A Self-Paced Math Unit?
Happy snow day! I hope everyone who is off is warm and cozy. I have to admit I’m going a little stir crazy, but it’s giving me a chance to wrap a few things up for school and get some serious knitting done!
I have been thinking about how I can incorporate more self-paced learning into my math classes for a while. I wanted to shift my role from lecturer to facilitator for a long-term unit, not just lesson by lesson. However, when you’ve never seen it done first hand in a math class it’s hard to know where to begin! I suspected Hyperdocs were the way to go, and I asked for “The Hyperdoc Handbook” for Christmas, so that gave me a great jumping off point.
We are learning about systems of equations in my class, which is a topic that my students always find very dull. I decided I wanted to try some self-paced learning to change things up a bit, and so far (about 1 week in) I am pleased with the result! I gave one task for students to do together that we discussed in class, just so they know what a system of equations is trying to accomplish. Then, students are leading themselves through the three main topics (Solving by Graphing, Solving by Substitution, Solving by Elimination), and can take the quiz over each when they feel ready. I have given each topic a due date, but the activities leading up to the quiz can be completed at any time before that due date.
How I Developed It
I knew I wanted the unit to be on a Google Site, because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get the entire thing done before we started the unit. This way I could still update/add/make changes while students began working. I also wanted to be able to embed Youtube instructional videos, which you can’t do with a plain Google Doc.
To get started, I created a Google Doc with my “skeleton.” That is, the objectives (written as “I can…” statements) of the unit and a list of activities I wanted to use to help students meet those objectives. You can see in this doc that not everything is fully formed, but it did help me get organized and think about the order of activities I thought would work best for my students.
Then, I added all of my topic one activities to the site, with just the bare minimum of directions so that I didn’t clutter up the website with too much text. I figured that would overwhelm them so I put the longer directions in the activities themselves. I then linked all of the activities and created my screencast for students to use my examples.
Add in some Bitmojis just for fun and voila! A self-paced unit. The “I can…” statements are at the top of the page each day when they log in, and they can let ME know when they are ready for the quiz.
Under each of my 3 topics, I’ve tried to create what I feel like is a good flow for my students.
- A problem to try out their thinking before instruction, which students must show me before they move on to the video.
- A video of me working a few examples.
- Some practice to try, preferably self-checking so they instantly know how they did.
- One or more chances to collaborate with the rest of their class.
- Their quiz, either on paper or Edulastic
- A tracker for their progress
The most powerful tool of my unit by far has been my project tracker. Here is a copy of one with students’ names removed for privacy. Before the unit started, I emphasized the importance of logging their progress in the tracker so that we all know where everyone is at, who needs help, and what I can grade or have already graded. This is our hub for the entire unit and so far they are doing great. I remind them about 5 minutes before class is out each day to log in and make sure they have updated it.
Students have a drop-down menu under each activity with “In Progress”, “Complete”, “Need Help”, and “Graded”. With handy dandy Conditional Formatting, the color of the cell changes with it and I can easily see the areas I need to discuss with students or grade. And with the Protect Range feature, I can set the spreadsheet up so that students can only edit their own row, so they can’t accidentally (or on purpose) mess with another student’s tracker! This spreadsheet is simple but so powerful that it’s probably my favorite part of the whole thing!
Each day as students come in, I get them started or make any necessary announcements, and then I address anyone who has changed a status to “Need Help,” which highlights in red. Then, I move on to anyone who seems significantly behind the others to make sure they get some support and a little nudge to pick up the pace if necessary. After that (usually only a few minutes), I am free to roam around the room and answer questions and see what students are working on! It is great to see them making connections and owning their learning.
**Wanna see my whole unit and adapt/use it in your classroom?
- Here is the website my students are using to guide them through the unit. (Note: I do not have the mini project ideas in there yet, those will hopefully come soon) If you are wanting to browse the unit to get a feel for it, I suggest starting here or looking at just the activities linked below will seem overwhelming I think. I may be wrong.
- Here is the progress tracker, you can “File–>Make a Copy” and change it for your own purposes if you like.
- The Google Docs are only viewable by students/teachers on our school domain for privacy reasons, but here are copies of them if you want to see/use them yourself!
- Pre Systems Unit Intro Activity
- Venn-Diagram Activity
- Collaborative Slides (Solution of (4, -2))
- Exit Ticket (Google Forms)
- Polygraph for Systems
- ESPN Desmos Task
- Collaborative Slides (Correct each other’s errors!)
- Topic 3 Intro Tasks (Some slides with LearnZillion tasks I created in 2015)
- Desmos “Oreo” Activity
- Interactive Slides Exit Ticket
- **Please let me know if any of these links don’t work! They should be shared so that anyone with the link can view**
How Students Are Doing
The response has been pretty good overall from most of my students. I haven’t had any negativity about the new style so far, and most students are working at a very good pace. I feel like I am much more freed up to answer student questions, and much less stressed about grading because I can grade a few things as I go rather than getting everything all at once.
So far, my students are mostly through Topic 1, but the snow days are delaying us from finishing that of course ;). Let me say though that some of my students are done with topic 1, which I allowed about a week for, after only three days of self-paced learning! My largest (and usually craziest) class has actually done the best so far, with over half of my students already finishing and they have taken the quiz. They all received A’s! I may be onto something with those kiddos :). I actually had to rearrange my desks so that half were in rows and half were still in groups so that that many could take the quiz, and the other students who weren’t taking the quiz did a great job of staying quiet and continuing to work so their classmates could concentrate on their quiz!
That’s all for now! I will update you later with any additions as we work on this unit. How do you offer students blended learning opportunities? How do you handle tracking their progress if they are working at their own pace? I would love any extra ideas!