Thursday, September 12, 2013

Building Momentum. Sorta.

Today was the third day of my students "controlling their destinies." While class time still feels as chaotic as it did on the first day of the unit - when everyone was figuring out just how to proceed - there are definitely some rhythms emerging that I hope to capitalize on as the unit progresses.

As could have been predicted for almost any class, there is a group of students who has taken the bull by the horns and has jumped right in. At the end of the third day, they have informally demonstrated a solid understanding of the first three learning goals (there are ten goals in the unit). Tonight they are preparing for their quiz, as well as starting an investigation as part of the fourth learning goal. [You can see our "master list" of learning goals and learning/practicing/knowing resources here]

I know I shouldn't compare the progress of the class to "where I'd be if I was teaching 'traditionally,'" but I can't help myself. These students would be right up to date with that timeline.

There are also a good many students who struggled a bit with the second learning goal (mostly involving set-builder notation for domain and range - something they have never seen before), but they have been putting in the time and effort, and are making good progress. They help each other, ask questions when the answers in the book/worksheet don't make sense, and take advantage of using a graphing calculator app to verify their answers. They still need a lot of guidance, and default to seeking help from me before trying other avenues, but they are holding their own.

These students would be a little behind my traditional timeline, but they're good workers, and I'm not worried.

But there is also a group of students who, just now on the third day of the unit, has decided to start putting serious pencil to paper. After three days, they have just mastered the first learning goal. I'm not sure what encouraged them to finally get going - was it seeing the rest of the class progress? Was it my reminder of the 14 (now 12) days to get through the unit? Were they getting bored with not progressing up until now? Or was it my persistent nagging?? - but I'm glad they're taking initiative and starting to get things done.

I can't help but see these students as way behind in my traditional timeline. While I will redouble my efforts to sit down with them tomorrow to check in and see how I can help get them caught up, I find I also want to step back a bit and let them learn how to manage their time to get back on track. What a fine line between letting them struggle, but providing just enough support so that they still right themselves on their own terms!

Technology-wise, a new SSID switch has been installed in our classroom, and connectivity issues seem to have fallen to the wayside. This has yet to be tested with everyone online at once (hmmm... time for another Socrative quiz, methinks), but I'm optimistic. We continue to have trouble accessing Khan Academy videos due to youtube being blocked, but there are a couple of solutions I'm working toward.

I've been lucky to have a very supportive administration behind me on this project, and their assistance and encouragement in helping me figure out solutions to all things technological and pedagogical have been invaluable.

The mini-lectures on each learning goal are proving to be a popular option, and I will blog about those tomorrow. I foresee a further blog post about just getting/remaining organized throughout all this - keeping track of who's-on-what-learning-goal (I foresee a new Abbott & Costello skit in this!) during the chaos of class has been interesting to say the least. I'm feeling optimistic though. That learning curve is flattening out!


  1. Yeah for connectivity.
    Iwonder if the "behind" group would also be those who preform poorly on tests and quizzes in the traditional classroom, but would not be noticed until after the assessment. Or worse given "extra credit" to catch up?

    1. Having not taught all but one of the students before now, I can't speak to how they've performed in past math classes. My observations of the group seem to indicate correlation between organizational skill and their progress in the class... which could have also contributed to their grades in a traditional classroom. There seem to be a number of students who not only are a little "behind" where I think they should be right now, but are also planning on being away from school for a few days late this week/early next week. It will be interesting to see how they cope with staying on top of their work (for which they have all the resources at their disposal) without me nagging, I mean, encouraging them all the time :)


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