kitchen table math, the sequel: Red Meat

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Red Meat

Here's a little red meat for DI carnivores. The blue bars represent the frequency of occurrence for various point totals scored on a test after 4 weeks of CMP discovery. Pretty sad, eh?

The red bars represent the frequencies on the exact same test after three days of DI remediation on the same topic. Makes me go; hmmmmmm!

I did remediation using a method described on d-edreckoning by Saul Axelrod using whiteboards for choral response. We spent the days doing word problems with kids answering on their own boards. Wrong answers were immediately corrected by pairing up kids who goofed with ones who got it. We only advanced to more complexity when 80% of the room was doing tasks error free and independently.

A funny aside is that I got caught. My VP heard the raucous class and came in to see what was going on. Kids were jumping up and down with excitement over getting correct answers. Kids who were often unresponsive and did no work in discovery mode were begging me to give them harder questions. The VP just smiled and walked out. He's pretty savvy so I was lucky.

My next task is to figure out a way to diguise this horribly boring, discreditied drill and kill instruction so that it looks like discovery. That way, I can keep doing it. Failing that, I'm seriously considering a surveillance system for the corridors. Then I can see who's coming and set up a system with the kids where I can give a high sign and they can hide the whiteboards. I'm going to cut them down so they fit in their binders. We'll set it up so they have a ready made discovery task ready to slap on the desk, just in time.

There's nothing the kids like better than a bit of conspiracy and rule breaking. I just have to make them feel like co-conspirators and they'll step up.


Redkudu said...

I'm using the white boards for my English classes as well. This is the first year I've used them, and my kids love them too. I get a similar response - a lot of activity, demand for tougher challenges, extended time. I thought it was just because they liked to write on the boards, but then realized it's a small minority that doodles, and they only tend to do that in the very brief lag time as I check and correct answers.

Paul B said...

I think the beauty part is that you control every single variable in the process. This means you get instant feedback as well as the kids. Bottom line, you can ensure that every child is in their ZPD all the time. Nothing is better at energizing. Nothing is better at moving the group forward.

Mrs. H said...

I use white boards with my remedial classes all the time. Even though they are sophomores, they get so excited when they see the boards and markers laying out at the front of the room. It is exhausting because I have boards waving around in the air with everyone saying at the same time, "Is mine right?", "Miss, Miss, look at mine!"

I too, am an undercover direct instruction teacher. I just smile and nod and act like I agree with all the Discover Learning evangelists who come to our school and do professional development. Then I go into my room, shut my door and do what I know is right.

No one can argue with my scores though. I was asked by our principal to take three sections of 10th graders who are on the "bubble" this year because our school did not meet AYP last year based on 10th grade math scores. He's not really sure what I am doing with my classes, but he's smart enough to know it works!

Allison said...

why are white boards any different than

a) each person working at the chalkboard (or aren't there any in the room anymore?) or

b) doing it on their own paper in their own notebook, and then asking "is mine right? Look at mine!"


palisadesk said...

I first heard about using individual student whiteboards about ten years go, from a fabulous online teacher listserve, 4-8 Connection. Prior to that, I had used small individual chalkboards (often available in toy stores, but also from school supply companies) and children wrote on their boards with chalk and held them up. We practiced spelling, history, punctuation, science, math and a number of other skills in a whole-class setting. This was a very challenging urban middle school (I taught seventh grade at the time). Chalkboards were expensive, messy and a problem for students with asthma, however.

From the 4-8 connection group I learned you could get your own individual whiteboards by going to Home Depot and asking them to cut showerboard to your specs (they would often do the cutting for free); I got a class set of 10x10 boards and prepared them (for easier erasability) with a coating of Turtle Wax. Kids brought a (clean) old sock to keep in their desk and use as an eraser. Now that many dollar store chains carry cheap whiteboards, the Home Depot idea may not be as valuable but it is still an option.

Even though all our classrooms still have large chalkboards, there isn't room at those boards for all students to write simultaneously, and the advantage of individual boards (laminated light-coloured cover paper will also work well) is that using individual response methods increases engagement and academic learning time. A practical book for teachers who want some ideas on how to use individual response systems in whole-class teaching is a book from Sopris West entitled Think,Get Ready, Respond! which outlines not only the use of whiteboards but also variants like colored cards, Yes/No signs and so forth.

Using something students can hold up, rather than something on their desk or to be corrected later, has several positive effects. Kids who are anxious, inattentive, or low-achieving for a variety of reasons participate much more readily and unison responding, whether oral or visual-motor, allows the teacher to monitor how well the students are learning or applying the concepts and material taught. If there are a number of incorrects, the teacher can (without singling anyone out), back up and re-teach an earlier step. Or, s/he can present a "differentiated" task, e.g. a challenge task vs. a "regular" one and let students select which one to respond to. It provides a lot of useful information to the teacher on what students know and can do. S/he can mentally note which students need additional practice or a comprehensive review and address those students' needs separately at another time (thus not singling them out in front of peers).

Unison responding and group response systems have been validated as effective practices for a long time (DI of course incorporates oral unison responding in all programs). Some references I found are here:

JABA study on effectiveness of response cards

Meta-analysis of research on use of response cards

More practical information here:

Group Response Techniques

Teacher viewpoint

Using Guided Notes, Choral Responding, and Response Cards to Increase Student Performance

Think, Get Ready,Respond! book I recommended earlier

Note to Paul B: Robert Marzano recommends the use of whiteboards and response ards, so you can safely come out of the closet. All the district pooh-bahs pay lip service to Marzano's principles even if they have never read any of his books (often the case).

If they don't want to read the books, some basics are here:
Conversation with Robert Marzano

Paul B said...

Sadly, though my tongue was buried in my cheek in my post, it was not far off my reality. I work in a 'failing' district, smothered in procedures from on high. My week of DI was career threatening.

On the other hand, there aren't a lot of people standing in line for my job (even now) and I've reached a point, after five years pushing rope, that I pretty much don't give a rip if I get caught. The trick is to do enough under the radar to allow time for results to emerge. If you can pull that off, the administration will crawl into stealth mode with you.

Paul B said...

Why boards and not paper...

Lots of things that you wouldn't necessarily expect on first glance.

For one, we don't have enough paper. My supply of whiteboard markers seems inexhaustible (for now). My supply of paper is hand to mouth. I make graph paper on the copying machine because it's 'too expensive' to order any. I just sneak in early and make my own (probably more expensive) before the watchers are watching.

Another, more subtle driver is that most of my kids have horrid motor skills and for some reason, writing with flair on a white board makes crummy penmanship OK and, most importantly, not embarassing.

Another is that my classroom furniture and layout is not conducive to me getting around to see 25 paper responses. It takes me about 7 seconds to see who needs help with the whiteboards.

Every single question can be tuned to what you just saw (in seven seconds).

I also do games with the whiteboards so they signify competition when they come out. My kids love competition so even when they are being used in a non-competitive role, there's spillover. Their whole energy level picks up.

The whole experience is frenetic and therin lies the most important of the whys. It's really a classroom management technique in disguise. There's no time to goof off. There's no time to misbehave. If you're sharp enough with your own skills you can stay one jump ahead with maximizing the zone.

There may even be a touch of synergy with pop culture. The whiteboard is like a video game. Mistakes are gone instantly. You don't have to look at your errors, just pop to the next level.

Catherine Johnson said...

There's nothing the kids like better than a bit of conspiracy and rule breaking. I just have to make them feel like co-conspirators and they'll step up.

That's what Ed says, only in a bit different context.

He says NYU students will go out of their way to make their teaching assistant look good when he visits the sections.

I love that.

Catherine Johnson said...

I first heard of invidual white boards from a friend of Carolyn's I think, who said she'd used them for formative assessment in math at a charter school.

Ever since then I've thought they were a fabulous idea -- much better than clickers!

Last spring, when we met with the two math teachers & asked them directly to start doing formative assessments, we suggested they use white borads.

Turned out they already owned individual white boards but either didn't use them or used them for games.

Nothing much came of the formative assessment plan. They said they'd do it, then did do it for one or two classes, and then it petered out.

They used index cards.

Catherine Johnson said...

In days gone by classrooms sometimes had chalkboards on the inside of desk lids. At least, they did in England. Not sure about here.

Catherine Johnson said...

Choral response is one of those things that should just be obvious to anyone with a lick of sense.

Or, at least, to anyone who's ever gone to church.

The only time I have a clue what's going on in church is when we do the choral response readings.

Catherine Johnson said...

It's true - Marzano is the BSD of professional development people (judging by an experience Concerned Parent recently had).

I like his books quite a lot.

Catherine Johnson said...

Of district is going to have clickers.

Not white boards.

Because clickers are technology.

Paul B said...

Clickers would be to this process as a music score would be to a jam session.

The whole idea is chaotic interaction on the kid's side with an expert on the teacher's side. When I do it with math it's totally unscripted. I only start with a particular goal in mind and then I let it rip. I'm constantly analyzing for misconceptions, language hickups, arithmetic problems, process problems, etc. It's mentally grueling and physically exhausting.

There's no room for even a second's worth of technology. Technology would be an intrusion on a beautiful thing.

I've had some of my biggest problem students jumping up and down in this process yelling and thumping their chest saying "Yo! I'm smart!". These same kids, under discovery, eat their pencils and throw stuff.

No clickage. Not ever.