Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The light at the end of the tunnel is --- the headlight of a train

I was thankful this morning that I had a Jigsaw scheduled for class today -- the work of a Jigsaw is done weeks [or months or years, as in this case] ahead of the actual Jigsaw. Because I was in Orangeburg all day yesterday and was exhausted from the trip, it was wonderful to know that class would "run itself." The Jigsaw today is one that all students can profit from on two levels. The information about working with struggling and English Language learners is crucial for beginning and experienced teachers alike, and the strategies [I-Chart, Cubing, Discussion Web, and IntraAct] embedded in the discussion of the articles, as well as Jigsaw itself, are adaptable across the curriculum. I am usually pleased with this Jigsaw, but today, particularly for the math majors, it seemed too -- something. [they would probably say too long] I don't know - or maybe I do.

In hindsight, I wish I had ended the Jigsaw with the Discussion Web and just omitted the IntraAct in the math section. Although the science majors saw immediately how they could use IntraAct, the math majors were struggling to visualize how they could use any of the strategies. Once again, I think I have thrown too much at a time at them. I'm wondering if experiencing any of these strategies in any context other than math will help the math majors. Because I am not a math teacher, the adaptations of the strategies are not always apparent to me right off the bat - and because the students in 498 have never been on the "other side of the desk" and most have never really thought about the underlying mathematics in the algorithms they are so good at, they have a hard time envisioning adaptations. But because I have worked with so many great math teachers and seen how they can think immediately of ways to adapt almost any of the strategies to mathematics, I know it is not only possible but probable that, once in the classroom, these pre-service math teachers will be able to adapt strategies for their students. I just hope they try them before they revert to the old "drill and kill" method of teaching math.

So, maybe I'll try skipping the "experience the strategy embedded in a lesson" thing and go straight to adaptation after reading the chapter. For writing to learn and writing to inquire, that's how I think I'll approach writing. My fear is that students will "get" the strategy but not associate the learning cycle or the basic theory underlying the strategy with the strategy itself. Strategies alone just won't get them as far as they need to go with students; they need to know how, why, and under what circumstances these strategies are used. But at this time I've got to do something - anything.

2 comments:

Michael said...

An idea after reading this post. You said that you don't quickly see adaptations quickly in reference to using certain learning strategies in the math field: "the adaptations of the strategies are not always apparent to me right off the bat" and that we haven't had the experience to see how what we know about math and the learning strategies are related to make proper adaptations for our classes: "students in 498 have never been on the "other side of the desk" and most have never really thought about the underlying mathematics in the algorithms they are so good at, they have a hard time envisioning adaptations." I see a possible solution to the problem. You commented that you have worked with numerous excellent math teachers in the past would it work if you were to bring in one of these teacher occasionally to show us how they adapt these strategies in their classes or have them send you copies of how they adapt these strategies in their classes. Either way its less work for you and beneficial to us. I have found from my limited experiences that I see where learning strategies could help me when I am reflecting on my past teaching experiences, maybe that will hold true for others in my class. See you Tuesday in class.

Malinda said...

I think it is a great idea to bring current math teachers into the class to demonstrate how we can use all of the strategies, or to share their ideas/materials. Of course we can all remember the strategies, how they are used, when to use them, etc... but the hard part really is figuring out HOW to use it in our content area. Because almost all of the strategies are presented in other contexts and we have no experience using them, they almost go to waste because we immediately assume they are not useful to us. While it can't be expected for you to prepare a math related strategy every time, bringing someone in or showing teachers' adaptations would be great. In the future, I would definitely try to present strategies in the actually context of math so students don't become discouraged or bored. I know that I have thought several times, "this is a waste of my time, I am never going to be able to use this in a math class," but after being exposed to classrooms and teaching materials, I can see these strategies being used. We have been taught, by you, that if you want to keep students engaged, you have to make the material meaningful. Just like you don't like "naked numbers," we don't like naked strategies :)