Thursday, January 23, 2014

Great Day In Room 314!

Today must have been one of the BEST days I have had yet this year with my students! It might be one of the first days all year that I ended the day with a HUGE smile.  I typically do mixed ability groups when I do group work but today I decided to switch it up and do leveled grouping.  I am usually hesitant to do leveled grouping because I find my students off task more often.  I think this may come from having to put more of my focus on the low group to keep them moving (allowing the other groups to get off task).  I anticipated a wide range of abilities when I introduced order of operations.  Although students were aware of order of operations they are now expected to do them with more complicated grouping symbols and negative numbers.  Yesterday I gave an exit slip asking students to solve a med/hard order of operations problem and rate themselves (1-3)  on how they felt about order of operations.  Looking through the ratings I felt students were pretty honest so I grouped them according to their ratings. 

Red Group: I feel confused
Purple Group: I feel OK
Green Group: I feel great

I wrote the problems that all three groups were doing on colored index cards.  The green and purple groups did different problems provided by the text book and red did simpler problems I found on a worksheet.  

I downloaded these participation slips a long time ago and finally remembered to use them. 

I told the students they had one verbal warning before I started ripping off 10% each time they were off task.  The slip was worth 5 points in the grade book making each piece worth 0.5 points.   I do a lot of positive reinforcement for group work engagement with my golden groups and since they were working in groups (not their golden group) each student earned a puzzle piece for their group.  

I don't know if it was the groupings, the problems, or participation slips but students were VERY engaged.  I only ripped a handful of students sheets and only 2 students scored below a 90%.  The students even noticed a difference asking if they could stay in these groups for the next book! 

I don't think grouping should always be homogenous but this activity had shown me I shouldn't be afraid to group by ability level (I have had TERRIBLE experiences in the past).  The participation sheets will also be making an appearance again soon - maybe partner work? 

Today is a day that reminds me why I love teaching.  I hope I can share another day like today soon :)

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Yamie Chess

Growing up I always wanted to learn the game of chess.  The board game seemed too intimidating so I never took the time to learn the strategy to play.   Finally a company has created a fun interactive way to learn the game - Yamie Chess

I had the opportunity to review the interactive activity book that teaches you how to play chess by introducing the chess pieces as characters in a story.  After learning the basics of the chess game the activity book introduces you to the main character Kimi as you follow his adventures in the Mind Kingdom.  Throughout the adventure math problems are presented in the story.  The problems range in difficulty making the story friendly to intermediate and middle grade levels.   Check out my full review of Yamie Chess HERE along with many other professionals' reviews of the game.  

To get a better idea about Yamie Chess take a look at this video. 

This is a great game to have in your classroom for the days you find a chunk of free time (or indoor recess) with your students.  How great would it be for students to not only solve a few math problems but also learn the game of chess! I love the idea of students practicing strategic and forward thinking with a game inside or outside of the math classroom :)  

If you have the pleasure of going to the 2014 NCTM conference (I am SOOO jealous if you are) check out their booth in the Exhibit Hall.  I can't wait to get my hands on the full game when it is finally released this spring! 

If you do purchase Yamie Chess for your classroom (or your household) let me know what you think!