Wednesday, November 16, 2005

web and thinking

Our webquest is almost over with and it has been an interesting process. I was researching last night for a project to do with my students next week. I really could not find what I was looking for but I did encounter several webquest based activities that would be interesting for the students complete. With technology so prevalent on my campus I can easily access the internet and have the students complete the projects. Our district is heading in a new direction with the change in leadership and the new superintendent wants to see more lessons like the ones created using the webquest format. Hopefully it will the students thinking more.

Thanks Karen for you blog post for this week. The bottom part where you said: "I will keep on questioning... I will NOT stop giving homework or the Problem of the Week just because they don't do it... I will NOT lower my expectations of my students... I will keep on praying that they will rise to the occasion and LEARN in my classroom... I will continue to look for ways to encourage my students to become independent learners." I really needed that paragraph. With so many policy changes at our school it drives me nuts that the students won't do the work until they are assigned D-Hall and that can be two weeks after the original assignment. Today I went over their test study guide with them. I had a lot of students look at me funny when I told them to go home and look at the information again as a form to help them study. They thought I was nuts. I am right there with you and I am NOT going to lower my expectations.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Journals

Journaling is a quick way of getting students to write either about their feelings or about the topic of discussion. Since I teach math we do not do a lot of journaling per say. We might journal about a particular process or a quick sentence about how well they think they have a concept. Most of our journal entries are very short. The English classes in my school do a lot of journaling in class about the novel they are reading. The history teachers use journaling so that the students can get a feel of history as they go through the different time periods or certain events. Journaling has also been popping up in the in service workshops that I attend. Usually we about what we learned, what can I use in the classroom and how did I feel after the session.
Reflective journaling can be effective as a teacher when you are reflecting on your lessons and how it went. It is always good to think about a lesson and make improvements to it. Although, I usually do this in my mind and make notes in the margin of my lecture notes about what to do the next time.
Journaling for me is like pulling teeth. I am not a person who sits down to write about their feelings and keep it for future reference. There are people out there who love to journal their heart out and that is fine. I have students, usually girls, who have these spirals filled with journal entries and I applaud them.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

oh

Chapter 10:

"As a teacher do not judge students creative endeavors but provide support and encouragement for their attempts." (Moore, p 320) This statement struck me when I was reading about creative thinking in chapter 10. As teachers we outline our lessons and assessments with a certain outcome in mind. If our students do not match these outcomes like we intended we often think that the student failed. But did they really fail or did they approach the situation from a different view point. I really like doing projects with my algebra students because they can come up with some really creative answers. Their minds are wired so different than the average student. When I assign these projects I usually have an outcome intended or what the finished project should look like. However, this is not what I always get. Some students take the project and come up with a new answer than mine. At this point I have to take a step back and decide did they really miss the mark or did they really hit it in a creative way. If they hit the mark then I should support their attempts. I also think supporting a students endeavors should start at the earliest possible age and continue on through out. It is so important with the younger students to encourage them to think outside of the box so that as they get older they want to attempt things with out fear and not be so dependent on the teacher or others.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

thinking

Teaching thinking skills to middle school students presents a challenge on various levels. They are so rapped up in themselves that they cannot see beyond the end of the day. I try really hard to challenge their thinking but most give up when presented with the challenge. Chapter 10 had some excellent information about improving thinking. The section about non-thinking behaviors in the classroom was refreshing to see that the problems we face are acknowledged by researchers. These behaviors are impulsiveness; overdependence on the teacher, inattentive behavior, restless rusher, dogmatic, assertive behavior, rigidity-inflexibility of behavior, fearful-lack of confidence and responsibility forfeiture. (Moore, p327) I have seen every one of these behaviors in my classroom over the years. Although this years class seems to show more of then any other group that I have taught. For the overdependence on the teacher (I don't understand this) I have them repeat back to me what their notes say and how did I apply it? I use a lot of questions with them to try to get them to think. This usually gets them really frustrated with me when I do this. It seems like our students are not to critically or creatively think in the classroom. There is only one right way to do it or it is wrong. This is partly due to the state mandated test that is required and the fact that math one sided in the early years that when they get to higher level math and they are required to think it is hard for the students. Even with my so called gifted students they get frustrated with open-ended math situations. They will get into arguments about who is right when everyone could be right as long as they have justification for their process. I also believe that thinking skills is a maturity issue and as we move along in live we grow in thinking ability.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

?

The second half of the Alderman article really describes a lot of the issues faced with the middle school student. They do not want to appear smart so they say that they did not study. They want to put forth as little effort and yet still get a great reward out of it. I teach them about goals and how to achieve them but if they do not receive instant feedback then they give up or they do not know how to sustain for the long term. I also teach study skills but they see little importance of studying. One of my students asked me the other day, why do we have to do the homework. I plant every seed possible to help raise their self worth but it takes a long time for it to sink into their brains. Usually it is years down the road before they recognize the higher self-worth within them.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Self-Efficacy

Concepts of Ability and Motivation by M. Kay Alderman

The opening quotes says “Students must be encouraged to believe in themselves and in the validity of their own thought processes… teachers must foster both confidence and high achievement in their students… confidence must increase together for either to prosper.” What a powerful statement. Teachers need to ensure that they are raising their students’ confidence level in the class and at the same time have high achievement. Since, I teach math it goes without saying that most of my students believe that they cannot do it. I can give a great lecture about a topic but if no one understands a word I am saying did any learning really go on? Also, I find it is difficult for students to get started on a topic if I am not there holding their hand. Most believe that they cannot do the task at hand and this does not differentiate between regular students and gifted students. If they belief that they can do it they usually get started right away and then ask for me to check their work. Then their peers who do not “get it” start looking at their paper to copy the first ones. Usually they say “oh is that it” and then we have more students working. Then there is the argument that breaks out about who is right and I have to referee the situation. This usually involves two students who think they can do it but one of them does not have the stronger capability. Finally I am left with those who have such a low worth about math that I help jump start them into action. I try to raise their confidence level as much as possible with verbal praise but sometimes I think my trite sayings have little effect on them but I feel like the article says that I should continue because everyone likes to hear praise. The first part of the article talks about self-efficacy which “refers to beliefs in one’s capabilities.” (Alderman, pg 69) As I was reading the above situation about my room played in my head. It is so true that what we perceive about something determines how well expend our energy into that activity or subject. No one wants to fail at something and look foolish in doing it. It is important to foster the development of their math ability so that maybe by the end of the year they will have a higher level of worth about math than when they started the year.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Motivation 2

Paul Burden makes interesting points in his articles about motivation. Under the heading "Support students' attempts to understand," the teacher is to use modeling and scaffolding. The teacher works with the students to solve problems that are difficult. When my students are stuck on a problem, I try to prompt them with questions to help them. It is so easy to just give them the answer but then learning does not take place. They really need to understand the concepts being taught in order to pass the state exam. Also, I think demonstrations are an important part of math. Whether we are doing examples together or doing an activity, the teachers needs to be available for the students. The last point about requiring all students to make a contribution is essential for learning. Being able to explain concepts to other students is internalizing the learning for the student.

In the paragraph about "Evaluate Student Learning," it says to allow students who do poorly to redo assignments or retake quizzes. I do allow this in the classroom and so do a majority of the teachers in the school allow this. I think this is a powerful learning tool especially in math. When they take the time to redo it with me then they will see their mistakes. It is important that they understand what was done wrong in order for them to correct their thinking. It does take a little more time but in a math phobic world it is important to correct math mistakes when you see them. I have also used poor work as examples in the classroom to allow the students to analyze what is wrong with it. Then we talk about it.