Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Adapt, not adopt or fear and panic

I did a lesson today that could serve as a model for integrating current events into a curriculum in a way that involves students in research, extends the curriculum, and helps students see how what they are learning in school is used the "the real world." Each of the strategies is well-suited for both science and math but they do take some adaptations, as do all strategies. I've seen excellent math teachers use adaptations of Discussion Web with several concepts in algebra; I need to call Leigh and remind her to send me those examples.

I need to keep reminding myself that these pre-service teachers have a hard time creating adaptations. Some are able to - but it is rare. And just because it is hard for them to "think outside the box" right now, doesn't mean they won't be able to when they have gained some experience in the classroom.

I like the slower pace - focusing on fewer strategies, but having students create examples from science and math. I just hope I'm giving them sufficient different strategies so that each of them will have enough strategies to choose from.

I didn't really have the math folks with me today. They have a hard time thinking of real world adaptations of the math they are teaching and a harder time envisioning adaptations of strategies taught embedded in other content areas. Perhaps I should have found a math current events lesson - but I had to make a choice between sleeping and having two different lessons today, and sleep won. After this weekend, things will be a little less hectic; at least I hope so.

These students have been taught math in one way: memorize algorithms, one and only one way to work math problems, use of naked numbers; we are asking them to teach in a whole other way - a way that promotes understanding rather than rote memory. They have a tall order and many, I suppose, are near panic. Who wouldn't be?? They fear, I suppose, not having all the answers. But who does??? And what a mistake to think that having all the answers is a good thing for students. We've all had teachers who feed their ego by proving [or trying to] they are the smartest in the room. When that happens, students are marginalized and most will never really love the subject matter they are being taught.

There is so much to learn about teaching - and learning -- and so little time. I remember when I was a new teacher -- these students know so much more than we ever did when first we set foot in a classroom. That gives me hope.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Conundrum at best

We are half way through the semester now and everyone, students and professors alike, are pressured [almost frantic] and tired. How can it be October already? Halloween is right around the corner.

I have to find a way to keep my late afternoon class engaged -- they are tired, I am tired, we are all ready to go home by the time class begins! Perhaps I need to use a workshop class structure more often -- engage students in creating activities to use in their classrooms; the other days I can model strategies embeded in a lesson. This Thursday [tomorrow] I'll be having students work with reading/learning guides and QARs in science and math; we'll also take a look at other questioning strategies.

I need to try a lesson out before the CEALL workshop next weekend -- maybe I'll do that on Tuesday of next week, have students provide feedback [so I can revise the lesson] and then have students work with the strategies to come up with adaptations for their content areas on Thursday.

We'll see how this goes -

Thursday, October 11, 2007

More with less

I have made a decision to focus on less in more depth this semester - something I usually think about at the end of a semester when I'm frantically trying to "cover" everything. This semester, though, I reread my Blog before I planned the semester, and realized that I really needed try doing more with less. So far I'm pleased with the way things are going. I eliminated several assignments this semester and haven't missed them - probably won't.

Today, I blocked out some time for students to work on anticipation guides or problems to use to engage students in topics. Students in the 2PM class worked on anticipation guides, and pretty much stayed focused on the task. I think they got a better understanding of anticipation guides, something they wouldn't have developed without today's workshop. But in the 3:30 class, there were 9 absences [this weekend is a non-game weekend and Monday is Fall Break - I should have seen this one coming] and students who did come to class seemed sort of distracted, unfocused. We were all tired, break was literally minutes away - and they didn't get as much done as in the earlier class. I hope the time was valuable to them. Maybe it was me - maybe I was too informal or unstructured. I'm planning to create some additional workshop time this semester, but kind of hesitate to do so if the time isn't well-spent. Maybe I need to provide more structure in the later section - do something like a Think-Pair-Share and have students provide responses to each other's drafts. That way, students could share and get feedback on their plans. I'll need to think about this - goodness knows I have enough new stuff to use with them, but I don't want to throw so much at them that they get overwhelmed.