The curriculum I use for math comes with some differentiation of work. There are different worksheets and several versions of tests available. The worksheets work pretty well because for my class because there are usually several for each lesson that fit the needs of my students. What I have found frustrating are the chapter tests. Although there are several versions of a multiple choice and free-response test, they are almost always very text heavy. I don’t feel like they align very well with the worksheets and book work either. I have several students in my class who aren’t able to effectively express what they know in math on these types of assessments. For this reason, I have created my own versions of assessments to better support these students. The assessments I have created have the same content but are less text heavy. Differentiated Math Test is an example of one of these assessments (although it didn’t scan well).
I’ve had mixed feelings about exit tickets. As a student, I’ve felt frustrated when they are given out without adequate time to fill them out. I’ve felt like they put pressure on me. But, I’ve also seen them as a way to have a personal conversation with my teachers. Because of my mixed feeling about exit tickets, I was a little hesitant to introduce them to my class. I ended up using them three times this week, and the information I gained from them was really helpful.
Three days this week for math class, I asked students to fill out an exit ticket with two content related questions, a self-assessment question and a question asking them to identify how they could extra help if they need it. The content questions provided me with a quick and simple tool for assessment. It only took a few minutes to get an idea how every student in the class was doing. I like the self-assessment question for two reasons: I can easily get a sense of who needs additional support and it provides a way for my students to take ownership of their own learning. The last question, where they identify how they can get additional help if they need it not only promotes a sense of ownership, but allows me to get to know my students and their study habits a bit more. For example, I can see that D feels most comfortable asking his parents for help, H actually uses the online textbook tutorials and J likes to ask students at his table group for help.
Using exit tickets this week also allowed me to have evidence of student learning to share during post observation conferences. It was great to have an assessment that I could go through in just a few minutes. When asked what I thought students had learned, I could easily point to evidence from the exit tickets (in addition to other evidence). I know they don’t give the whole picture, but I feel like they are a valuable tool. I even had a student ask if we were going to do them more often, because she really liked them.
Math in my main placement has been pretty predictable: we try to stick with the district pacing guide, have minilessons (with some student input) and most of the work is from the book. So when I was asked to find problems that would lend themselves to rich mathematical discussions, I wondered how I could make it work with my class. Imagine my surprise, when I walked into the classroom on Monday, and saw several new posters up on the wall depicting math problems. My CT told me he had given the class a few problems to think about on their own and then assigned a problem to each table group. Each group worked on the problem together and then made a poster showing their thinking. The timing of the whole thing was perfect.
My CT really wanted me to be able to see it in action, so we planned another problem for the students to work on. We presented the problem to the students and let them work on them individually for a few minutes. The groups then came together to decide on a common strategy to represent on their posters. The particular problem posed didn’t have one correct answer, so there was a lot of discussion on how to solve it. As I circulated around the room, I heard students posing arguments, compromising and defending their thinking. After each group completed their poster, we had a gallery walk. Students were encouraged to use sticky notes to leave questions and comments on the posters.
I loved seeing my students so engaged in a math activity. They did a great job of really engaging with the work and each other’s posters (resisting the temptation to use this as a social time). I’m looking forward to having more of these activities included in our math curriculum!