I think that I do fairly well at engaging my students when I lecture. And my assessments require students to demonstrate in various ways that they truly understand the concepts. I have implemented some successful projects. But I am JUST PLAIN HORRIBLE at facilitating meaningful and rich mathematical discourse in my classroom. Inspired by wonderful blogs and websites, I have been trying to lecture less and get kids to think for themselves and engage in rich tasks and have meaningful discussion . . .with almost zero success so far. On Monday I decided to begin my unit on Sequences and Series by using some patterns from visualpatterns.org
These patterns are SO cool! All of the students were engaged some of the time and some of the students were engaged all of the time (thanks, Abe Lincoln), but the conversation was never lively and I felt like we never really accomplished anything . So often, when I try something new, I have a interesting activity and I know what I want the kids to do or to learn, but I have no idea how to get there. I don’t know how to plan a classroom discussion. How do I get the conversation started? How do I facilitate a student-driven activity and yet accomplish specific learning objectives? (Looking for some feedback here!)
Some things I know I did wrong:
- I didn’t start with a question that everyone could answer. I probably should have said, “Tell me something you notice about this pattern,” and then written down all of the student ideas. (any other ideas for good starter questions?)
- I revealed too much information at the beginning. The website gives the answer to the 43rd pattern and asks for the equation. I should have just shown them the pattern first without the additional information. I think students were intimidated by the question about the equation.
- I should have taken the time to anticipate possible student answers and plan out my questioning strategy ahead of time instead of winging it!
Thanks to two wonderful bloggers for their inspiration and help: Michael Fenton’s recent posts about his One Minute Makeovers of his old assessments helped me to realize that trying something new and failing is normal and is better than not trying something new at all. I can learn and grow better at this! And Dan Meyer’s post today on Teaching the “Boring” Bits was especially timely and full of helpful advice as I navigate the new and uncharted waters of facilitating meaningful classroom dialogue.