Here we are again getting ready for another Algebra STAAR test. Last year was crazy and very hard to prepare students. This year is just as challenging, but in a different way. Last year, no one expected much from the students. Learning math online is super tough. This year, the expectations will be higher. We’ve had a full year of being back in a building. Students have learned more this year, but how will they perform after having some pretty dramatic learning loss from the past few years?

We are well into the 5th six weeks at this point and I only have quadratics left to teach. As far as reviewing for the STAAR, I’ve started a few things. We made STAAR flashcards from the task cards that are in one of my resources and students have done some of the boom cards to practice fill-in-the-blank questions. I’m going to start tutoring once a week after school and invite students that did poorly on the Algebra STAAR benchmark we just gave at the end of February. I will begin a three-week focused STAAR review on April 11th.

Here’s my plan for the last three weeks leading up to the test: (You will not see much on quadratics in this review since this is the topic that was just completed.)

Week 1: Bell Ringers for the next two weeks will be key features of linear, quadratic and exponential graphs. Obj. 4 – Correlation Coefficient and scatterplots for quadratics and exponential functions. Obj. 12(b, c, d) – Evaluating Functions and Algebraic and Geometric Sequences.

Week 2: Domain and Range for Linear, Quadratic & Exponential (Obj. 2a, 6a, 9a). Review of Systems (Obj. 2i, 3f, g, h, 5c). Review of Slope and Graphing Linear Functions (Obj. 3b and d).

Week 3: Start a brain dump. Use the brain dump for bell ringers. Obj. 5a – Solving Equations, Obj.10e – Factoring, Obj. 11b – Laws of Exponents

*I cannot plan for other students that are not mine, but this is a general plan that should work for most situations. Think about your own students and what their strengths and weaknesses are!

**These topics were strategically selected by analyzing past Algebra STAAR exams and knowing the Readiness Standards.

All of this material is in one place in my store if you are interested in purchasing. Click on the pic below to find it in my store:

Algebra 1 is a fun but challenging class to teach. So many thoughts run through my head when I think about the beginning of the year in Algebra. One of the biggies is how much do the students remember from their previous math class? This is especially a big question since last year our district went to a distance learning format. I’m not sure what to expect from the incoming students, so I need a plan.

This year will be interesting. Our district has decided to have both online learning and in class learning. I’m working hard to make sure I have plenty of lessons that will work for either scenario. I’m going to start the year off with a two day review of number sense, order of operations and basic operations with integers. I’ve used this in the past because I always get a range of abilities, so I want to know where the students are. I have a print version of what I use and I’ve recently made a digital version. After I do the two day lesson, I give the students 3 quizzes (yep 3… because I want the repetition and plus it’s a challenge). All the quizzes are similar to each other but ask slightly different questions. The quizzes contain 15 questions. To move to the next quiz, students must make an 80 or better. If they don’t, they retake it. (These are timed because I don’t want the students to take too long. Either they know it or they don’t.) This can last up to 3 weeks. It’s not hard to keep up with because I take a grade on each quiz. Here’s a peek at the print version of the quiz vs. the Google Forms version:

The majority of the six weeks should (and hopefully will) be spent on solving equations. The days in the plan are block-schedule days. We have classes every other day for 80 minutes except on Fridays when the classes are only about 35 minutes. Below is plan that I will follow with the activities:

I’ve linked the topics to some of my lessons and worksheets that I used in my TpT store, but as I see the need, I go find content in other places. My district uses a couple of resources that I pull from as well, but our students know how to find answers online for these assignments, so I don’t like to use them for homework.

If you’ve never used quizziz.com, you should try it. The kids really enjoy doing these. I like that the students can do them more than one time. I have the students show work in their journal. Basically it’s just a digital quiz with 4 answer choices. These are teacher-made and there are a ton to choose from on just about every topic.

One of my favorite digital resources is Boom Learning. If you like task cards, then you will love Boom Cards. Again, these cards are teacher-made. There are a variety of ways kids can answer questions. I started creating my own decks. I used two of my own creations the first six weeks. One set of Boom Cards covered patterns and how to write an expression from a pattern. The other set was for practicing solving equations and inequalities. The kids can go through them as many times as they want so they get a lot of practice and get the best grade possible. To use Boom Cards, you need a teacher account. The free account is perfectly fine, but you don’t get to see the reports. The best thing to do is to get a paid account which is only $15 – 35 dollars a year depending on which plan you choose. Make your own decks or purchase decks. There are free choices as well. Click here to go check out my store. I’m brand new at making these, but I can already tell that this will be something I work on because all of my classes love Boom Cards!

After I get used to my students and find out who has gaps in their learning, then it will be time to dive into tutoring. I will engage my students through online tutoring this year. It will be an interesting year to say the least. I know that I will need patience and I will need to be flexible. I’m ready for anything and I hope you are too. I wish you well in your new year!

I promised that I would keep anyone interested up-to-date this year on my progress. I love doing this because I’m going to be able to look back and see where I want to improve after I get my results this year. Here’s my post on the first six weeks: First Six Weeks in Algebra I

I lumped the 2nd and 3rd 6 weeks together in one post because I have so many interruptions during this time. Every time I turn around there’s a field trip, a district benchmark, PSAT, TSI or other disruptions. My strategy has been to get through as much content as possible. I know my students very well at this point and I know who to keep an eye on.

The content that we’ve covered heavily is seen below:

So far I haven’t pulled many questions of old STAAR test. Their minds were blown when I was explaining the recursive formula in arithmetic sequences. I did look back into old STAAR test to see how often sequences have been tested. The only question I could find from the the past three years was this problem from the 2017 released test:

In general, arithmetic (and geometric) sequences are not a big part of the test. The 2019 test did not have any questions on the topic. This question below is from the 2018 test:

I suspect that they rotate questions from the TEKS and that next year there will be at least one question like #22 or #9 above.

I wanted to start some recycling of the first six weeks through practice sheets like I did last year but life happens and I did not start this. (Side note: I’ve been teaching for 33 years. I always make plans to do this or that, but I’ve learned that I cannot always get to everything. Please don’t beat yourself up if you do this too. A lot of things in education and the school environment cannot be controlled. Don’t worry if you have visions of grandeur but it doesn’t always work out.) One thing I do feel good about is that I do not let the students use a calculator every day. They have to do math in their head. They did a lot of solving for y and manipulating formulas so they did get a taste of some of the things from the first six weeks which was mostly solving equations. Another thing I feel ok about is I know that I’m about to do systems which will also be good for practicing solving equations. We will also hit inequalities again through systems, so recycling information is going to happen naturally!

While on the topic of systems, if you are behind in your curriculum, this is a good time to try to catch up. Systems are important, but you can save solving for systems for after the STAAR test. Teach them how to set them up and solve them on the calculator for now. I hate this, but at the same time you have to make sure you cover all the material. Save solving systems algebraically for later if you need to.

I promised myself that I would make sure and have students explain the math they were using more. I wanted to know if they really understood how to solve for y and graph equations, so I made a flipgrid question when we got to solving and graphing inequalities. The students really enjoyed it and it was an eye opener for me. Students have a hard time with the vocabulary and I could tell who was bluffing their way through explaining the process.

The second semester has started and now it’s crunch time. I have to be deliberate in everything we do. We are starting with graphing and writing linear systems and then on to exponent rules. Check back to see what happens next!