My hat’s off to @justinaion – I don’t know how you manage to write every day for a week, never mind an entire school year! I have enjoyed the process of examining one class under a microscope for the week, but the blogging takes more time and mental space than I have to spare each day.
Day 4 – Thursday
Thursday was a day of direct instruction following our Patty Paper Fun Time on Wednesday. The students worked on a brief warm-up from this book; they had to draw a 45˚ and 180˚ rotation of a figure. The activity was very accessible, and I saw results from very casual sketches to carefully rotated figures drawn with straight edges.
I created another guided notesheet for today’s lesson on Rotations. After going through the terms and definitions the students needed for this topic, we discussed rotational symmetry, and the students brainstormed different logos that have rotational symmetry. ( I unwittingly amused the class by playing hopelessly ignorant teacher, confusing the BMW logo with the Mercedes Benz logo.) Before we went over the ‘rules’ for rotating coordinates counterclockwise on the coordinate plane, we explored using patty paper, and the students made observations about the pattern of the changing coordinates. My co-teacher also demonstrated how you can hold the origin fixed with your pencil point and rotate the paper in order to record the new points. The class had a quiet buzz during the lesson, most of which was students assisting each other while they tried out each technique. It was gratifying to see not only that everyone was attempting the rotations [not always the most willing crowd], but that the students have been somewhat won over by the structure of the class – different groupings, including one group they have chosen themselves, hands-on activities alternating with direct instruction, and tiered practice.
The lesson finished with a discussion of clockwise versus counter-clockwise rotation, in which I learned something new (forgive me, o science teacher colleagues for my ignorance) – that water always goes down a drain in a counter-clockwise direction. Why this is the case is a mystery to me – but I have been staring at my drains ever since.
Day 5 – TGIF!
The day began with a meeting between my co-teacher, my mentor and me to discuss the planning and administration of the class. My mentor, as I have mentioned, is the ESL coordinator (and principal intern) who I have known for 7 years; we taught together at the high-need ‘trial by fire’ school I came from before my current placement. My co-teacher has his own relationship with her; he is Indian (English is his second language), speaks Urdu and has been a much-needed resource for her department. He also, as it happens, has experience teaching new immigrants and SIFE students (Students with Interrupted Formal Education), so despite his lack of formal special education training, he has spent a lot of time developing strategies for demonstrating abstract concepts in concrete and visual ways.
We agreed on a planning strategy – I would develop the overall unit plan based on the departmental curriculum, and we would each cover several topics within each unit in whatever manner we felt most appropriate given our students. We will alternate lead teacher/support teacher based on whose lesson is being delivered, and we will include one hands-on/group activity each week. Preparing for the Regents exam in June is a challenge we still need to address; not all students will have enough content coverage to sit successfully for the test. How to determine which students should prepare for the test and how to prepare them is an unanswered question. But I am glad we have a strategy of moving forward together.
In class we began a MARS formative task – I love their materials. They are thoroughly and thoughtfully written; very rarely can you find something on line and use it ‘right out of the package.’ The lesson we are using this week is a conceptual activity on transformations. The activity begins with each student completing a deceptively simple formative task which was actually quite a challenge for many – they were asked to describe a translation, sketch a pre-image, and rotate a figure clockwise. Each piece of these activities was done on an adjacent but separate grid, thus requiring an additional level of abstraction.
Before we proceeded, we had a class-wide discussion on grades. The only grades they students have thus far are from an initial diagnostic (not a grade, really), homework assignments, and our 2 Quadrantal Quizzes. Many of them are not satisfied with their averages at present (nor should they be). In a week’s time, however, we will have a traditional exam on transformations and a creative project – one of my favorites – the Coat of Arms project, originally shared with me by one of my pre-service professors, Sam Jovell. These will be the major contributors to their first marking period grades, and we hopefully allayed a lot of anxiety by discussing this.
The MARS task is a two day activity, which will be completed on Monday. After we collected the formative assessment (which will be reviewed, given comments, and returned for revision after Monday’s activity), we had some individual WhiteBoard Fun Time – perfect for a Friday. Each student had their own whiteboard, and this screen was displayed on the board. The students needed to determine which terms on the right were associated with each term on the left. The Teachers Guide gives very specific ‘correct’ responses; for example, the correct term associated with Reflection is (1) A line. But the students came up with much broader associations, which I asked them to articulate. One student pointed out that a reflection was quite often done in an axis, and that if it was in the y-axis or any other vertical line, it was reflected some horizontal distance. Having the students justify their assertions was an empowering exercise in using mathematical vocabulary and reasoning. So the week finished on a positive (and colorful) note. The students were given homework to complete on Rotations on two levels of difficulty, and I appreciated the fact that the students carefully looked at which assignment they were given; some asked for the more introductory work if they felt they would be more successful with it, and others said, “I can do something harder than this.”
This class has me working harder than ever, but I really feel as if I am bringing my best game here – synthesizing a lot of what I have learned over the last eight years, and putting the differentiation, engagement, formative assessment and planning strategies into practice. I am fortunate to have a co-teacher; logistically, I don’t think it would be possible to manage this size class with this range of ability alone. Hey – wait a minute – that’s what I’ve tried to do before….
Thanks, Tina, for the challenge! Reflecting on one class for the whole week has been a powerful tool for me; I may even try doing it with a different class…next month.