Testing… again…

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We all know the struggle for testing. It feels like an epic uphill battle every year!

When students return in the fall there are placement tests and diagnostic tests that we complete as a school followed by the first round of NWEA testing. In the winter we take the OLPA in both Math and Reading and many of our language learners take WIDA tests. There is also the mid-year diagnostic test. (As a school we do not take the winter NWEA test.) We then hit cram time where we attempt to make sure all of our students are ready for both the reading, math, and science MCA. We start MCA testing in March continue all the way through April. May hits and it is time for our spring NWEA test followed closely by any final diagnostic test required by the school and any final assessments I choose to give them in the spring…

Was that confusing enough??

It’s confusing to me and it is the reality that I live in. I spend hours and hours testing students trying to keep myself engaged and brain functioning. Some teachers at my school test in their classrooms. However, due to the wifi in my classroom being very spotty, I get to test in the library. This has two advantages for me!

  1. I am not tempted to sit at my desk and correct papers when I should be actively monitoring the room.
  2. I do not have to go through the hassle of taking down all of my posters and math stuff. I also don’t have to worry about covering it with paper.

Testing in a room outside of my classroom has some disadvantages too. My students can’t look around the room and try to remember what had been on the wall in a specific location. They are forced to look around a room that they typically associate with reading and are required to take a math test.

Because I teach at a small charter school, the difference of only a couple of questions could make a large impact for the assessment of the quality of my teaching and my school (by some people’s standards). Testing always puts me on edge and I want everything to run very smoothly!

I was one of those kids that struggled anytime that a testing period did not run smoothly. I remember at least one occasion where something happened at home the morning of a large test and I had to go to school and perform the best that I could on the PSAT. It was nothing my parents or I could control but I know I did not perform to my potential on that test.

I want every child to perform to the best of their abilities because I want success for each of them! They are rockstars in my book! They come to school and they work hard every day to help make sure that they are ready for those standardized tests when they do come. They know what their individual goals are and they know where they should be in order to match up with other 7th and 8th graders across the state and county.

Even though testing days are some of the most stressful days of teaching, they are some of my favorites because I get to see my students practice their flexibility and versatility with the standardized test questions put in front of them! I know that testing is a way of life and it is here to stay, but I hope that I can continue to work with students and help them develop the mental stamina to continue performing well on these assessments.

Probability

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We are wrapping up our unit on data analysis and probability. I’ll be honest, unless it is pretty straight forward, probability is not my strongest area. I had to do some relearning!

Earlier in the year we touched very briefly on probability and we talked about probability trees. My students kinda understood these tree diagrams, but it still confused many most of them.

We worked on understanding probability through the use of area models. This made a lot more sense to them than trying to use a probability tree. Here is a model.

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A area model representing rolling a dice and flipping a coin.

This was more visual for my students and made a lot more sense. The problem was that it only works for a two event situation. It will not work for three or four events. That means that when students get to a more complicated situation where they have to calculate the probability this strategy will not work. However, since two events falls within the scope of our standards, I have chosen to continue with this model. This also made it easy to highlight areas where the desired outcome occurred and then count the squares of the total number of outcomes possible.

Since my students need to see examples similar to those that they will be expected to complete during the assessment, I created a foldable for them to fill out. In my room, I am fortunate enough to have a document camera that I used to fill the foldable out on the board. We then added these to our interactive notebooks. Here is the foldable that I created.

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For many of my students this helped to organize our thoughts and strategies. There are some things that I would like to tweak about it, but it was a decent place to start. Here is the pdf for the foldable.

 

Scatterplots

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The 8th graders have recently been spending time learning to work with scatterplots. We reviewed scatterplots and what they looked like. The students are very competent in graphing points on the scatterplots. They had seen lines of best fit before but were struggling with the purpose of these lines.

We started with a review of some definitions. We talked about how the line of best fit could help us make a prediction of what to expect from the data. We then practiced drawing lines of best fit and creating equations for those lines.

I found an activity in the MTB0S about celebrity age guessing and making lines of best fit. I started by explaining to my students that I used to work at Valleyfair (a family amusement park in Shakopee, Minnesota.) I told them about my distaste of the guy that stood by the scale and tried to guess peoples age or weight. Basically he was/is annoying because he is constantly talking! I told them that I wanted to see if any of them could be the better guessers of age than he was. We went through a powerpoint of celebrities and students guessed the celebrities ages. They LOVED this! They also got into the idea of competing to see who would be the better guesser.

Once they had made all of their guesses, they spent some time entering their data into a table on Desmos. I they taught them how to create a line of best fit in slope-intercept form using sliders for m and b. We then exported their pictures to a padlet page where we could look at all the lines of best fit together. This was about all the time that we had, so we didn’t get to voting on who was the best guesser, but they still enjoyed working with Desmos and guessing peoples ages. It also made it so that they all had different answers to the problems and couldn’t copy what their friends answered.

I moved on to an activity from Math=Love about Best Line of Best Fit. We started with a desmos file that had a scatterplot already created on it. I printed this off for my students and they wrote directly on the paper to create lines of best fit. There was a five minute individual work time followed by some table time where they worked. The students had to create the equation for their line of best fit and since I only had one computer, I entered everyone’s equation in. This was a little time consuming since once I wrote the equation in and they saw it on the screen they thought they could make it better. I gave them some more time at their table to perfect their line of best fit and adjusted the equation in Desmos according to their specifications.

I was the only adult in the classroom so we did not have an unbiased judge, but some of the students got into the competitive nature of this activity. We displayed two lines of best fit and then had a discussion as a class about which line was better and why. We got very picky about which line we preferred. I also threw in some lines that were poor choices to see how they responded. (They rocked these problems!)

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Our Best Lines of Best Fit Contest (there were a couple more, but I forgot to click save.)

Our scatterplot unit ended with using some of the worksheets that I got off of teachers pay teachers that guided the students through creating equations of lines of best fit. These were nice because the students had to graph the points and then had to draw the line of best fit before deciding on the slope. Once they created their line of best fit, they had to use the line to determine what the data would yield for an unknown quantity. Here’s a link to the product by Mathink.

Thought for next year… my students tend to believe that the line of best fit has to have at least one or two dots on the line. This does make it easier for when they have to pick points that are on the line of best fit they can easily calculate slope. This is a challenge though since lines of best fit do not always have a point from the data set that lands directly on them.