We often talk about SMART goals with our students and make some for ourselves each year. The whole idea and process of organizing your goals and writing them down is fantastic! But then what?
First, it is critical to make a list of what you want to complete each day in order to work towards that goal. Your list also needs to include additional things that you need to complete that affect other areas of your life, career, etc. Including those things on your list will help you budget your time better and stay organized. I have always been a list maker and love crossing off items as I go through the day. It gives me a sense of satisfaction and purpose. Which leads me to my second thought. How many quality tasks am I actually accomplishing every day, week, month, etc.? Thank goodness for sticky notes! I keep a stack handy to write down all my todo's and then throw each one away as the task is completed. Sounds logical, right? This video made me think a little differently. Perhaps I was going about it all wrong. Watch the video and then read about how it helped me.
This video made me really think about true grit. It helped me realize that just writing down tasks, completing them and moving on was only a percentage of what goes into achieving goals. I started to realize that I should be documenting my strides and also reflecting on what I am actually doing to accomplish my goals. In other words how gritty am I?
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to assess your todo lists and grit:
Did I challenge myself with difficult tasks?
Did I stay focused in order to complete many tasks? Did I problem solve effectively and efficiently?
Let's get out there and not only make SMART goals this year, but also...
Above is the template I will be using this year. It can be used for any area of your life: career, family, home, savings, etc. There are eight bullets for each day. If necessary, you can always add a sticky note on top of a section. Then each completed todo list will go into a binder. How rewarding will it be to reflect on what has been accomplished, not only weekly, but for the entire school year!
Click on the photo below to download the ToDo List sheets and go get gritty!!!
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What am I selling? Math education Who are my clients? My students How is the market this time of year? TERRIBLE Why? Because it’s the end of the year and they are burnt out! What am I going to do now?! Sell it with a SMILE! And a few other tips… 1 – SMILE. It’s the end of the school year and everyone seems tired, bummed to be at school, and over learning/teaching. But let’s take a moment and think back to the beginning of the school year when you were anxious to get back to the classroom and see your students. You had a pep in our step and you were smiling from ear to ear. This is the person that needs to finish the year off right! There are several studies that show that smiling is very powerful. You can find information on these studies and others in this article by Ron Gutman from Forbes or from his TedTalk. The main points are summarized below, to give you an idea of what a smile can do for you and your students.
2 – SURPRISES. If you are still giving out quizzes, as I am, surprise your students one day with a partner quiz or open note quiz, but don’t tell them until the day of the quiz. I did this the other day and you could visually see the weight and stress being lifted off of their shoulders. Some may think it’s not good to allow this type of quiz, but I find the opposite. Students take more time to discuss problems with their partner or go through their notes more thoroughly to be sure they are using the right process. At the end of the day, they will need to know this material for the final, so to ease the pain a bit, give them this little surprise. 3 – CONTINUE THE FUN. Whatever you do that makes your class fun and engaging, keep it up! Keep playing games, using student whiteboards, fun handson projects, stations, etc. If you weren’t doing any of these things…GAH! Get your little tail over to TeachersPayTeachers.com and find some fun!!! 4 – THE FUTURE. What do you and your students have to look forward to? Talk about those things. It could be their summer plans, course schedule for next school year, their interests, college, work, life, etc. I find that students enjoy these conversations and it takes their mind off of the present stress they have with final exams on the horizon. Looking for more ideas on how to keep students motivated, happy, and engaged the final days of the school year? Check out this blog post by Scaffolded Math and Science where other teachers share their tips and tricks.
Check Your Work!
I am a big advocate for students always being able to confirm (or disaffirm) their solutions. I constantly remind my students to CHECK their work, whether that means plugging a solution back into the equation or checking on the calculator. And if you’ve read this post, you know I show my students many ways to use the calculator to find solutions. But whatever the method, JUST DO IT and then you will KNOW if you got the correct answer, especially for assessments. If students check their work, it’s impossible for them to get the solution wrong. So, of course my students earn 100% on all their assessments right? Nope. They don’t want to check their work; they just don’t want to do it. Maybe you are thinking, why don’t I just add a “check your work” section to each problem on the assessment? Yes I could do that, but then they would have to do it algebraically, and I don’t want to force them to use that method when they can easily check on the calculator as well. Luckily I figured out another way. It won’t work for every math topic, but it’s super helpful for topics when several methods can be used. It all started with dividing polynomials using synthetic and long division. Every year my students loathed long division and it showed on assessments. How could I give them the confidence to know they are doing the long division properly or at least figure out a way to get the correct solution? It’s actually really simple. Instead of stating “do these four problems using synthetic division and these four problems using long division”, I changed it up and said do these four problems using both methods. I am able to see if they understand both methods AND they are checking their answers! Compare and Contrast What happens if the answers don’t match? This will make it obvious to students that they did something wrong, so they naturally will try to find the mistake and correct it. It pushes them to critically think about their process and how to correct it. Essentially, students are comparing and contrasting the two methods to ensure they get the same result. If they don’t completely understand long division, they can still figure it out by working backwards, if necessary. We know that similarities and differences is one of Marzano’s highly effective instructional strategies. Here is a brief reminder of what this strategy does for our students (detailed list here):
Quiz Time
I have been using this quiz for several years now, and time after time, 80100% of the students earn an A on it. And no they’re not honors Algebra II classes. In fact, this years’ class included 9th12th graders with all different skill levels and 18/21 of them earned an A! I get so excited to give this quiz because I know most students will do well since they are checking their answers.
If you use this strategy, it is important to remember to check the process for each method because some students can easily write the same answer for both, but have the incorrect steps. And of course, there is the division of a polynomial by a trinomial where you can only use long division. I do add a part to that question stating they need to check their answer, but didn’t tell them how to do it. I assumed they would multiply the quotient by the divisor. I was very surprised to see several students used other ways, such as dividing the dividend by the quotient using long division or synthetic division. Neat stuff!
Click on the photo above for the free editable quiz.
Practice Activity
Here is a fun partner activity to use as practice before the quiz. Students work on one problem, each using a different method and then confirm their answers with each other. Students alternate methods from problem to problem. They find this challenging at first because it requires them to switch back and forth between methods, but it helps them thoroughly understand each method and retain it.
If you like this idea and want to try it in your classroom, click on the photo above for the free activity.
More Methods
There are several topics in math where you can use this strategy. Here are a few I can think of:
Here are more great activities that compare and contrast math methods:
Let’s start at the bottom, of Bloom’s Taxonomy that is. We all know that knowledge, aka recalling information, is the basic cognitive level of Bloom’s. Often my students want me to teach in a way so they can memorize the math steps. They think this means they understand what they are doing. Um, no, it definitely does not. Below is a video I show my students every year, so they can recognize that knowledge does not equal understanding. My students are pretty mind blown by the video, for many reasons, as you will see.
If this is the first time you have seen the backwards bicycle video, it's pretty neat, right?!
I have discovered that if I can get my students to make the connection between knowledge and understanding, then they can jump to any other level of Bloom’s quite easily. I ask them to think of this connection like a hurdle or a hill; knowledge is on one side and understanding on the other. Once they get over that first obstacle, all of the other doors open to each higher level of cognitive thinking, and not necessarily in a particular order. I've seen students go directly from understanding to creating. It's really fascinating to watch students make these connections so quickly! Bottom line, math cannot be just steps and numbers to students. Quite frankly, they enjoy it on the "understanding" side of the hill because that’s where they appreciate math and can make real world connections. But, getting them over that first hurdle is the first step and I’m glad I (and you) can help them connect knowledge with understanding – one lesson at a time. Examples of cognitive levels in terms of math:

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