As I begin to read through responses to class/teacher evaluation for Algebra 2, most are encouraging.
So much of distress I felt this year was due to outside circumstances – as much as it was within my reach, I tried to keep my classroom going. But it was difficult and draining at times.
How can I continue to offer a classroom that’s inviting, open-to ideas and encourages students to work through challenging tasks?
1. There must be a relationship established – I feel it takes several weeks, even months to establish this. Students must trust that you are there for them. You must reassure them they matter. Your actions must confirm your words.
I think of a couple of students in particular this year who pushed back – often in the beginning of the year. I continually had to remind them they were valued and help them see they were learning. One in particular lashed out during class and refused to participate in a task they felt was not helpful. The other refused to work in a group of students because that wasn’t “how she learned math.”
In the end, they both experienced success. Maybe not at the level the state deems readiness, but such big strides moving their thinking forward and growing their confidence. Each will experience success in life because they are hard workers and they have seen that failing at a difficult task does not define them as a person, but their response to that failure is what builds them. It was rewarding to watch them pick up, look for ways to improve and after some more effort, smile at the final result, realizing how far they had traveled as a learner.
Taking time to listen to my learners and their ideas – allow them to know I value their thinking. I need to consider this while building learning tasks and make sure to allow for time to do this.
2. There must be variety – routines are important but continuing the exact routines all year long becomes mundane and boring. For example, I like students having a task to begin class – but I also know that changing some of these up every few weeks keeps their interest peaked a bit. I’m not sure I will have every single thing listed here, but some of my favorites:
Estimation 180, Counting Circles, Visual Patterns, Would You Rather?, Krypto, Math Dice, Flashbacks, Time-Distance Graphs, StatRat from USAtoday.
We were supposed to implement Leader in Me this past year. Again, one of those things that could have a huge impact, yet, if no follow through, it sizzles out. Which makes me sad. One quarter, I used Make a Difference Monday. I copied articles from What Do You Stand for? (Barbara Lewis) – students read, then on a post-it would respond briefly to a prompt I had on the board pertaining to the article, but relating back to their life / choices.
Test-Prep Tuesday was essentially flashbacks to pre-algebra and geometric concepts – intended to help students study for upcoming ACT.
Fast-Five Friday was a flashback of big ideas from the previous week.
Some ideas I want to add for next year:
Graphical Data is presented, but students create the questions. Understanding data displays is so important – so I hope to build a file of examples to use here. Now I need a cool, catchy name for this structure.
Function Junction – using the NAGS format, I will give students one of the models, they must fill-in / create the other 3. Possibly even use a railroad/train format in graphics that connect each model: Numerical/table of values, Algebraic / Equation, Graphical, Sentence / Context description.
Literacy and Vocabulary strategies are important to me. I feel several of my students struggle with reading and comprehension, so I am hoping to build a structure to help them link new terms to prior knowledge.
3. Communication with home is vital, yet I continue to fail at doing a good job. I start with good intentions. Do parents even know who I am? Do they know my views on education? Do they feel I am approachable? Again, it will be a goal to make positive strides to utilize home as a resource and support.