Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Exponent Scavenger Hunt

It's scavenger hunt time again.  As a way to wrap up and practice our exponent properties, I set up a giant scavenger hunt.  This is seriously the easiest thing even and the kids seem to have fun with it because they get to move around.

I took all these problems...

and put them onto these cards:

taped them all over this hallway:

and gave the kids this sheet:

Every one of them was completely engaged for the entire time practicing exponents.  They didn't finish so tomorrow we'll finish it up.  It's nice to get out of the room and give them space to move around just to switch things up.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Oh boy

This happened today....

Me: Take a sheet of blank paper.  Ok, now on the top of your paper write these numbers: 1, 4, 9, 16.  Again, that was 1, 4, 9, and 16...write them at the top of the paper you have.  (I repeated this about two or three more times)

Some of the responses that followed:

  • wait what numbers?
  • I wasn't listening, what was that again?
  • do we write them big?
  • do we write them all together?
  • I just wrote them all together
  • it's not even hard, just write 14 and 916

Me: Are we all ok with this?  At the top of your paper you should have 1, 4, 9 and 16.  It doesn't matter how big, just that you see that there are four numbers.  We're going to be doing something where you're only allowed to use those four numbers.
  • four numbers?? I thought there were the 1 and 6 were seperate
  • yeah I thought that too
  • where do you see four numbers? I have five

Never a dull moment.

Exponent Properties

If you haven't already, read this and this.  All caught up?  Ok great.

I didn't get too specific with lesson plans, but I did give my kids a general outline for their lesson.  They needed a do now, their rule and the explanation behind it, an ISN page, practice and assessment.  I'll break down what they did into these categories.

Oh let me also say that I wish I took more pictures.  I've been taking tons of pictures of everything we do this year and I should have taken more, but some days I was too caught up with the lesson and taking notes that I just forgot.  I'm pretty disappointed about this.


They all did a do now.  Most of them came in early before homeroom (this was first period & I have them for homeroom too) to set up their do now.

The zero exponent group gave this as a way to introduce their idea:

The power to a power group gave this (it's two problems and the ISN page headings for the day):

Both the multiplication group and the power to a power group gave do nows that used their rule, which had not been taught yet.  Now this is not something I usually do, but it was fantastic and really got me thinking that I should do more of it.

They had kids guess the answer and just told them yes or no.  Eventually someone did give the correct answer but when the kids asked why, they just told them that they'll go over it in the lesson.  Even though the majority weren't correct, it got them thinking about the topic which was awesome.


As far as teaching went, some kids had pre-prepared slides in my iPad that they wrote on.  Some wrote on the actual dry erase board.  Some used the iPad as a document camera to go through a completed version of the notes.  It was all completely different which was so cool.  Most of them had the kids write and then explained to them what they wrote.  

The most successful groups were ones where it seemed that they had a plan for who would talk when and where each kid had a role.  In most groups there was a kid or two that opted not to be a talker and instead they would circulate and help or work the projector/computer as the others talked.  In some groups kids tried to talk over top of each other and cut each other off and that didn't work so well.

Something I also realized I needed to remind them about was talking slowly.  In the beginning the groups talked pretty quickly and it seemed like as the week went on the other groups picked up on this and slowed down.

Now for the good stuff...

Zero Exponents: on the right is their rule and then underneath it is some additional tips.  The color coding on the notes was all them.  I LOVEEE the idea of highlighting the piece that will belongs to the zero exponent.  I'm stealing this.  On the left is some guided practice that they did in class and then a short quiz that they gave.

Negative Exponents: On the right is their rule and some specific case examples.  Some of the language could be improved upon so next time I need to make sure I go over with the groups exactly what they're going to good.  On the left side is some guided practice and the homework that they gave (evens only).  Something awesome is that I did not find that worksheet for them.  They must have googled for practice and found it online and it's perfect for their skill.

Multiplying Exponents: On the right is their foldable.  I think this is awesome and makes is clear that they had a very well thought out lesson.  The color coding is all them and is fabulous.  They showed two different ways to get the answer and gave the rule.  They even included the homework problems in there so they were prepared.  Bonus points for including smiley faces. :)  The left side was for the two homework problems..see I even did my homework!

Dividing Exponents: This lesson was really, but unfortunately I played the part of bad student. Something happened that pulled me into the hallway for about five minutes, thus missing out on taking down all of my notes.  I felt so horrible to miss what they did, but it was unavoidable.  They did so awesome though and didn't even need me there.  They didn't miss a beat and just kept going.  I didn't want to end up with my page messed up so I didn't write down anything else and instead plan to copy it later.  Look at the part that I did get down though..they did that all on their own.  I couldn't have done it better myself.

Power to a Power: This group looked through their ISN and modeled their page off a different one we did.  I love how they created and showed how to do a bunch of different scenarios.  I did not give them the difference types, they came up with them on their own.  I really like this because it says to me that they thought about the topic and chunked the information which is exactly what I try to do.  This group did not do anything on the left side and opted to play bingo to review.  They even bought Smarties to give out as prizes.  Love it.

So what do you think?  I'm kinda obsessed...I keep showing them off to people.  I gave them no structure beyond "make an ISN page" and I'm really so proud of what they came up with on their own.


This is the area where I needed to give them more support.  I talked about what I wanted them to do, but I don't think I stressed it enough.  Next time I need to go further in depth on giving assessment and feedback.  One group did stellar so I'll be using them as an example next time.  The group that gave the quiz did a very good job.  They actually scored the quizzes as the kids handed them in and told them how they did.  And it gets better...they did this:

How awesome??!  It was completely his own idea.  I told them that they needed to give support on whether or not the kids learned and this was his way of doing that.  I love it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

You be the teacher (part 2)

Last week I did this and got to sit back and be a student while my kids taught the class. 

It. was. awesome.

My biggest observation was that I hate sitting at the student desks.  I hate sitting with my feet on the ground and at home I'm usually sitting on a couch or somewhere comfortable.  Having to attempt to sit up (fairly) straight with my feet on the ground was not pleasant for me.  I probably looked antsy the way I kept shifting trying to get comfortable.  On Friday I complained to a girl about it and she showed me how to hook my feet up onto one of the bars of the desk and that made things a little better.  I have decided that my ideal classroom would consist of couches.

So aside from the seating issue, there were tons of great things that went on.  As I expected, the first couple days were a little shaky but the lessons definitely got better each day.  As other kids were teaching I heard kids talking with their groups about ideas and things they needed to do when they taught.

I had a couple kids ask me out loud during a rough lesson if I was going to be reteaching it.  I didn't like this and I thought it was incredibly rude.  I said no.  The real answer was yes, but I didn't want them to rely on the fact that I would reteach the topic.  I told them that if they were unsure on anything they could go watch the same tutorials on the livebinder that the other kids watched.  This actually calmed them down significantly.

I have to say though that the kids had absolutely no shame in calling each other out for things.  As I mentioned before, they are a very close knit group of kids and most of them are very outgoing.  They had no problem saying that they were moving too fast or that they were confused and boy did they jump all over it when one kid wrote a wrong number.  The kids teaching had no problem telling the class to be quiet or get off instagram.  There were only like two times that I stepped in to help a kid and it was only when I saw them completely lost and getting angry.  Even then I just went over and knelt down next to the kid to help quietly. 

Four days in (after zero exponents, negative exponents, and multiplication) some kids went on a trip and I didn't want to move on so we spent the day just doing practice on the dry erase boards.  I think that this helped and was actually even the perfect place for this break.  It was good for them to practice the skills mixed together and it also let me reteach some of the topics without the kids realizing it because we were just practicing.  

The biggest hesitation I had before this unit was in the fact that I could have taught these topics better.  But the thing is...that's ok.  Of course I can teach exponent simplification better...I've taught it so many times at this point.  And it's my job.  If I couldn't do a better job than a 9th grader that has never taught before, then there's a real problem.  Giving them the chance to be in charge and really own the topic helped them to learn better.

I have to actually say that some of the kids blew me away with how well they did.  I sat in the back of the room a lot with a huge grin on my face because I thought they were doing so awesome.  One girl created an analogy off the top of her head on why exponent multiplication is like cliques at school that I thought was just amazing.  The ISN pages they created were so detailed and so organized.  Today we played power to a power bingo and got Smarties as prizes.  The group that taught zero exponents gave clearer notes than I ever have.

One thing I think I would change is that I would like to have them learn their material at home.  They used resources from my Livebinder to independently learn and practice their topic and I think they could have done this on their own.  I would still want to give them some class time to practice as a group and for me to make sure they are good, but maybe just like half a period.

Next time I would place way more emphasis on them needing to assess their students.  This was definitely the part that most of them were missing.  One group did a perfect job so for the future I'll use this as an example.  Since this is long already, I'll save the actual content they created for another post...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

You be the teacher

I am SO excited to go to school tomorrow.  My algebra kids are teaching our current unit so first period all week I get to sit and be the student while they teach.  I know that the idea of having kids teach is far from new, but it is new for me.  I always stayed away from doing things like this because worried too much that the kids wouldn't do as good a job teaching as I could.  I'm very particular with how I want things to be so it's hard for me to give up the control.  I was talking with another teacher who is doing something similar with her kids and it got me excited so I figured what the heck...if it doesn't go well then I'll just fill in the gaps later.

Well they haven't taught anything yet, but I am so far I am LOVING what they are working on.  I split the class into 5 groups of 3-4 kids each and gave each group one of the properties of exponents.  I told them that they can't just tell the class the rule, they need to teach the kids why it works.

First just a bit of background on my kids:  They are almost all performing arts students so most of them LOVE to put on a show.  They absolutely love any opportunity to get up in front of the class.  They have almost all of their classes together too which means they are extremely comfortable with each other.  They are also my advanced class so for the most part they are pretty motivated on their own.  There are also a couple of them that want to be teachers.  This is not at all to say that it wouldn't work for other kids, just that even before starting I knew that they would be really into the whole idea.

First of all, I chose groups and topics strategically.  The kids then used their textbook and some tutorial videos on my livebinder to first learn and practice their topic.  They were then responsible for coming up with a do now, ISN page, practice and an assessment on their topic.  Their ISN page needed to explain the topic as clearly as possible and needed to also show why it works.  After their lesson they will need to provide me with a reflection on how well the class learned their topic and proof to back it up.

Mostly I loved some of the conversations that occurred last week.  One group got into a heated debate over whether they should give the rule first and then show why it works or if they should explain it and then give the rule.  They asked me how to create foldables.  I taught them how to use the equation editor in Microsoft Office.  They discussed whether they should give a do now that is basic or if they should give a do now that the kids can't really do and then return to it at the end of the period to show that they had learned.  They talked about what belonged on the left and right sides of their ISN.  They talked about color coding and how to use it to effectively.  We got to talk about the purpose of assessments and what counts as an assessment.  One boy asked me if they could give a short quiz and then create a bar graph of the scores to use in their reflection.

Some groups are doing textbook practice.  Some are doing games.  Some are using communicators.  Some are giving homework.  Some are not.  Some are showing videos while others are just explaining.  Some are using the iPad, some are using the whiteboard and some are using the projector.  A couple groups created seating charts to ensure that the certain people don't start talking.  They've asked me if they can come in early before class to get everything set up.

One girl asked me if we could do this all the time because she has never felt as confident with any topic as she does with hers.  She also told me that I make this job look really easy.  I love it.

I was hesitant about doing this because I felt like it might take up too much time.  I could have gone through all of the exponent rules last week and been on to something new this week.  It did take up some time, but the things that they were talking about and doing last week totally made it worth it.  They even took work home without me telling them to.  So while I could have gone through the content quicker, we would have missed out on all the other things that they learned last week that were not specifically related to exponents but still valuable.

Can't wait to share what they teach me this week!

Monday, April 1, 2013


Today is the last day of spring break and naturally I have tonnnns of things to do that I've been putting off.  When it comes to procrastinating I am just as bad (or possibly worse) than the kids.

Instead of actually doing my work though, I'm doing this instead:

Sent out this Remind101 text:

Updated the class website with this:

and when they click on the link they will get this:

I sent it out about 10 minutes ago and got 5 e-mails almost instantly.  I e-mailed them all back with a link to the website where the information is and most of them e-mailed me right back laughing and saying how I got them.

Some responses that I've gotten so far:

  • I have to give you props. That was pretty good. Thanks for the scare. see you tomorrow Ms. Rubin! 
  • You got me so good, I started sweating bullets
  • Oh my gosh. You got me! That was too funny.
  • Ohhh hahaha. April Fools joke. Lol

Gotta have fun sometimes right?

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