So, how did writing argument papers go in my Pre-Algebra class? I think I can say it went just okay. There are still a lot of gaps that are disheartening that I mention in the reflections below. The students are presenting on Monday... I will post the video of the debates. Today was supposed to be peer reviews of almost accomplished papers.
Let me include that this is an improvement from the last time I tried debates", which let's just say, my students did poor because I did poor. Writing was something I thought they could do, and I looked past trying to address the modeling, guidelines or organization for writing. I assumed my students could write. The ability to write surely was not an obstacle besides the fact that they all were in the mind set that "This is a math class. We should not have to write!" :( Do not even get me started on this comment... Back to my assumption that literacy is high and totally strong in all Freshmen... Sarcasm can be so painful sometimes. They were in a way being assessed on their ability to write and their ability to analyze proportions, ratios, and percentages. If they did not have a paper, was it because they just did not have the skills of writing their thoughts, or was it because they did not know how to analyze percents?
Last year I had to accept it as a learning experience, sadly mainly just for me, that I would just have to provide more literacy pointers towards thinking how to write successfully. This year, I have taken on literacy which only affirmed the reflections from last year. Now that I have hopefully addressed the literacy demands more by creating the phases, practice in argument writing, and an outline- the obstacle of writing is addressed, and the analysis and critical thinking about ratios and proportions can come out.
To try to establish a way of deciphering understandings, I do have a formative assessment, and also a project to end most of the UbD units I have created (I do have two more that I will posting soon). The projects of course are meant to engage and provide a student-run, critical thinking environment without walls and limitations. I try to align my other, old test as best I can to the project assessment, but let's face it, it is just a paper test with time and space limitations. Am I too scared to move away from tests? No, I do not think so... The project and thoughtfully aligned paper tests together, I believe, can both serve as a way to see if students can transfer the knowledge and understanding of the unit in any situation. I will post the assessments next week as well.
Reflections on the Pre-Algebra UbD Unit for Proportions:
I will post the video presentations of the students down below. You can view and see for yourself and notice and wonder about the shortcomings, but also some definite successes. So far these are my pre-reflections of how this has gone so far.
This debate still becomes more of a writing project... Is that good? I suppose, but I wish they would start making the percentages more real and focusing on that. In the 1:1 conferences I tried to make the point of, yes you can say that 1 in 4 families have burdensome health care bills, so what does that mean for this classroom. We made a point to look at the classroom, and say, according to this statistic there are about 5 students, FIVE, out of the 19 students that sit in this classroom that go home to families who have heavy doctor bills hanging over them... Do I need to call that something, like make a statistic personal to the classroom or something, and have that in the rubric? Maybe... because what they tend to do is just highlight a statistic, and quote it in there paper. They absolutely do not see a need for proportions to help them convince in their papers. In this regard, my project failed.
As stated, today, when they were supposed to do peer reviews, only 5 out of the 19 students had a functioning paper for a peer to review and grade. I need to add that these students are not the motivated type. I yelled at them- it went something like this -"I gave you a weekend and a whole week of in class time to work on this. We have tried hard to help you organize your pace. YOU KNEW WELL YOU WERE TO COME TO CLASS, SO SOMEONE COULD EDIT YOUR PAPER AND FILL IN YOUR GAPS. YOU KNOW I WILL NOT ACCEPT LOW QUALITY WORK ON THIS. THIS NEEDS TO BE QUALITY!!" ... In motivation, this project failed.
Now, despite the two major failures, I do believe my students get me and know that the problems we do as practice are not for nothing. As I came around and gave pointers, a lot of them did see proportions at work. They did see how percentages are sometimes better to use rather than just numbers. Some are really excited that normally would not be. They are thinking... We will see I guess on Monday.