Friday, October 5, 2012

Summary and Review

Over the course of the last few weeks, one piece of the "puzzle" has been lost in the discussions, and that is the importance of review.  By this, I don't mean reviewing the material at the end of a unit immediately before a test, because we have been doing that.  I mean reviewing every day, for about five minutes at the end of the period, summarizing the stuff we covered that day, and I'm as guilty of forgetting to make sure this happens as the students are.  My recommendation to them from the beginning has been to summarize each problem once it has been completed, writing a clean set of notes in a separate notebook that lists the important skills, formulas, etc., that were needed to solve the exercise.  Lately, however, this piece is being left out, due to time constraints (shortened bells) or just getting so deeply involved in the discussion that  the end of the class arrives long before any of us are expecting it.  And while I love it when those discussions happen (and they have been happening more frequently), the price to be paid is the students not having a good set of notes from which to study when the test rolls around.  So, the sacrifice of leaving some questions unanswered until the next day is going to have to be made.

I also noticed this week a particular quality of the more effective groups: they all have the student at the board explaining their exercise as they are writing, rather than writing everything on the board and then explaining what they wrote.  The group is more actively engaged in the problem from the beginning, the mistakes get corrected earlier in the process, and students at the table are not just scribbling down what's on the board, but instead are asking questions about what is being written and including the explanation of the process in their notes.  So, I mentioned to the students on Friday (the beginning of the new unit) that this seems to be more effective, and so far...OK, today...the groups were all working in this way, and in that the discussions were more effective.

Finally, I mentioned above that the good, deep discussions are happening more frequently.  One of the reason I believe this is happening is that the material on the worksheets is taking more than just recall, more than just brushing off the dust and getting the algebra 2 material back up to speed.  The "new material" from the beginning of the year is now being used, and the "newer material" is being built on top of it.  Because of this, the discussions are not only covering the introduction of the new material, but are also solidifying the "older new material".  And in that, none of the material is being least not for long.  My hope is that this will pay off at the end of the trimester as we review for the exam.  I guess we'll see.

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