Monday, October 17, 2011

The structure of the hour for my class varies..... from year to year.. from one group of students to another. I wish I could say I've found the perfect way to teach math, but I haven't! But since the question was posed, I will take a stab at some things I've learned that work, most of the time.

For me, having a Math Starter really sets the tone of the class. In a perfect world, this activity bridges what we did yesterday with the new material we will learn today. In my reality world, it is often simply the short set of questions that comes with the textbook. I download this PDF to project on the board. Other days, I use a problem I have written, or even a math puzzler that has nothing to do with the lesson. It could be a problem in the book, vocabulary words to copy(YIKES!) or a prerequisite type of activity. But whatever... I try to choose something that takes about 5 minutes and engages their math brain in gear while I take attendance and deal with any other little odds and ends. Depending on what the activity was, we may go over it immediately, or save it, especially if the activity bridged yesterday and today together.

Then.. we move onto homework/classwork from yesterday. I really seldom give HOMEWORK because honestly, most students do not complete it, so what's the point? I try to assign enough problems to cement those skills, but just enough so students, at least MOST of them, should be able to finish in class.

When we go over homework, I read answers quickly, then stop, ask for repeats. Then I allow questions. We do any problems students struggled with. If I get NO questions, or very few, I choose several problems I knew they struggled with based on the problems during work time the day before, or problems I anticipated students would struggle with. I work through problems asking for "what next" etc...

Then, if I feel we need more work on that topic, we do more problems.... often Day Two is the more complex problems on the topic.

If not, we move on to today's material. I think it is most important to bridge yesterday/prior knowledge with what we are doing new. I seldom teach from the book, preferring to 'show' my way. Then, we work through problems together. Students are expected to copy each example, show the steps, etc... as we go. Then we work through the begining of the assignment together, and then independent work time.

Depending on the topic, that schedule may vary significantly, with group work to 'discover' how to tackle problems, or some experiment or demonstration.

I LOVE individual whiteboards for classwork. These engage more students much more easily than paper. When they have that board, marker and magic eraser (paper towel) in hand, they are much more eager to attempt problems. I try to wander during this time, having one or more students at the board working out problems. We always have 'phone a friend' options when they run into problems when working on the board.

Sometimes, I feel too traditional, too structured and try to be more creative with more open ended activities. However, it often seems students do not always 'discover' what I need them to and we end up with more structured activities anyway.

I wish I could find the balance to teach math in a more 'creative' classroom where students develop their own meaning but I struggle with time management because these activities always seem to take more time.

I love group activities, especially graphing. Giving them a large poster size graph paper to create a graph as a group always seems a hit.

I try to weave as much technology into lessons as I can. I love interactive sites like National Library of Virtual Manipulatives or Shodor. Illuminations has some great lessons as well. Anything you can bring in different and engaging will be a hit...

Hope that helps. I am always looking for great ideas so please SHARE!!


lfrissen said...

Thank you for the honest post! I am teaching middle school French for the first time. I used to teach in high school for the first 10 years of my career. I just spent 3 years out of the country and it's been 6 years total since I was full time in the classroom. I have to say I am struggling!!! Classroom discipline is my main focus. I have so many boys who are a major challenge. I am seeing that about the homework piece - I have so many who don't do homework. I love the idea of individual whiteboards. How did you make those? I have 45 minutes and I love to have a warmup on the board for them too but I find it takes them so long to do what I think should be a 10 min. warmup tops. Then if we did have homework we also need to go over that. How do you get it all done in a timely manner?

cossondra said...

Whiteboards... mine are actual whiteboards with a coordinate grid on them that came to our school many, many years ago as a 'free' sample, trying to get us to purchase more I am sure. But my principal had them, I begged for them, and have used them for years. I do know people who have made their own from laminated wallboard you can purchase from a building supply store and cut into pieces. I would take a marker to the store to try with me for sure before purchasing.

Warmups - I allow a short amount of time for students to complete individually, just long enough for me to take attendance, etc... then we go over, done or not done. They are expected to participate and follow along with the discussion either way. A total of 10 minutes from the bell to being done with the warmup would be a maximum of time for me.

Transitions are always such a difficult time. I find if you can establish a predictable routine, you minimize this wasted time. Setting high expectations for student preparedness helps some. If someone isn't ready, move on without them. The pressure often motivates them to scurry along and get with the program.

How can we harness all that 'boy energy' into a positive productive power???

lfrissen said...

Thanks for the thoughts Cossondra. I was wondering if just some simple white card stock then laminate it would work? I think I will try that first. I was in a great workshop the other weekend and they mentioned embedding a timer into your PowerPoint. I've got a link on my blog to instructions on how to do this. I'm going to use it this week for my warmups and see how it goes. My blog is As far as harnessing that boy power...I don't know. In the notebook we are required to make for our substitute teachers, I listed some reliable students for each class as student helpers. They are the "go to" people in the class for the substitute if he/she needs help with a daily routine, handing out papers, etc. What a great idea only I don't use student helpers every day. I just put that in my sub notebook. So it just hits me like a lightning bolt - why aren't I using student helpers every day in my room? These boys with so much energy like to be up and about anyway, I might as well give them tasks like handing out folders, materials etc.