Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stuck on Order

I have come to the realization that I am officially overloaded. In the last two weeks, I created a manual for the new teachers at our school, helped conduct the new teacher orientation with colleagues, complete a student council retreat, found out how to use the online website for yearbook, informed teachers of pictures, as well as a host of other things I can't remember.

It is with this overloaded mindset that I find myself stuck on if I am making the right decision on the order of concepts to cover within the first 9 weeks of school. Part of the problem is my lack of experience. I am teaching Algebra II for the first time and Geometry which I haven't taught in two years.

Thankfully, I have the state standards and ACT standards to help me focus in on what is essential and enduring concepts to cover. After reading Larry Ainsworth's book on power standards, I am a firm believer that teachers have to be realistic on the fact that you can't teach all state standards in a year. We can cover them but it is unlikely that students will know anyone one thing in depth. In the book, Ainsworth describes power standards as those standards that are enduring (useful throughout life) and essential (critical for the next subject level). These power standards must be taught with depth and mastery. I have identified these standards and placed them in a concept map through mywebspiriation.

With my essential standards in hand, I am working on the first 9 weeks outlook. My teaching style is more about going from concept to concept then chapter to chapter. I start with an overview look of the main concepts to be covered and then go into details. Similar to flying around the forest before landing and examining the trees. I did this for the first time last year and found it very successful. I had 72% (39 out of 54) pass the state examination. This number is even higher when I only take into account students who had to take the exam seriously due to graduation requirements-91%.

As I prepare for the first 9 weeks, my school district divide the standards into 9 week increments. These concepts are apart of a benchmark the district uses to gauge if students are on track for the state exam (EOI-end of instruction). I have compiled the standards into topics and placed them in what I think will be a logical order. The topics and order are systems of equations and inequalities, parent graph of functions and function notation, complex numbers and quadratic equations and functions. I am starting off with systems of equations because it will reinforce their previous knowledge of lines from Algebra I and Geometry. We will then move to some of the core concepts of Algebra II which is polynomials, exponential and logarithmic. I decided to follow with parent graph of functions and notation because it will help lay a foundation to understanding the topics in depth at a later time. The focus of this unit is to recognize the graph, understand notation of the equations when they are a function and identify domain and range of various graphs. The 9 weeks will end with the study of quadratics in detail.

I am not sure this is the right way to approach the subject. There are teachers who have taught both subjects in the building with me. I am fortunate that we all have the same planning period we will be able to meet weekly. I know I will be able to get their insight as well. However, I would the insight from the international learning community as well. Please comment on whether I am on the right track. I am going to plan at least two project-based learning units based on this order.

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