Friday, September 11, 2015

The First Day of School 2016

Yesterday was our first day with our students.  Yes, we must have been the last school in the United States to start up!  (Oh wait, I did see some school out west...Seattle?....that went on strike.  So maybe NOT the last!)

I high fived my juniors and it was lovely!  The only word I can think of to describe their reaction is "delighted".  They lit up!  They laughed!  They high fived each other after they entered the room! It was so fun to watch.  Thanks, Glenn Waddell !

The best word(s) to describe my freshmen when I high fived them?  "Deer in the headlights" comes to mind....They high fived, but were very timid.  Not like the slaps the juniors gave me.  I am interested how long it will take.  Most were still timid "fivers" today!  I wonder how long it will take for them to start giving me a good "slap" high five!?

This class contains some of the "underperforming" freshmen.  We did the Four 4's yesterday and I forgot the most basic element:  that you have to use FOUR 4's to make an expression that will equal 1, then FOUR 4's that make an expression that equals 2, etc.  I just let them go at it: "You can only use 4's and any operation to make expressions that will equal the numbers 1 -10."  They were making strings of two 4's and strings of eight 4's and everything in between.  Duh.....

Well, I gotta tell you, it was a LOT of fun.  I may have messed up, but I did more formative assessment than if I had actually PLANNED it!  I found some who didn't know number facts, some who couldn't follow instructions, some who didn't know order of operations.  I found some who had some really unique and interesting ways of thinking, and some who could communicate really well, as well as some who had fabulous ideas and no way to talk about them.  I found some who could only write down the number 4 and then stare at it.  I found some who needed a calculator just to get going.  Amazing stuff!  And this was DAY 1 !!!

We worked on just the number 1 for a few minutes. First they worked on their individual white boards and right away I could see who didn't understand the instructions.  I asked someone who had an answer to put theirs on the board and explain how it came out to the number 1.  

"Oh! I did it differently!"  
(Be still my heart) 

"Would you mind showing us what YOU did?"  Up to one of the white boards she went.

"Oh! I have another!" I heard from the back. 
"Come on down!" I encouraged.  

This young man did the order of operations incorrectly.  Someone asked didn't this have to happen before that?  

"Could you explain what you are asking a little more?"  

"I think he wanted us to add up all those 4's and then divide that answer by 4."  And then he turned to the kid in question and asked: "Is that right?"

(I melted.)

"Yeah, that's right."

"So how could you get us to think like you?  Is there some way to make us do what you did FIRST?"

"Oh, I think I need parentheses here."

I let them all keep working.  As they came up with new expressions for various values, they added it to the poster paper.  I encouraged multiple representations, and they were happy to go at it.

Finally one kid looked up and said: "Hey, we can just make building blocks and we could make any number we want!"

The others all looked at him like he had 5 heads.  

"Could you explain that?  Maybe show us what you are thinking about?"

He took an expression that equaled 2 and added it to an expression that came out to be 3:  "This whole thing will equal 5."   A few wide eyes.  A lot more that were deer in the headlights again.  

"See:  this much equals 2 (he writes 2 above the appropriate expression) and this is 3 (does same and puts + sign between them)."

"OOOOOOOOOOH!"  And then it was bedlam.  And it was wonderful.

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