As we open this third and final day of our Leaning Tower of Pisa investigation, I am especially interested in seeing where individual groups of students are at in the process. As a teacher who works to actively move about the room and engage with students, I usually have a pretty good idea of which groups are ahead and which groups are behind. However, the students themselves do not have this luxury and are usually so consumed by their own work that they do not get to see where they are at in comparison to their peers. With this said, pushing a poll out to the students asking them where they are at as they enter the day has several advantages:
1) It forces them to collaborate with their group member to recall what they left off with in yesterday's learning.
2) It sets a productive/working tone right from the start of the class period.
3) It assesses productivity in the class as a whole.
4) It helps me target groups that might need further assistance.
5) It lights a fire for the 1-2 unproductive groups that are struggling to get busy!
To push out this poll, I use Poll Everywhere. This site is a free polling platform that projects the responses "real time" for the audience to see. Although most of my students prefer to respond on their iPad, there is an option for text message submission if it is allowed in your school building. To avoid any issues with parents, however, please note that standard text messaging rates still apply!
At the conclusion of the poll, you have the option to save it to a slideshow in a PowerPoint presentation. I always save these so that I can adjust my pacing and schedule from year to year. This is especially important to me since this is the first time that I have ever ran this unit in my Algebra II course. (Another great use of this type of data is to share it with a class if you have an "unproductive group" of students in one of your periods. Many times, in a problem-based learning environment, students complain that they do not have enough time to work on the task at hand. However, if you show them that everyone in the other three classes had no issues working through the checkpoints and workshops, then it is hard for them to argue any further!)
In the final five minutes of class, I ask the students to begin to find a stopping point and direct their attention back to me. After I have everyone's eyes and ears (which sometimes takes a while when they are busy working away), I reiterate to the class the due date that I have set for their work. If this class period takes place on a Wednesday, then their write-up and workshop papers are due on Friday. I like to give my students at least 2 additional days in an investigation like this so that they can ask me for additional support outside of class. I have also found that the quality of the work that I receive is usually MUCH better than if I collect it immediately after we are done with the investigation. Many of the math practice standards are best manifested and assessed through student writing activities - YES, writing in math class from time to time is very important!