One of the things I’m trying to do this year is trick students into spending more time working with content. I could lecture for most of the period (definitions, examples, questions, answers, etc.) and then hand out a worksheet for students to start with whatever time remains and finish homework. You probably know about how well this works as you’ve probably done something similar at some point in your teaching career. Replace this structure that barely works if at all with my new paradigm: students watch a video on their own taking notes and complete some sort of activity during class time. Here are my last three activities; you’ll notice each one is basically a worksheet in disguise.

Working with Variables (Combining Like Terms & Distributive Property)

Students match an expression with its simplified form.

Students were much more engaged than they would have been with a traditional worksheet. An important visitor to my classroom seemed to agree!

Properties of Real Numbers

Students assemble a hexagonal Tarsia puzzle by matching equivalent expressions and then color code.

I’m not a 100% sure where I first saw posts about these. I’m going to pretend it was here. (It was a starred entry in my Google Reader about Tarsia and could use an excuse to link to this blog) Students thought this was much harder than simply finding matches – you might notice I was a little vicious and included three instances of “0” and two each of “1” and “x” as simplified forms. We actually spent much more than a single class period on this one.

Solving Easier Linear Equations

Students wager points on their ability to solve certain types of equations. The PowerPoint is set up to automatically advance. Students whiteboard their work, share their work/answers during the blank slide, then the answer is revealed. Students update their score and make their next wager before the next equation pops up.

Some students got into this more than others of course, but it was a hit overall. I’ll definitely use the format again in the future with factoring or something. A few students had a lot of trouble at first with the fact it was ‘automatic’ – they wanted to chat between rounds but didn’t really have time. I told them if you don’t wager before the next equation pops up then your bid is automatically zero. It might have helped some that we were playing for a little candy …

These activities all became a left-hand side entry in my students’ not-quite-interactive notebooks. (At least I’m trying!)