A general outline of how I run my classes this year:
- Warm Up: I want these to be open-ended tasks that encourage students to talk and think about math. I want them to set the tone for the class, which means I don’t want to be harping on students or make them too hard that they feel lost. Every Wednesday the warm up is a Which One Doesn’t Belong and every Friday the Warm Up is a written reflection on the past week of math class.
- Homework Questions: I consider homework to be practice and I don’t want to grade practice. But I am expected to give credit for homework at the school. Luckily as a department we didn’t want to give too much credit for homework, so the department chose 3 points. I would have preferred 5 points but that’s a personal preference so the grade divides into 100 evenly, not a pedagogically sound preference. I give 3/3 if the kids turn something in and 0/3 if they don’t. I don’t check for accuracy, only attempt. However, I give homework quizzes each Monday (over the previous week’s homework) so I start every class after the bellringer with some time for homework questions. The diligent students know that I will be taking a problem from the assignment and making it the homework quiz. It’s the exact same questions, but not all of them. This is how I hold them accountable for homework even though it is graded for completion.
- Skills Check. This is a quiz, but I don’t tell them it’s a quiz and I don’t grade it. I have them write it in their notebooks and label it with “Skills Check” and the date. I do tell them explicitly it is meant to help them (and me) figure out where they are at with the current material. In this way I can quiz my students every day at the beginning of class and assess where they are at without them freaking out about daily quizzes. Last year I used the Warm Up for this purpose sometimes along with exploring problems and I didn’t like the tone it set. I like it much better now that I have two separate things. I start every class with these three activities and it gives the students a nice sense of routine and pacing to start the class.
- Activities: This might be notes, or some activity that I wrote, or a game, or completing a worksheet, or a quiz. If notes, I will always follow with individual practice. If an activity, I follow up with notes so that we can summarize what we did as a class. The order of these depends on the topic and whether I think the students would benefit from discovering or exploring first or if I need to set the stage before they try a new concept. The activities stage could be anywhere from 1-4 different things in a variety of formats from individual, group, or whole class and I try to keep the pace moving quickly so they don’t get off track.
- Closing: This is the last few minutes of class. I repeat the homework assignment and then pace the room, pointing out trash, asking them to put away markers, erasers, and calculators, and ask them to fix or straighten desks. If I don’t ask then they don’t do it and my room is left a mess.
This has been working really well for me. Sometimes some of my students still struggle with transitions or staying on task, but I keep on them.
Thanks for reading.