Seeing Red

I have been reading through some of my reflections from the first semester. This one prompted further reflection.


I had mixed feelings when Desmos announced the card sort option. I love card sorts. I have a cabinet with boxes filled with cut up cards. I have used them with partners, groups and even whole class human card sort giving a card to each student. I love the conversation the sorting generates.

My original question still comes back to me. I would answer now that being able to embed a card sort within an activity really helps. I also appreciate the data I get from the dashboard. I am conflicted how to best use that data. I had that opportunity yesterday.

My math 8 class was working through the card sort that is part of the Marcellus the Giant activity. This has been a challenging one for my 8th graders. I take a look at the dashboard and see red. Literally red.


What now?

No teachers wants to see all of that red. Now I need to consider my options. What move do I make? These might be options open to me.

Ignore it. Let it go.

I can wait. I can direct my energy to other pieces of the activity and possibly address some of the misconceptions shown in the card sort by doing so. I can treat the data as formative assessment. I can work with my PLC to figure out how to follow up. It might mean generating classroom conversation by looking at mismatched card sets in tomorrow’s class. It might mean spending more time with a concept. The data is there and useful. This is difficult because I hate seeing so much red. I want to fix it.

Project Responses for self-correction.

I can project the key. I can anonymize and project so students can self correct. I don’t think I should use this option very often. It doesn’t feel right. The feedback is so immediate that they really don’t have to think about what is written on the card. Projecting might be useful if many of the students have been successful and some have a few cards to switch. I can sit individually with any that have several mismatches. I should ask myself why am I asking students to spend time on a card sort if I already expect that most students will be successful.

Pause or Pace

I can intervene. One option is too pause and reflect on the overview once everyone has had a chance to complete the card sort. Utilize the most common incorrect groups provided in the overview. Consider the mismatches and bring out conversation with a think/pair/share. Follow by inviting them to look to their card sort for revisions.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

I can be a matchmaker. One strategy I have tried this year is to pair students telling them that I noticed they sorted their cards in different ways. Allow them to reason it out together. I might even pair students and then find them another partner. This is a decision to invest more time in the activity and the card sort itself.

For Marcellus the Giant, I was the matchmaker. I am busy following the dashboard on my iPad and pairing students who have different sorts. I was so pleased to see the first pair (started 1/5 and 2/5 correct) reason together and see their spots on the dashboard turn green after several minutes of conversation. How did that happen? I didn’t need to intervene.

While they were working I continued match making. More green. As pairs resorted I began matching them with other pairs if they had a different sort. We invested much more time in this card sort. I left convinced it was time well spent. They needed to talk through the card sort that was very challenging.

As I reflect, this activity might be best done in pairs. I often pair students on an activity. On the other hand, every student wants to explore varying scale factors. Every student wants a shot at adding an accessory. The match making allowed both opportunities.


1/4/2018 Further Reflection

As part of planning an activity, I now look to see if there is a screen where I want to be the matchmaker. This is particularly the case if I plan to have students work individually on an activity.

The “Seeing Red” feedback parallels my wonder about how to respond to the new dashboard summary screen. Here is a portion another reflection from earlier this year after my first use of the summary screen.

I think I have to be really careful to use the information well. Today I paid attention to the summary screen on my iPad as I ran the activity. It was tempting to intervene as a saw the x’s. That may not always be the best move. I would imagine that students often make some mistakes only to have an “aha” a few screens later and then go back and self correct. I also know that I sometimes misuse the correctness tools that I have now. At times I have put up the card sort display under anonymous so students can check. I know this is not the most effective move. It is far better to pair students together and say I noticed that they sorted the cards differently. Let them reason it out. Would it be tempting to a teacher for expediency to project the summary screen as students work? Would it be a good move? I am not so sure.

Typically, I will follow a few key screens on my iPad dashboard and listen in or drop in to wonder about their work. If it is an expression screen I might huddle a group together that have different looking expressions. Today I watched the summary screen. It felt like a race. I felt the pull to intervene when I saw the x. I think I have to be very careful with that screen.

I wrote, “It felt like a race. I felt the pull to intervene when I saw the x in the summary screen.” It is the same as seeing red. How should I respond? I am still struggling with how to best use the immediacy of the feedback. A quote from a recent Marilyn Burns tweet might be helpful here.

In fact her recent blog about reflecting on a lesson and pedagogical mistakes was very helpful.

Upon further reflection, a question I am asking myself. Why would I use an activity if I thought that students would go through it perfectly without the x’s? I need to remind myself to give students space to learn and make mistakes.

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