Do you know those ideas you see online that sound really, really good, but you never seem to get around to trying them out in your classroom? Yesterday, I tried one of those out. I Have...Who Has? You know, the deck of cards where each card answers a previous card, and it makes a giant circle around the classroom if nobody messes up.
My Algebra 1 students are currently working on translating algebraic expressions and equations. This is generally something I start the year off with, but I was super keen to start this year off with functions and graphing. As a result, this topic got pushed back to the end of the year.
With snow days, should-have-been snow days, should-have-been school days, and days where half the school is gone to the basketball tournament, it seems like I've been having trouble making much progress with my students these past couple of weeks. Due to the basketball tournament, I was only able to teach my morning classes yesterday. These kids, knowing that they wouldn't be in school that afternoon, were not exactly in a mood to take notes and start a new topic. I wasn't about to waste a perfectly good morning for instruction, though.
Normally, I would try to fit all my notes for this topic into one fifty minute class period. Instead, I decided to do half the notes and a practice activity that would get the kids thinking and working with hopefully minimal complaining. I wish I could tell you that the I Have - Who Has? cards fit this bill perfectly.
For my first hour, they did exactly that. Only a few kids had experience with this practice structure. And, they were really gung ho about the activity from the start. There was some initial confusion because they couldn't figure out why the answers on the cards did not match up. They didn't realize that another student would have the answer to their question. Once they realized this, it seemed to go really smoothly. With this class, I have a number of kids who have not been successful at math before that seem to be almost impossible to engage. These students will take notes, but any time we are doing practice problems, they are more often than not seen drawing funny pictures on their dry erase board or telling a joke to a neighbor. Threatening that they will have to take this class again if they fail doesn't exactly work on students who are already taking Algebra 1 for the 2nd time.
There's something completely different about this activity than my typical practice structure of solving the problems on individual white boards. The success of the activity depends on every single student participating. Any time there would be a pause in the activity, students would start checking their neighbors cards to see if they had the correct answer. Students had to be engaged. Students had to be participating. Students had to be paying attention. I don't think I've ever seen my first hour as engaged in a practice activity as they were for I Have...Who Has?
After finishing the deck, they begged to play again. Students begging to do math. Yeah, I could get used to doing this! Students were asking if we could do this for other topics because it really helped them. They decided this would be the perfect way to review for the EOI.
So, as I began 3rd hour (my next Algebra 1 class), I was floating on cloud nine. I had this amazing, engaging, proven-to-work activity to try with my students. They hated it. Hated it. I'm thinking it has a lot to do with the make up of the class. This class is full of much more self-motivated learners. Most of these students want to do well. They want to succeed. And, to them, this game was silly. It was boring. It was pointless. I know this because there was a running commentary throughout the activity of just how stupid this was. I guess you can't win them all... It still did the job and got some practice done. And, honestly, this group of kids would likely have complained about any activity I had tried to get them to do.
The deck of I Have...Who Has? cards that I printed off the internet was way too simple for my students. It didn't have many variations of words that could mean the different operations. If I were to do this again, I would probably make my own deck that better reflected the words I needed my students to be able to understand. Now that I know the activity is worthwhile, I will definitely be making my own custom decks in the future. I'm kinda glad that the first time I did this activity featured a pretty simple deck, though, because it meant we could focus on exactly how the practice structure worked instead of getting caught up with how to solve more complex problems at the same time.
The deck I used can be downloaded for free from: http://www.mathwire.com/whohas/whalgA.pdf