Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Problem of the Week success:)

This week I graded what I think was the third POW writeup that I have assigned. Once again (even though I dread grading them) they provided "teacher encouragement." My 2 favorite comments in the "what I learned" portion were:
If you listen to the teacher she will give you hints that really help you. 

My parents said they didn't get to do fun assignments or sit in groups in their math class. (She thinks math can be fun??? = total success!!) 
I think the one about listening to the teacher is funny; the truth is many of my students tune me out while I am addressing the class as a whole. Then when the realize I've stopped talking they look around and say, "What are we supposed to be doing?" Ugh! I am trying some tricks to try to improve my students listening skills. One is to randomly call on a student at the end of class and ask them a question that they should know the answer to if they listened in class. I don't always ask them a math question either. I reward them with candy or letting them leave the room first.

One other thing that encouraged me this past week was noticing that I had one student use tables to graph lines. As a math teacher I think that is strange because I used to always put my equations in slope-intercept form to graph. Teaching from the IMP Meaningful Math Algebra book has helped me to allow students to discover the way that works best for them (believe me I always tell them the way I think is easier!! Haha!). I taught slope-intercept form (conceptually first in Overland Trail), graphing by intercepts, and graphing using tables almost simultaneously. I would stress the easiest way depending on the way the equation was written but told them over and over to use the way that makes the most sense to them. Out of 21 students I had 1 girl get 8 out of 9 graphing questions correct using tables. Even though it was only one student who chose that method it really encouraged me to see that some students really do benefit from the "alternate" approach. I have spent many years teaching them with the methods that I think are the most efficient. I feel like what I am doing now benifits my students more.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Questioning and group work

My newest focus is to improve at using quality questioning to improve discussions and student engagement in my classroom AND to learn how to better manage group work. I have just recently decided to really narrow my focus to these 2 things for the rest of the year. There are so many teachers that I have talked to about these things and I have come to realize (again) that just because something works great in someone else's classroom it may or may not work in mine.

Here's an example...I had someone (Tanya Barnes) to tell me that I should rarely be the one at the board going over problems. She said the students should do it because then they take more ownership. My argument was that I do sometimes have my students go to the board to share their thoughts or answers on a task. However, more often I stand at the board and lead the discussion and write down the answers the students say so that the class can decide if it is correct. It is so much faster!!! And I have alot of material to cover!!! So...I listened to her and made a concentrated effort to have students go to the board today to share out. I even let them do the examples  (when I had a student that understood). You see....I teach freshman. And I have several competitive boys in my classes AND a few girls who love to prove people wrong. It takes twice as long (or longer) when they go to the board because they have to turn around every time someone makes a noise or comment....then they have to be a comedian....then they have to pop someone on the back of the head on the way back to his seat. Ugh!!! I caught another teacher walking by my room (good ole Amy Walker) and said, "There are some strategies that just DON'T WORK with all classes!" I told her what I was attempting and she reminded me that no one else knows my students like I do. Even if another teacher has freshmen they aren't exactly like our freshmen. I AM THE EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONAL....I AM THE EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONAL.... (excuse me while I try to convince myself....haha!). I know how to make adjustments based on the students in my classes....right? then I thought about it and remembered how I have judged people for trying something one time and then giving up on it. So, my commitment is to keep on trying this "strategy" until Christmas. I am hoping my students will get more accustomed to listening to their peers and using the question stems I have hung in my room without being so immature and silly. But....I teach freshmen. I am just hoping the percentage of silliness lessens. I know it will still happen. My goal is to not be writing on the board if I have a student who can be doing the work instead. It's like a balancing act at the circus. If I lean too much in the wrong direction it's not good. (Did I really just compare my classes to the circus?) Here is hoping for a great balance of mathematical discussions, productive groupwork, and teacher-led discussions.

I appreciate the input and opinions of everyone and hope to use them all to find what works best for me and my students.