Sunday, November 8, 2009

More Than Just Worksheets

I usually teach seniors. At that point, they are so close to finishing high school, they understand that to graduate, they must do their work. Occasionally, they skip a homework assignment or two, but if I give them time in class to do work, they work. I can give worksheets or book work; students are fine working individually and if they need help, they ask a friend and learn how to solve the problem.

This year, I have two periods of sophomores. My usual hands-off approach doesn't work. These students still need extrinsic motivation to solve their problems. I'm working hard to try to come up with new ideas and projects that will not only force students to work together but force them to actually solve the problems.

Force is a strong word. I'm trying to be more creative in the method that the problems are presented to get them motivated to solve them. Whether it's review Bingo, speed math, group problem solving*, or my one problem per person class quiz**, I've got to get them motivated to solve. There is no motivation to solve on their own.

Which brings me back to my seniors. Yes, the vast majority of the students are doing the work and learning the material. But would they learn more and do more if they problems were presented in a more intriguing way? This may change how I teach all of my classes.

*: Like group story writing. This works well in problems that have a lot of steps. Each student writes only one line of the solution. The next student has to use the previous line to create their line. This can be done as a full class or with students broken up into smaller groups. I've used this before to analytically create a graph in calculus or to solving a system of equations in algebra.

**: A regular quiz is given but each student is assigned to one problem. Students may elicit help from each other, but once a solution has been passed in to me, it can't be changed. The whole class gets the cumulative grade of quiz. Works as a great pop quiz.

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