Made4Math - Partner Quizzes + Extras!

Today's #Made4Math post has once again been inspired by a few tweets and blogs!  Thanks to @druinok for organizing the posts, and I look forward to reading and learning from so many others.

I am what is politely referred to as a veteran teacher, so when I first started teaching (ahem, 1990) everything was teacher directed, i.e. stand-and-deliver, students in rows and quietly taking notes.  When teachers realized that we had to change our ways, our district helped us get our feet wet by using Kagan cooperative structures.  I probably use variations of "Think-Pair-Share" more than any other technique, but my second favorite strategy is the 2-person Rally Coach, or as my students call it, a partner quiz, and I have included one example is below:
Rt Triangle Trig Rally

The Rally Coach was a great way to ease my way into successful group work. Directions may be found here, but I've included a few additional hints and benefits:
  • When writing the quiz, I try to divide the questions' difficulty level as even as possible, so person A doesn't have all of the "easy questions."
  • Use only one piece of paper and one pencil (and calculator) per pair, so the students truly have to share and work together.
  • The first times I give this type of assessment, I also talk about the benefits of teaching others.  I tell students if you can explain something to someone else, or if you can analyze work and find an error, you've got it.  My favorite part of the activity is listening to the students' great math conversations.
  • I also talk about the importance of coaching, being positive and how to politely disagree.  As person A explains her problem, person B listens and coaches.  Once person B agrees with person A's answer, he initials the paper to confirm the work.  (In my class, I ask students to initial and write a positive comment.  Best comment written on this quiz: "That's Shrek-tastic!")
  • I usually make at least one of these questions very interesting, and students really need to use each other to complete the activity.  (The quiz above isn't difficult, but I provide too much information, so the kids have little debates about how to answer the last question.  It's great!)
  • This type of activity always takes longer than expected, so plan your time accordingly.
  • Floating teacher bonus: since I do not have my own classroom, this activity gives us an easy opportunity to practice moving desks and returning them to the original position in another teacher's classroom.
Building relationships bonus:  At the bottom of my quizzes and tests, I usually write a little non-math question, such as "What great books have you recently read?" or "Any good news to share?" and I always respond to their notes.  If I forget to write a question, they ask about it and/or write a note to me!

Making students self sufficient (and classroom management) bonus:  I try to give this type of activity very early in the year to allow students to learn to rely on each other for help.  Several years ago, I heard a teacher say, "Ask 3 before me!" which has become a motto in my classroom.  Students must ask at least three of their classmates before asking me a question.  For today, I made a new flyer, so it's easy to simply point to the sign before students run to me with their questions.  (I'm not the most creative person--you can make it prettier!)
3 before me

After reading a tweet about desk signs and red/yellow/green paint chips (and later the dry-erase bins found by @jreulbach) I recreated a desk tri-fold used by my favorite French teacher.  If a student is stuck on a problem, he may be tempted to sit and hold his hand up (and possibly distract others) until the teacher can respond.  As a gentle reminder, the side opposite of PLEASE HELP says PLEASE KEEP WORKING.  The sign alerts the teacher, but it also reminds the student that he can move on to another problem, keep working, and try something else.  Students can decorate their desk sign and keep it in their notebook to use throughout the year.

Desk Trifold

(By the way, I used "Ray of Sunshine" and "Seven Sixteen" fonts, and I have downloaded more of her fun fonts here.)

And finally, my priority is to make respect central to the cultural of my classroom, and one way I do this is by using common courtesies for everything.  For example, as used above, please and thank you are on all flyers, instructions, and interactions.

I enjoy the partner quizzes because they give students the opportunity to communicate mathematically, but I also love all of the other "lessons" that this activity provides. 

Have a great week!  Good luck with all of the back-to-school happiness!

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