April Bain, Los Angeles, CA
A few years ago I decided I needed to increase the urgency in which I started the lessons in order to give students maximum class time to work through the problems. I felt challenged that by the time students settled in class, we finished reviewing homework, the students transitioned to the classwork, and I gave an introduction to the lesson, we were 20 minutes into the period! It was no wonder that my students were never able to finish the core problems: they were given 35 minutes to complete a 50-minute lesson.
After some reflection, I concluded that I needed to limit the number of transitions and give my students a specific procedure that they knew to follow every single day when they walked in my room. I also decided to move the homework review and collection to the end of the period. And this year, I decided to replace homework review with daily mathematical writing (but that will be another article.) Now I needed to add some stakes to motivate students to follow my new procedure.
Thus was born the First Minute grade. Once the bell rings, students have one minute to get themselves “ready to learn.” For my classes, “ready to learn” was defined as collecting their group’s homework folder, opening their textbook to the section, having their materials ready to work, and being in their seats. The students begin each chapter with 10 points next to their name on my seating chart. I diligently checked my students to see if they had met the requirements for the First Minute grade, and deducted points from any unprepared student’s score. After two weeks of this careful scrutiny, every student understood the expectations, and everyone was ready to go.
I have experienced many positive consequences in response to this practice. I immediately noticed that students were diving right into the classwork and we were finally finishing the lessons! Additionally, the grade serves as a work ethic grade to discuss during parent-teacher conferences. The grade is typically directly correlated to the students’ overall grade – even though it carries little weight in their overall grade. Another consequence: unexcused tardies are almost non-existent.
I have felt like my biggest struggle with using CPM is not enough time to get through the lessons. Since I cannot actually create more time, eliminating wasted time was the next best solution!