Stuff just got real…

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Okay, so I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted (and believe me, a lot has been going on), but I’ve just been crazy busy juggling TAing, classes and sleep. So, I first want to give a brief recap of how everything has been going in my classroom…

The students have become quite comfortable with my partner and me being there and love to go out in the hall to work with us one on one or in small groups–and I’m going to take that as a good sign! We’ve both been discovering the different learning and teaching styles which work for each individual student and are finally getting the opportunity to put them into play. As always, the kids are cracking me up and I often have to turn my back so they don’t see me laughing. They’ve got so much personality and “spunk–” even at 8 in the morning (what is wrong with them?!). Of course, not everything has been sunshine and roses, but I’ve been learning so much from each situation and trying (desperately) not to let each and every thing get to me. I’m having a hard time accepting that I’m not going to be able to get through to every single student. I so desperately want to help them and be “that person” for them, that I forget that it may not work in my favor all the time. Nevertheless, I’m still working on it!

So, back to the “stuff that just got real…” Scott and I got to team teach about a week ago for the first three class periods, which was such an exciting, albeit nerve-racking, experience. Our lesson was about finding the percent of a given number–something the students hadn’t ever really worked with before. We arranged the students in pairs so that they would have someone to collaborate with and think through each problem. Being able to think like a mathematician (think critically) means having the ability to communicate with others and share one’s thoughts. To start the class off, we had them complete a “bell ringer” activity in the form of think-pair-share, which directly pertained to the day’s lesson: “How can you find ⅕ of 100 sticks of modeling clay?” Once we had discussed that as a class, we moved onto the day’s lesson. There were three methods to finding the percent of a number that we showed them and we told them to simply pick the one they liked best. This wasn’t designed to make them simply memorize an array of procedures, but rather to allow them to reason through the methods and decide on the one that made sense for them. Then, they were set “free” to work through about 7 problems as pairs. We meandered around the classroom, stopping to listen in on discussions, answer questions when necessary and prompt questions where we felt they were appropriate. Overall, I felt the students were really getting it! As we went over each problem, we allowed the students to come to the board and write out their solutions and then explain what they did and why. This appeared to be extremely engaging to the students, as many of them raised their hands to volunteer. I loved seeing how involved they were in the math. To end each class, we asked the students to do a quick “exit slip,” which said, “Today I learned…, I need practice with…, I still don’t understand…” This gave us as teachers a formative assessment which we could use as a tool for adjusting the next day’s lesson.

Our field coordinator (who came and observed us during one of the hours) had very helpful and positive feedback for us. It was very encouraging to hear what she had to say and made me feel like I really am going to be able to do this in the future. The fact that I enjoyed teaching so much and that the students were engaged in what we were doing as a class was an amazing feeling. By going through this lesson, I learned some things that I would like to change for next time, too. Instead of writing everything out on the board, I’d like each student to have his/her own sheet. It makes it easier for them to see and they don’t have to keep looking back and forth from the front to their papers. Also, I would like to use something more hands-on, such as manipulatives or an activity that the students can do themselves. These are all great things to think about for next time. 🙂 I really just can’t wait until it’s time for me to teach my unit. Algebra, here I come!

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