Sunday, October 9, 2011

The One With the Homework Menu

Thursday...7th grade away football game that night and students are asking me for math homework, saying it's fun.

How did I do it? I gave them the power to choose their homework. I almost feel like I tricked my students into liking math when my real goal was differentiation.

I used to hate that word. Did they really expect me to make 28 different lesson plans for my 28 very different students? Yes. To some extent, they did.

Awhile back I heard about this great way to differentiate with homework. I've been meaning to try it and finally pulled it out of my bag of tricks last week.

The idea is that you give the students several homework problems, assigning a point value to each problem. For example you give them 40 problems. 1-10 are the easiest so they are worth 2 points each. 11 - 20 are worth 3 points each. 21 - 30 are 4 points and 31-40 being the hardest are worth 5 points each.

I then tell my students how many points they have to collect. The first time I did this students had to collect 35 points and I gave bonus up to 45 if they went over. I won't do the bonus every time, but I was also trying to help their grades a little.

The other thing I told my students was that I was counting how many points they earned not how many points they miss. So if they did 40 points worth of problems and one of those was a 5 pointer that they missed, they could still make a 100 % because they had 35 points.

I really hope all this makes sense. I struggle to explain what we are doing. Don't hesitate to ask if you are unsure what I'm talking about. :)

I'm thrilled to tell you that I had more students turn in homework than ever before. The majority of them did well over the 35 point minimum.

They absolutely loved it and begged to have more homework the very next day.

And all I was doing was differentiating. The idea is that your advance students can be challenged by the harder problems and not have to work as many. Your weaker students will do the easy ones, but that means they have to do more problems getting the practice they need.

I may never do homework any other way. Try it and let me know how it works for you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The One With the T-Shirts

Have you ever given one of those assignments and thought, "This will suffice."? That is exactly where I found myself a few weeks ago. We were studying plants and comparing the different parts of a plant to the human reproductive system. Oh the joys of teaching 7th grade Science. One of the things I'm supposed to do is help my students dissect a flower.

Confession: In my 5 years of teaching science, I've only done this once before this year. Oops! Plants just aren't my thing. I know that's no reason to completely skip a framework, but hey I figured one skipped framework wasn't THAT big of a deal.

This year though, I was determined. I was going to teach those kids plants like they were my favorite thing, like I live for plants! I had to come up with two different lab activities to do with my students. Day one consisted of going to the computer lab to virtually dissect a plant. Can I just say virtual dissections ROCK! We did that on this website. It worked out great! I created an easy how to worksheet with a few questions for my students to work through. The site says this particular lab was designed for 9-10 year olds, but it worked great with my 7th graders. You can find my handout on this lab in my TPT store.

So that lab went great, but I had no idea what I was going to do for Day 2. I was scouring the Internet for ideas at the last minute.

*Sidenote - please tell me I'm not the only procrastinating teacher!

In the back of my mind was this idea I had come across on another blog. I loved the idea of using t-shirts. Then it hit me!!

My students designed a plant tee! This has definitely become one of my favorite assignments. It's in the bank for future use. They had to draw a flower and label 11 different parts that I listed for them. Their shirt had to be completely colored.

When they saw the name of the lab on the board as they walked in, they all thought they were getting real t-shirts. Disappointment filled my classroom when they realized it was a paper shirt. They were all claiming they would have worn them to school if they had been real. HA! I admit I was a little disappointment too....until I saw the end result. I just don't think they would have been this beautiful if we had used real shirts.

While they were working I took their pictures. We cut out their t-shirts (a template I found online), attached their heads and they are now adorning our hallway walls.

I wasn't real sure how much to zoom on the pictures so some t-shirts have BIG heads and some have really little heads. The kids just think this is hilarious. It added to our love of the assignment.

Every teacher that has walked by my room has oohed and awed over the shirts. I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you. It was hard to pick. I'd love to show you all ninety-something shirts, but I'll spare you. :)

I apolagize for the poor picture quality.