Today was a low day, but not awful.
I had my students work through the Racing Dots activity on Desmos, which asks students when a red dot will catch up to a blue dot.
My first block students seemed dead and I could not get them to answer anything. They stared at me. I think part of the problem is that Block 1 is 1st and 2nd period, but also I didn’t quite do the lesson correctly. I messed up the flow of the Desmos lesson I was using and moved them on before we were ready and had to cover it up. I should have released the students into the groups that I had assigned them to wrestle with a problem, but I forgot to do that so when we all moved to the next slide in Desmos, we were asked to sum up strategies that we never used. I didn’t realize that was what it was until it was too late and I had essentially told the punchline and gave the game away. So they were a little glazed over. I had talked too much and not let them try the problem. I asked them at some point why they weren’t answering and if they were asleep and they just said “No, Mr. Belcher, we just don’t know.” Another possible issue was that since I was using Desmos racing dots lesson, which is an applied activity for systems of equations, and they were struggling to make connections and I hadn’t sold the hook well with the dots at the beginning.
My second block went much better as I made adjustments, and I even had groups try strategies on their own that I had not suggested. After a group discussion about what information we needed to find the speed of the dots (I had asked what information they might want or need) I had groups counting out loud to gauge how long it tooks dots to travel certain distances. I didn’t tell them that, they just did it. That was fantastic. And then when we were looking at tables of time versus distance, several groups starting extending tables by splitting up work and then comparing how far the dots had traveled. I still felt like I was doing too much of the talking in this block, but if I did not push them along the class stalled very quickly. But of all three blocks I had the most student generated strategies.
One thing that I am struggling with here is scaffolding. How do you help students see strategies for solving problems without telling them the strategies? It’s great when a student suggests one, but sometimes if no one has any ideas I don’t always see the path to help them make a creative connection. I don’t mind giving explicit direct instructions on how to do elimination method, it’s not reasonable to expect them to come up with a more advanced technique like that. But on littler tasks sometimes it feels like there’s no middle ground between not helping at all and giving the whole game away. I am sure that I will pick up more of that with time and experience.
My final block was between 1st and 2nd block on engagement, but closer to 2nd than 1st. Final block’s issue was more disciplinary. They are starting to get comfortable with each other and with me and are trying to talk more in class. I addressed the whole class several times and they straightened up after admonishment, but I don’t want to spend too much time steering the whole class back on task every day. I may have to do some seat shuffling. The threat of a seat shuffle has been working for a day, but if I actually go ahead and move seats I might get longer lasting on-task behavior. I will see how the class goes tomorrow.
I really wanted to see more student to student interaction and not so much me up at the front. I think I may start assigning random pairs for group tasks rather than pairing up students who are sitting near each other. They seem to do well when they are randomly paired and have to get up and move.
So some basic stuff I need to work on, but at least I have moved past some big classroom management issues in order to even work on these basic instructional issues.
I don’t know if you can tell by the tone of my posts, but overall I am feeling much more upbeat at work lately. It’s been nice when my classes are not emotionally exhausting every day.
Thanks for reading.