Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Another Teaching Post -- I Need Your Opinion

I know, I know.  I said I wasn't going to be all teacher-blog-y on you, and I totally slacked this weekend except to post teaching stuff?  Seriously.  I don't even know why you're friends with me anymore!  But really -- I would love your opinion, so please keep reading and leave a comment!  

See, this morning I tried to do something kind-of cool – or I hoped it would be cool – with my Geometry kids.  We did a review worksheet.  (In fairness, we’d started it last week, but because we’d split that class with a quiz, we ran short on time.  So the kids mostly had completed the worksheet, but we hadn’t had a chance to go over it yet and in the meantime they had a four-day weekend.)  No, sillies, the review sheet wasn’t the cool thing.  What I had hoped would be cool was the way in which we went over it.

I despise sitting in my seat watching a teacher work problems (or, in my adult life, having an adult read to me from a PowerPoint) and I also despise being that teacher -- presenting the problems a la Charlie Brown’s teacher and droning on for no one’s benefit, including my own.  I saw online an idea for a review “auction,” where the teacher puts up answers to an assignment but not all of them are correct, and the different teams bid on which team gets to present which question, including saying whether the key was correct for their problem.  The idea is that the students have to have worked through the review enough to be able to discern what is incorrect on the answer key – keeping in mind that they have a team (of up to 4 people) to discuss with before they bid.

 Cool idea, right?  It embeds review, team conversations to check their work, and even some strategizing AND the kids don't know it, but that's deductive reasoning and that, my friends, is a learned skill and most definitely part of the Geometry curriculum, however stripped of proofs it may be these days.   Hey, even if the auction idea's not cool, it’s different and it gets the kids talking, and that’s the plan and the goal.   

But here’s the problem: I wanted to keep everyone involved, so I wanted to allow for “steals,” but I didn’t have a smooth way to do the bidding to work this out.  I let teams bid by question, and then we went over that question immediately, which quickly meant that every team was “all in” on every question.  I ended up having to have some stupid tiebreakers (“guess which number I am thinking of…” nonsense) in order to decide which team got to actually present the question.  In short, it was a mess.  And that mess led to some side chatter and made the activity take altogether too long.  

Now, there were some good things.  First, I had told this class that they were the guinea pigs, so they were way more amenable to rolling with the punches instead of just saying, “this is lame.”  Second, the school where I teach has school-wide rubric grades that all students receive, and I told the kids that today’s presentations would count towards a very informal first go-round of their oral presentation rubric.  So they were motivated in that sense to get their turn at the board.  (Side note:  they were very motivated, in fact, especially for a group that generally is not motivated at all.  I was quite pleasantly surprised!)

I’m thinking the auction style might still be fun, but I might have to give each group, say, $100 at the start of the period and do ALL of the bidding at one time.  In other words, if there are ten questions, I can accept bids on all ten questions at once, and they will have just their $100 allotment to ration out as they wish.  I’m not sure how that would work, either, but it would eliminate the “all in” opportunity – unless teams went “all in” on the first question they won.  (Of course, that logic would mean they were more likely to lose, and if they didn’t figure that out, I could just disallow “all-in” bids.)

Okay.  So … today’s class was hardly an epic failure.  Every single kid in the room got up to present a problem, and some kids got up twice. We went over the entire worksheet review for our test, and got to talk about some key topics.  If you were to walk in my room, you’d see kids working and talking about math – you’d have also heard side chatter and wondered about the chaos, but I had motivated kids, doing math, and working on oral presentations.   The auction didn’t work, but most of the rest did.

Anyway – what do you think? Any ideas as to how I could make the “auction-style review” work????  Teacher friends, help me tighten this up!  Please?????!!!



  1. WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL??? Oh wait. You were like 2.

    1. Thanks, Marianne. I'm trying to make this year as good as I can make it. I mean, if I have to do it and all, may as well be the best I can be. But I think we're pretty close in age ... although if you want to think I'm a young'un, I'll take it. :)