Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Read and Follow Directions!! #justdoit

Today I had a realization that I way too often take away my students' opportunities to read and interpret directions. In most cases I have them read the directions for a problem or an activity and then I restate them in a step by step order so that they will "do it right." (Please don't judge me! I teach algebra from a problem-based curriculum and my intention is just to get them going in the right direction...) 
So...today we were doing an activity where we had 4 sets of data that all had a mean of 20. They were given 3 different ways to measure the amount that the data spread from the mean. (The activity talks about 3 different students and their ideas about how to measure the spread of the data...range, adding the differences from the mean, or one other method where they just needed to follow steps!) The 2nd and 3rd methods totally threw them for a loop (even though there was an example to go by). So...I gave them about 5 minutes to get started and noticed as I walked around that most of the papers were COMPLETELY BLANK. They kept saying..."Mrs. Owens I need help." "Mrs. Owens will you come show me how to do it?" "I don't know what to do!" Today I replied to all of this with, "I'm not helping you! Follow the directions!" Then they asked me why I was yelling at them to which I answered that they have to quit sitting there during their "work time" waiting on me to go over the problems with the class. They should make an effort. Read and follow the directions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Try it first!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
Ok...sorry about all the ranting. I can not fully explain this to you without telling the directions they were supposed to follow. They were supposed to take off the lowest and the highest data items and then fine the ONE data ITEM that was the farthest from the mean and assign that number (difference from the mean) as the spread. The directions were very specific. Almost every student did fine taking out the lowest and the highest but they were doing some crazy stuff with what was left. Some were averaging the data items that were left, some were adding together their differences from the mean, yada yada yada... They were getting so frustrated that I wouldn't TELL them what to do. I would just ask questions like, "Does it tell you to find the mean?" To which they would say, "I don't know." And I would say, "Read the directions!!" So...I finally had a couple of students start to figure it out and when they did they were all mad saying stuff like, "We did all that math and working it out and we didn't have to?!?!" And I said..."All you had to do was FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!"
I take full responsibility for my students' dependence on me to "reread" and "reword" directions. I will do better!
(I may have the opportunity to write a blog about a lesson in particular but just in case I thought I would count this one toward the MTBoS Blogging Initiative...this is certainly an example of a "recovery plan" for what I did today when I realized my students depend on me way too much!)