I was working in the kitchen the other night while my children watched tv in the living room. They were watching one of their favorite shows, The Regular Show. For those of you who don’t have children or don’t watch cartoons, it is one of the funniest and somewhat inappropriate cartoons on tv. Not inappropriate in the sense that it cusses or shows body parts, but inappropriate in the sense that it is full of sarcasm. (Yes, I am raising my kids with sarcasm. Studies show that “processing irony requires a complex network of brain processing.” I want to develop this in my children. Oh yeah, and I’m from the North.)
I was listening to “The Regular Show” in the background and heard a random math problem. Of course, I had to go watch the show. The entire episode was on the importance of a high school diploma. I’ve decided to show this clip in my classroom sometime just for fun. Who knows, I may even assign the math problem as a challenge problem (the one about the turtles, not the hardest math problem ever).
I always keep a stack of notecards on hand. I was so happy when Staples had the penny notecards deal this summer. Yes, I stocked up on notecards. I use them at least twice a week in class. It is amazing to me that I can get students to do work that is on a notecard, but if I make a worksheet, no chance. When most of my students see a worksheet full of practice problems, they shut down. If I hand them one problem on a notecard and put time restrictions on them, they work. Magic!
I started using notecards with Kate Nowak’s Speed Dating activities. Instead of printing out cards or writing problems, I would make one worksheet and cut the problems out and tape one problem per notecard. Easy and effective. My students ask to speed date at least once a week.
I have gotten a little more creative with my notecards. I now will color code them and put different level of problems on different cards or different topics. I will then take a ‘deck’ of 52 note cards and throw them all over the floor. We call this 52 pick up (I know, not original). Each student is required to find and work 2 problems of each color. This way each student is working 2 problems at each level. If I have students in a class with different abilities, I will put them in groups based upon ability and say, “Group 1 works the yellow problems, Group 2 works the green problems…” So far the kids haven’t caught on that the problems are sorted by ability or difficulty.
Find the Mistake / Ticket out the Door: I know this is nothing new, but for some reason, the students are more willing to do this on notecards. I hand out notecards with one problem on it. Each card is different. I have the students work the problem and make an intentional mistake. I encourage them to be clever. I collect the cards. At the end of class, I redistribute the cards, making sure no one receives their own and have the students find the mistake. The students take great pride in being able to ‘trick’ the person looking for their mistake.
Yesterday I was in the lunch room, talking to a government teacher and she was concerned that if she handed out a worksheet with several readings on it the students wouldn’t do it. She wanted to the students to read several passages and paraphrase them. I suggested she cut out the readings and paste one per card. I told her it was important to time the students and give them instructions on how to pass the cards. She handed out the cards and told the students they had 5 minutes per card to read and summarize each one. She gave a one minute warning. After class she told me that those students read more that period than they probably read all summer. She couldn’t believe that the notecards worked. She partook of the notecard kool-aid and it is good; note cards are magic!