Saturday, January 23, 2016

My Favorite Things

As a part of week two of the 2016 MTBoS Blogging Initiative, I'll be blogging about how I have finally figured out a way to get my students to make up tests/quizzes from when they were absent and my two favorite ways to have students practice skills.  

One would think that since I only worked 2 partial days this week, Tuesday - 2 hour delay and Wednesday - early release at 11:30, I would have had this post up sooner... but I've been enjoying reading, cross stitching, and playing in the snow with my nieces and nephews. Anyways, here are some of my favorite things:

Getting Students to Take Assessments From When They Were Absent!
I don't know about you all, but I typically have at least one student absent daily in all of my classes. I've tried multiple ways to keep up with who was missing, what they missed, and when they need to have their worked turned in. It wasn't until this school year, when I had a first block class with 28 students that had 148 absences and over 160 tardies during the first semester, that I discovered a way that works best for me and my students in helping keep up missed quizzes and tests.

When a student misses a test/quiz, I go and put their information on their class designated bright yellow sheet. On the sheet, I list their name, the assessment they missed, and the date it was given. Then, I place a copy of the assessment with their name on it in my tutoring folder. In our online grade book, I go in and make a note as to why the student does not have a grade. Also, on the student's make up work from their absence, I attach a sticky note reminding them of their missed assessment.

 It then becomes the students responsibility to let me know when they are going to make up the assessment. Beside these yellow sheets (and outside of my classroom door), I have a copy of our school's tutoring schedule and my personal availability for each week. Most of the time students just tell me when they will make it up, but I always have them write it down because I will forget! When a student makes it up, I blackout their name so I know it's been completed.

At the end of each week, I look at these yellow sheets and make note of who has not scheduled a time to make up their test/quiz. If it has been 5 days since the assessment was given in class, I go into my online grade book and give them a "0" with a comment that this assessment needs to be made up, otherwise the grade will remain a zero. This has been the game changer for me! 

Now, when students (and parents) look at their math grade online, they see it with the zero included, and it gets them to make up the assessment very quickly! Where as before when I left the grade blank until it was made up, did not cause students to stress about getting their assessment taken in a reasonable amount of time.

As a result, I have quizzes/tests made up a lot sooner than before. Not only is this beneficial to me but to the students as well. :) 

Speed Dating
This is an idea I first learned about from Sarah Hagan, she blogged about it here and here. My students beg to speed date to practice problems and they get so excited when they see their desks lined up into two rows facing each other. However, you do not always have to move your desks to speed date. If my classes are doing quick practice set that does not involve them working out a problem, I just have students stand up and complete the activity. 

[Side note: Don't leave your desks that way if you don't plan on doing this... it may result in students getting very upset that you didn't plan on speed dating with their class... and lots of whining will occur!]

For each speed dating activity, students are lined up in two rows facing each other, with each student having their own index card.  Each index card has a question/problem written large and in marker on one side and the answer written lightly in pencil on the other side. I set a timer for the length of each "date," usually 2-3 minutes.

Once the date begins, students hold their index card with the answer facing them and the problem facing their partner. They work through one question at a time. If they get the problem right, their partner congratulates them. . If they get the problem wrong, their partner must help them find their mistake and give them feedback on how to correctly do the problem. After the first question has been answered correctly, they switch to the other problem and the process repeats.

When the timer goes off, the partners switch index cards with each other, then rotate one space clockwise. This give them a new partner and they hold the card with the question they just answered... so in theory they should be the expert on that problem and be able to coach their new partner in solving that question.

Individual White Boards
Students loving writing on their mini white board using dry erase markers and mini erasers. I can get students to practice problem after problem just by pulling these out. There's just something about writing with a dry erase marker that makes students excited about doing math problems. Sometimes, I incorporate games into our whiteboard use, but typically I give students a problem and let them begin working it out. When a student believes they have the answer, they raise their white board so that I can see their work. I either give the student positive words to confirm that they have the correct answer or give them a strategy to help fix their work if they are wrong. I require that if a student got a question wrong, they must rework the problem until they get it correct.

After almost everyone has gotten the correct answer, I put up another problem. Students that have not finished the first problem must finish it first, before moving on. Each student works at his/her own pace and is not rushed to complete the same number of problems.


  1. Great blog post, Jennifer!! I love your idea about getting kids to make up assessments. It is a real struggle for me to get kids in to take tests. I just give them a 0 until they come and make it up, but sometimes that doesn't work. I may even implement it this semester. You've just given me an idea to work on for tomorrow! Also, I enjoyed reading about speed dating as well!! I might have to implement this sometime. :)

  2. Totally impressed by the organization scaffold you have for yourself and your students with regard to makeups. Our school still does not have open grade books for students and parents to check in on so that aspect of your plan is out of my reach - however, the public friendly reminder aspect is one I hope to steal/model/make my own somehow.