Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Day 87: EdCamp Midterm

First response from my female students: "His hair is brown, Mr. Aion!"

I can't say that I've ever had an effective method of test review for my students.  What I HAVE had is a comfortable, familiar method.  Stop me if you've heard this one!

Students come into the room and tell them we're going to have a test soon.  They groan as though we don't have a test at the end of EVERY chapter.  I give them a review packet or practice test.  Sometimes, I go CRAZY and let them work on it in groups, asking each other and me for help with problems they don't understand.  After a sufficient amount of time has passed, I pull the class back together and go over any specific questions that students have.  Then we have a test.

Over the past few months, I've been preaching the gospel of EdCamp, the self-directed style of professional development is something that speaks to me on a deeply personal level.  I have previously written about EdcampPGH (and will again after the next one in April) and tell my colleagues how they should be attending.

So I'm ashamed that it took me so long to come up with this idea.

Today, I hosted EdCampMidterm!

With the 2-hour delay this morning, I had more than enough time to set up my room in a mini-version of the Big Board from EdCamp.  Here's the idea:

Yesterday, the geometry students received a 71 question Midterm Review Packet.  They were given all day yesterday to work on it and were told they would also get today and part of tomorrow, with the midterm on Friday.

When they came in today, they saw sign-up sheets on the walls for numbers 1-72 in 8 questions increments.  They were told to sign up for any number that they feel they could adequately explain to another student.  There are a maximum of 4 spaces per number.

When a student has a question about number 43, instead of asking me, they go to the Big Board, see who understands that question and then seeks help from that student.

  • Students are teaching each other, thus solidifying their own understanding of concepts
  • Multiple sign-ups per question allow a student to choose who teaches them, not being forced to rely on someone with whom they not get along
  • Looking at the sign up sheets, I can clearly see which questions I need to address to the class as a whole (ones with no sign-ups)
  • Instead of putting themselves out there with their weaknesses (raising their hand to ask questions) students are putting themselves out there with their strengths ("This is what I can help you with")
Anticipated Trouble Spots:
  • A student signs up for nothing
    • Talk with student about what issues they are having, work with them on a problem, once they work through an answer, encourage them to sign up for that problem to help others
  • A student unwilling to help a specific student
    • I didn't think this would be a huge problem because my students love to show off what they know, but I had to keep my eyes and ears open for social difficulty
  •  Student teaching each other with mistakes
    • Dealing with this is a simple matter of being present and observing the interactions
Occasionally, I am SUPER pumped to try out an activity with my kids.  This is one that I'm VERY excited about.

I am hesitant to try this with my pre-algebra students, but I will on the next test they take.  Today was just a pilot to see if the idea is sound.

I approached one of my pre-algebra students who had nothing on his desk.  I asked if he was working on the Emperor's New Math Homework.  When he didn't get the reference, I told him and his friends the story of the Emperor's New Clothes.  When I had finished, they had this conversation:

"I don't get it..."
"He saying you butt naked in your work!"

On a totally unrelated note, I did a teaching podcast when I first in the classroom.  I found out today that I was quoted in a book called Podcasting for Teachers! (Page 232) How cool!!

Also, more of my students wore Doctor Who gear today!


  1. WOW! That took a big brave to get into that one. Did the students enjoy the process? Did you happen to formally survey them to get a quantifiable opinion? Now I have to try and figure out how to apply it to my classroom. Great job!

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for sharing the post! It seemed as though they did, especially once they got a bit more comfortable with it, which is why I'm going to do it for another day. I didn't collect any formal data about their opinions, but I will be talking to them about informal opinions. It worked very well with students who want to show off what they know to each other and not just to the teacher.

      I'm not sure how well it will work with my pre-algebra (less academically motivated) students, but when I try it with them, I'll keep you posted!

  2. Fabulous job helping me walk through your thinking and processing. Going to share this with my other teaching friends. You are inspiring.

    1. Thanks! It was such a cool idea, if I do say so myself. If you can, you should attend an EdCamp. They are all over the country so there should be one near you!

      I'll happily answer any questions you may have!

  3. I find this idea very interesting. Please let us know more about it works out in the long run.

    1. I will. It was fascinating to watch how discussions changed when they felt that they were going to be the ones teaching others. Their tones changed and even the vocabulary they used was different.

  4. Awesome, Justin! Love this idea! I've done a similar thing with centers and students becoming "experts" at their center, but have never thought of doing it for review. Thanks!


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