In many post-observations I have been told that I was the hardest-working person in the room (well, I am the only one in the room getting paid, aren’t I?), and that my students should be doing more of the heavy lifting. A very dear friend of mine (ESL coordinator who is on an administrative track and will clearly be an amazing principal) has pointed out that I should do my hardest work preparing, and then let the kids do the hard work in class. Today, I think I made a big step in that direction.
I probably should have stayed home. I woke up with a very painful sore throat, after spending the night alternating between being cold and sweating. But I am already behind in my Algebra 2 class, and thus felt compelled to struggle through the day. I have a student teacher who needs guidance in keeping on track with the fast paced curriculum, and I had done a lot of prep work for my Geometry and Discrete Math classes. So I went in to school, armed with homeopathic remedies, Airborne, Advil and Wellness Formula.
How do we keep track of all those great treasures that we find on line every week, day, every time we go on line or on Twitter? I have no idea, really. I’m tagging with Delicious. I’m using The Old Reader, making notations and ‘likes’ there. I read things and take notes in my favorite Moleskine (which I don’t always go back and look at). I print articles, blog posts, and activity ideas, leaving them in folders I use so that I keep finding them as a reminder. I try to use all these checks and balances so that when I am looking for an idea, there is a chance I will find that perfect activity which struck me as brilliant when I first saw it.
So last year, I came across a blog post by Kate Nowak about a logic review game that sounded great. When I read the post, I didn’t have an immediate use for it, but I am always looking for games that manage the winning process well (I still haven’t figured out how to run a successful Jeopardy review game – someone is always convinced it wasn’t done fairly). This post was one of those items which I printed, leaving the hard copy to pop up in my papers every couple of weeks. (Some system, huh? Now that I’m writing it down, it sounds ridiculous. But in this case, it worked. If you look in my photo at the top, you can actually see the print-out…) Cut to the chase, Wendy – I thought the Logic Game would be an engaging review for my early morning off-track Geometry kids – and it is hard to rouse them in an 8:00 class. I made sure I understood the rules of play, and set out to prep the materials – no small feat. I enlisted my personal carpenter (hubby) to make the “Dice of Logic”, printed up pages of true and false closed statements, T/F cards, and hot pink negation cards (so colored because they are for optional emergency use during the game). None of this was actually difficult – but it required extra planning and time. I sorted everything into ziplock baggies – each game set was for one pair of students – and was ready to go.
The game was a success – and I was thrilled because this group of students has been particularly difficult to engage. Once I made sure that everyone understood the rules, I circulated quietly, asking an occasional question, but otherwise with nothing to do. Perfection! They played all period, clearly reviewing the material and becoming more comfortable with it, and we agreed to continue on Monday, because the students had only gotten through the first two levels (there are 3). I can’t wait.
On to Discrete Math, where we are doing linear programming (yesterday was Lego Day 1 – http://fawnnguyen.com/2012/12/31/lego-pieces-and-feasible-region.aspx). Today’s activity involved an exploration on the iPads using Sketchpad Explorer. Again, this was a lesson that was front-loaded – designing the file in Geometer’s Sketchpad for use with the app took some time and finessing, and writing step-by-step instructions which everyone could follow (a requirement with these classes) was also a task. But once the iPads were given out – I had nothing to do! Since I wouldn’t answer direct questions about the material – always redirecting the students back to each other or the work – there were a solid 15 minutes where I wandered around the classroom. Everyone was working. Astonishing! And I was feeling much better than when the day started.
I finished the day with Algebra 2, my favorite classes (sshhh!). I started them off with Megan Kay-Golding’s Rational Expressions Row Game, hoping again to deflect some of the hard labor. But after we finished the activity, it was a little too much of the Ms. Menard show; I have trouble delivering the content in that class in a timely fashion (I’ve definitely got a departmental clock ticking) and a more exploratory manner. These students ask many good questions, but I don’t think I can rely on their cooperative mathematical sense to answer them independently and take them where they need to go with the material. Or maybe it’s just the current topic, rational expressions…but this is why I participate and help facilitate #alg2chat on Twitter, hoping to find answers. After 2 periods of walking the students through the multiplication and division process, my throat was burning again, and I was dead tired. Clear evidence of the better way to go. On a positive note, I did turn both classes on to MathMunch, and hinted at their coming assignment involving the website.
I’ll take the 60% progress – 3 out of 5 classes – for the time being, and I must admit I am proud of my ‘almost boredom’ today. But I’ve still got work to do in Algebra 2 – presenting the challenging curriculum [somewhat] on schedule, but with the kids in the driving seat. Miles to go before I sleep….but who needs sleep?