I railed, as usual, about how much I hate having to focus on a single test, but this year my rant was based on how my (un-accelerated) middle school students are taking an "end-of-year-test" exactly 3 months before the end of the school year. On the other hand, being an essentially optimistic sort of person, I decided that this block of time (more than an entire marking period!) could be used to be a little more experimental and experiential in my classroom, at least in the two middle school math classes I teach.
So, we are dabbling in "thinking," inspired by the book "Making Thinking Visible" by Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison. I've declared a restart, and both the seventh and eighth graders are looking at patterns, one class in number patterns and the other in visual patterns with examples and work pulled, in part, from another book: "Creative Problem Solving in School Mathematics" by Lenchner (1983!).
As a bit of a confession, I spent three years teaching without a textbook (roof leaking and pack-ratting contributing to that situation) and I think I did a better job, the students learned more, and we all enjoyed it more. So...
I've got some more thinking and planning to go before we delve into some smaller problem-based learning. I'm fishing for books, blogs, resources, and ideas. We'll see how that goes.