# Blog Archives

## Algebra Teachers Differentiate

For the past two weeks, algebra teachers have been teaching their students the concepts of greatest common factor (GCF), difference between two perfect squares, and factoring trinomials using the grouping method.  Recognizing that these topics tend to be difficult for students to master, they tailored the design of their unit to accommodate for these multiple levels of understanding.  They accomplished this by using the computer program Castle Learning.

Most days of this seven day unit, students went down to the library and worked on several Castle Learning Problems.  This worked well for students because they were given instant feedback and explanations for any incorrect answers by Castle Learning.  Teachers examined the data from Castle Learning after every lesson.  A sample of a data analysis is shown below.  A check means that the student was correct on his or her first attempt, a check with an X means that the student was correct on his or her second attempt, and an X means that the student was incorrect for two attempts.  Based on those results, some students were pulled into a small group for a reteach lesson.  Student learning was increased as a result of teachers ensuring that what a student learns, how he/she learns it, and how the student demonstrates what he/she has learned matched that student’s readiness level (Tomlinson).  If a student was not ready to move on to the next lesson, immediate intervention took place until he or she was ready, and then he or she was able to continue with the rest of the class.

## Maximizing Student Engagement with SMART Response Clickers

Teachers at Athena Middle and High School are using SMART response clickers!  Mr. Titus, Mrs. Schrieber, Miss Northrup (University of Rochester student teacher), and Mrs. Derleth have been utilizing this interactive technology in their classrooms.  The SMART Response system gives teachers the ability to instantly track quiz results and lesson comprehension to gain immediate insight into student learning and help increase overall retention and engagement.

Some activities that they have implemented in just a few weeks include the following:

1. Warm-ups/Ticket out the Door:  All students will have a clicker in their hand and be expected to answer questions on a warm-up and/or ticket out the door.  These questions could be multiple choice, short response, true/false, etc.  As each student answers the question, the teacher will receive immediate feedback on topic areas of strength and opportunities for improvement based on their answers.  The teacher can use this information to modify and adjust his or her instruction based on the demonstrated student knowledge.
2. Instant Questions: During a lesson, a teacher may want to assess if all students understand the content being taught.  Often times a teacher will ask, “Does anyone have any questions?” and no one raises their hands.  It is unlikely that all students understand what was being taught, but did not raise their hands or demonstrate knowledge of the topic.  With SMART response, a teacher can have the students answer an instant and spontaneous question to gage whether all students can answer the question.  If students need additional instruction or time on task, the teacher will instantly have the data to make that decision.
3. Common Formative Assessments (CFAs):  The CFA process has been embraced by many in the Greece Central School District.  The CFA process means that teachers from the same grade or course ask the same questions to a similar group of students to collect data.  This data is analyzed and discussed by this common group of teachers to improve their instruction.  This collaboration will likely increase student and teacher learning.  One of the struggles for teachers in this process is that compiling data into a meaningful form can be difficult and time consuming.  The SMART response technology organized this data in seconds and can display it in graphs and charts.

Great job Athena!  Students are more engaged and instruction is continuing to improve.  You rock!

## MATHO!

Accomplished mathematics teachers help and motivate students to learn mathematics by creating environments in which students experience freedom, fun, power, and sense of belonging.  Glasser (1986) says that when these four needs are met, the students will work harder and learn more.  Mrs. Derleth often creates learning environments for kids that encompasses those four needs.  Recently, she engaged her Integrated Algebra class with a game of MATHO!  The students in her class were engaged in a review game (fun),  many worked together on the problems (sense of belonging), and most participated and gave explainations to the entire class (power).  Played similar to BINGO, students had to work out math problems and put a chip on the space with the correct answer.  If a student got 5 correct answers in a row on their board, they were given a choice of prize (freedom).  Students could pick extra points from a bag or pick a candy bar.  Mrs. Derleth commented that an equal amount picked each option.  Nice work Mrs. Derleth!

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