Sunday, September 27, 2015

Who is Doing All the Work?

I made a new motto for this school year: Get the Students To Do the Work.

It came from a volunteer training program for a call centre I did over the summer, where my greatest challenge was to remember to let the caller do all of the work. My job as the volunteer was to hear their ideas and then reflect them back. It was hard for me to not go straight to thinking of solutions and next steps. However, I found that being able to provide an open space for the caller to explore an idea they had, gave them more clarity in the end rather than me trying to pipe in. So this is what I am exploring this year. Giving the students the opportunity to start the exploration, rather than the strong teacher guided exploration.

I also ended last year with the goal of making my classroom and products created be more “grade 7”. I have always had the tendency to create projects or activities which are great, but take the time and attention of a Grade 9 student. I would do this because my students were capable of doing it with the right support, but they lost the time to think of their own ideas and questions. The final product looked amazing, but it wasn’t with a clear student mark on it.

So to reach both of these goals I have started the year with being open about what the learning goal and standard they are going to be evaluated on, and then asking them to create their own project to demonstrate this. Our first learning goal is the understanding and application of proportional reasoning and to demonstrate this using a variety of tools.

So to start, I told the students we were going to do a project about proportional reasoning. The next step was for them, at their desks to research what proportional reasoning actually is. We did a placemat activity at their tables and then came together as a class to share what we had found and created a definition of proportional reasoning. 

This activity was a great equalizer for the groups. Students of all math abilities had equal opportunities to provide input with their research. Also, since they all have had exposure to this concept since their early primary years, they all could relate to what was being found. We came together as a class to share our ideas where I acted as a scribe on the board, almost in a Bansho manner. They then went back, added to their sheets. Many were not fully completed, but my plan is to present the placemats back to the groups midway and at the end of their projects for them to add more detail as they understand and explore.

Their next step is to create a question that they find interesting and want to explore that uses proportional reasoning. The week before the class had worked to find out the cost of my grilled cheese sandwich by creating a question ladder, asking questions and using proportional reasoning skills. This was a diagnostic on my end to see what natural instincts to solve this kind of question would be used by each student. We created more questions together, some similar to their grilled cheese sandwich, and others more abstract. They are now creating their own question and developing a question ladder of their plan to solve it. By the end of the week students were thinking of questions that they were interested in, and therefore ones that they will persevere through determining how to solve.

Next week we are going to be looking at different types of questions involving proportional reasoning and thinking of the various strategies that we can use to solve them. All of these strategies will come from the students as I sit back and observe. Fingers crossed that is!

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