Before class begins, I write the four learning targets for Unit 1 on the chalkboard.
When students arrive, I invite everyone to circle up around the room. As we all stand, I frame the class. Today is a review period, and everyone will have a chance to work on whatever they need. I point to the four Unit 1 SLTs on the board. Then I say that we'll go around the circle and everyone should name one thing they want to figure out today. To help students think about what to say, I tell them that it can be in the form of a question, a vocabulary word from one of the SLTs, or maybe it's a problem from an assignment.
The purpose of this move is to allow students to see which of their classmates have similar concerns, and to situate everyone within the work we're doing today.
When the whip-around is complete, I list the assignments that students might want to work on: Problem Sets, Delta Math, and I point to various books strewn around the room that might serve as resources if anyone is done with everything else. I say that laptops are available.
For all exams they will take in this class, I allow students to bring one "cheat sheet" - an 8.5x11 sheet of paper with any information that they'd like to be able to reference during the exam.
With our first exam scheduled for the next class meeting, I want to introduce this class structure to students today. I do so while everyone is still circled up, before sending everyone off to work.
I simply hold up a blank sheet of loose-leaf, and I explain the idea to the kids, who are all delighted to hear about it. Then I just have to answer the standard questions. "Can it be bigger than that?" No. "What if it's folded up?" Still no. "Can I write on both sides?" Yes. "Can I use someone else's cheat sheet?" No, and you can't make photocopies either. I tell them the story of how I used to have students who were completely brilliant cheat sheet makers, who would cram all sorts of information onto a page, and how these pages were really works of art. When other students caught on to the expertise of their classmates, they would talk their colleague into making a copy. "But here's the thing," I conclude. "Guess who did the best on the exams? The students who made the greatest cheat sheets, not the ones who simply borrowed one from someone else. Why do you think this happens?" Students are pretty quick to realize that the value of a cheat sheet lies in its creation at least as much as its use. They're excited to make their own, and to see if they can produce something so beautiful that I'll be telling future students about them.
I tell them to make the most of today's class, and the circle gives way to the variety of work that will happen today.
Students received Problem Set 3 during the previous class. They may choose to work on it today, and I recommend this as a great option to anyone who is un sure where to start.
They should also take another look at Problem Sets #1 and #2, both of which have been returned with my comments. I'll also have notes prepared for kids, based on what I've seen by grading those two assignments, but those notes are unique to each particular section.
To practice on SLT 1.4, students should complete the Delta Math assignment from two classes ago (Delta Math Linear Practice and Dispersion), and work on the new one about the Normal Distribution (Delta Math Normal Dist).
I encourage students to create their cheat sheets as they work on the Delta Math exercises. When their working on these modules, and they recognize that they've learned something new, they should make a note of it. When they look at an example that sheds light on an idea with which they've been grappling, it's a good habit to record that example on the cheat sheet. It's exciting to watch these habits develop over the course of the semester.
With eight or so minutes left in class, I'll tell students that we're going to circle up for closing in three minutes. This gives them time to put finishing touches on their work or return laptops to the cart before closing circle.
With five minutes left in class, I invite everyone to circle up again, this time for Appreciations, which you can hear more about in my Strategy Folder. Essentially, the idea is that everyone has the opportunity to appreciate any classmates who might have helped them today: whether as a collaborator, as a tutor, or simply for working hard and being high-spirited. If my students need clarification, I'll give an example, but usually there are at least a few kids who are excited to get started, and I'll get to chime in among the choir.