This year's school-wide focus is writing. Many math teachers groan or cringe or opt out of the reading/writing initiatives, but I've always had kids do a minimum of daily journaling; sometimes up to entire stories or paragraphs explaining projects. Last year's school-wide focus was rubrics. It was our NEASC evaluation and so we were supposed to all use the same rubrics so kids had continuity. I would argue that students are more intelligent than we give them credit for and don't need that much continuity, but the idea behind the rubrics was okay and I was able to reformat them into something I find kid-friendly. The result of these two foci is an ellipse (math joke!), okay, actually it's a double sided weekly reflection sheet.
Journal and CW Rubric
We operate on a block schedule, so if I collect these every Friday that's 5 days (barring schedule changes, which happen approximately daily, okay not really, but I do plan to count how many of the two week periods I get all 5 days filled in). I used to carry around a clipboard all class and mark down any time a student was off task. This, combined with attendance/tardies made up their classwork grade. I'm still making occasional notes on my clipboard, and of course still taking attendance, but most kids are pretty honest when they fill in the rubric. The original plan was to have them out on desks all class so every time a student was off task or doing a good job at one of the sections I (or my co-teacher) would mark that down on the rubric. This turned out to be totally unrealistic. If a kid is off task I don't want them to find their rubric for me to write on, I want them to get to work! And several of them relate to behaviors when I am standing at the board. Instead, I'm trying to use the language on the rubric when I reprimand or congratulate students on the behavior, and making a few notes so if my memory completely fails me for some reason they won't get an unreasonable grade.
The journal side looks boring now, but that's because the questions will be on the board. Every day they will be asked "How did you meet the objective(s)?" and if they didn't to explain why. There's also a second question that varies. Some examples: to make a connection, to predict, to reflect (what are your goals for 2nd quarter? how should you study for the test?). I expect a minimum of two sentences and they don't get credit otherwise. The first week of past years I'd get quite a few "writing in math class?!?" exclamations, but this year there weren't so many. It's a quiet way to close class and students will remind me that it's journal time if I get too caught up with a lesson. The goal is to get students thinking about what they did in the hope that more of it will stick until next class (2-4 days away thanks to block scheduling). The first question has changed year to year, sometimes asking what math they learned and other times about the objective. I'm hoping that they will be more precise if they have to justify how they met the objective, although I'll miss the occasional comment about how someone did some really cool math in science class.