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.


Michael said...

Couple thoughts from a student's perspective:
1) Timing
-The later class is in your room from 3:30 to 4:45 and our occasional distracted and unfoucsedness (I know that probably isn't a real word) is more from being tired than it being your class. Most of us were probably up late the night before doing work for your class or Dr. Manizade's class, then up early because alot of us have observations on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. After observations we have class from noon until 5 and by about four o'clock we are pretty worn out and tired of being in a classroom. That is just how I kind of see things, a suggestion might be to relocate class to the amphitheater for a change of pace, I know that makes the power point slides tough, but we could focus on some other form of learning. Just an idea because I hate offering critiques with out a solution.
2) I know you weren't a math teacher, but let's incorporate more math related examples in out class. Yesterday in class we listed roughly 20 different learning strategies but we struggled with their pros and cons. You then said it would be a huge help if we would have roughly 6 of these under our belts to be ready to teach. I think it would help us the most if we took 10-12 learning strategies and worked with them, made real math examples out of them and spent alot of time on them and showed us where to find others. This way we would come up with multiple ways we could actually use these things in our classes and have hands on experience with them in class. I forget the name of it but the activity where we took on the perspective of one idea and wrote to something else was effective and I enjoyed it, but we touched on it and left it (something like I was the denominator of a fraction talking to the numerator in order to obtain something). I think it would be more effective if we took 4-5 of these strategies and spent two weeks learning how to do only them and kept working with them over and over, because we aren't familiar with them. Once may be enough for you because you've been doing this for a while but it is the first time we've seen it so we need a little more time and some hands on activity with it. I guess I feel we could go deeper with the material and it would be better for us than listing them, naming pro's and con's and mentioning where they can be used. We will get much more out of it if we actually come up with multiple examples of them. I would first do it in something that is not math related to get a grasp on it and then do use the strategies in a math related context.
3) Don't say you hate math.
-It may be true, but do not be blatant about it. We are going to be math teachers and if our Read 498 professor tells us she hates math then I know atleast me I am going to be turned off towards the class. You may not have interest in learning math but atleast give off the perception that you are interested in it. If you do not know it, then us making learning strategies for different math topics can only help you and us at the same time.

Sorry for the length, just a couple things I had been thinking about.

java junkie said...

First, thanks for your response. I can't do anything about the late afternoon class, but I think your idea about really looking in depth at the strategies is a good one. One thing, though, that makes that not as easy as it seems: I'm not after just strategy knowledge here. You need to know about the conditional information, the principles of [for example] guided learning and reflection - yes, and prior knowledge, in order to be able to effectively adapt strategies for your content area and students. Another thing you need to consider is how the strategy relates to students' learning cycle - and these are not well-structured knowledge domains we are talking about here, so cognitive flexibility is essential. I will take your suggestion to heart, though. I'll plan to teach a lesson, say on Tuesday, and then we can look at the strategies on Thursday and perhaps the following Tuesday -- and we don't all have to be adapting and trying out the same strategies.

As for my hating math, please remember that what I said was that when I was in high school I hated math - chiefly because I had a math teacher who worked all the problems, expected us to merely memorize the algorithms, and regurgitate them back to him on the test. I never really saw how math would be used "in the real world" -- in fact, I learned all of the math I knew when I went off to college in my physics class. I just can't do naked numbers! It isn't that I hate math now, on the contrary - I'm fascinated by connections between math and science. I am really bad at math, unfortunately.

I'll make you a deal: I'll teach you the theory and the principles and the strategies if you'll help me understand which content literacy strategies fit best in mathematics. Can we agree to help each other with that?

Michael said...

sounds like a plan, that'll help both of us.

Amber Wise said...

I am glad that you have decided to shift away from "addiction to coverage" and decided to focus more on making sure that we have a good understanding of information. I do not think it would be very helpful to breeze over many topics--especially seeing that it is already hard for me to remember all of the strategies we have learned so far. As for the workshop the other day, I was one of the absences so I can't comment on how it went, but it seems like a bit of structure would be helpful. I know that I sometimes feel lost when left to create tools on my own, so structure would certainly help provide the guidance that we need.