Sunday, May 10, 2015

How can we correct the scarecrow? (Adapted R. Kaplinsky lesson with a Colin Dodds video too!)

     My 8th grade Pre-Algebra students have been working on our Pythagorean Theorem unit for a couple of weeks. Today when the kids walked into the room I turned on this short video by  Colin Dodds.   I told them to pay attention to the vocabulary in the song because they would be using it in today's lesson.  We have been using this vocabulary all along but this gave great visuals as well as music to help them remember the words. I did add my input when the song said the two other sides, I asked, "What is the vocabulary word for those two other sides? The kids love all of Colin Dodds' songs.


    Robert Kaplinsky has an amazing site and if you haven't seen it before you are in for a treat.  One of the lessons that he has listed for the 8th grade Pythagorean Theorem Standard is, "How can we correct the Scarecrow?," from the Wizard of Oz.  I asked the kids how many of them had seen the movie. Only about half of my students had seen it. WHAT!!! I was shocked. Of course, they all wanted to watch it right then and there but no - not today. So we talked about the Scarecrow and how he gets his brain and tries to recite the Pythagorean Theorem but gets it mixed up. As I have told you before the majority of my students speak another language so I knew I would need a visual on this part of the lesson. I made a template for them to fill for this activity so they had a little direction. (The download is at the end of this post.)

     We watched the Scarecrow and together wrote down what he said. It took about 4 times repeating the video to get the whole statement. Working in their groups the students needed to find the Scarecrow's  mistakes, write them down, and correct what was wrong. I told them that I found 5 mistakes and challenged them to find them all. Believe it or not, you could hear crickets in the room (that means it was really quiet for my second language friends). They looked at me with big eyes as I walked around waiting for me to tell them the answer. Nope, that is not happening. 

    Me: "What is something that the Scarecrow said that was wrong?" Luckily the isosceles triangle was one that they could see right away so that gave them some encouragement. After a few minutes I heard isosceles triangle, hypotenuse, legs and so on. I told them I like the math vocabulary I was hearing.

     After they found the mistakes they were to write down what the Scarecrow should have actually said. 
Me: " No you cannot write a2 + b2 = c2. You need to write a statement using the math vocabulary we have learned in this unit."  There was a lot of groaning at this point from many of them.

     Here are some examples of the students work. Sorry if it is hard to read, they use mechanical pencils are light and difficult to read.

     When the kids wrote down the quote from the scarecrow, I didn't write it, I only repeated it. Being a math person I just assumed that the students would know he was talking about  "the sum of the square roots" not, "some of the square roots." I clarified that with my other two classes.

     I think that hypotenuse and hypothesis from science became a new word here. You will see how my kids struggled using the correct vocabulary for this activity.

   So many students thought that some was a mistake and that sum was the correction. I think next year I will write out with them what the Scarecrow actually said. 

We have been using the words squared and square roots all year. How can they not understand the difference? I had no idea this was an issue for so many of them.

Almost correct.

    At the very beginning of the video clip the Wizard says he has his Thd, Doctor of Thinkology Degree. Many of the kids didn't understand the reference and believed it was a mistake and should be Phd. That was not something I thought about but it made sense.

     The template I created was taken from one we used in the past for the extended response problems that were part of our state testing. It was called a 4 square template. The top left box is where the students would write,  What I know. The bottom left was where they would show their Work, the bottom right is where they would Explain their work and the top right box would say, My answer is ... and they would circle their answer. It was a good template but we can't use it anymore because the students need to write their responses in paragraph form. Too bad, it was a great tool for them and I do use it for lessons like this.

     We used the entire 45 minute period to do this lesson. One of my classes had to watch Colin Dodds video and extra 3 times to listen and look at the vocabulary again.

     Another class was able to finish so I collected the paper and found "my  favorite no." The next day I went over "my favorite no" with the other two classes as well. I use this quite a bit in my classroom. Watch the video from the Teaching Channel which explains "my favorite no" better than I ever could. I do believe they understood the difference between when to write squared or square root when we went over the favorite no's.


      Last year I tried this lesson by just watching the video and it was confusing for my students. Having the kids write down what the Scarecrow said and doing this activity at the end of the Pythagorean Theorem Unit made a big difference over last year. There was still confusion on the difference between the vocabulary words square root and squaring a number. They knew the difference between the computations but not the words. I think having to struggle rewriting what the Scarecrow should have said was a great learning experience for them. I had fun watching them when they started finding the mistakes and how they were interacting in their groups. They did a great job. It was a GOOD DAY and you have to sit back and enjoy that when those days happen. I'm smiling.

Download document

Til next time,


  1. I love this and hope to remember it to use next year in my classes! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Mickie,
    Glad you like it. I had a lot of fun with this activity and the kids really worked hard. Love to hear how it goes next year when you use this. It's always good to hear from you:)

  3. Thank you for this document! I have been trying to find a way to implement this in my classroom where students have to write... great idea!

  4. I I am always trying to add writing in as well. I hope you students enjoy this activity. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment.


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