One of the things I spend a lot of time thinking about is how to give kids practice without it seeming like practice. I feel like I'm not "supposed to" just give kids a practice worksheet to do for the whole period because it's not interactive and creative and engaging and all that. And what if someone came in to observe and my plan for the day was just to hand out a worksheet? That certainly wouldn't look good. And then of course there's the fact that many of the kids I have just can't focus for that long. They'll end up either bored or frustrated within 10-15 minutes and will be done working.
Try to trick them into thinking they're doing something more fun than a practice worksheet.
I've already talked about one way that I do this. Cut up a worksheet, call it stations and all of a sudden it's more interesting.
On Friday I found another trick. I read about this activity at Math-N-Spire at some point and then remembered it Friday and decided to give it a try. Sidenote: I do this all the time. I do plans for the week, but as the week goes on I pretty much always come up with something that I like better. So that often leaves me creating something that I'm going to do the same day.
On Thursday we had gone over some key words used in math so on Friday, they needed to practice translating verbal expressions into math. I found some problems that I really liked, but handing it out and telling them they had the period to finish wasn't going to work.
Instead, I cut this worksheet (which I found) in half and gave the kids about 10/15 minutes to do the first 10. This page went in their ISN.
For the rest, I took 8 of the more challengeing problems and wrote them on index cards. I lettered each one and then shuffled them all up. Then I went through and put the answer to the first problem on the second card. Then put the answer to that problem on the next card, and so on. When I got to the last card, that answer went on the first card- creating a loop.
This sounds way more complicated than it is, but I'll admit I screwed it up the first time and had to start over. When I had them all done, I taped the problems randomly all over the room answer side facing out.
My classes are pretty small, but I can honestly say that all of the kids were actively working. If they were stuck and got an answer wrong, they knew it was wrong becasuse there was no matching answer so they would come find me and ask for help.
I enjoyed this one a lot and after doing it I have some ideas for some variations I could add in next time.
One is to differentiate. The cards all create a loop, so in period where kids are at different levels, I could create two (or maybe even three) different loops of problems that are at varied levels of difficulty. By telling kids where to start, I could choose the level that is most appropriate for them. I thought about doing the loops different colors, but if they were actually all the same color cards then kids wouldn't even need to know that there's any difference.
Or (and this could take a little more planning) on a nice day, this could be interesting to take outside. Looking for the answer to the next problem could be more fun and challenging for them if they're searching around a courtyard instead of just inside the classroom.