It was a week in middle school, no doubt. Highs and lows and everything in between.
The little red headed girl who was so adament that a negative plus a negative was a positive a couple of week ago, and was just going to go home and ask Dad, do you remember her? She is a remarkable student and we have met in the middle together. She is an avid reader, taking an AR test each day, devouring books like other students eat Skittles. In PreAlgebra, she has started asking questions, learning, questioning and participating. Yesterday, on her way out the door, she said casually, "Mrs. George, you might be the best teacher I ever had! You actually explain stuff instead of just expecting us to learn it." Coming from her, I was simply teary eyed to think how far we've come together this year.
My 6th hour class is THE CLASS. The kids come back from electives, in a rush, loud, wired, and having run all the way from the high school to make it in time. Couple that energy burst with this group being my 'low' group, and a high percentage of boys, and it makes for a rough hour. Many of the students in there have such low math skills, I am not sure what to do with them. Trying to help the one little guy, we finally got the equation to the last step, 40-36. He had no clue what to do, even when I suggested counting up from 36 to 40 on his fingers. He started counting, looking at me the entire time with his huge blue eyes, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42... "WHOA! Stop, where are you going?" I asked him.
He shook his head downward and said, "I don't know what you mean by count up."
Sure I can give him a calcutor to use, but honestly, with that little number sense, he is going to struggle all year with the algebraic concepts we cover. How can we change our paradigm in lower grades to insist students know, grasp, and have those basic facts down? It is frustrating to try and teach them strategies such as estimating the answer, checking to see if it a logical answer, etc... all of which require number sense. On a regular basis, I see students who don't see how 40 is an illogical choice of an answer for 100-96.
But back to 6th hour....
Working with this group is a challenge, period. But Friday, I had a small epiphany. There are 2 young men in there who are bright, very bright. While we are doing the first examples on the board of each lesson, they GET it. As I plod my way through with other students, over and over trying to get them to grasp the smallest hint of what we are doing, these 2 are off on their own planets, looking for trouble. THey are not the kind to pursue something independently enriching on their own. They are the type to build paper airplanes and organize a flight school :) I keep trying to come up with things for them to do, differentiate the lesson to their level. Then, I realized the solution - I suggested the boys move to prealgebra!
This will solve a couple of problems. The boys will be more challenged in my class so managing their off-task behaviors will become easier (in theory!!). It will make my 6th hour have 2 fewer students, making it more manageable, discipline wise as well as behaviorally. It will also shuffle schedules separating some of the major trouble makers all day.
Add to all that, the boys were FLYING HIGH, so proud and excited to have the chance to be moved into the higher class!
Next week starts MEAP testing, so we will see how things go with the move, their new schedules, hoping everything falls into place as it does in my mind.