Relying on spring break for more practice

I hate giving homework over break, but this time I had to do it.

Before spring break I gave my pre-algebra students an assessment on rate of change, slope-intercept, etc.  The results were disastrous. Students could calculate the slope, but many had difficulty graphing. Some were lost when converting the standard form of a line into slope-intercept form. I have to take most of the blame. I thought they were ready, but they weren’t. If you ask me why I thought they were ready the only response I could give you is, “Because we covered it in class.” In hindsight, I was an idiot. Not only did the kids check out before spring break I did too. In my haste to squeeze in an assessment I didn’t provide enough practice opportunities. Plus my in class checks for understanding had been limited.

I collected the assessment and began to grade the first page of the test. I was livid. They should have known the concepts, or so I thought. The following day, the day before break, I was going to be absent–out of the building attending a social studies workshop on Rwanda 20 years later. I couldn’t take a chance on the sub reteaching the concepts so I created a screencast for the sub to show in class. In it I walked through similar problems from the test. Their homework was to rework every problem. I also made a practice packet for them to complete over break.

Additionally I wanted to communicate the situation to the parents. So I emailed them a copy of the packet along with the answer key as well as the YouTube link to the test corrections screencast. I explained that I may haven been too hasty in trying to get an assessment in before break and appreciated their support. I closed with, “I hope this homework won’t be too much of a nuisance over break.”

I know I was gambling here. Not so much if the homework and test corrections would be completed, but if it would be completed correctly. I had no doubt if the students watched the video, stopped, and replayed when making corrections they would be successful. Would they use it? I can’t control that. That’s why I’m not a fan of a flipped classroom where the essential learning is done at home.

Fortunately this story has a happy ending. Over break I watched the YouTube hit counter increase from zero hits to 23 hits. When I saw the students on Tuesday we went over the test corrections and some of the homework problems. No major issues. I gave the kids an additional practice test to work on in class plus their homework was to make and take their own practice test creating similar problems of each type.

When they assessed on Thursday the results were soooo much better. Only five students didn’t quite meet the standard, earning 80-85%. The practice tests they made didn’t include all problem types.

The rest earned some form of an A and they took the time to create a thorough practice test.

My spring fever caused this. Don’t ask me where I went over break. I didn’t go anywhere.


2 thoughts on “Relying on spring break for more practice

  1. I really like this post. Could you share your utube link too? I would like to see how you did this screen cast. I have never done one and I know it would be a great tool to add. Any suggestions for a newbie?

    1. Hi Shelley! If you promise to mute the audio here’s the YouTube link. You can sense the frustration in my voice. For the technology piece, I have Smartboard software on my tablet so it made the job easier. Along with it I use Screencast-o-matic to capture the video. If you don’t have access to Smart tablet software or iPad apps like educreations, doceri, or explain everything you can create a PowerPoint and click through the steps. I’ve done that once or twice. The students commented they prefer to see the math being written out. Here’s what a PowerPoint looks like with Educanon . Educanon allows you to build questions into the video. The video automatically stops at your question and doesn’t continue until the student clicks on a response.

      Getting back to the screencast, I modeled similar problems from the assessment–not the actual ones from the test. From a planning perspective my advice would be to have each “slide” prepared ahead of time. Meaning have the problems and images already written out and placed on the page. If you are doing it as a form of test corrections, identify the problem numbers from the assessment that correspond to the problem you’re modeling. Good luck and thanks for taking the time to comment.

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