## Thursday, August 30, 2012

### 5-Minute Drills

I am doing daily 5-minute drills this year in grades 7, 8, 11, and 12. It started off with my frustration that kids cannot remember unit circles, even though we had worked on them, explained them, practiced applying them. I was just fed up with them not memorizing the circles. So, instead of feeling frustrated, I decided that during Grade 12 we'd do daily drills of the unit circle at the start of the year. On Day 1, I asked them to take out a piece of scrap paper and to fill out the coordinates of Quadrant I of the unit circle. They failed miserably, so we went over again the hand trick for remembering the coordinates quickly, and I said that at the end of class I'd ask them to do it again. By the end of class, there was much more success (maybe half of the kids were able to get the coordinates correct). I think the immediate feedback helped to motivate them. And then I told them that we'd do the exercise again the next class. And we did, at the beginning and at the end of the next lesson, tagging on to the unit circle basic equations to solve within the range of 0 to 360 degrees. I said that the next time I see them, this'd be a quiz collected for a grade.

In Grade 11 we're doing something similar, but primarily to review older prerequisite skills (such as writing line equations) that I think the kids should already know, and that I only wish to brush up on. We would do the same skill at the start of class, end of class, and next start of class. And then soon we'd have a mini quiz on it also at the start of a class, collected for a grade.

So, a long time ago when I taught middle school for the first time, our school implemented daily quizzes. I kind of hated them, because it was so much grading, even though it was a good practice for the kids. I really like my new 5-minute drills, because I think they are the best of both worlds. The kids still feel the time pressure and the need to be correct, but they're not graded that often and it's less work for me. For my Grade 7 and Grade 8 students, I let them do two problems a day on mini whiteboards. (I got lucky and was gifted a class set, along with markers and erasers, when I sent out a request asking to borrow them.) This is important because in Grades 7 and 8 we are working on basic skills like fractions, percents, equations, etc. The boards are a nice way to quickly check in with all kids on a daily basis, and I can see who is sure of themselves and who is not. Now that I have taught with mini whiteboards, I really don't think I can go back! I love that  kids also write their normally snarky comments on the whiteboards instead of calling them out, so that only I can "hear" those comments. Cuteness. I saw one kid write "DUH!" on his board when another kid made an obvious observation. One day I kept them over the class accidentally (since our school does not have bells), and a kid raised his board that said, "Class ended!" So, they're great for classroom management as well as daily assessment.

I'm still trying all kinds of things this year, but working close to 60 hours this week is taking its toll. Grade 9 is my baby, because this again is a very low class, and this year a bigger group. I will be doing all kinds of experimental things with them, and if it works, I'll share the strategies with y'all. So far, so good. The kids are able to graph linear functions by making tables, and they're able to write linear equations from a table. Not a bad first week for kids who couldn't graph points on Day 1!!! They also go around and check off each other's answers, which I think is so awesome because they need to be building confidence alongside content knowledge.

So, 60 hours-ish this week. A bit rough. But I am loving it!!! I also really love sharing classrooms this year. I teach in about 5 different rooms, and I just love it. Even though I have to carry my supplies everywhere and it's a pain, I am all in other people's spaces and talking to them regularly as a result. It's really nice, because it forces me out of being in the workaholic zone. Anyway, I am hoping that things will calm down soon on the department chair side, so that I can get back to a normal work schedule and re-gain work-life balance.

I hope your years are off to a wonderful start! :) Hi web, goodbye web. See you soon, hopefully.