Thank you, Mrs. F

I teach in a small school, where the junior and senior high school share a building. The most successful parts of my first couple days were due to the math teacher down the hall.

Teaching junior high is not exactly my cup of tea, but I’m glad that I did part of my preservice in the 8th grade classroom of Mrs. F, where math is all about working cooperatively in groups. She doesn’t just teach with groupwork, she teaches kids how to function and be effective problem-solvers in small groups. She assigns specific roles with explicit duties, she supports kids and insists they do their jobs. For two years, kids receive consistent training in math problem-solving and sense-making through collaboration. As those kids’ high school teacher, I get to reap the benefits of her hard work.

A lesson for the 80-minute block needs to have some variety. It’s a long time to stay focused, too long for a single activity, and way too long to sit in one place. So pretty much every class I teach involves some individual practice, some pair-sharing, and some small group work. During the first week of school, it was really impressive to see how comfortable the kids are working in groups. I would shuffle the cards, then deal out four names (under the doc camera, for extra drama). Those four students would head to a table in back, and I would deal four more. Getting into groups was quick this way.

I know from my time in Mrs. F’s room that kids have to learn how to work in groups. My students still need instruction in this area, but they are off to a very good start. Thanks to Mrs. F, I have a firm foundation to build upon.


3 Responses to “Thank you, Mrs. F”

  1. 1 tybo9188 September 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    That’s a really neat way to assign groups. I had a college professor (different subject) who wrote a “protocol” (questions, groups, and approximate times) for each class period and had a copy at each student’s desk at the beginning of class. Class usually began with at least a quick hello as the whole group, but the protocol gave students 1. A sense of the whole period, and a chance to think ahead and 2. Something productive to “do” when they first arrived. It also allowed the professor to orchestrate transitions with nothing more than a “Time to switch.”

    • 2 Paul Gitchos September 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      Thanks for the comment. Something I want to get better at is having an agenda for the class which is visible when students come in. It makes sense to be upfront about how you expect the day to go, and have kids anticipating the different activities and transitions.

  1. 1 Math Blogger Initiation Week 4 « Bowman in Arabia Trackback on September 13, 2012 at 5:04 am

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We are all born into this world, and at some point we will die and that will be that. In the meantime, let’s enjoy our minds and the wonderful and ridiculous things we can do with them. I don’t know about you, but I’m here to have FUN.
-Paul Lockhart

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

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