Accidental Outcomes.

Yesterday in Algebra 1, I wanted the students to do an individual review in preparation for their test today. We had done a whole-class review over the content on Monday already.

Something I’m trying to work on this year is more intentionally helping my students discover strategies that help them learn. So much of our population at Mid City has experienced a large amount of learning failure in their lives, and they have never really figured out how to learn. How are they supposed to break the cycle of failure when they don’t know how to encounter new material and process it? When they don’t know how to check for, find, and correct their own mistakes?

I’ve done a lot of things so far with more intentional notetaking discussions – how do you figure out what to write down in your notes? How do you make your notes helpful to look back on later?

Anyways, for the review I decided that I would try something along these lines to help them figure out their own learning. I would give them an answer key.

The instructions were, after every section of review problems, they were to come up and check their answers from the answer key I had made. It just showed answers, not worked out solutions. If they were incorrect, they were to return to their seats and find their own mistake or ask me for help, and solve the problem correctly NEXT to their mistake before moving on to the next section.

Two things happened that I was not expecting.

First, there was a HUGE backlash to my instruction for them to LEAVE THEIR MISTAKE ON THE PAPER. I tried convincing them several times that it would be okay if they just rewrote the problem next to it and solved it again, but so many students just flat out refused, insisting on erasing their mistake and replacing it with the correction. Next time I do this activity, we will definitely have to have a discussion on why it is beneficial to see your mistake as well as the correction – how it might help you to avoid the same mistake again. This could also be related to their block on finding mistakes in incorrectly worked problems? I need to think about this one, and maybe ask some of them why it bothers them so much.

The second thing is that when they made mistakes, SO MANY of them went back to their seats and asked their neighbor for help. I heard “Did you get 9 for #2? How did you do that?” followed by REALLY EXCELLENT discussions of solution processes and students helping each other find mistakes and explain why they may have made it. Very few of them ended up asking me for help, when usually they’re asking me after every single problem. Maybe they were embarrassed to admit they’d gotten one wrong? Maybe they were just more confident asking their friends when they were 100% sure that friend had gotten it right, because of the answer key? Still looking for the reasoning behind this one, but I’m determined to find it because I want to make these student to student math conversations happen on purpose.

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Pushing Myself

I feel like I never get a chance to sit down this year. Even though it’s my fourth year and at this point I’m teaching 3/4 classes I’ve taught before, and I’m comfortable with the content. I’m still staying late at school getting things ready.

I realized today that it’s because I’m pushing myself. I’m not letting myself be comfortable with what I’ve done before. Doing #teach180 is giving me so many ideas and making me find that one photo worthy thing out of my four different classes every day. No photo worthy thing on the schedule for tomorrow? Better create one!

I’m trying interactive notebooks for the first time this year in Algebra 2. The students really love them so far, and I think they make my teaching better because they force me to really distill the content down into a main idea, but they’re a TON of work. Or maybe just a different sort of work than I’m used to.

I’m trying to do more games and activities rather than just alternating notes-assignment-notes-assignment and throwing quizzes in when they hit.

Most of this is good – but as I was almost having a mental breakdown after school today when I thought for about a minute that I deleted the whole SMART presentation I’d made for tomorrow’s Algebra 2 lesson and was simultaneously handing Heather the stack of cards from the literal equations scavenger hunt I used last week in class, Ryan walked in our office and asked how my day was. I made some sort of squealing groan noise at him, his eyes got wide, and Heather said, “Liz is doing too much this year.”

(literal equations scavenger hunt was awesome)

Which I think she’s right. I’m trying to become a better teacher, but I need to find the balance between staying where I was and biting off more than I can chew. Stressing myself out isn’t going to help my students in the end (or me).

So, I’m going to keep trying new activities. Keep having discussions with colleagues and friends who are teachers. Keep doing #teach180 (obviously, I committed). But I’m gonna let myself post a picture of a plain old book assignment sometimes. I’m gonna leave some lessons the same as they were last year. I’m gonna let myself leave school with not everything done some days. Because I need to push myself, but I need to take care of myself, too.

And I’m sure some of you probably need that reminder, too. So take a break. You’re important too.