A Great Beginning

I had a fantastic first week of school. I incorporated some great resources into my repertoire, both internet resources and resources shared through twitter.

For my grade 7 and 8 science classes, I used the Subversive Lab Grouping Game, courtesy of Frank Noschese. His version uses American states and American presidents as two of the categories, which were not as relevant for my students. Instead, I added in chocolate bars (Twix, Aero, Milky Way, and Kit Kat). My largest class is under 20 students (yes, be jealous), and so there was no need to come up with a 6th category. I anticipated the questions regarding Mars – is it a planet or a chocolate bar? Technically, the chocolate bar is called a Mars Bar, but I was going to be lenient with this. As it turned out, that conversation came up, and the students knew that it is correctly called a Mars Bar. I also anticipated some discussion around Milky Way, as it could be grouped with planet names under a “space” category, but the students kept it in the chocolate bar grouping and just grouped the planets together.

For my grade 8 classes, I also conducted an activity on observations vs. inferences. Using this Powerpoint (original source unknown, but greatly appreciated), we talked about the differences between what we know and what we think. Students looked at a series of tracks on the first slide, and shared what they observed on the slide. At first it was difficult for them, as they immediately began making assumptions about the scenario being portrayed. After we shared every possible observation, they then had the opportunity to infer what they thought was happening. We then went to the second slide and third slides, which showed a continuation of the tracks, and went through the same procedure. As a final wrap up, we discussed how these skills are important in the science classroom.

In grade 7 math, the students completed the Fish Dish rich task from Bowland Maths. This activity required the students to help a chef determine the correct order to cook a meal, in the shortest possible time. Many students came up with the correct order, but soon realized that they had not determined the most efficient time. We compared everyone’s answers, and they helped each other determine how they could improve upon their methods.

In grade 8 math we conducted an investigation of the game of Tic Tac Toe, courtesy of Jim Noble from InThinking. The first investigation asked all students to determine the number of ways one could win with the basic 3 x 3 game of Tic Tac Toe. They were then asked to determine the number of possible ways to win in a 4 x 4 grid where four-in-a row wins, and in a 5 x 5 grid where five-in-a row wins. They then looked for the algebraic expression that determines the number of ways to win from the grid size. This immediately had them recall learning from the previous school year. The students then had a choice between two further investigations. They needed to attempt one, but were free to attempt both. One investigation had them determine the number of possible ways to win with three-in-a row, given a 4 x4 grid, a 5 x5 grid, and a 6 x 6 grid. Again, they searched for the algebraic expression, which was definitely harder this time.  The other investigation had them determine the number of possible ways to win with three-in-a row, given 3D grids (3 x 3 x3 and 4 x 4 x 4). I had only a few students attempt this investigation.

I spent many hours this summer researching rich math tasks and assigning them to specific units for grades 7 and 8 that I will incorporate throughout the year. The success of this first week of school has shown me that the time taken to search out these tasks was time well spent.

Have a great week.

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