At the end of every 1st semester, students who failed a course are invited to participate in Comet Academy, my schools grade recovery/remediation sessions. This year, those attending Comet Academy come for 2 1/2 hours for 6 consecutive Saturday mornings. During our first session on January 30th, students were given a 30 questions, multiple choice pretest covering 5 key standards from 1st semester. I was assigned the 8th graders who failed to which I was very excited. 8th grade is the one grade level I haven’t been able to infiltrate with the use of manipulatives and building conceptual understanding.

Students completed the pretest in about an hours time, followed by checking the answers of a partner. Stunned by the results, I knew immediately, 6 sessions, even at 150 minutes a pop, wouldn’t be enough to get the students to pass the post test. The highest score was 11 out of 30 correct, ugh!

After proposing to the math AP about the need for a math boot camp for students who failed to stabilize their foundation for high school, I got busy planning. 8th graders who failed 1st semester, whether they attend Comet Academy or not, would be pulled twice a week for 30 minutes each time for 5 weeks. This would occur during their Connections classes (electives, specials, not the core classes). This boot camp would only offer additional support and would not be rewarded with a grade, extra credit or anything tangible outside of a better understanding of the content. For students who are often motivated by outside factors, I needed to ensure the activities were enticing enough to get them to come week after week.

Meaningful Practice

The standards are not new for students, therefore a mix of meaningful practice and concept development is necessary. In their regular classroom, students are subjected to worksheet after worksheet or textbook page after textbook page for practice. In boot camp we used a Solving Equations Bingo game to practice solving equations. Students filled in the answers: x=3, x=11.5, x= 1 1/2, x=5, x= 17, x=4, x=17 and -72 =x into the Bingo board. Then I read off equations in which students needed to solve in order to cover the correct answer.

We also played a game of Knockout! This idea was taken from the basketball game Knockout! In the basketball version, participates line up behind the free throw line, the first two people in line have a basketball. The goal is for the second person in line to make a shot before the person in front of them in order to knock the player out of the game. In boot camp, students sat in a straight line and the second person tried to correctly answer the math problem before the person in front of them did in order to knock them out of the game. Here’s the PowerPoint with the game: Boot Camp 2-9 and 2-11.

To encourage collaboration, students were grouped (they chose girls against boys) and given whiteboards to record the answers to problems. The group representatives would hold up their whiteboard showing their answers. In order to receive a point, teams had to get the correct answer, but also shot a tiny basketball into a toy hoop.

Concept Development

To help to continue to build student understanding of solving equations and integer rules, I used lessons from Hands-On Standards and incorporated color tiles and algeblocks with lessons like this Exponent Activity.

Formative Assessment

I have to know where they are from day to day because I don’t have a lot of time to cover the material. Therefore, each session has a connected formative assessment. This helps me to plan differentiated lessons even within the small group of students I see on the different days. I’ve used a two question quiz, a portion of a FAL and a Ticket out the Door pictured below. Students were able to choose what type of question they wanted to answer which is a formative assessment within a formative assessment :-).