Tuesday, August 16, 2011

End of Year Reflections: Fundamentals of Geometry

Continuing analysis of student's reflections... (see first post for a full description)

In addition to two college prep geometry courses, I also taught two fundamentals of geometry courses. Our levels are fundamentals (SPED and struggling students), college prep (aka CP, the 'regular' class) and honors. The fundamentals courses were co-taught and I got to use an amazing book: Merrill, from the 80's with only blue and black ink, filled with discoveries students should do before theorems were presented. I used many of the ideas in this book in my CP class, and I followed the ordering of each book in most cases so the two levels were taught in a slightly different order. Another thing to consider when planning for this year.

Most of the responses in the class that I had do the end of year reflection (I'm kicking myself now for forgetting in the other class) were similar to the ones in CP. The investigations were the same across the courses, but there are a few things to note.

Students in this class mentioned struggles with: algebra, formulas, measuring and square roots. Oftentimes placement is based on Algebra 1 scores, so those topics are more likely to be an issue in the fundamentals classes. Next year I might want to do some more explicit review of Algebra.

There was also one student who listed "working with others" as the hardest thing to learn to do. We discuss classroom norms a few times during the year, and I try to start the year with an activity emphasizing the importance of team work, but it's good to be reminded that it's still a struggle for many students. In truth, it's still a struggle for me! Some people I immediately click with and we're ready to share and learn together, but with others I find myself shutting down. I would like to have a better way of assessing how students are working together. The participation quiz (Sam wrote about it here) that I saw at PCMI might be a good way to do this, and I'd also like to see students discussing with each other.

In one class I gave students a daily checklist based off of our school's Habits of Mind rubric. It included points for being on time and prepared, working with others, asking questions and participating. Of course, this is the same class that I neglected to give the end of year reflection to. Maybe I can modify it from a daily list to a every 5 classes list and collect it when I collect journals... One of the best features turned out to be the "Is there anything else you'd like to share?" section where students vented frustrations, owned up to misbehavior and were generally their honest and insightful selves.

And, just because they're corny yet sincere, here's the quotes from the "What I learned about myself" section
  • If I push myself I can accomplish many things
  • I can do better work when I put my mind to it
  • I can achieve anything if I work hard for it
  • I can do things, all I need is a push
  • If I pay attention, I can learn more
  • I'm too smart for geometry
  • Homework is important
  • Geometry is easier than algebra
  • I am a lot better with geometry than algebra
  • I am good at math
  • I do well when I study
  • Studying is really important
  • If I try, I can get good grades
  • I need to be organized

Take aways:
More Algebra practice in Fundamentals
Compare the order of the levels to see if there are compelling reasons to switch either
Ways for teacher and students to report group dynamics? (rubric?)

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