So I'll start with a problem I had on Friday. My 7th grade class (the one with 10 IEPs students out 18 total) have been struggling with addition and subtraction of signed numbers. I've tried two sided counters, number lines, and anchor charts hanging on the wall. I then remembered a really cool thing I saw a long time ago I don't remember where, called Integer Tug'O War. So I planned this great lesson around it and thought this would be the way to really help them retain the rules. I shared with the spec.ed teacher and RTI teacher who both teach in my room. They agreed that this just might be the trick! So here's how it goes: I showed them a picture of kids playing tug'o war, it was only one side and you could tell that side was going to win. I asked them a bunch of questions leading them to say that the team was going to win and probably because they were bigger, stronger, etc. I asked them if the rules about an even number of kids on each team didn't matter what might you think about the winning team?-They had more players. Ok, so with that I showed them this:
I started with something easy like -7 + 5 and asked what team would 7 play on? They all agreed "Team Negative!" and what team is 5 on? "Team Positive!" Who wins? They were really into it and shouted out "Team Negative!" I asked them how did you know? They said because it is 2 bigger! Yay!!!! So the answer is -2. We did 2 more examples and it was awesome. Then I put up 4-10 and asked if we could still play tug o' war addition. At first they said no because it was subtraction and then they realized they could change it to addition (yay! again!!) At this point they were still good, we did a few more subtraction problems. Then I put up something like this -10 + 31 -26. They really liked this because even the kids who were not struggling so much had difficulty with problems like this. So here is where it turned bad. I asked the kids if they thought this would work with fractions and decimals also and they all agreed that this method would help them remember the rules. So I gave them a mixed worksheet to practice and we got to work on it, the three of us circling around the room checking and helping as needed. Well, one of the students was still having a little trouble, so the other teacher made an announcement to the class. She said "If you feel comfortable doing the problems the other way you are used to, then just that. This is just an option for those who didn't get it" Well.... wouldn't you know most of them stopped doing what worked! I did an exit ticket and the students who shut down after her announcement did not get the answers correct. I was so upset and I did mention it to her. I really love this other teacher and we have a great working relationship so this is really not an issue. But I just felt so defeated! The good thing is that I think this strategy is still going to work with these students. I know that if I say things like "well who wins tug o' war?" and "can you play the game with that (subtraction)?, that is going to be just enough nudge to get them to the answer.
Now that was an example of good gone bad, next up is bad gone good!!!!
My 8th graders are really good at solving what I call the "plain jane" problems, but they struggle tremendously with word problems. So I am constantly striving to find ways to help them organize their thoughts. Last year I introduced the K-W-C chart (from Arthur Hyde's Comprehending Math) and they hated it beyond words. Since I want to focus on problem solving more and more, I am determined to get them to start using this strategy. It is the first thing I ask them when they are stuck anyway, "what do you know?, What are you trying to find out?, "What do you have to watch out for? etc) I always tell them to just write that stuff down first since they know I'm going to ask them! I don't know why they refuse to write these steps down.
After two disastrous lessons where they had to write equations in one variable I couldn't take it anymore I decided I needed to force them to do the dang K-W-C chart! so I Googled a graphic organizer, found one and tweaked it, ran off some copies and viola! The next class was simply AMAZING! For some strange reason they didn't even complain about it. They were actually happy to fill in the information! Kids are soooo weird! Plus they did some awesome problem solving and they didn't give up!! Here is my KWC graphic organizer: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9VupWhszfsacFBtU0V3TVZtZlk/edit?usp=sharing I hope that link works! I'm not too experienced with sharing docs!