Monday, September 07, 2009

Algebra 1: Skills List

My goal for this weekend was to complete a rough draft of all the skill items that will be assessed on the first semester final exam. These items are assessed in chunks on the weekly skills tests, and in larger chunks on the 6-week benchmark exams. After each benchmark exam, the plan is to spend a lesson or two on targeted reteaching - any ideas that people have on how to make this effective would be very much appreciated.

I've finished the list, and am interested to hear what other Algebra 1 teachers think about the scope and detail of the items. What would you add? Take away?

9 comments:

Sean Karsten said...

The scope seems about even with what I am hoping to cover. Michigan's Algebra I curriculum is really stretching what all of our students are supposed to learn and my time is truly at a premium. I don't take as much time to focus on the first skills you have listed, but the general list of skills seem about the same. You can see a general pacing of the skills we try to cover here: http://www.eup.k12.mi.us/608973121310511/blank/browse.asp?a=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&c=54896 I am excited to delve deeper into your site and your lessons.

Dan Greene said...

California's is pretty comprehensive too. But I work at a charter school, and am given free reign to design our curriculum as I see fit. That means I can cut out a bunch of topics, so that we can focus on the essentials. Because our students come in around a 5th-grade level, I have to spend a lot of time on pre-algebra and arithmetic topics. So I'm always struggling to find the right balance between remediation and pushing students forward. This skills list is a first step in really defining what we expect our Algebra 1 students to be able to do, which is something we haven't done well up till now. Now, I have to get cracking on the second semester items!

In any case, welcome to my blog, and I hope you find it useful.

Sue VanHattum said...

That is a lot! Will they be tested on ALL of that at the end?

Sean Karsten said...

I too work at a charter school with a similar student makeup to yours, although many of our students are under graduation requirements from the state, regardless of ability coming into my classroom. These requirements say they must pass Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II (all with a 70%)in order to graduate. This year I am teaching 7-12, but my classes are quite small. I would take more time to focus on those core concepts, but I have to get through so much my time is very limited. Thanks for the welcome.

Mr. K said...

You've got over 50 skills for 90ish days of instruction - I'd probably try to pare back to at least half of that (by combining the skills - for instance I see skills 2,3,& 4 as all in the same larger group)>

I use Dan's grading method, and I want the kids to perceive an attainable amount of information - I just use slightly larger buckets.

Dan Greene said...

Sean -
We have the same graduation requirements, but it seems that I have more flexibility in determining what bar they have to reach in order to meet the 70% requirement.

Sue -
It is a lot, I agree, but I'm not sure what else to do. For a student to show competency in first semester Algebra, are there some skills I have listed that you wouldn't require that they learn? Or would you just not assess them on all of those skills? I have already cut out a bunch of skills that the CA standards ask for...

The idea is that they are assessed on 4 - 7 of these skills per week (depending on the difficulty), and then cumulatively every 6 weeks. By the time we get to the final (which would be all of those skills), they will have had a chance to learn and be assessed on each skill multiple times, with targeted remediation along the way. Hopefully, this scaffolding will allow them to reach the goal.

Mr. K-
I like the smaller buckets because it makes it clearer to see what skills they are learning in the aggregate. Are you saying that you would teach the same content, but just assess them with fewer, more comprehensive questions? Is it a question of not overwhelming them in terms of the length of the list of skills they have to master? Or reducing the number of items they must retake?

Mr. K said...

Dan - That's exactly what I meant. I'm a horrible grader, and doing a test more than once a week is nigh on impossible for me. So I want chunks that reflect about a weeks worth of learning. I still break it down that way, too, but by the end of the week I expect them to be able to integrate those small steps into something more complex.

I'm not sure that's the right answer, btw - it's just my gut feel.

iTeach said...

WOW. That's a LOT of skills. I don't mean to sound arrogant, but don't you want to aim for depth and not breadth? I'd suggest looking at the list and pulling out the essentials and really dive into them. For example, is it really essential for an Algebra 1 student (and I think I saw you mention that they're remedial level?) to know the term multiplicative inverse? I think too, as someone mentioned, many of those skills can be combined (example: skills 41-44). I'm not sure if you're ever used it, but have you looked at the college readiness standards (CRS published by ACT)? While I'm not an advocate of teaching to the test, I like these in that they identify sets of skills by strands according to cognitive levels. The goal is to teach the NEXT set of skills in the strand, but not jump around to three levels down. Let me know if you would like to look at this...
And good luck!!! You look like you've got your work cut out for ya!

Dan Greene said...

I agree that it is a lot of skills. But I am basing the list on the CA Standards that we are tested on. For example, I don't think knowing the term multiplicative inverse is as important as knowing what it is and what to do with it, but that vocabulary is used on the test - and if they don't know it, it doesn't matter if they can use a reciprocal or not.

It's all very frustrating, of course. I completely agree that depth is the goal; I've already cut out like half of the standards I am supposed to cover. In addition, my students need to develop in a lot of pre-algebra standards as well, which eat up even more time. We do spend a lot more time on some of those skills than others (i.e. solving multi-step equations, graphing linear functions, etc.). Anyway, all teachers of low-skilled students definitely have their work cut out for them... that's what we signed up for! :)