One thing that seems to be overlooked all too frequently is the process of building culture in the classroom. During my credential program they always suggested doing multiple days of name games and other getting to know you activities. This is a good start, but a well established culture goes so much deeper than simply knowing each other's name. We should have a shared investment in the classes productivity, a clear vision of what we are trying to accomplish, and a vested interest in our fellow classmates, not just for grades, but because we are in this together.
One thing I have begun lately is being referred to by students as meaningful Monday's. For my class of seniors, each Monday during the last 8 weeks of the year are dedicated to personal growth, setting goals, and learning from our past triumphs and mistakes. I have shared some personal stories of trial and tribulation, and facilitated students to share lessons from their past or goals for their future. Simply going through with the process of publicly stating our goals makes them much more tangible. We all need to be held accountable to reach for the highest version of ourself, and the best way to do that is to involve the people in our lives throughout the process.
Be the example you want your students to follow and they will have a clear picture of how to become the best version of themself. To me that currently means showing my true colors, speaking out about my goals, overcoming my fears, and loving each person that comes into my life in whatever way is appropriate to the situation.
For a long time I believed as a math teacher that homework was necessary to understand content. Perhaps that might be the case, but recently I was exposed to the idea that students can learn the work through thoughtful reflection instead of drill-n-kill style homework assignments.
Recently I have transitioned from assigning traditional style homework to giving students thoughtful reflection assignments, this approach is based on advice from Jo Boaler's new book "Mathematical Mindsets."
Now to the heart of the argument, which is worth your consideration. A student's home environment has a considerable effect on how or even if they do homework. Let's look at two possibilities to see the differences in environment that could be present in a student's home life:
1.) Student number 1 comes from a supportive family, both parents are college graduates and understand the importance of education. This student has parents that regularly ask about their homework, look in to see what topics their child is covering in school, and provide a quiet environment for homework to be the only focus until it is complete.
2.) Student number 2 comes from a working class family, both parents work long hours and student 2 has three younger siblings that they are responsible for watching after school until their parents get home. This student does not have anyone to check in with about homework progress, and their parents are often to tired or busy to engage with their child on homework or school in general.
The NCTM website has a definition of the Equity principle, which I have cut and pasted for your convenience below.
Is it our goal to penalize students grades based on the home environment they have very little control over? Is it our goal to help students from all backgrounds achieve the same level of success given a similar amount of effort?
Your answers to these questions may change the way you approach assigning homework.
Credit for this idea should go to Jo Boaler and her new book "Mathematical Mindsets," as well as NCTM for giving us a clear definition of equity.
Give students an example that closely mirrors the problems you want them to be able to do. Instead of a nice clean example, give one with an error and have the students locate and explain the error. Through the process of finding the error they will develop valuable proof reading skills and it necessitates working out the problem correctly in order to show the error.
Plus, students love when the teacher makes a mistake and if you plan your mistakes to illustrate ideas that are central to your lesson, it can highlight important skill and common errors.
Students seem to frequently have an aversion to having to answer questions, when they are put on the spot a question that could be easily answered sometimes turns into a difficult task.
What can we do as educators to help students break the deer in the headlights effect and help them be prepared to answer questions in class?
One method I use in the classroom is to simply tell students before I cover an idea that they will be asked to answer a question on what I am about to cover. If the student(s) know ahead of time that there is a specific question I am going to ask them shortly, they tend to pay very close attention and are prepared when the promised question is finally asked. A small variation on this is to tell them the question you will be asking prior to covering the content so that they can listen up for an answer and give it happily when they are eventually asked the promised question.
Using this method has gotten a great deal of attention and recall from the students who usually have trouble engaging with class discussions.
By: Mr. Woodford
I will reflect on ideas and practices I learn through my formative years as a classroom math teacher.