Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Less is More [warning: long!]

September 22, 2007

Today I taught the first lesson in the first Center of Excellence for Adolescent Literacy & Learning [CEALL] Follow-up Workshop – and I had worked for hours pulling the texts together, so I was anxious about it. After looking at the strategies Interns and Apprentices had the least experience with, I wanted to design a lesson that used Jigsaw and multiple texts, and I wanted to provide experience with several discussion strategies. The lesson was engaging, and I was pleased with that. But it might be “misnamed” – it was really about the three major monotheistic religions in the world, not so much the Middle East. So maybe next time around I’ll title the lesson differently, so it isn’t misleading. Even though the lesson focus was on religion, everyone was absorbed in the reading. The I-chart helped focus the reading – there was so much -- I probably could remove a couple of texts from it from it. Thinking about the 1.5 hour time limit, there were probably too many texts for such a short period of time – it could have formed the basis of an entire unit!

In the middle of the lesson, as I watched the Jigsaw groups working, it occurred to me that the Discussion Web I had planned was too much and not really “on target,” so I just left it out. The I-Chart worked so well to both focus and support the reading as well as focus the discussion that in the end I didn’t really need the Discussion Web. Another reason to leave it out was that it was focused on the issues between Israelis and Palestinians – another facet of the Middle East issue, but not really on target given the readings and I-Chart. All in all, because of the time [we had decided to move the share from Friday evening to Saturday morning] a wise move, I think. But it wasn’t only the time issue. I’ve really got enough material for three separate lessons in these materials. One on the religions [a fundamental understanding necessary to consider the current [and past] crises in the area], one on Israel/Palestine, and one on the Middle East in general. I just need to weed out some things and reorganize the materials.

So I was pleased with the level of engagement, and the graphic organizers produced by the Jigsaw groups were wonderful – I think it was an interesting lesson and I was able to model Jigsaw and I-Chart – we’ll leave Discussion Web until later.

The afternoon lesson was a math lesson on measures of central tendency. I had posted a paper with marks on it so participants could measure their height in inches and record it on another large piece of chart paper on the wall. As participants came back from lunch, they helped each other measure their height and posted the data on the chart paper. In the lesson, we used the original data as a springboard to discuss organizing the data, describing the data [here's where measures of central tendency came in] and then which descriptions were appropriate in different circumstances.

In retrospect, I wish I had used the data generated to better advantage. I could have had participants calculate the mean, median and mode when they read the short text; that would have helped make the connection between our data and the reading. If Leigh [a Leadership Team member who is a math teacher and worked this first workshop] had not been there I would have made an even bigger mess of the lesson. When she first looked at the data, all mixed up [which is how I wanted it to be] she just couldn't stand it. She said, first I have to organize this data -- and she did; but she did a sort of stem and leaf plot [which turned out to be a good idea because then we discussed the tri-modal nature of the data].

But it all worked out in the end, and although it wasn't perfect, the lesson worked. We used cubing as a way to discuss and refine the vocabulary terms of mean, median, mode, and outlier. Next time around with this lesson, though, I'll pick a better text - outlier wasn't even in the text!

Well, that's what reflection and revision are for, I guess.

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