Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bad Day...New Ideas

This crazy new career called teaching is stressful. Year one is a challenge. There is a good side to bad days though. It forces me to look at what I am doing and think hard about why it isn't working and what I need to try next. Of course then there is all the thinking that makes my head hurt. Speaking of that, that very comment was made by two of my students today. Thinking makes their head hurt. I really don't think they are used to critical thinking at all. How do I teach my students to think for themselve and try something that is new? That is the big question of the day.

We have been working on distributive property for about 3 days now. Today was a disaster mixed with a few rays of light poping though. The projector would not work and I had spent about an hour making a great presentation online. I decided to take the challenge in stride and had the students write the information on the white board as I explained things to them.

What went well...
The students were engaged and willing to work at the board. We went over all the the work we did last week and I really thought the students were ready to tackle the problems.

What didn't go well...
The students get very frustrated when they have to think. Today they had to facor out like terms using the distributive property. Even though I gave them an example on the board, the students could not apply the concept to a new problem. One of my students refused to work. I ended up giving him a detention. I would have accepted work that was done incorrectly, but this student didn't even try. He did not have his name on his paper after 10 minutes! I was so frustrated.  Now I look back and wonder what I could have done differently.

So what is my new plan? I was thinking things over on the way home from dinner. I remembered a suggestion at conference. A teacher actually gives students an answer key for the assignments. I am thinking about giving that a try. It won't work for every type problem, but I think it will for most of them. When it comes right down to it, I am not so worried about that one final right answer. I am more interested in the student learning a concept or process. I want to see that they know how to think critically and apply information. If getting the right answer is hanging them up, then I will supply it. There are other possitives to consider. also. If a student has an answer key, there is less pressure to "get it right" and they can focus on the steps. Also students know where they should end up. If they worked a problem and don't end up at the correct answer they are able to self check their work to try and find out where they went wrong.

So what do you think? Will it help? I am going to give it a try. I will let you know how it goes. I wish I had some followers that had great ideas on lessons for a self contained classroom. We are working under the label of Pre Algebra, but I really need to modify the material so that the students can be successful. Lord, please connect me with some great thinkers out there that I can chat with.

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