Sunday, October 28, 2012

Default mode

This week was a little disappointing. I had been very excited about how the year had started - I put in a lot of work this summer to revise the first big chapter (exponent properties and polynomial operations) to make it more constructivist and engaging. There was lots of group work (including using my new big whiteboards!!), writing and reflection questions, and classes that built from exploration --> sharing out --> a teeny bit of summary from me to pull it all together. It felt organic and like the ideas were coming from the students themselves. Almost all of the students did a really great job pulling everything together for the chapter test - the average was much higher than last year.

Working polynomial problems in their groups

I had students give me anonymous feedback via a google form towards the end of the chapter (yay for actually doing one of my goals for the year!) and was happy to see how positive students were feeling about the class and their understanding of the material. My favorite quotes:

"I think that we should keep spending a lot of time going over homework and learning by making mistakes in the notes."
"I like how you have us interacting with others with our groups to solve problems."
"I liked how last year we consistently did notes, like a pattern, and at the beginning of this year, it was hard to adjust to what we do now. But now I realize that I like figuring things out in my own ways, not just following the repetitive steps on the notes."

Given how well things were going last chapter, I was surprised with how meh this week has gone. Classes felt boring and I noticed that I was doing lots and lots of the talking and that students were passively completing problems with little engagement and interaction. Then I gave a short & sweet quiz on Friday on some early factoring concepts (factoring by GCF and factoring by grouping). Holy cow. So awful. So so so so awful. It's like they learned almost nothing this week. I can count on one hand the number of students who did even remotely well on this quiz. Thinking things through, I've realized that I've completely reverted to my default mode of teaching - here students, I'm going to work through some example problems, and you just follow along. Now, you try some and I will help you if you get stuck. Oh look, class is over. Let's do that again tomorrow. Ughhhhh!! 

This quiz was a good wake-up call for me that old habits die hard and that I need to be vigilant and keep the big picture in mind for how I want class to go and what I need to do to make sure that it's student-centered and engaging and that students are actually learning and not just following along mindlessly. My plan for Monday is to provide one actual incorrect approach for each problem from the quiz (one per group) and have students analyze the error and explain what went wrong and how to do it correctly to the class. I also want to talk about study strategies because I definitely got the sense that few students actually reviewed for this quiz or did so in an effective manner. I made this handout to help them think through studying for math quizzes and tests:

Then, it's back to the drawing board for me to plan the rest of the week's lessons with what I've learned this past week in mind. It's nice knowing that every day, I get a fresh start and a chance to get things right.

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