Launching an activity: Cut to the chase!

Howdy. If you’re reading this and you haven’t read my super long post from last night (technically, it went live early this morning), this post might not have enough context. At any rate, I’m aiming for a better day today in fifth period (Algebra 1) and my game plan is this: When giving directions for a group activity, cut to the chase.

The original activity is here. In the past, I’ve introduced this activity with a minute or so of verbal directions and then cut the kids loose. I fell on my face yesterday using that approach (verbal directions as the means of launching an activity), possibly because I haven’t spent the necessary time clarifying in my own mind both the goal of the activity and the directions for students.

My attempt at more concise directions (in non-verbal form) comes in the form of these slides:

I’ll probably let you know how today goes in another post. I’m hopeful that this new wave of constant reflection will provide my students (at least in the long run) with a better teacher. In the meantime, feel free to comment on what you like/dislike about the activity and the “launching” (key question and directions) of the activity.

Thanks!

1. Could you build on the task with an addition to the end where they create their own quadratic and then write up a key for the graph, intercepts and factors? They could switch it with another group and verify their answers? Otherwise, it’s a nice task. Connections between the factors and the graph are particular sticking points for a bunch of kids.

2. I like the idea of having them create their own when they’re done. And those students don’t come to my room for another hour or so… If I’m quick they’ll benefit from your suggestion today (instead of next year). Thanks!

3. One thing I’ve done occasionally with matching activities is deliberately leave one out. So they end up with an equation that has no graph, or vice versa, and have to generate the missing one. For added chaos, leave out one of each – just let them know that this was done, so that they’re not trying to match up the two left overs as being equal. (I grant this is less open than Dan’s example.)

By the way, that’s a really impressive handout. O.o How do you find the time to make something like that? Template?

4. Great suggestion regarding deliberately leaving out one card from each category. This week I’ll rewrite the activity to include that wrinkle. I made the handout using Pages (I’m on a Mac, and hate Microsoft Office with a passion), MathType, and some graphs from TI Nspire software. More recent handouts of mine are starting to include graphs made with http://www.desmos.com. The handout didn’t take much time at all. In fact, in trying to perfect the art of “conversational direct instruction” I’ve created a treasure trove of nicely formatted mediocre handouts. They may not be rich tasks, but they sure look pretty. I suppose once I start creating more rich tasks for my students, my rich tasks will be nice and shiny. 🙂 Maybe one day I’ll write a post about how I use Pages, MathType, etc. Do you think anyone would care to read about that? Or not so much?

Thanks for commenting!

5. I think it would be worth reading about, though perhaps more to the point, do you think you’d get something more out of writing about it? I’m also on a Mac (love the snapshot feature), but my Board is PC-crazy, so I float back and forth. Head banging ensues when I pull something up on Work PC that I find “cannot be viewed without a Quicktime compressor”. Sigh. (I also still use Equation Editor, haven’t upgraded over uncertainties about compatibility.)

6. Love this activity! I think the concise written directions are a good idea, too.

On my first day of Algebra 2 class, I had a similar but less pretty handout where each quadratic has a graph, an equation (in some form or other), a table of values, and a word problem. Each kid as they walk in the door gets one, and they need to find the others who have the same quadratic in order to form their groups of 4.