#MSSunFun: Teaching Students How to Study for Assessments

#msSunFunYeah! It’s #MSSunFun and I am actually participating! ūüôā It’s been a while since I’ve joined in the weekly blogging, but I wanted to share what I do with my students to teach them how to study AND I am procrastinating doing a few others things right now, so it fits perfectly! And it ties to my earlier post on Failure, read that here.

A while back there was a conversation on Twitter about stamps we want so we¬† could use them on student work, obviously they were tongue in cheek, but I still had fun creating the graphics for all of them.¬† This one below was one of the main ones we discussed.¬† It is SO obvious to us teachers when students study and when they don’t. Our frustration with this comes because we are always looking for our¬† students to succeed and we also know all of the work we have done in class to practice and help solidify their understanding.¬† Since I use SBG, reassessments are a real part of my classroom and grading, I dislike grading retakes when they clearly didn’t prepare.¬† This is why I have added some additional requirements this year in order for them to reassess.Didn't Study

Due to using SBG, I have a lot of small skill quizzes rather than long tests, however I start the beginning of the year teaching my students that the word “quiz” does not mean they don’t have to study because it will be easier.¬† The math department has used the following handout to help students with studying for math tests.¬† It provides a list of helpful study strategies.

Additionally, I share the App/website StudyBlue with my students. (www.studyblue.com) It is a tech way to create flashcards, study guides, etc.¬† Students can even share with their school and classmates.¬† It remembers which ones you get correct and incorrect and will continue to build study from there.¬† It’s pretty cool and my students LOVE it.¬† Check it out!

I have created two documents that I have used since 2010-ish, I have used each at different times and for different reasons.

This document below is what I hand to my students in preparation for their end of quarter final. While we take skill quizzes throughout the quarter, I also want to focus on retention and they take a quarter final that covers all of the skills from that quarter.¬† They take out their skill folder and skill checklist and use that to help fill out the top part.¬† They also use their ISN and/or textbook to complete the middle part and they can use old examples from their ISN in the third part.¬† I do reference a textbook, while they don’t get one to use during the year, they can access it online as necessary. I reference a lot of the online practice quizzes and tests as good study tools because they check automatically while the students take them.

I have used this study plan document a lot with my US History classes, but my math students like it as well.  I make it available on my class website and they can use it as necessary.  At the start of the year we do a study skills unit in Advisory that I put together and this document is part of that unit, which means that all students are familiar with it.

I remember coming across Julie’s Study Guide Kit for Math Tests at the start of this year, http://ispeakmath.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/study-guide-kit-for-math-tests/.¬† I made a note to try and incorporate that into my ISN’s this year because I liked that there would be a study guide for each Unit/Chapter within their ISN.¬† I felt that would be useful for the students when it came to studying for the quarter final.¬† Unfortunately I forgot about it and did not start it this year, but I will be doing something similar next year.¬† I could see the right side of the ISN page being the folded study guide and the left side of the page being a modified (shortened to fit) study plan….but these are just thoughts right now.¬† I really like Mary’s Evidence of Study worksheet that she shared for this week’s #MSSunFun, http://teacherleaders.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/preparing-for-assessments/.¬† I will probably try and work that into my ISN somehow as well.¬† I like the parent signature for my middle school students.¬† I was also thinking about adding a Time Spent section so students could note how long they spent studying each night.

I love the sharing of great ideas and I am happy to participate!! Have a great week!

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#MsSunFun: My Slightly over the top Sub folder

Sub plans…the bane of every teacher’s existance.¬† In most cases, I would rather drag my sick self through school than spend hours writing sub plans to find the sub wasn’t comfortable with math (even though they do SEE what subjects I teach before choosing the job), my students were naughty and half of what was supposed to be done was completed (usually due to the students being naughty). My school pushes us to not stop curriculum when we are out; they do not want us leaving busy work.¬† But they do require that we have a set of Emergency Plans in the main office…just in case. I still have not put my Emergency plans in the office.

To be honest, I am overly anal with my subs plans and the organization of the information & work provided to the sub. The main reason is that more often than not, the sub who picks up my absence is not comfortable with math and I teach Pre-Algebra and Algebra (& a section of US History).  OR no sub picks up my absence and they have to internal sub, which usually means a different teacher each period. Therefore, I find the more detailed I am the better chance things will get accomplished. I wish we could find good math subs! 

In the past few years the 8th grade have been naughty naughty students with their every day teachers and about ten times worse with subs.¬† We drafted a letter that parents and students sign at the start of the year in regards to sub behavior.¬† I won’t post it here, but if you want to see it, I will send the link. I also have a slip that I have needed to give to students AFTER a sub visit that requires them to write an apology to the sub and to write me a letter about what happened the day before.¬† After 13 years of teaching, I still do not understand why the students are so much more naughty when I am not there.¬† I rarely see the same behaviors they exibit for subs…I do not get it!

Here it is…my slightly over the top sub folder outline:

The best part about my sub folder is the actual folder I use to put it all together; it is an 8-pocket plastic wire bound folder purchased from Target years ago. I LOVE these folders! If you click on the picture, it will take you to Amazon, where I purchased them from once I started using them for everything since Target stopped selling them. I also use this same style folder for my tardies & classroom behavior and absence work; I even have some I haven’t used¬†yet…I kind of hoard them. ūüôā ¬†I like them because the¬†front cover of the folder has a pocket where a sheet has been inserted that clearly identifies the folder as my sub folder. The cover also contains the Regular and Wednesday bell schedules. And I love it because it is a VERY durable poly plastic cover and has enough¬†inside folder pages so each class period gets it’s own folder page.

  • The interior 6 clear pockets are organized with one pocket for each period.
    • Each pocket contains:
      • seating chart with student pictures printed in color (visible in the pockets)
      • alphabetical class list
      • Substitute Attendance Form (we have to take electronic attendance each period, subs can’t do that so they have to send something to the office…I created this to make it easier)
      • Class behavior report
    • The pockets are labeled with peel and stick file labels. And I used my label maker to label the file labels with each period.
  • The first pocket contains the following: (listed on an index card taped to the pocket)
    • Welcome letter to the sub outlining expectations, attendance and behavior policys
    • Substitute teacher helpful information (bell schedules, teachers to go to, helpful students, copy machine directions, technology log-in information, smartboard directions, textbook locations, etc)
    • That day‚Äôs lesson plans with checkboxes, papercliped together
    • Overall report¬†from the day form
    • Map of school, with my rooms highlighted (& cafeteria, office, library, computer labs & nearest bathrooms)
    • Building Evacuation procedure, with roster
    • Calvin & Hobbes Substitute teacher comics ūüôā
    • Pre-Algebra/Algebra helpful reference sheet
    • 8th grade class requirements/policies
    • My math class syllabus
  • The last pocket contains the following: (listed on an index card taped to the pocket)
    • Extra pad of¬†Hall Passes
    • Extra hallway & washroom passes
    • Tardy/Unprepared & Warning Passes
    • Detentions
    • Referrals
    • Hard lock down/soft lock down¬†procedures

I place the folder on top of any papers/copies necessary for each class.¬† They are paperclipped together and labeled.¬† Subs have reported they love the folder and always have what they need.¬† Except when I change seating charts and forget to update the folder…it’s so hard to remember to do that!

Happy Sunday Funday!

#MsSunFun: The Dot Game

After a beautiful and relaxing fall weekend in Wisconsin, I feel refreshed and ready for the many weeks ahead.¬† I love going up to Wisconsin where I can slow down and take time for myself…it took me a while to realize that it was okay to do this every now and again. It’s also easy to “unplug” up there…cell phone service is spotty around the lake, I don’t have cable/satellite tv, and while I do have wireless internet, I find I rarely take the computer out of the bag. Heck I didn’t even break out the shiny new ipad this weekend either! ūüôā So, now I am back and ready for October and I made it home with just enough time to submit my #MsSunFun post!

I was so excited for the Favorite Ways to Practice topic because I do so many different things. Then as I was driving home and thinking about what I was going to post, this fear crept up…I wasn’t sure there was anything in my files that I had created or that wasn’t already shared by many of you. EEEEKKK!!! My original ideas, where have they gone? ūüôā¬† But amazingly enough, I found something, here you go!

The Dot Game
I use this as part of a class period (I have 41 minutes), usually after direct instruction or deriving a rule, etc. I enjoy playing this game with the kids because they all know it, so I don’t HAVE to explain the rules in detail and they do like it, even with the math component. It also gives me the chance to go around the room and check in with pairs of students to clear up misconceptions or listen to them problem solve.¬† Since my students sit in groups of four and there are two high students and two low students in each group, I make sure the pairs are a high and a low working together.

The Rules

  • Students take turns connecting any two dots together which are next to each other, either horizontally or vertically. (I usually will say the student with the birthday closest to the date we are playing goes first.)
  • Students play on one dot game board together, but must have separate sheets to show their work.
  • If you join two dots together to form the last side of a four-sided box, you need to correctly answer the math problem in the box in order to shade it in with your color.¬† If you get the problem incorrect, your partner gets to color it if they have the correct answer. (Or the partner may steal the box by making corrections to the problem, I usually will say if partner has it correct on their paper, they get the box because it does get each partner working on problems at the same time and no one is waiting for the other to be done.)
  • If you create a box and correctly solve a problem, you get to take another turn to draw one line.
  • How do they check their answers? They don’t really HAVE to.¬† I tell them since they are both solving at the same time, they can use each other to check off of.¬† If they do not agree, they need to agree before moving on to the next question. If they can’t agree, they can ask me.¬† I tell them IF I collect it, all problems must be done by each student AND partners must have the same answers for each.
  • The winner is the student that captures the most squares.

The students find it a fun way to practice, I like that it is with partners and is self-checking and it gives me the opportunity to walk around and see if there are any common errors that I may need to address the next day.

Here is a version for Zero & Negative Exponents.  Usually, I only provide one side which has 15 problems due to my short 41 minute periods, but last year I had a smarty pants Algebra class that always blew through practice like nothing, so I created one that was double sided for extra practice.

Enjoy!