Friday, October 16, 2015

Algebra 1

So it turns out that running a Harkness-based, standards-based algebra 1 classroom is exhausting.

It's not impossible...far from it.  The kids who are on-board with the method - which is most of them - are doing fine.  The discussions are lively, the kids are learning, and life is good.  I am able to give the kids a lot more individual attention than I have in the past, and as a result I have a better feel for where each of them is with the material.  All good things.

As you would expect, the kids have a lot of questions.  In general, more questions than the honors pre-calc kids, and they're less shy about asking.  Giving some kids individual attention makes the other kids want individual attention, and now I have a room essentially full of kids who want my help to learn algebra, which is a very good thing.  This is what teaching is supposed to be about: me helping the kids learn.

This is a natural fit for a standards-based grading system.  Individualized, daily, formative assessment for individualized learning.

But it is exhausting.

That's not a complaint, by the way.  Quite the opposite.  The fact that I have freshmen who start class by themselves before the bell rings is great.  The fact that I was able to do conferences last week without needing to print out a grade sheet or anything like that because I know the kids well enough to speak about their strengths and weaknesses is great.

But there is a price to pay for it.  Giving the kids constant chances to demonstrate they have learned or retained the material - whether in the form of short quizzes every day or kids asking to come in before or after school to show what they know - is time consuming. It cuts into time needed to do all of the other things that go into preparing for the class.  Things that, of course, have to happen.  So really it cuts into the time spent on other things, like writing a blog you're using as a means of reflecting on how things are going.

It's worth it.  The kids are focused on learning and retaining the material.  The rapport with the students is good.  The year is rolling along nicely.

But it's time for bed.


  1. Being exhausted sums up SBG and PBL nicely, even though parents want to think you "aren't doing anything". I'm curious how many algebra I standards you have for the year and if you wrote them yourself or took them from CC or Ohio Standards. Rest up!

  2. Just noticed I never responded to this. The standards are the Ohio standards, which are pretty much the CC standards.