Musical Chairs and Unit Conversions

The musical chairs activity went very well today.  Students were good about listening to the instructions and made a clear connection between the musical chairs game and the height conversion from feet and inches to just inches.  I especially liked how one group said that the people who were left over were like the left over inches.  That comment showed that it was more than just connected two multiplication activities.  Both classes did well to see that feet were made up of inches just like groups were made up of people.
With the focus on my delivery of instructions, I think the fact that they were short helped students stay focused.  Instead of going through an activity to get the the game, they listened for less than a minute and started playing.  I also think it was helpful that they were already standing up and in a circle facing me while I gave instructions.  I think the act of standing up both focused them and gave them a bit of energy. The students seemed to really enjoy this activity and while it got competitive with the seniors to the point that it may have been a little on a rough side, it was still safe and everyone was happily participating.  I am interested to see how the classes tomorrow respond to the same activity since they tend to be less cooperative.
I also tried a new method of presentation today.  Groups made the same circle around the room and held their whiteboard so that everyone could see everyone.  I think this may be a better way when I want individual presentations at a time because once again the act of everyone standing up seemed to focus them, at least at first.  Standing students can’t put their head on their table and making a circle forces people to not be turned away from the speaker.  Also, having one row of students puts every student in the front, so that may help with the off task behavior. My one issue with having people in a big circle is that students like to open the door and look out into the hallways.  I’m not sure why, since there are rarely other people there, but it keeps happening.  My main concern is making noise and disturbing other classrooms/offices since I tend to talk loudly.  If I can work on that, I think this presentation style may completely replace the “one stage” traditional presentation.  I think I should have distinct names for each presentations style so that was the students practice them, I can get to the point where I just name the style and people move accordingly.
After these activities they worked collaboratively on a worksheet and I was impressed by how on task they were and how willing they were to ask questions when they weren’t sure of something.  I think it was a very productive day and I think both of these classes will do well with the combination of movement activities and silent/group work time.  These students seem to be able to talk while work, which makes them happy and more cooperative.
Today I think I did a much better job at “chunking” my activities.  Students had a quiz, then a short height measurement demo followed by a quick collaborative problem.  Then students played a game where they moved around while music played, and answered two short questions between rounds.  After the game, students had a few minutes of collaborative reflection to connect the two activities, followed by a presentation of what they discussed.  Following that students worked on a worksheet in groups as I moved around to offer assistance.  I had a good mix of individual, group, and whole class activities and moved back and forth between then.
My MESA class was not particularly engaged today.  While the topic was kind of cool (understanding bungee jumping), the experiment, which involved measuring the fall distance for different amounts of rubber bands was a little dry for the students.  One group was very off task and answered few of the questions.  The other groups were more diligent, though some were slow to start.  I expect a pretty decent writeup from most groups, but I’m worried one group might just not complete most of it.
Since my MESA students are 11th and 12th graders, I made a point to not constantly push them through the activity.  I want to work on building their own sense of responsibility and let them be off task and have to do more work later if that is their choice.  I’m not sure if this is the right decision or if I should wait until later to taper off how much I push them to be on task.  I do think it is important to give them the opportunity to be responsible (or irresponsible) and then see how that turns out, especially the 12th grade class since they will be completely on their own in college.  I am interested to see what quality of work I get on Thursday when we next meet.

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