Algebra 2

Alg 2 – Tune Up Tuesdays

So maybe you read my last (long sorry) post about how I changed my assessments in AP Stats (How “Make It Stick” Changed the way I teach in AP Stats) and you are thinking “what about other classes?”  Well so did I after I first used it.  The advantage of trying everything new in AP Stats is really two-fold: 1) I’ve been teaching it for over 15 years and it is my passion which I’m always trying to keep fresh and 2) I’m the only one in my building who teaches it.  It’s especially that last one that makes a difference.  In our county we really TRY to built content teams that work together. This way each student who sits in say in an Algebra 2 class will get the same content no matter who the teacher is.  If you’ve been teaching for even a little while you realize just how difficult this task can be.

Then throw in me – the constant learner (another post sometime) who wants to try new things and am convinced they can work if we give it a shot with a group of other great teachers who aren’t ready to jump so far out of their comfort zone yet or just want a little more time to feel good with the new content they are teaching first.  How do you find the happy balance and still maintain a strong content team?  If you have kids of your own you know the answer to that is to pick your battle wisely and only choose one to work on at a time.  I guess battle isn’t really the best word choice but it’s the one thing you feel most passionate about and don’t want to give up.

This was me when I was heading up our Algebra 2 team last year.  Since going Common Core all the teachers weren’t always so common and ended up in different spots at the end of the year teaching what they felt needed to be taught for how long they though all with perfectly good intentions.  But we needed to be on common ground so I asked to take on the challenge because I hadn’t taught Algebra 2 in years and besides really wanting it again, I wanted to see our department grow stronger together and this wasn’t happening in all areas.  I won’t get into the nitty gritty details of all that we did but I will say that our team surpassed all the expectations I had going into this.  It was a TON of work, especially for me, but I’m determined to do things right (not necessarily perfect) the first time.  At the end of the year all of us felt good, and while we don’t have our PARCC scores yet, we felt we did the best with what we started with at the beginning of the year.  I now believe even more that you can take teachers with different strengths, weaknesses, beliefs on teaching and assessing, and more and be on common enough ground to give common assessments that everyone can feel good with!!

So what are Tune Up Tuesdays?  It was my spin of the quiz assessment I did in AP Stats for Algebra 2.  Fortunately all of us had sections that met everyday (thank you scheduling people for answering our requests!) so normally we saw the kids Monday – Friday.  One of the biggest challenges with students is remembering content over a longer period of time and not memorizing the process for an assessment and then dumping it after it has been assessed. “What do you mean you don’t remember how to factor, we’ve been doing it all year?” might be words you have found yourself saying OVER and OVER again.

So every Tuesday there is a Tune Up Tuesday quiz.  Yes, EVERY Tuesday!!!  “What if we don’t have school that day?” asks a student. Then we don’t have a quiz that week.  They shout awesome not realizing that happens very infrequently.  So what will be on the quiz?  Anything that we covered the Monday-Friday the week before (regardless of how many days we had that week.)  This way (ideally) the students have the weekend to review the material from that week and then come in on Monday with questions that they still have before the quiz on Tuesday.  This is a lot more complicated than you would think.  A revision for this year might be to give them a set of generic study questions to review that weekend to help that we could quickly discuss on Monday.

What’s on a quiz? Again it’s never more than the front of a page.  Question #1 is a describe in your own words question. #2-possible 3 is something from the week like they saw in a classwork/homework and the last question is either a SAT or PARCC like question on this content.  Here’s a couple sample quizzes:

Quarter 1 Quiz 2  Quarter 3 Quiz 2

So how did it go?  I personally liked that there was consistency on when quizzing was and that we could change it up to Monday if need be to make sure that each teacher felt good about how it captured the main points of the week’s lessons.  Kids knew when there was a quiz AND so did parents!!  No one came in and said ” I didn’t know we had a quiz” without another student saying “Duh! It’s Tuesday!!”

Was it exactly like I would have liked to see it go?  Of course not, but again my entire team bought into the idea and we formed it into something that was our own and EVERYONE could feel comfortable with.  Also an extra bonus was that talking about this type of assessing enough days during lunch other teachers wanted to know more and are considering doing it in their upper level classes!  Building up your team is WAY MORE important, not to mention beneficial, than always getting what YOU want.  That’s something to smile about!!

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