Running around a Track III

11 Mar

I co-presented a power session at the T3 International Conference Sunday morning, and I’ve posted the stories that I shared of Running around a Track I and Running around a Track II from the Illustrative Mathematics tasks Running around a Track I and Running around a Track II. In this post, I want to process the feedback that we received from the participants during and after the session. (There is not really an IM task called Running around a Track III, although there could be one from some of the suggestions participants gave for extensions!) Several participants asked about the time that it takes to do rich tasks in class. I’m going to address that conversation in my next blog post, Making Time for Tasks.

The tasks have students make sense of the lanes on an Olympic Track.

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One participant didn’t understand why I changed tasks with the two classes. I neglected to explain that during the session. I was really just doing an experiment to see how the tasks were different and how students approached them depending on the given information. Was one easier for students than the other? Did I need to scaffold the tasks for my students differently than they were written? Were students more successful with one task than with the other?

On Saturday, I went to a session by @bamentj from Darwin, Australia and learned about TodaysMeet. I wondered about using it as a backchannel during the session. A lot of participants were using Twitter throughout the conference, but we wanted a place where participants could interact with each other more than usual in a large session – and not get lost in the conference hashtag (or use two hashtags to make a subset of tweets for our session) being used by the other power sessions as well. Even though this meant that others at the conference wouldn’t find out as much as they might have otherwise about our session, we still wanted to try it. We made a room called CCSSPower. The link will only be live through March 15, 2014.

Several times we asked participants to use the protocol “I like, I wish, I wonder …” to provide feedback. So it turned out that we didn’t use TodaysMeet as effectively as we could have. In fact, one of the first posts I read was from Joe: I wonder what the purpose of today’s is. I did not see the use other than to post comments/questions that never were answered.

My reply, after the session (in 3 posts): Hi, Joe. Thank you for your comment. If we were to use TodaysMeet again, we would have a second projector to observe and use the comments. I like that the back channel can give participants a chance to communicate, whether or not the instructors are able to address the comments. But I will definitely use it differently if I use it again in a session.

I’ve also thought since my post, that since we had co-presenters, whether or not we had the second projector, one of us could have been monitoring a second computer with the backchannel while the other spoke. We learn from our mistakes, right?

As I have read through the other comments so that I could address some of the questions in this blog post that we didn’t get to address in the session, I will say that while we could have used the backchannel more effectively, it wasn’t a disaster. Those who were on the backchannel were having their own conversation. Several of the questions did come out in our whole group discussion, and some questions were answered by others in the backchannel without the presenters having to get involved.

One participant liked the pre-assessment ACT question being the same as the post-assessment.

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I am glad that one of the teachers on our geometry team had the idea to include the question in the lesson. I would not have thought of that myself. I looked back at Running around the Track I this week and noticed that one commenter suggested that the content in parts a and b of the task was on a grade 7 level. That might be true, but especially in this first year of CCSS implementation, the data I received from sending the ACT question without choices at the beginning of class (around 50% correct for both classes) indicated that our students had not thought through the mathematical content in the task before.

Several ideas for extensions came out during the session. What about having students also calculate area of the track for the ACT question? What about having student calculate the amount of paint needed for the lanes? Could you have students measure a local track with a trundle or wheel?

It occurred to me that it would be nice to take students to the track for the lesson. And then it also occurred to me that it would add at least 30 minutes to the time of the lesson for a visit to the track. I will note that one student in particular was engaged by this lesson more than any other this year. I asked him recently what his career pathway was, and he answered in all serious that is was to be a professional football player. He was an expert in class during this lesson.

Another suggestion was to use a video. I agree. If you find the right clip, please share it with me! I started by looking for a clip, but those that I found were longer than I wanted to use, and longer than I had time to search for the perfect segment to watch.

A few more comments from the back channel:

  • With regards to everyone missing the question about whether the lane lines were similar: If everyone got the quick poll wrong, I wonder how they would respond if you told them the answer is “no”, could they rethink their reasoning.
  • I wonder how you selected the student to present his “wrong” answer?
  • Perseverance is a best practice that we have to facilitate in our classrooms.
  • FYI while we were doing the 400 meter question…US women won the 4×400 meter gold at worlds in Poland.

What do you in your classroom when everyone gets a wrong answer?

If you decide to have someone explain their work anyway to correct incorrect thinking, how do you select students to present their work? Do you use a random student generator (we have one where we check roll in our PowerTeacher grade book)? Or “equity sticks” (usually tongue depressors with student names – some teachers replace and some teachers don’t replace when you call on students)? Or keep a clipboard with notes about whom you’ve chosen for whole class discussions? I’ve been trying the latter this year. It’s not perfect, but it is a start to at least paying attention to how often I call on students.

And so the journey continues … collaborating with educators from all over the world to improve our classroom practices. Thank you for the opportunity to learn from you, and thank you to Ellen from Illustrative Mathematics for sharing such great resources with us during the session and giving us a preview of what is coming soon to their website.


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