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?”

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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, Insanity

Any questions?

Over the years, it became very clear that this question was ineffective.  Wait time is very important and many teachers provide just enough time to avoid many wrong answers.  Instead of listening and guiding the students to the answer collaboratively the class must go on based on the curriculum timeline of mostly “one and done” lessons.  Many students do not know what to ask or are usually terrified to appear “dumb” by asking “stupid” questions in front of their peers.  When the issue is pushed and students are asked what they don’t understand the general response is “everything”.  I learned after a few years that I needed to think of another way to get more feedback and spark a little conversation about the topic.

Many students come to me from teachers that simply asked for questions (or asked them questions then singled them out for not knowing) so I decided to try a thumb system.  Students would give me a thumb up for their perception of full understanding, a side thumbs for a so-so perception of understanding and a thumb down for no perceived understanding (clarification was given as students that were not focused at all could not just give a thumb down).  This system worked a great deal more than simply asking for any questions as I would at least get more students that were lot to give the side thumb and I would be able to better target my remediation process.  I always explained that if all students just decided to give a thumbs up then clearly we are ready to assess and move on.  I discussed the importance of the students giving honest responses and not having my students go into bobble head mode give lots of agreeing heads shakes with no meaning.  (Per my personality, I insert humor and analogies with students daily) I have used this system successfully for about the last five years.

In the middle of this school year (and in the middle of a class) I saw and felt the death of the thumb strategy.  It seemed to be losing its effectiveness for student feedback and discussion.  So, in that moment I just thought about what the students could use to better voice their perception of the material but not feel singled out as it was relative to their population.  Just like that I changed the system and the classroom response and effectiveness greatly improved again.  Instead of thumbs we used the classic rock-paper-scissors challenge rules.  I say “rock-paper-scissors” shoot!  The students would play rock for perceived solid knowledge, paper for shaky perceived knowledge or scissors for perceived choppy knowledge.  My 6th graders were excited to use the new system and I started to get valuable feedback so that I could hone in on my remediation even better. This quick relative thought on my toes saved my lesson that day and the students couldn’t wait to be asked for a response the days moving forward.

In every questioning system that I have used to spark discussion and thought, I model and remind the students that it is very unlikely to not understand anything that was discussed.  For example, they know what numbers are and how to multiply, add, subtract and divide them but in an order of operations problem they could have simply missed one single step that led them to the incorrect answer.  We spend time discussing the problem, their thought process and steps taken so they are able to pin point what happened that got them off track instead of immediately erasing the entire problem.  Sometimes they need to start from scratch while other times they need to mend a small mistake or finish the process of the problem to reach the final answer.

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.

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

I don’t think I can; I know I can.

 

Progress is being made daily and I attribute it to the Digital Leading and Learning course as I have really been immersed in the growth mindset and COVA method.  My passion and nerdy excitement for learning has allowed me to reel the students then plant seeds of success within in them as they learn to love learning. 🙂

My students are starting to not only explore on their own but using “I’ll try” instead of “I don’t know” or  “I can’t”.  It’s very refreshing and beautiful to hear and see what they can authentically produce on their own.  I’m really a math nerd so it’s very exciting to me when the students can connect to the content in their own way and see value as I do.  I was starting to lose my passion for teaching which I chose to do and thanks to this course I can see that I have the power of “yet” to continue to share my passion and possibilities with more students and staff.  It’s not time for me to jump ship just yet.  🙂