2011-12 Goals for Algebra 2 (i.e. Stuff I SAY I’m gonna do but I know I’ll forget about later)

Thanks to @druinok who has agreed to harass me to blog. She’s doing her job and even busted me while I was at the pool and SUPPOSED to be bloggin’. I luvs her for being tough on me because if she DOESN’T make me do it, I’ll just be a lazy bum again this year.

Soooo to the topic at hand (sing with me like Pablo Cruise): WHATCHA GONNA DO FOR NEXT SEMESTER? Sorry, I tried to make it work to Beastie Boys, but I’m not that cool.

I teach two different classes of Algebra 2 – one for 11th/12th graders and an “honors” version for 10th graders that are gonna cruise right into AP Calculus. But I teach the same WAY, just a faster rate to that younger group. Both groups have their own individual issues, but for the most part I have the same goals for both:

1. Fix the pacing!
I have less than a week to figure this sucker out. Our school does math pacing like so: Algebra 1 –> Geometry –> Algebra 2. Yours might as well and that’s fine, but there’s a problem with it here. They remember NOTHING about Algebra 1 when they get to me. And Algebra 1 is usually all year (made of two smaller courses) and they don’t do much review of those skills in geometry. Plus, our state SUUUCCCKS by cramming too much into the Algebra 1 curriculum and then testing on it. That’s a blog post for another time. (I say that A LOT). Anyway, most of the Algebra 2 curriculum here is Algebra 1 review. We teach about 6 chapters and 3.5 of them are things they “learned” in Algebra 1. I say it like that because they are expected to learn so MUCH in Algebra 1 that they don’t learn anything very WELL. They don’t learn enough of the Algebra 2 curriculum because we’re busy reviewing. So how do I fix this? I have NO IDEA! I would like to do a “boot camp” of sorts and condense it, but then I might be skipping skills that they didn’t learn very well in Algebra 1 and that will screw me over later in my course. I’m open for ideas and suggestions. I’m on block schedule, too, so keep that in mind.

2. I suck at bell/closure activities.
It’s a part of class that is necessary and helpful and I SHOULD do it better than I’ve done it in the past. I think that’s where I lose a lot of time in class because they’re not really focused and tardies are an issue (again MY FAULT). If I would prep better, I could have these ready to go and not waste time making them on the fly. Kids don’t usually take bell activities seriously so there’s gotta be a way to make it relevant but hold them accountable to make SURE they’re doing it. I hate paper, but I’m ok with notecards, so I’m going to try that. We complain that kids are too dependent on calculators, but don’t really challenge kids to stay away from them, so I think that’s part of how I will do my bell activities this year. They start right when the bell rings and will just be a “fast and furious five” minutes of middle school skills with NO CALCULATOR. This is similar to 8falls Math Party (where did that guy go, anyway?). For example, in week one I will challenge the kids to see how many integer operations they can do (out of about 50 problems) in 5 minutes and we will raise the bar every day. Why integer operations? Students need to be familiar with them for the next few sections we’ll do in Algebra 2. So the bell activity preps their skills before we really need them. Haven’t decided if these will be self-graded or peer graded yet, but they will be turned in immediately after. That way there’s no possibility for students to copy or pretend to do it. I usually give my students 5-8 minutes to peer review homework and help each other so I am hoping to quickly review the bell activity cards during this time. I won’t put them in the gradebook, but it will allow me to make notes of any issues or really low scores (so I can pull those kids in for tutoring). At the end of class, they get their notecard back to do the closure problems on the back. I have a few ideas for closure, but nothing concrete. Part of me wants them to do 2 or 3 basic problems to make sure they’ve got it, part of me wants them to do one basic and one moderately difficult problem, and part of me wants them just to do a journal type “I get…. But I DON’T get….”. But doing bell activity on one side and closure on the other will eliminate some paper (which I HATE) but also try not to waste the notecards the kids buy.

3. I have got to get away from “fast food” tutoring.
My old tutoring policy was, “I will stay after any day or come early any morning – just let me know in advance”. So kids got tutoring when they wanted it (just like Taco Bell.. mmmm. Hungry… Sorry. Distracted). I can’t allow that “on call” tutoring to go on this year. Now before you get all offended, please understand that my son almost failed 2nd grade this past year. I think it was MAINLY because I put more time into my students than him – grading for 2 hours and getting frustrated trying to do my job and make sure he was doing his own school work. Most days I just wanted him to get it done and I didn’t really care if it was right and I didn’t spend time working on skills to help him. I was that parent that never went over vocabulary words or listened to my child read 20 minutes a night like I was supposed to. I completely wronged my child because my priorities were totally out of wack. I’m ashamed to say it, but I’m trying to be honest. Anyway, I was tutoring my students more than paying attention to my son and I can’t do that this year. He probably only got 15 minutes of “mom time” a day and that’s just negligence. He HAS to come first or the effects on his education are going to be exponentially devastating. And it will totally be my fault. So I need to find a way to tutor on one afternoon and two or three mornings a week. Hopefully I’ll still have that 30 minutes of tutoring time still built into our school schedule for “advisors”. I’ll need to set up a way of peer tutoring using my higher level kids (having 30 students show up for tutoring is overwhelming!!).

4. Algebra 2 is boring. That’s got to stop.
Stats is so cool because you are bombarded by it every day. Algebra 2 – not as obvious and sometimes not at all. Honestly, when’s the last time you had to find the possible rational zeros of a function? Anyway, @druinok and I are working on that and she’s busting her butt to get some activities to put into class to make kids like it. The physics and chem teachers are around the corner from me. I need to take my list of Alg 2 topics to them and see what they use and if we can do some cross-curricular stuff.

5. Do not allow “No Child Left Behind” to kick my behind.
I suck at paperwork. Too many freakin forms to prove I am doing everything I possibly can to give each child the best education possible. Too little time to write up the documentation, make copies of all samples, and dig through our school records vault to search through all the paperwork on the kid. My state (which shall remain nameless) and district (same respect) has unrealistic expectations for DOCUMENTATION of the help we give for the kids. But I don’t know how to battle it. Neither do the teachers that I work with. We all do so much, but we get in trouble for the documentation because the district doesn’t want to get sued. And the forms we have to fill out are INSANE. I’m not complaining just to complain. I mean it – INSANE. But like it or not, I gotta do it.

6. Parent communication.
I need to do a better job with documentation of parent communication. I know we have e-mail, but a lot of our parents do not have access and we have to resort to phone calls. I need to find a better way of keeping up with this because I’ve tried a lot of different things and none of them really work for my A.D.D. brain. Notecards, folders, notebooks, etc. But if you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.

7. Just say no.
Say no to clubs that I don’t know anything about, say no to heading committees that eat into time after school with my child, say no to teachers who know I can’t say no so they ask me to do crap they could do but won’t… Ugh.

Well, this is all I’ve got right now… this blog will be a work in progress… I think…
Oh, did I mention that my computer crashed and I lost everything for Algebra 2? yeah.
So I gotta work on that as well.


3 thoughts on “2011-12 Goals for Algebra 2 (i.e. Stuff I SAY I’m gonna do but I know I’ll forget about later)

  1. Hi!

    I don't know how I got here and I realize this is a really old post, but I liked it. Not sure because you were nice and honest, or because your issues resemble my issues!

    Have you ever seen this — http://kitchentablemath.blogspot.com/2007/06/gambill-method-from-ktm1.html — it seems like a good way to do bellwork as a review, though I love your idea of using it initially to speed up basic facts.


  2. PS it also makes exit slips less important, I think and the truth is that if they don't have it at the end of the period, there's not time to change it then, only to have that knowledge!


  3. I've noticed that many parents that don't have email DO own cellphones. With my “Dear Parents” letter, I offer to provide text alerts whenever there's an upcoming assessment so that the parent can make sure their child is studying for it. I use the Newsflash alerts feature on teacherweb.com, which means the parents sign themselves up for it and then I just send a broadcast message out to all the parents who've signed up for it. It doesn't solve all of the parent communication problems, but it definitely cuts down on them. There's probably other sites that do it for less (or free) than teacherweb, but since I have my teacher page on there, it's a bonus feature for me.

    Paul Hawking
    blog: The Challenge of Teaching Math


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