Rookie Year: Day 3

I told myself last night that I would write this today and that it is okay take a break from work on a Friday night.

That’s true, but I think I waited too long.

On the first day I didn’t wait long enough. I’ll figure out the best time though.

Yesterday we reviewed Order of Operations briefly at the beginning of class and then I transitioned to properties of addition and multiplication of real numbers.

My order of operations bellringer or warm up was too difficult. The jump from what I had given them on Day 2 (which they finished about 10 minutes faster than I anticipated and left me scrambling for an activity at the end of the block) to what I asked them to do on their own while I took attendance, checked notbooks, and collected signed syllabus was far too large. There was only one exercise from the 6 that most of them could do, and even then few of them attempted.

In retrospect I should have set up the exercises to start at the same level as the previous day and build in difficulty so that the students were already in a rhythm of working by the time they got to the difficult questions. I was inundated with Mr. Bel–Mr. Bleecher–Mr. B can you help me’s  while I was trying to walk around the room and take care of housekeeping items. (Some of them still haven’t learned how to say my name and my Bob’s Burgers reference didn’t help–I don’t think they watch the show.) I was so focused on having them practice problems for order of operation that was more up to their level and not too easy that I overwhelmed them. So I blame myself for the minor chaos at the beginning of class.

However, one of my goals for the year is to get them started on the bellringer problem right away. Far too many view the time at the beginning of class when I take attendance as social hour. I have stressed the importance of starting right away all three days so far, but I don’t think I have really had any consequence for them for not doing it since we briefly discuss the work anyway.

I could stop the discussion of the answer but then I think the review utility of the practice is lessened.

I could make the assignment worth a specific amount of points, but this may cause more headaches than it solves.

For now I will try to scaffold the activity better and probably introduce a very large and very visible timer at the beginning of class on the board. This also puts on a time limit on me for taking attendance but I think what I need to do is say  “Don’t ask me questions until the end of the bellringer timer. I need to do attendance while you are working.” I will see how that goes over on Monday.

So after the bellringer I had a presentation on properties. I realized after the first class that the presentation was long and that the students had a hard time sitting through all of it. For the rest of the classes I warned them before hand that the presentation was longer than the ones I had done so far and so I was going to give them a short break in the middle if they promised to come right back to work afterwards. (An idea I took from another teacher from the district who ran a PD session on personalized learning the first week of teacher in-service.) This seemed to work moderately well. I’m wondering if I should always have a timer in the corner to help the students and use a Pomodoro timer technique (this is actually what the teacher used) but I’m concerned for myself. I don’t know how much time I want to lose to the “breaks” because of re-settle down time and I’m also concerned about flow of some lessons. A work 15, break 2 or work x, break y might not be one-size-fits-all. Possibly a work 30, break 3 might work given that I have 90 minute blocks. When I taught 3 hour night classes at community college I would do work 50, break 10, work 50, break 10, work 50. This was for me and the students. I need to experiment with this as well.

Something that I was particularly pleased about on Friday was a student saying, “I’m learning something here!” to a classmate after I showed the class the area rectangle model for the Distributive Property and then had the students practice on their own and then volunteer to write solutions and draw models on the board. It sounded like it was genuine and they sounded a little surprised they were saying it. That gave me a little lift in the middle of the day.

Looking back on that activity though I know that I need to buy a whiteboard set for the class. I think it would have been more effective to have all the students whiteboard and hold up answers rather than just having a few share on the larger permanent one. I suppose I will take a trip to Home Depot after the next paycheck. Another thing that I didn’t do particularly well with the distributive model activity was consistently apply it. I didn’t think to try it until the middle of the day and then ran out of time to try it during the last day. (Sharing models on the board.)

As a summary of week one I think my chief concern is that it felt that I was surviving each day rather than really doing what I needed to do. Don’t get me wrong, I think I was effective at points and I am pleased coming into week 2, but I want to do better. I’m sure that this is just part of being a first year teacher. I overplan each bell and yet I still feel like we did not do enough during the period. Part of that may be that the pacing guide calls for 6 days on unit 1 and I’ve arleady used half. Most of my fellow team teachers will be giving a unit 1 test at the end of this upcoming week and I will be as well.

Now I need to stop writing this and start planning for next week. See you Monday.

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