Reviewing for the Semester Exam and Christmas Break

By: Scotty Thompson of Calcustar

I teach five sections of algebra- One honors and four standard. Next week we have semester exams starting on Tuesday, and they go through Thursday. Monday is a regular day and the three exam days are half days (woohoo!).

Today we reviewed how to solve equations of all sorts, two-step equations where the final step is multiplication/division, as well as multi-step equations involving distributive property and where the whole side is a fraction.

I was proud that most of my students remembered how to perform the operations to solve for the variable, but there were a handful that just couldn’t get it. I don’t understand what makes these students click and what I can do to help them.

One-on-one with me, they can get it, but they can’t seem to retain the information down the road. It’s frustrating to me because I really believe that they all have the potential to understand the material, but there’s just some sort of block inhibiting them from doing so.

I had my students use personal white boards so that I could see their mistakes, if they made any. They really love using the whiteboards, and I love that they’re engaged and show their work. I think we will use whiteboards again tomorrow so that they are still engaged as much as possible. I know they’re in Christmas break mode, or are getting there quickly. Honestly, I am too!

Speaking of Christmas Break…..

I can’t wait for Christmas break. My lesson plan wasn’t spectacular today. I printed off sample questions to help them with their exam next week. The questions had more words than my kids are used to.

It made me realize how much I have been stressing skills over conceptual understanding. Fortunately, we are allowed to come up with our own grading system for the exam, so I can adjust for that little fact. Today was a wake up call.

My honors class did well overall with reading the questions and thinking through the answers. There were a few that I had to explain, but those will probably stick with them. My standard kids, on the other hand, did not want to read or think at all.

I think it’s partially because they are distracted by how close Christmas break is. I know I am. I loved school so I was never overly excited for breaks, but I did enjoy them. Now that I am a teacher I really look forward to breaks.

I’m thinking about creating video lessons for next semester. It will be a sort of flipped classroom, except the will use their smartphones to watch the lessons in class instead of at home. I guess that means it’s more of a blended learning classroom.

I’ll have to do more research on that, but it’s my idea for next year because I’ve noticed a lot of kids don’t pay attention at various points during the lesson. It’s almost like they take turns looking at the wall or ceiling or whatever else has paint on it.

I feel like a video lesson will retain their attention more efficiently, and they can always rewind, pause, or whatever else when they feel like they need to. I was thinking about having them grouped in pairs based on a diagnostic test they will be given when they come back from the break.

That way there’s technology and collaboration, and I will be a true facilitator which they say is what modern classrooms should look like. It’s an exciting but scary idea. I feel like it’s very risky but at the same time could bring a very large reward if it works- much like any other investment. I’ll have more on this to come.



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