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  • Katrien Vance

    October 12, 2019 at 11:33 pm

    It’s October.  I’ve taught one unit and am now teaching that same unit for the second time to a new group of kids.  Lessons from the first round:

    1.  Planning the structure is not enough.  I need to plan each activity more specifically, so that I not only know what I plan to do, but so that I know more precisely how I will do it, anticipating stumbling blocks because I have done the activity myself.  I cannot emphasize that enough:  do the whole activity yourself.  Don’t just look it over and think, “I got this.”  Do it, thoroughly, so that I have everything I need and have an idea of where kids might get stopped.

    2.  I need a little homework.  I did the first 4 weeks with zero homework, and I felt as if I didn’t quite pull concepts together well enough or have enough repetition to help kids pull concepts together.  At the end, I wasn’t sure kids really got the connection between slope as an angle, ratio, and percentage.  This time, I am giving just 3-4 problems on 2 or 3 nights per week.  This weekend, kids are measuring their stairs in anticipation of slope as a ratio.

    3.  I love making the kids WANT the learning. They were doing the Desmos activity “Exploring Length with Geoboards” and finally said, “How can we measure these lengths?!”  I said, “Would you like know a way I know?”  “YES!”  Enter the Pythagorean Theorem!  They were so happy to learn it because they NEEDED it.  Robert Kaplinsky calls this making math the aspirin that relieves the kids’ headache.

    4.  The kids love Desmos activities, and I get better at facilitating these tasks with each one I do.  The “pause” button is genius.  I am still not good at collecting snapshots and getting them up on the screen, but I am getting better at getting a sample screen up there and having the kids explain their thinking. (I don’t understand how teachers of large classes manage it!)

    5.  I really like having my learning goals listed and using that format to keep track of students’ progress. I’ve never been this specific in my recording, and it is making me be very honest with myself about what we’re accomplishing.

    6.  Variety is wonderful.  We’ve been working at wipecharts, outside measuring, on paper, and on the computer.  Working in many formats gives them different experiences interpreting directions and doing different kinds of problems.

    7.  Productive struggle takes some getting used to — for all of us.

    8.  It works well to have extensions planned for every activity.There are always students who work through problems quickly, and I can sometimes use them to coach classmates, but sometimes it’s better to let them move on.  Having another activity ready, another question to ponder, keeps them learning and stretching.

    I’m excited to plan unit #2 for November/December with these lessons in mind.