April 13, 2015

Color Coding

After years of teaching, I've learned many things. Most of them are hard to teach someone else - learning how to read students, when to push and when to step back, all the possible misconceptions students have and all the possible paths to correct them. But some things I've learned that are easy to share. One of those things? Color coding. 

We do card sorts in my class frequently. Tomorrow's instructions will include "spread out all these pieces of paper, look at them, put them in groups based on whatever characteristics you want." Tactile noticing. Card sorts are awesome for getting kids ideas out in front, seeing what vocabulary they have and what jumps out at them vs. what is less obvious. We've spent a lot of time talking about increasing and decreasing but this set will be the first they see with values below the x-axis. Will they still talk about increasing and decreasing? Let's find out!

While card sorts are great for kids, they are a pain for teachers. You have to make copies, cut them out and keep them in separate piles. So either you cut out one sheet at a time (painfully slow) or you cut them in stacks and try to carefully deal out the cards so there's one of each type in the piles. I did that today for the 4 copies I made in white, but the rest are on color paper. That meant I could hand a student the messy pile of cards and say "Can you sort by color?" When a student drops one on the floor I don't have to stop and say "Whose is this? Everyone count how many cards you have!" I can easily match it, hand it back to the kid and move on. If you don't have color paper, it's worth the investment of a multi-color package. If you still don't have color paper you can do what I did with the 4 on white paper - make a same color mark on every card. All the white with orange stripe cards go together. It seems obvious in retrospect but every new teacher walks out of the copy room with a pile of papers held between every pair of fingers to keep them straight. There's a better way. Let me share my knowledge built up over years of struggle - color code.

p.s. If you're interested in this sort it's here: scribd link. My colleague found it somewhere. If you know whose it is please let me know so I can cite! I would not recommend using it as is. Which he told me after he used it and I forgot! I would make the equation cards just as big as the graph ones. Since I forgot, I taped down the strips of equations on paper and will have students match graphs to equations that way after sorting the graphs.

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