Closer to my goal

I decided to give up a little more control and see if I could get more authenticity.

We began to work through our financial literacy unit and I reserved enough iPads for pairs of students to use for research.  As we discussed education after high school I focused more on helping the students research more about what they think that they would like to do.  They were really focused and took ownership of the assignment which was based on their individual ‘why’.  After researching through interest surveys, job outlook and personality traits of their initial career choices I had a third that decided to change career choices.  The students started off asking a great deal of questions to me instead of learning the answer themselves.  I circulated the room and instead of answering questions the information that they could find by googling we were having great conversation as they voiced their findings.  We discussed whether they should rent an apartment, stay home with their parents or stay on campus if given the choice.  Instead of having twenty-seven students asking me the cost of each living arrangement option for their selected college, junior college, trade school or university they discussed with their paired student after researching on the iPad.  We then put the iPads away and discussed their discoveries.  There were students that never turned in their math homework because they deemed math too hard calculating their cost of education and comparing it to their annual and lifetime salaries.  The conversation continued for days after researching as they were authentically owning the assignment and the fact that they had a choice and a voice.  I even received a few parents messages wondering why their child was so interested in learning about their finances (many parents told their kids that it was none of their business. 🙂  )  They are too young to learn about it or are they?

Wildly Important Goal

I started by taking baby steps using my growth mindset and investing completely in the COVA model.  Instead of keeping my iPads locked up in fear I started with a rotation to allow students to sign up to use the iPads.  I made sure to clear each one before I turned it over to the student and I allowed them to choose whether or not they wanted to use the iPad when their name came up on the list.  To my surprise, there were a fourth of my students that just wanted to read their chapter book during advisory instead.  For the students that chose to use the iPads we discussed appropriate websites and uses for the technology when they checked it out.

As the iPads were returned I checked the opened windows and browser history and I noticed something very different than my fears.  Many students chose to work on the Think Through Math website in order to get through more lessons and contribute their points to the class goal of a party.  I posted stats and each of my periods were in competition so many students wanted to beat the other classes even if their own class wasn’t close to winning the website administered contest party prize.  Fear was slowly fading and I began to release more of my control.

COVA model at work

I have been able to create a low stakes island compared to my current school day environment.  I am working in an after school enrichment/mentoring/tutorial program and many of these student are SpEd, ED, LD or at risk due to behavior issues at school.

I was given the opportunity to create my own course as long as I could show some alignment to the Texas testing standards.  I chose to focus on Geometry and have a session called “Arts and Maths” (instead of arts and crafts 🙂 ) where we start with basic geometry skils such as identifying symetry and number of sides for 2-D figures then faces, edges and vertices for 3-d figures.  I then allowed them to explored what they could do with the basic shapes (circle, square, triangle, rectangle) by chosing one to create a 2-d shape and discovering how to create a 3-d form of that very shape starting with the one that they chose.  We have now transitioned to simply compounding shapes to create things (introducing them to architecture/engineering) but keeping allowing them to build whatever they liked initially from wooden blocks.  The students are so used to being told exactly what to do as they prepare for STAAR testing that they wouldn’t start stacking a wooden block onto another until I told them what to build.  They even asked for pictures or instructions.  Their choice eventually came from me refusing to take it away.  They experimented with things that didn’t look like what they thought that they should have built.  I finally introduced different materials to use in addition to the wood blocks which included magna tiles, playstix, wedgits and a  super architect builders set.  They were allowed to choose which to material they wanted to build with and what to build.  They finally begin to experiment on their own to create their own art (some practical use items and some not so much) each student was excited and proud about their individual accomplishment and even wanted to disassemble their masterpieces to create a new one.

After they took ownership of their projects I went to a student and gave her the book that came with the wedgits that had many ideas and she looked through it.  I walked around and awarded true effort and spoke with the other individual students about their projects and every time I returned to her table she had a new creation.  Each time I would ask her if it had come from the book since she had access to so many ideas now and she replied “I have my own ideas now so I don’t need that book anymore”.  I was amazed at the change in ownership over the course of a twenty minute time period.  I love COVA. 🙂  We have to actively practice and model the COVA method continuously as it works but takes time to break out of the regurgitation model which used to be the foundation of education.  Wait time is invaluable if you can risk time being off the scoped calendar some then you will gain that timer back and some by the end of the year.

ePortfolio: My missing puzzle piece

When I first started teaching I went to the CAMT (math) conference and I was excited about how I could integrate technology into my math class.  Back then I attended several new teacher sessions that covered everything from grading to filing.  There was one session that I decided to sit in on that sparked my interest in the idea of inviting the students to seek help as needed outside of school from their own teacher.  I remember thinking back to when I was in college and I showed up to class, wrote all of the notes and read the book but sometimes I needed to hear it again.  I connected with my very first math teacher so it was his spirit and passion that helped me understand every math class after his as he allowed me to attend his office hours as long as he tended to his currently enrolled students first. In the session teachers were saying that using only a basic recording device (early model document cameras, inexpensive video cameras or even a cell phone) they would record their lessons for class.  As they completed the notes and guided practice they would only record their hands and voice so they didn’t have to make videos with their faces on camera.  They focus would be the lesson and the recordings would not only address the absent students but they students that needed to see, hear and try it again.  I could not wait to get back to my campus to work with my department on this.

Unfortunately, no one wanted to put themselves out there because it could be public and I was a new teacher so I was terrified of posting even one mistake for replay to parents and students to see.  I just kept thinking about how the material could be available not only to the students but their parents, grandparents, tutors, siblings, etc.  Even if the student could not remember the lesson from earlier that day then they could at least get a refresher or help cut the tension during homework time so their was help/direction given to their elected assistant.  This would have been a fantastic ePortfolio opportunity but my fear blocked me from taking the risk of putting myself out there.  As the TEKS started to constantly change an ePortfolio would have been helpful to reflect on how to support, beginning planning and effectively communicate the new curriculum to the students.  Honestly, my first period class was my practice everyday until I learned how to learn the material so that I could clearly teach my students.  I see how the reflective piece of an ePortfolio could help extremely.  I also can see how an ePortfolio will help me to motivate and encourage myself as I log of where I’ve been, what I’ve tried (working or not), connections that I’ve made and ideas that pop into my nerdy, analogous yet sarcastic mind.  I would have made many more connections sooner and possibly received comments or started discussions on some of my analogies that could contribute to success of a child anywhere in the world.  I remember connecting with other students around the country through an old model PC playing a low graphics game called Oregon Trail.  I was in middle school and it was awesome even though we couldn’t see nor hear the other students.  The interaction with a student in another state was just as exciting as going to the state ourselves and collaborating with (and sometimes against) those students.  I remember feeling like I wasn’t a small fish in a big pond anymore. I was connected long before social media came around.

Problem. Solving?

The problem solving model

Over the years I have seen and almost tried it all but every time I got to problem solving it didn’t matter what new model I was trained on it wasn’t as effective as I thought that it should be.  I spent a great deal of my time trying to convinced the students that they could not only remember the problem solving process presented but that they could eventually flow through it on their own.  I realized that it was like pulling teeth with the students because I couldn’t get them to connect to or buy into the process.  I was also battling previous required rote skills that meant nothing to many of them.  I started to talk with the students about the processes that they have tried and the strategies they remembered to use.  Many teachers use and swear by the examples below and I’m all for reaching every learning so by all means if they work then allow students the success in using them.  I just could not get them to draw it, fill it in, remember it or use it successfully.

Problem Solving Template Example

Frayer Model Example

Problem Solving Steps

I knew that there had to be something else that I could do to best reach my students and bring a little joy back into the problem solving process.  I watched the student frustrations, listened to misconceptions and looked through their attempted processes to assist me in thinking about a possible solution.

Continue reading “Problem. Solving?”

Posted in A marathon NOT a sprint, Driving Disruption, Insanity

Insanity

Each school year just about everything changes except the way that we approach it.  I love the idea of a fresh start for each student (each day) and a great deal of the material should be presented daily to each fresh started student.

I feel that math hasn’t changed so much over the last decade that we have to confuse students and push parent help away.  The idea of “my way” that tends to be standard reasoning to enforce memorization is frustrating to me.  On one hand we stand to embrace uniqueness to assist with social bullying problems but then we demand that everyone solve math problems the same exact way for fear of failure. This is where the importance of the growth mindset becomes the catalyst for change and helps the COVA method to become more widely excepted.

I believe is trying to solve the problem from outside of the box but not in a scripted or practiced way.  I tend to use analogies and many real life references to not only engage my students but help them to see how and why each concept is worth trying to learning.

Posted in A marathon NOT a sprint, Driving Disruption, Insanity

Make it relevant

I realized that engaging students at the beginning of the class wasn’t enough.  The entire lesson needed to have splashes of color more like an abstract not a color by number picture.  Analogies that are relative to a student’s school day, social life, home life or even popular movies, television shows, songs and celebrities keep the students drawn into the material.  I naturally insert my humor and quirky personality throughout the class period creating a different atmosphere within my room that encourages students to try which assists me in best helping them.

I love math and love winning over students who think that they hate it.  Each class of each day is not guaranteed to run exactly the same way.  I value wait time and I consider but don’t make excuses for individual student situation but I never lower my expectations.  My strategies in the classroom are not always understood or supported by my administrative staff but I can see the successes even after struggles and failing forward.  As I come up with abstract lessons I’d like to share them here in hopes of gaining feedback and/or inspiring others to leap off the pages in the textbook or worksheets.

erik_johansson_030

 

I believe that if you make the learning relative and engaging then the students will take what they have learned and the passion to continue to do so with them when they leave.