While this new blogging/twittering (tweeting?) thing has been wonderful, it has also made me overwhelmed with thoughts about what I want to change in my curriculum for next year. I've been working in a bunch of different directions for a few years (some quite contradictory), but I'm hoping to pull a lot of things together this summer and not feel like I'm tinkering at the edges. One of my sad realizations this year when we were moving offices and I cleaned out a giant box of crap I had lugged from my first school where I spent my first year teaching was all of the insane, cool, cutting edge stuff that I was doing then because I had no fear and didn't know any better and was doing the teaching thing completely solo and rudderless. The part that made me sad lay in realizing how much of that stuff has gone away since I've been at my current school and have become normal, established, and, gasp, respectable. In reality, a lot of that stuff did need to go away. I was giving kids really hard problems and open investigations with no scaffolding and support. I jumped from project to project with no follow through or continuity, which just created confusion. Everything was also handwritten and xeroxed (clearly, I hate trees). Not to mention the fact that my classroom management was just so ridiculous that first year that none of my grand curricular plans even had a chance. Since taking a curricular leap backward these past few years, I've been able to get so much better at organizing the day-to-day running of a class and my ability to interact with and lead students, which I know is really important for my development as a teacher. But I'm really ready to bring some of that crazy self back and inject some pow! back into my teaching.
To that end, I've been gathering resources and thinking how I want to restructure the various Algebra courses that I teach. Some things that I'm finding helpful are:
- Connected Mathematics
- Mathematics in Context
- CME Project
- Exeter packets
- Park Math
- Harkness resources, such as this
- Stalking everyone else's wonderful math blogs
- Relooking at grad school materials, now with actual teaching experience to use as a lens
Mainly, I want to change from feeling like I'm teaching a traditional curriculum with interesting problems thrown in every once in a while to a legit constructivist approach. But I still want it to feel cohesive and be rigorous. And I want the students to be on board, which means that I have to meet them where they are when they arrive in my classroom and get them to follow me somewhere different. So this will have to be much, much slower than that erratic first year and more intentional too. My plan right now is to start with the big ideas/concepts from each chapter in the book (not ready to ditch the textbook quite yet), and decide on the best sequence (I'm fine with "going out of order") and problem-based entry point for each concept. I need to decide on how many days for exploring and problem-solving and how much procedural practice I still want to include. Another change that I want to make is to tie journaling more directly to our classwork and problem solving, rather than an add-on "reflection" that students do before a quiz or to wrap up the chapter. I am also thinking of diversifying assessments to include more writing and problem solving, which is mainly just a brain switch for me to stop thinking of tests and quizzes as the "real" assessments of what students know and of projects as the intermediate step where they're still learning and making connections.
The nice thing about doing things "normally" at my current school is that I have some cred with students and the department so that they will give me leeway to try things without assuming I have no idea what I'm doing. It also means that I don't have to think as hard about procedural/classroom management/dealing with teenagers stuff because it sort of starts to make sense after all these years (which is its own brand of crazy). I can just focus on my curriculum. So it's on!
I would love to hear from others about how you've made your class more progressive or get recommendations for more curricular resources. As I start the actual reworking, I'll be posting ideas for problems and journal prompts for feedback too.