Sam Shah wrote about some of his struggles this past week. His openness helps us all, and I will try to be as open about what I'm struggling with...
It's too late now. I should have asked last week for interesting ways to approach the basics of solving equations. I did a lot of lecture, and some small group practice.
I have a few projects I'm planning to do later, but I'm doing a lot of lecturing now. Some students say they like that best, actually. (But I know it's not what helps them learn the most.) In one section, I asked what percentage of the time we should have: projects, lecture, and small group practice. Students called out all sorts of percentages for each, and I had them do averages. We came up with 1/4 projects, 1/3 lecture, and 2/5 small group practice. (No, that's not quite 100%.) I like that as a goal. But I'm not there yet. This week, I probably gave them about 10% projects (we did the function machine game), almost 20% small group practice (sometimes alone or in pairs, sometimes groups of 4), and over 70% lecture. Yuck!
I asked that question in the one section that's going really well. In another section, I've told 2 students they're on probation (for repeated disrespectful behavior), and had a similar behavior talk with one other student. I am not teaching high school; I am teaching at a community college. Yes, I often have discipline problems. That's hard to admit; it makes me feel inadequate. I often think that if I were interesting enough, students would cooperate perfectly.
I find myself lecturing more in the classes where students aren't into it. Getting group work going well is pretty hard when there's resistance. It's hard to write this. I wish I could sail into the classroom with interesting activities every day. I am not there yet. (After 20 years of teaching, Sue? When will you be there?...)
No one (3 sections, about 140 students total) passed the mastery test I gave on pre-algebra topics. (FIDO = fractions, integers, distributive property, and order of operations). They'll all be doing retakes. Yikes! Everyone has this homework assignment: for each problem on the test, do it correctly, explain the steps in words, and make up a new similar problem.
I think it will get better. A lot of students struggle with graphing, and there are so many cool projects to do for that.
Today I have no regular classes, but I come in for two hours of "hour by arrangement". Many of my students come in, and they can get help, play mathy games, or just do a worksheet that's been provided. The best thing about the hour by arrangement, in my opinion, is that the students start to bond - it helps them form a community.