I'm not having the best of days. I seem to have had quite a few of these of late. Don't get me wrong. I still absolutely love the teaching part of my job. It's the other aspects of my job that have me frustrated. There is so much drama that comes with working in a public school. I try to keep up with everything that's going on, but it just ends up making me mad.
On top of the school drama, one student both entered and left my room today in tears. Another student has decided to refuse all of my offers to help. She wants me to let her fail. I can't let myself do that, but at the same time I don't know how to help someone who won't let me help them. And, I'm pretty sure that I teach at a school with an absence epidemic. These students miss school for EVERYTHING under the sun.
So, to help cheer myself up and remind myself why I do what I do, I am going to blog over something happy and exciting. In the past week, I have had students ask me if we could do certain activities again because they enjoyed them so much the first time.
Clock Review Partners
I learned about this strategy from the Global Math Department's meeting over favorite review games. I actually haven't used this as a review game, but I have used it on days where I need students to do a ton of practice. Instead of just giving them a worksheet, I ask them to draw a clock on a piece of scrap paper.

Clock Partners Strategy 
They then get about a minute to make appointments for 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock. I love listening to them make their appointments. I often hear gems such as "Sorry, I'm booked." I divide the worksheet into four sections so they can complete one section of the worksheet with each partner. I really like that students aren't stuck with the same partner for the entire worksheet with this strategy. Sometimes they are working with friends. Other times they are working with students they don't know as well. Sometimes it is somebody at the same level or different level.
Since students know they only have so long before they will switch partners, they are more motivated to work efficiently. Upon googling this strategy, I ran across a more detailed explanation on the
blog of a social studies teacher. She has students create many more appointments than I do. Her explanation is definitely worth a read!
She picks some of her students' partners ahead of time to ensure that some of the pairings will achieve a specific purpose. I did like the idea of creating an appointment clock to be used for the entire semester or year. Once this has been created, it would become super easy to group students at any time. Plus, I think this would make a great addition to our interactive notebooks.
My 8th graders begged to do clock partners again the other day. Of course, I had to let them! This is a strategy I have used with both my Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 students. It has worked well for both. It's a definite keeper!
The Basketball Game
When teaching my Algebra 1 students to solve equations, I used a
basketball game that I found online to motivate my students to do some extra practice. These were the same types of problems that I could have written on the Smart Board, but because they were in a game, my students did a lot less complaining.

Screen Shot from the beloved Basketball Game 
The idea of the game is simple. You get the question right, you get to try to make a basket. To shoot the basket, you click the mouse twice. I'm sure there is some advanced strategy to making the virtual basket, but I could never figure it out. I watched five different classes play this game over the course of a day, and I still couldn't figure out why some shots went in and others didn't.
I let the students take turns coming up and shooting the baskets. It served as a small break between solving equations. The students really got into trying to make as many baskets as possible. It was fun to watch. The bell would ring and the students would want to hurry and solve one more equations so they could attempt just one more basket.
Now, if we ever have a few minutes left at the end of class, students will occasionally ask if we can play the basketball game again.