Yeah that isn’t going fit in the blog post tweet.

I think I have sacrificed some engagement for classroom control.

I have quiet classes all day. They come in, they do what I ask, they are quiet while I am talking. But they are too quiet. I can’t get very many volunteers to raise their hand if I can get any at all. If I cold-call a student I get a lot of blank stares and very obvious “I was just looking out into space and I have NO idea what was going on for the two minutes before you said my name” looks.

I think I am afraid to do more collaborative activities where the students are talking and sharing more often because I had so much trouble last semester with getting my classes to work in those contexts. My classes aren’t crazy and it is a really nice change. I’m afraid to try anything else. I need to figure out how to train students to work well in groups. Last semester I couldn’t figure how to get them to stay on task and keep the noise level to a reasonable amount. Part of that is that I haven’t quite gotten the hang of differentiating between on-task talking about math and off-task talking about whatever. Volume can be an indicator but honestly it’s easier when they aren’t talking at all unless they are talking to me.

They have been good at practicing in class after we finish a whole class activity, but I would really like to see them collaborate more. I’ll ease into it once I have set a tone for classroom behavior. I think considering how I was too loose last semester I may have overcorrected this semester, but as far as my sanity goes this is probably the lesser of two evils.

I gave a practice quiz for the first standard to help the students do a gut-check on their preparedness for the real quiz on Friday. The standard I am going with for systems of linear equations is

- I know what the definition of a system of linear equations and it’s solution is.
- I can solve a system of linear equations in multiple ways.

I know that’s a two part standard but I didn’t want to have two separate standards. Really the standard is “Can I solve systems of linear equations” but part of that is knowing what they are and what the final solution should look like and I wanted to be explicit about what is necessary to complete the standard.

After I gave the practice quiz, I explain how the EMRF rubric I use works and how the letters (unfortunately have to) translate to numbers in the gradebook. I also reminded them how the Standards Based Grading system works for quizzes and that while they should be ready on Friday, they will have more opportunities to show their knowledge of the standard should they not do well.

I also wanted to try out an idea from Michael Pershan today about using a Venn Diagram to model solutions to systems of equations, but I did not have enough time to prepare an activity this morning because of a department meeting. I am going to try again tomorrow.

As a side note and as an explanation for the stupid title, I did some after-school tutoring with a student who had some geometry homework and it really made me wish I had a geometry class. There was a fantastic question on his homework about identifying all segments in a larger line segment that were congruent. It would have been a fantastic assignment all by itself, with all kinds of extension questions. The line segment ran from -5 to +5 with a labeled point every length of 1. The points were numbered A – K. I think a great assignment could have asked how many congruent line segments you could find within AK with a given length. How you could know there was not more than that. Why if CF was congruent to another length that CD could not also be congruent and so on. I hope I remember it if I am ever assigned a geometry class to teach.

Thanks for reading.