Plickers — Capturing students’ responses!

Many thanks to my colleagues who are willing to loan me their printed sets, I finally get to try Plickers.  I have been toying with this idea since last year. But, I never do it as I am too lazy to print out the set.:-)

Plickers is easy to use. All you need is to download the app and the results can be shown live on the screen. We can capture the responses for the hinge-point questions using Plickers. This is particularly useful for formative assessment as we can have a sensing of what the student know.  Plicker help us to display the responses immediately. The challenge is how we made use of the responses to inform our teaching accordingly. 

I have tried using that for my P4 and P6 Science students since we are going through MCQs in Booklet A. These MCQs serve as my “hinger-point” questions.  This is how I do it

  1. Get my students into groups and they discuss on the few questions that I have chosen for about ten minutes.  They can argue if their answers differs. This is what I have been doing with them for the past 2 weeks [Link]
  2. These questions are usually hinge-point questions. Questions that can give me a glimpse of the level of understanding in the class.
  3. Get them to raise the answers and discuss their answers.

Reflection

  1. Generally, the students are more “enthu” in showing the answers rather then getting them to raise the hand.  Just a small behavioral change can bring about the effect we desired. Perhaps, that is applying the nudge theory?  [Link]
  2.  As these are “group” answers, the answers are mostly right.  For the second round, I decide to give it a twist. I allow each group to have 2 cards. In case of dispute, the group can have different answers.
  3. With more cards given to the students, answers are more varied. I can build on the students’ responses and highlight the possible alternative misconception. If appropriate ,  I even get the children to share why their friend choose that particular answer.
  4. For my P6s, I even go a step further. I challenge them to guess why I choose these questions. I am hoping that they can see the “rise-above” and try to see the “pattern” in the possible mistake their peers are making.  Not a easy task but I need to get them to start seeing beyond the question.  The “pattern” could be
    • Answer not based on data given
    • Typical wrong alternative concept (e.g., the mass will change when the object is going up/down)

Strong Fundamentals

Have some in-dept discussion with my colleagues on Mathematics learning and here is my reflection on the discussion.

In Mathematics, fundamentals are very important. If such fundamentals are not built up in their younger years (P1 – P2), the problems would surface when they grow older. Without fundamentals, they might not have number sense.  The numbers do not “talk” to them and perhaps they are just symbols without real meaning to them. Such weak fundamentals would cause the kids to have difficulty in solving the more difficult word problems.

Sometimes, I wonder what causes the weak fundamentals.  Is it the lack of emphasis on fundamentals in lower primary school years? There might be some case of “over-testing” and thinking more difficult exam/test papers would help the students. The over testing may mean teachers over focus on age inappropriate word problems Does it really help? My personal opinion, it is a big “No-No”. I believe in building strong fundamentals in the lower primary. If the students can understand and master the fundamental concepts, that would help them when they grow older.  Put it simply, if the student truly have a deep understanding of :

  1. Part-Whole model
  2. Comparison Model
  3. Fraction of A Set and Fraction of a whole

They can solve almost every problems.  The students only need to extend their schema (based on strong fundamentals) to solve the more difficult problems.

At upper primary  level, the problems get tougher and more complicated. For students with weak fundamentals, there is no way they can extend their schema. They are perhaps building new schemas and this may prove cognitively challenging for them.  They can’t see the connectedness with the different concepts.

So, what can we do about this?  Do we have time to go back and rebuild the fundamentals? Dow we have time as we need to “cover the syallabus”? That is the struggle and tension that I am constantly facing.  And I do not have an easy answer for that.

 

Mathematics

Author : J R

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Continue reading “Strong Fundamentals”

There is more to learn from wrong answers

Teachers generally enjoy seeing the “right” answers from the students. So, what about “wrong” answers? Wrong answers also can provide learnable moments as we get the students to do the error analysis. We should refrain from giving them corrections and make it a penmanship exercise (“Students, please copy down the answer”) Rather, we can allow the peers to fix the errors.  but rather  we fix it for them. Afterall, we seek to make our students work harder. Fixing the errors is one of the formative assessment strategy and through such activity, we are activating the students as instructional resources.   Read more on why the teacher need to know answers at this link

 

For the past 2 weeks, I have been doing that with my Maths class. I feel that they have attained the level and should be able to identify the errors.  I allowed them to comment on the solutions or ask them to interrogate the pupils. Here are samples of their comments.

Fix Error 1

 

Fix Error 2

 

This is a fruitful exercise as I am getting the kids to think. And they do not disappoint me and show me that they can pinpoint the mistakes. The challenge for me is to find “fixable” errors for them and pitched at the right level. I also hope this exercise can also boast their confidence for mathematics.

 

 

 

 

Making Seatwork Visible to all with technology

Doing seatwork is a regular feature of my Maths Class.  Sometimes, the kids might not even do it as they are either not interested or feel that the work is beyond them.  For this week, I decide to give such seatwork a twist. I am going to make the seatwork visible to all by use of technology. It is still doing the same seatwork but their seatwork would be visible to all so that others can critique on it. Essentially, there is audience for their seatwork and it is not just meant for teachers’ eyes.  Here is how I conduct the lessons:

  1.  Getting the students to work in pairs

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I want the students to give each other support (activating peers as instructional resources). Secondly, this is to “half” the possible technical issues arises. I have tried getting them to use 1-2-1 iPads but the logistics is a petty nightmare. (I will post about on to how to manage the iPads in one of my future posting)

2. Use Nearpod so that students can ink the answers. The answers would be then shown on the projector screen almost immediately after they have submitted answers. Since there are only 7 groups, it is petty easy for me to have a quick glance at the answers and make a quick assessment of their learning. I will then get them to discuss the answers given and how we can improve the answer.  The best answer would be send to each individual iPad for viewing. Here is a sample of the working,

 

Students are doing such seatwork and they “insist” that they have to do this more often. If they discover their answer is wrong after reviewing their peer’s answers, they would want to modify and resubmit the answer. They can also point out the mistakes of their peers’ answer (like using the wrong radius or omission of units).  The reward for the best answer would be sent to each iPad for viewing. Some students really aim for such reward and try to give me the best answer in the shortest time. Their “super-on” reaction to such small award make me realize that my students needs affirmation. Guess I must nag/scold less and praise more.

It is indeed gratifying to see my students doing such seatwork enthusiastically. It gives me the much needed energy boast to do even more for them (even it means less-me time). Sometimes, teaching them can be very demoralizing when you realize how wide their learning gap is. Even the teacher (aka me) also need some affirmation from the students that we are moving in the right direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activating learners as instructional resources for one another

For this week in my Science Class , I am actively activating learners as instructional resources for one another.  Trying to get them to peer teach one another so that I need not work harder than them. You can say that I am very lazy teachers. 🙂

Monday

Get the students to discuss their Booklet A answers (30 questions) before I reveal the answers .  I only give them about 10 minutes to do so.  Most students are genuinely discussing but some of them rather wait for answers and are not engaged in the discussion. Maybe, it is the “kiasu” mentality that they do not want to share as sharing means that they have “given their trade secrets away”.  At the end of the lesson, I share with them about the observation and encourage them to learn with and learn from their classmates.

Tuesday

Students work in pairs. They are given a picture in which they need to describe the adaption. The success criteria is given. They are to post their idea and then, they would read and vote for the best ideas. Some good ideas are posted and they can generally pick up good ideas.

You can find out more at this link

Friday :

Repeat what I do on Monday but with a slight twist. Get them to discuss specific questions (questions  addressing their misconception) . I get each group to share the answers after that.  I feel that this targeted approach is more fruitful as the students can spend time discussing questions that might be more relevant.  Good to hear them arguing and defending the answers.

Moving Forward

I am definitely continue to do more of this in my class even things can get a bit messy. Learning with and learning from one another is one powerful way to learn. Even if A is teaching B, A is also learning as she/he gains a deeper understanding. Such learning is going to be messy. After all.m learning is messy and teaching is neat. Indeed, it is easier for me to “go through” lots of things within the lesson. But, we need to interrogate our assumptions: Are the students learning just because I have “gone through” with them? Who is learning more? I should be the one who learn more since I do most of the talking. Maybe an A**** for me for the PSLE 🙂

Quotable quotes-NeatMessy

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Image Quote by @ashley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Fixed method” is really fixing up my students!

Thinking about the question. That is one of the weakest point for my Maths students. They tend to want to just do the “fixed method” . In problem on quadrants and semi circle, they decided to add in the diameter whenever they see the semi circle and quadrant. Even though they have correctly outlined the figure, they do not seem to relate the outline to the perimeter.

It is really challenging to get them to stop and think. After all, I am fighting the habit that they had for the past few years. Why do they have such habit? Have they been schooled into remembering the “fixed method” since they can’t do maths? Or is that the only strategy they have when solving maths problems?

I am not giving up and would continue to press on. I admit that it could be frustrating at times but I have to keep my frustration in check. It is no point “thinking they ought to know”. Since they are in my class now, it is my duty to make them learn. I can’t promise I will succeed but I am definitely going to do what I can .

All about circles – Making learning concrete!

Currently, I am teaching my class circles. To make their experience concrete, I have done the following :

  1. Get them to draw the circles and cut out the circle. Emphasize that the outline is the circumference
  2. Get them to fold circles so as to know about quadrants and semi circle
  3. Getting them to experience fraction disk. I “morph” the fraction disks and teach them about circumference.

 

So, far , the students seems to be getting the hang of it except for a few. Hope that the next few lessons would help them to reinforce the concept. They still have problem remembering the formula.

 

Heat in everyday life!

I am currently revising heat topic with my P6s. Rather than going through the topic with them, I start the lesson by showing them to the Starbuck sleeve and get them to articulate how the sleeve can help a person to hold the hot cup of hot coffee.  I also inform them what I want to see in their explanation :
1) Observation
2) Scientific concept related to the question
As expected, the students are able to tell me that the sleeve is made up of cardboard and that is a poor conductor of heat.
However, most of them are not able to see that the air trapped in the holes. They start off by mentioning the “curvy thing” enable the person to hold the hot cup. I push them further . What is this “curvy thing” ? What makes it able to hold the hot cup? What is inside the curvy thingy.
Really good to see the students discussing and having some meaningful discussion and coming up with reasonable answers .
I would continue to build on this lesson by showing them a ripple cup next week.

Answering magnet questions

The topic on magnet may seems deceiving easy . But when it comes to explanation, students might not be able to articulate points clearly.  Hence, for my P4s who are learning magnets for the very first time, I decide to give them answer frames like:

  1. Magnet attract Object X because Object X is magnetic. (Tell them not just to stop as Magnet attract Object X
  2. The magnets repel/move away from each other. The like poles of the magnet are facing each other and like poles repel.

For point 2, it is very important for the students to be specific and talk about it is the like poles of the magnet that repel

To get them to “see it”, I start the lesson by stating the success criteria (What I want to see)

I then give them three examples in which they need to make the explanation better. The examples  are based on the blog posts that they have posted.

Example 1

I sticked a magnet on a spoon and i sticked the other magnet on a coin, then I moved the spoon towards the coin and the coin moved away from the spoon.

This shows that magnets repel from each other.

Example 2

One of my experiments with magnets is when I made

two magnets both facing north at each other,

I observed that they repelled!

Example 3
Today is all about magnets, I will share with you what I did with the magnets Ms Lye gave me. When I was walking home, I saw a lamp post and I put my magnets on it and I let it stay there. The magnets attracted the lamp post

The kids generally can spot the mistake and try to rectify it for Example 2 and Example 3. For Example 1, they are able to discover some of the errors. On hindsight, I should have make Example 1 the last Example as it was the most difficult.  This is the first time the students are doing this exercise and they are unsure of what they do at first. Some of them even try to correct the grammatical error. Guess they have to do a few more times before they are familiar with the routine.