Planning the Foundation of the ProjectMany people ask me how do I plan a project. You can adapt a person's project, have an idea or look at your standards. If you start with an idea, always go back and ground it in standards. This project was a mix of an idea and standards. I wanted to do a project about polynomials that was meaningful. It hit me one day that volume and surface area dynamics is a polynomial. I saw a video about two students helping to make an impact on the challenges of packaging. This helped me formulate the big ideas within the ultimate design challenge. I then would need to look at all the standards that would be applicable. This requires reviewing my state, district, PLC goals and personal goals.
As many of you who have read my blog before, I live in Oklahoma. As an Algebra II PLC, we use the state standards, district's pacing guide and ACT as our guide for instruction. We meet twice a week to dive into the foundational four questions for a PLC:
- What do we expect our students to learn?
- How will we know they are learning?
- How will we respond when they don't learn?
- How will we respond if they already know it?
Based upon the standards to be taught, I had to think about the following items:
- What standards don't belong in the project but need to be taught before or after the project?
- What standards are needed for the project but not appropriate to be in the project?
- Are the standards that will be taught in the project foreground (the main focus) or background (lightly addressed but not assessed)?
Beginning the UnitBefore the Launch of the Project
The polynomial unit started on January 21 with operations of polynomials. The team decided to begin the unit with this standard and take at most 10 days. I decided it would be better to have these standards be taught before I launched the project. Some aspects of operations is used in the project. Dividing and some aspects of multiplying are not so it would be better to teach it before the entry event. I thought it would be an easy concept that will help build the students confidence before the concepts become difficult. Therefore, I took 7 days to teach it, 1 day to assess and 2 days to remediate and enrich.
The students struggled heavily with multiplying and subtracting polynomials in a way I never thought they would. The standard is something they have seen since middle school. We were just going to be increasing terms and variables. They also still struggle with solving a quadratic from the previous unit. I was so nervous about them taking the common formative assessment on January 29th. As I suspected, around 40% showed mastery while my goal is 70%. The remediation day was going to be pivotal. I am going to have to rethink how to incorporate some of the challenges with adding and multiplying in the project. I needed the help of the students so I asked them on Friday why they were having such a challenge. Here are some of their responses:
Launching the Project (Entry Event)
The project launched on Wednesday, the same day they took their four question test on operations of polynomials. It is not common to have a test on the same day as the entry event. My class periods are only 47 minutes long so I have to make the most of them. My students have experienced two projects. I needed to spark their heart but also see if they could make sense of the problem without my guidance. The entry event was inspired by Rayhan Ahmed's water quality project. I like the way he used the see, think, wonder thinking strategy. I have a lot of ELL students so I scaffolded the process by having sentence frames next to the pictures. After students completed their test, they went to the back of the room to select one picture that resonated with them (see image below). Using a sticky note, they followed the thinking strategy of see, think, wonder. They then returned to their seat to read the project information sheet and complete the zoom sheet like they did in prior projects. I wanted to see if they could complete the first three sections without my guidance.
The thinking routine did spark the students' interest. Many students wrote about how they were concerned about what was occuring in the pictures. The next day was spent examining their work and reflecting on how they can improve. Students wrote their reflections in a site called sown to grow. Students received help and completed questions like the ones they missed. Students who received a perfect score worked on challenging problems involving applications of operations of polynomials. On Friday, we had a shortened schedule due to a culture assembly. Students didn't fill out the zoom sheet as well as I had hoped so they were guided using nearpod through completing the sheet. They also answered three questions about operations to continue to monitor their growth. Next week, we will unpack their sticky notes.
I have a lot of reflection to complete this weekend. I need to see how I can alter some of the details within the milestones to include development of students operation skills. I need to see what resources about the environment I want to include that won't take up too much time or distract from the math. It is a delicate balance in a math PBL to keep math at the center while also addressing the context. Huge thanks to my PBL friends for helping me compile some resources. Stay tuned!