there is nothing bad about that one.

Good comment of the day: Student 1 - "Can we just do book work?" The rest of the class - "What are you nuts? This is good I'm actually learning something!"

Best graffiti of the day (I have a board in the back of my classroom that I let students write whatever they want on it. Just no negative or disgusting comments please.): Why can't I ever leave this room feeling smart?

Monday, September 27, 2010

First Quiz

I'm giving the first quiz of my modeling career tomorrow. I'm hoping to see better results than what I normally get, although I have not ever quizzed on graphing like this. I'm not sure how it will go. I don't think that everyone is on board but it seems like everyday and every discussion I win over a couple more students. Yay me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Great day of whiteboarding...

Yesterday I had the best whiteboard discussion of the year. I did the intro 6 graph deployment the previous day and had the students whiteboard their results. I had multiple groups board the same graphs so we could have some competitive ideas. We had many that were different and it did provide some great discussion. But the best came from the velocity vs time graph. The graph is a square root function. So the velocity was always increasing but the acceleration was decreasing as it went along. I had a blast twisting the students words around on them and playing it dumb. They were getting so upset trying to explain their ideas and I just wasn't getting it because they were using vague language. My favorite part was when they tried to explain how the acceleration was getting less but they didn't know to use that word so they kept saying that the velocity was slowing down. Then I went "Oh I get it the graph shows the object is slowing down." Them: "Yes... wait, no it is getting faster." Me: "but you just said it was slowing down." Them: "No it just isn't going as fast at the end." Me: "right that's what I said it is slowing down." Them: "I'm so confused." Me:"me too, you seem to be saying conflicting things!" Them: "No it is speeding up the whole time, it just isn't speeding up as much at the end." Other kid: "Yeah it isn't changing as much at the end." Me: "What is it?" Them: "The speed is getting higher, it is just not changing as much at the end." I applauded inside.

It is great to see the progression in my students as I have continued whiteboarding. It started with just a few kids participating and most kids trying to do anything but participate. Every session though I see more kids getting sucked into the conversation. They grumble about it yet I see them getting engaged in the concepts more and more every day. I am loving it. Great day, great day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A brief respite.

Today began homecoming week. We started the day with a two hour pep/competition assembly. As a result two of my three physics classes did not get to see me today. So I decided to get some student feedback on the whiteboarding/modeling we've done so far. They had mostly positive things to say. This hour is one that is closer to "getting it" in that they have actually begun to ask some questions and participate more than my other hours. I told them that as we went on my goal for them is to get to a point where if I happened to be absent unexpectedly and a sub was there, they would still be able to conduct class without me. That got a couple of chuckles until I told them I was serious. After a short pause one kid said, "I think I can see how that could happen." What a glorious day.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Back for more drawing boards.

Well the time crunch finally did me in. The time to write whiteboards and present them takes too long to do in one hour. I have 10 groups per hour... oh wait I mean for each hour I have 10 groups. I originally thought I would only have 8. The reality of only 25 boards has come in to play a couple times already. So after my first 2 hours when I realized I was going to be short 5 boards I decided to make a run for the depot. And of course once there I thought... Well heck what if I'm doing something in all of my physics classes and want to whiteboard in Biology? So I now have 50 whiteboards and a need of a way to tell my wife I spent more money on my classroom.

In other news my buggy cars came in the mail today as well as some of those cool new push/pull force-o-meters. Which is convenient since I am considering starting motion next week. I also went back to my Junior high and commandeered the ticker timers I had purchased years ago that no one but me ever used. Although I am still contemplating having some groups use the metronome and marker method just because it was so fun watching Kal try and do that! That should be fun.

Finally I decided I am going to try and work some of those reasoning tests into my class just to measure where the kids are. I did the Islands Puzzle with them today. I can't wait to read the responses this weekend.

Are any of you planning on giving the mechanics baseline test?

O.k. I know that last question was out of left field but there it is I typed it. There is no way I can go back now. Well I mean I guess I could cursor up and hit backspace a few times, but seriously who has the time?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Is anyone else having the difficulties I am with grading. Tonight was open house and as of yet I have virtually no grades for my physics kids. While I have done quite a few labs and discussions to this point, I really don't have anything to grade them on. Maybe participation in the talks? I am giving the first graphing deployment activity tomorrow, but even that I question taking for a grade. What have you guys taken for grades yet? How are you going to handle discussions with respect to grading?

First Foray into Modeling whiteboards.

Today began the first time we discussed results of the mini-labs on the whiteboards. It was a dissappointing start to say the least. My first hour was very distracted and it was like pulling teeth to get them to answer questions and think. My second hour I think I was better prepared and I introduced the activity a little differently and I had better success. My 5th hour was even better yet. As Steve pointed out in his blog the other day, I still have difficulty sometimes with being stupid. I still want to answer sometimes or encourage the "correct" answers.

I noticed on one board my students had used a different number of sig. figs. for each number in a data table. I thought that was a great opening to discuss that topic. Unfortunately the consensus at the end was sig. figs. don't matter... I guess I will have to re-visit that topic. I don't really care if they know all the rules for sig. figs, I just want them to realize that the sig figs demonstrate the precision of the measurement.

My students got really restless during the activity after a while. I decided to stop and pick it up again tomorrow. Maximum of 2 per day right now until they start to get used to the dialog.

Coolest moments? One group of ladies in my 2nd hour did the diameter vs circumference of a circle and got a slope of 3.1423! How close is that? I barely had to prompt them to figure out what the number was. Two groups in my first hour did the wire lab, data was different for each one because they used different cuts of the same wire (I had two stations running). Their line equations were nearly identical. I was amazed.

Biggest problem? I made 25 whiteboards. 10 needed per class. If I don't get to all the labs and I save them, I need to have more. Back to the depot I go...

Monday, September 13, 2010

A question for my workshop mates.. and leaders!

I have come to realize that the workshop was too short. While I think it did a good job of covering the main topics for the mechanics unit, there are many things that we didn't talk about much that now I am struggling with. Significant figures, estimation, ratios, etc. How do those things get worked into a modeling classroom? Is it all just brought up during whiteboard discussions? Many times during the class Laura or Don would tell us, "Well we already would have talked about 'x' previously and there is a basic understanding of the concepts so then I would do this lab." And now I am finding that all of these little things are now becoming larger issues as I try to figure out how to work these topics into discussion and still give them the importance they deserve.

What have you guys tried?

Disappointing Start...

I did my first whiteboarding session on Friday with my Physics classes. We were discussing a reading assignment and during the discussion I kept amazing myself by dropping back into the authority role. The kids would ask a good question and I would immediately answer them or validate their response. It was so frustrating to me. I did better by the end of the day, but it was still frustrating.

Today I pre-labed the initial measurement labs that Don started us off with. I think I did a much better job of illiciting their opinions and questions. Yay me.

Baby steps, Bob. Baby steps.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Time consuming..

Did my spaghetti bridge lab today and I felt it went really well. Will be teaching the excel graphing methods tomorrow so we stopped with some time left. We white boarded about the reading assignment. Unfortunately I needed block scheduling today. They boarded but no time to share. That will have to happen tomorrow. Sigh. I need more time!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A new era has dawned

I began modeling today.... in my Biology class. Broke out the whiteboards already. I began in Physics as well, but no whiteboarding until probably Thursday.

FCI tomorrow at the beginning and then the spaghetti bridge lab from Mark Schober's site. We pre-labed (pre-labbed? Pre-lab-ed?) today and I thought I did a fairly decent job of letting the kids go in whatever direction they wanted. I just set up a strand of spaghetti with the cup and the marbles and let them come up with questions. Eventually they pulled out the ideas I had thought of and two of my classes had ideas that I hadn't thought of at all! It will be interesting to see what they choose to do tomorrow. My first hour struggled to share ideas at first and so I broke them into smaller groups to talk about it first and then came back to the whole group discussion. That made them more comfortable and then they really got going. The other hours were great.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Am I really thinking this?

So yesterday Frank Noschese found my blog and made a comment. As is good blogging manners I surfed over to his page and opened a can of worms. The can was so big that I was up until well after 2 reading blog after blog.

I have struggled for years with my grading policies. Every year it is something different. Straight points? Percentages? How heavily should I weight assignments? I had stumbled across Standard based grading before and thought it seemed like a good idea but I just couldn't see how it could work. Well thanks to Frank, now I can. So the question remains, am I really thinking this?

What is wrong with my brain that I would even contemplate starting modeling and standard-based grading all at the same time? And yet they would fit SO WELL together. I am hoping common sense prevails. There is always next year for standard based grading.

If any of you want to learn more about Standards based grading check out Shawn Cornally's site. He does a great job of laying it out. Then click back to Frank's site here where he gives a bunch of resources to implement it in the physics classroom. You are a cruel one Frank to tempt me so.

A new opportunity?

SO I am about to begin this modeling thing and while I feel I am ready for the physics part, I am chomping at the bit to try and include some of the methods into my biology classes as well. However even though modeling nirvana (Arizona State Univeristy) mentions biology on their homepage, there are no resources yet that I can find.

Well as the saying goes in for a penny in for a pound, I emailed Jane Jackson about it. I asked for a contact for someone to talk to who is working on developing the methods and volunteered to help with the efforts. She replied with her phone number and instructions to call tomorrow to discuss it. How cool would it be to be able to help develop this in a whole new curriculum.

I haven't even taught like this for one day and I'm already signing up for more. Talk about faith!

Details to follow.

Participation Redecision 2010

So after typing up my class handouts and deciding on percentages for participation I went reading through the blog-o-sphere/listserve universe and stumbled across several interesting ideas. One of the threads discussed one teacher's issue with a student who does no homework and yet scores 95% on her tests. In my opinion if he can score a 95 on the test without doing homework then the homework seems to be pretty useless and the student obviously needs greater challenges.

Anyway, some other teacher replied back and the topic went to the fact that grades should reflect what the student is actually learning. I realized that my participation grade is kind of the same deal. If a kid doesn't participate but can score well on tests then aren't I doing the same thing? Well sure you know the material but you didn't jump through my hoops so I will add some punitive damage to your grade so I feel better. I think the better choice is just to require participation through class management rather than by some subjective grade being imposed.

Looks like a rewrite is in my future.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Valedictorian Speech

I don't know if anybody heard about this or not, but I stumbled across this girl's speech while cleaning out my listserve inboxes. I totally get her frustration. However I think she was calling for more classes like modeling. This is the direction that I think all classes need to take because it emphasizes thought above the grade. Yes I still have to give grades because that is what is expected, but in my class grades will be based on the growth of thinking ability of the student and not who can jump through the most hoops. At least that is the plan.