Last year, my school started giving local assessments. For those of you who don’t have to do this yet, here’s how it works. Each core department (science, math, English, and social studies) had to create a test that covers the content that our students should have by the end if their senior year. Then every student in the building takes the test in the fall and again in the spring. The idea is to see that all students are making progress and it also gives us an idea where the holes are in our instruction.
This is all in an ideal world where not only do teachers have time to write, administer, grade, and analyze these tests but also a world where ALL students care enough about the test to give reliable results. In the real world, there were some glitches (some we are still working out). But I think it has more pros than cons and now that the ball is rolling hopefully it will just get better.
One of the major areas that all of our students were struggling with is the metric system. I didn’t really need a test to tell me that… I see it every time we do a lab. They have a hard time visualizing the units (how big is a meter?) as well as converting. And I will admit, I was stumped. I had told them all the conversion units. I knew that to go from centimeters to millimeters you have to move the decimal one spot to the right. I also know I can do this because I’ve been doing it for years. But I needed a visual aid to help them. So after talking with the other science teacher in my building, she gave me this metric line.
I had each student copy it into their science notebook. To use this, you start with whatever Metric unit you are using. Then move the decimal in the direction of the new unit and the number of spaces you move on the line. (for example to move from centimeter to meter, you move the decimal two spaces to the left). Then it’s just matter of practicing OVER AND OVER again.
So we started Metric Mondays. At the start of class on Monday, we do something about metrics. Sometimes it’s just a quick question written on a post it note (ie. Which unit would be best to measure the height of a freshman?). Sometimes they have to measure an item and convert it. Sometimes we play metric war. It’s just like the card game (each player puts down a card, whoever has the bigger one wins and you keep playing until someone runs our of cards. I put all different units such as 10 cm and 10 mm on them, so they have to work the conversions). And every week it’s worth points towards the ULTIMATE METRIC CHAMPION! So I keep a points board in the room and at the end of the quarter the three students with the most points get prizes (they can choose from: turning in 1 assignment late, DJ for a day so they can pick 5 songs to play in class, and rewriting the seating chart… with my approval of course). They each gave me a code name for the points board (a color and an animal) so it is anonymous.
Hopefully test scores go up in the spring! Have any other ways to teach the metric system??