Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Posters are up and the stamps are flying!

As I did last year, I have put up posters with student names and Khan exercises. As the students master an exercise, they get to stamp their success next to their name for that exercise. I wasn't sure I was going to do it this year, but I'm glad I did. The student's motivation has definitely increased.

I've also modified my Khan Journal requirement. Now, students can try up to 25 problems before they have to show their work. This way if they know something well enough to get a streak within 25 tries, then I really don't need to see the work. But if they haven't got their streak by then, then they need to slow down, watch a video and start writing down the steps they are doing.

The whole idea behind the journal was to keep students from trying 50, 60, 100 problems until they either see all the questions or just guess right. I think this method will work to prevent that. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sal Khan Spoke at UCSB

I live in Santa Barbara, CA. Sal Khan spoke at UCSB last night and I had the chance to go hear him. His talk was very informal and similar to his TED talk, but with more detail on how he started, what he hopes to accomplish in the future for the Academy, and where he sees/hopes education will go in the near future. He really validated many ideas I have had about teaching math.

My wife, who also came to the talk, asked me afterward if what I had been telling her over the last few years about how math should be taught was just me repeating what I had heard from Khan. It was not. It was great for me to hear someone with the respect of many, like Bill Gates,  and the Google Corporation,  articulate what I believed to be true.

I had started to wane a bit on how I was using Khan and I started doing more full classroom direct instruction. After his talk last night, I was more inspired than ever to use the Academy both as homework for my students and also more in class. So, today I cut back on my lecture and gave students more time to work with Khan.

Here are some exact, unsolicited, quotes from today's class:
"This is the best math class we've ever had!"
"Yes, yes, I got it!!"
"Mr. D, I need your help, no wait I got."
"Can I stay here at lunch and finish up my exercises?"

My kids were focused, excited, incredibly enthusiastic, and obviously enjoying themselves. Can something that motivates students to try to succeed and to have a positive attitude in the classroom be harmful or detrimental to their learning? I think not.

BTW, week one of students eating during class has been a great success! The first day they needed to be reminded that it's okay to eat but they can't be drawing attention to themselves or disrupting the class by showing off their sandwich or whatever. After the novelty wore off, students just got their food and ate/drank while class was going on. No big deal and the classroom manger has kept my room nice and clean. When you give even young students responsibilities, after a few reminders, they handle it quite well.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Khan 2011-2012

I'm getting a little pressure from the powers above to add more direct instruction to my classes. So, I've started assigning KA for homework. I'm requiring each student to spend a minimum of 20 minutes, 4-times per week. They can do more, but need to show at least 4-20 minute sessions per week. Some are picking up from last year's class ( I have my students in both 7/8 grades). In any case, they need to start with Addition 1 and progress along the path suggested in the Knowledge Map.

In other news, I recently spent some time presenting workshops at several Google Offices around the country. All Google offices offer plenty of whiteboards to brainstorm on and the availability of food nearby. Over the summer I "painted" several of my desktops with a product called, IdeaPaint and transformed my tabletops into whiteboard surfaces. I also installed several sheets of Melamine on my walls for more whiteboard space. I want my students to feel free to move around, stand, and collaborate when they are doing their math work.

Today, I instituted another Google idea. I'm allowing my students to eat and drink in my room during class. Each class has a classroom manager who is responsible to make sure the room is cleaned up before dismissal. These are middle school students and I'm not sure if this will work. But I gave them a lecture about how more freedom also means more responsibility. I want to give my students as much decision-making freedom as they can handle. I'm hoping that as they take on more personal responsibility, they will take on more responsibility for their learning. Stay tuned.