Saturday, January 31, 2015

Today I will read your future minds...

A few weeks ago my math class started algebra concepts.   I have a fantastic lesson that I spiced up thanks from some advice from Dave Burgess and his excellent seminar on how to Teach Like a Pirate.    Students sit down, get out their notebook, look up and read the board.  However, instead of the usual warm up or friendly message, they see :  "Today I will read your future mind!"

They giggle as usual, and taunt my talents.  I play along - "Oh, doubters... just wait.  You don't even know what you are thinking yet... but I do...."

With that I take out an index card and turn my back to the class.  I look over my shoulder a few times, making sure to have direct eye contact with a few of them.   As I'm turned I write a message on the index card.  I put this index card into an envelope, seal it, walk up to one student very deliberately, and put it into the student's binder, folder, or book, warning all of them not to even touch the envelope.  I then explain how soon they will all write what I have just written on this card.

Hook?  Check.

I then lead them through the typical pick-a-number scheme where you add, multiply, and do all this magic to the number.   I encourage them to choose a lower number as there is some arithmetic to do to this number, but really any number will work.  No calculators are allowed and students must show their work for each step.

Here is the algorithm I lead them through.  I haven't tried reading minds over the realm of the internet, but I'm willing to have a go.  All of you readers, math geeks and non, should play along.  I'm curious if I can use my psychic powers through wifi.  Here are the steps I give my students:

  • No talking from here out - it disrupts the psychic energy.
    • pick a number 
    • double that number
    • add 4 to the result
    • triple that result 
    • subtract 6 
    • divide by 6 
    • add 4 
    • subtract the original number from this result (this step usually takes some clarifying)
    • circle this final answer
    Now I want you to look at this chart.  Find the letter that corresponds to the final answer circled on your paper and write that letter on your paper.

    For instance, if you got a 8, you'd choose 'h'

    I always make sure to walk around the room to see what number is circled and to clarify this step.  I also help students that may have made a mistake in arithmetic.

    Once everyone has their letter I stop and build the drama a bit more.  I close my eyes - pretend to meditate... whatever. Get a good psychic vibe in that room!

    When I continue I ask them to think of an animal that starts with the letter they have written down and have them write this animal in their notebook (telling them specifically that spelling doesn't count.)  For example, a student that gets an 8 could write 'hyena'.

    I then ask them to think of a color that animal can be, and to write that as well.  For instance, if they got an 8 they might choose a brown hyena, but can't pick a pink hyena.

    At this point I walk back to the student that has the envelope.  I look at the answer in their notebook and smile.  I ask them if they think I have the same thing written on the card in the envelope.  They always hesitate.  The anticipation is thrilling.  I ask that student to open the envelope and to read out loud what is written.

    Most of the time they don't even read it out loud.  Most of the time they shout out "NO WAY!"  Generally what happens from there is the rest of the class reacts with shock and awe with a hint of fear.  Eventually the card gets read.  Students are in disbelief.  How is this possible?  Will you teach me?  PLEASE? TELL ME YOUR SECRET (seriously - students begging to be taught?)  Nobody can believe that I have done the impossible.  Same color. Same animal... well, 95% of the time.

    If you are playing along you might wonder what is on in that envelope and if I've read your mind through the world of cyberspace.

    You may wonder, if in fact, I will end this post with the words grey elephant.  

    I think I will.

    Next time I'm using one of these as a prop.

    Sunday, January 25, 2015

    Are you feeling lucky, punk?

    Hello, World!  As promised I have the second part of my protocol outlined below.  This review game is based on the one presented last week, Card Sharks. I use this version in bigger groups, usually 16 or more, though this game plays well for classes of 12 students and larger.

    Title: Higher / Lower

    Quick Summary: Students will review various skills and practice probability.

    Materials needed: A 20-sided die

    Prep: Review questions for the class

    see: Card sharks - The procedure is identical :)

    How to "Play the Board"

    Initially you need to set up a row for each group:

    We will have 5 groups in this game

    We talk about the die and that it has the numbers ranging from one to 20 on it.  My class is very used to this die by now, but the initial time you play every single student that hasn't seen one of these will want to play with it... And the students that are familiar with it will instantly ask you if you are a gamer.

    yes... yes I am.

    From there groups that earned the right to play the board get to choose if the next roll of the die will be higher or lower than a 10.  I then write in an arrow to confirm their choice.  I generally give them a few seconds to collaborate, so they all have to call the same answer.

    I forgot to take that photo - so here is one with ms paint arrows instead :)

    Groups that are correct get to play on; groups that are wrong lose all of their progress.  There are a few differences between this and the card version:

    • I don't allow them to change their number after they freeze - I have found that this takes too much time away from the academic time in larger groups. 
    • Each group plays the same roll (rather than having their own row of cards).  This means there could be different base numbers for each group.
    Play continues with groups reviewing concepts, predicting higher or lower, debating the next, and freezing when they feel they should stop.

    After a while the board starts filling up nicely:

    In this game, group one was doing well, but went for it all and missed!

    When the game continues from this point, Group 4 would be guessing higher or lower than a 9, while groups 3 and 5 would be predicting from a base of 13, group two would have a base of 2 and group 1 would start with their 10.   I put the arrows on their next space, then roll.

    Remember: not every group is guaranteed a play each turn!

    The groups get very into this game and start talking strategy early.  They keep each other accountable for doing the review work since they do not know which member of the group will be "randomly" checked during that phase.

    I love this game because of it's versatility.  You can play it in any subject for any topic.  I've used it for science, math, and language.  Specifically, this lesson involved writing FANBOYS and aaawwubbis sentences using correct punctuation.  I'd love to hear how things go in your room when you try it out!  Comment below!

    Monday, January 19, 2015

    Another Review Game, 80s game show style!

    I hope everyone had an amazing winter break.  Things have been crazy here in Columbus - with Ohio State winning the first National Football College Championship and all.   That story actually has been a great anchor for teaching about growth vs fixed mindsets due to all the injuries that OSU had to endure, the changes the staff and team had to make, and the success they still earned.

    This week I'm presenting a highly engaging review game that my students love playing.  It is 100% based on the 1980s game show "Card Sharks" featuring Bob Eubanks.

    If you never experienced the 80s, this video will answer lots of questions...
    ... if you did experience the 80s, this video will give you bad flashbacks.
    skip to 4:50 if you just want to see how the game is played :)

    In this game students work as a team to review concepts taught.  This protocol is 100% adaptable for any age group or subject, and needs minimal preparation.

    I have two versions of this game: one for smaller groups of sixteen or less that uses a standard deck of cards, and one for groups of more than twelve that uses a 20 sided die (twelve to sixteen students can effectively use either version.)  I'll be outlining the card version today and the dice version next week.

    Title: Higher / Lower (or card sharks)

    Quick Summary: Students will review various skills and practice probability

    Materials needed: A deck of cards

    Prep: Review questions for the class

    1) Divide the students into small groups

    2) Students take out their notebook.

    3) Teacher puts a review problem on the board.

    4) Students solve the problem as a team, completing work in their own notebook.  They may, of course, help their teammates.  During this time I'm usually walking the room monitoring behavior, tone (keying in on competitive students that may not be patient with others), and giving subtle hints.  I'm also usually reminding students they can only write in their own notebook.

    5) Teacher chooses a random person from each group and checks that person's work, noting which groups got a correct or incorrect answer.

    6) Review the answer as a class - any group that got a correct answer gets to play the board (see below.)  All students that got an incorrect answer should copy the correct procedure, making note of their errors, even if the group got a correct answer.

    It is important during the review time that all students understand that even if most of the group gets a correct answer, you are only checking on one random person per group.  This builds concurrent engagement and accountability.  I'll roll a die to 'decide' the student I'm looking at.  Naturally I'm looking at everyone's work and making notes on my clipboard, but the illusion of picking a random student is there :)

    How to "Play the board"

    For smaller classes I set up a row of cards for each team.  I'll put six to eight cards in a row depending on how long I want the game to last.

    The game is afoot!

    Groups that have correct answers get to decide if the next card is higher or lower.  It is important to establish the order of the cards.  I write the card values from low to high on the front board so students have a visual of this number line.  If they are correct they can continue and risk their gains, or 'freeze' and guarantee their safety.  An incorrect answer knocks them back to the previous freeze point or the start if there was no freeze point.

    I turn the card sideways to signify 'freeze'

    The other groups then gets an opportunity to play (assuming that they had the correct answer to the review problem.)  In this version I play classic "card shark game show" style in the sense that players can choose to keep the frozen card or change it for the top card in the deck.  

    I find this game provides lots of excitement, is a great review of probability (there was so much discussion on whether you should 'go for it' with a nine showing), and gets students imbedded into the review lesson.  

    And of course it leads to situations that you couldn't really predict...

    The 9 changes ... to a QUEEN!
    Lower than a queen - A FOUR!
    Higher than a four... another four... 
    "Is ... that.. wait... NOOOOO!!!!!!"

    Next week I will include how I've use this game with classes as big as forty-plus students!  I'll also be back later this week with a bonus blog (to make up for the one that I missed!)