Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Things On the Radar

It's been a busy year, and I don't know if I've mentioned yet (to everyone I know and strangers on the street) that I have 4 preps this year. So maybe it doesn't seem too surprising that unlike the past, I haven't found the time to make new seating charts and change the students' seats every 6-8 weeks or so. Finally, they were getting SO chatty and comfortable with each other, something needed to be done.

I made little slips of paper that I handed to them as they walked into class, and I made them choose their seats. These slips basically said:

You are (mostly) in charge of your seating destiny.
Pick a NEW seat by following these rules:

1. Sit in a new section of the classroom.
2. You may NOT sit by anyone you’ve sat by before (front/back/side).
3. Find a seat that will allow you to learn effectively.
4. Be flexible and willing to move (a wee bit) if doing so allows someone else to satisfy these conditions.

Good Luck, and Go to it.

I was nicely surprised, and only had to move a few seats after they were all settled. Some kids moved themselves after class started and they noticed their chosen seat wasn't effective. Anyway. Whew. That chore done for now.

The second thing I think I'll start trying has to do with implicit differentiation in calculus. ONE of the issues the kids have is incorrectly slapping down "dy/dx" in the wrong places and wrong times or forgetting it all together.

I noticed one student was always successful, and when I looked at her work more carefully, I noticed she did the following. When taking the derivative of an "x" terms she adjoined "dx/dx", and with the "y" terms, "dy/dx". Then she later canceled out the "dx/dx" term since it equals 1 and it's always multiplied. This way, she puts everything in the right place, and she doesn't forget that she has to use this "extra" appendage. I think this is the way I'll start teaching implicit differentiation now.


  1. This seems like a great idea. I'm a very part time teacher and so far have not had to make a seating chart (due to the small class size). Have you always used seating charts? If not, what convinced you to start?

  2. Anonymous8:08 PM

    I have always used seating charts. I let the students sit where they want the first day of school. This lets me in on "friends who talk too much together" and "people who NEED to sit in front" or "shouldn't sit in back". Then I usually change it up a few times a year, so a student is not stuck in the same area or with the same people all year. This gives them a chance to meet new people.

    Ms. Cookie

  3. Anonymous10:49 AM

    I've mentally done the dx/dx = 1 thing forever, but haven't taught calc, and when I've helped kids solve problems, never mentioned it (like it's my own thing).

    I think it's a great idea to make it explicit (pardon the pun)

    I'll also lift the seating idea, one day.

    Jonathan (catching up on old blog reading!)