Thursday, April 12, 2012

Post Spring Break Blues

We have 37 days left with students (yes, I finally counted) and I'm real concerned on how the rest of the year is going to go. We returned from Spring Break yesterday and I started into adding and subtracting rational expressions. I did the guided notes thing I've been doing and I really felt like the lesson didn't go well. I had planned on doing the Ghosts in the Graveyard activity to have students practice and after my first class, I scrapped it until tomorrow. I called it "Flowers in the Garden" because it's spring and I used post-it flowers instead of ghosts. I had put 2 problems per card and most groups only got through 2 problems in about 30 minutes. They had no clue. For my second and third classes, I gave them the Pizzazz worksheet I planned to do tomorrow and sat down with some students for some one-on-one (or small group in some cases) tutoring. Their work ethic (as a whole class) pretty much sucked.

After some reflection, there are a few conclusions I have reached:
1) I think I could have better designed the lesson and set up the examples better. I do like how I started out the lesson, but I am going to revisit what examples and in what order they are in. Here is my note page - feel free to offer comments.

2) It is harder to get students to put forth effort in class when you haven't been doing it all year. When I set up smaller group activities (here is what I have tried in the last few weeks), I still have students who blow it off, but for the most part, they are more engaged. When I went back to a worksheet today, maybe a third to half worked on it, but of that group, not all of them stuck with it. Less structure at this point means less effort.

3) It takes a lot of work on my part to set up these activities. @druinok's post on practice has been a big help in giving me some ideas of what to try. However, it takes some significant work to set up these activities. I know that once I've done it, I have them and can use them again. However, I am incredibly busy both inside and outside the classroom and I feel like my energy and time to put this stuff together is waning fast. (I'm on two different committees for work and both have me out of the classroom on the average of once a week between late March and mid-May, not to mention all the other stuff going on in my life.) I wish I had half the creativity that my fellow blogging math teacher do with coming up with these practice activities. I am happy to use what they have shared, but I'd love to come up with something myself.

4) I really feel like I am busting my can and my students don't care/appreciate it. It's not like I went into teaching for the recognition, but sometimes it would be nice to see genuine effort and to overhear comments like "that was fun" or "I learned that better" or something positive rather than comments that could very well be sarcastic. One of my students after one of these activities (and I can't remember which one) made the comment on the way out the door "that was fun" and from his tone, it was difficult to tell whether it was sarcastic or serious. When I asked him, he said "both" and added that he did learn something during that class period. It's not like I live for positive comments from my students, but I could really do without the sarcasm. It's hard not to take it personally when I spent a lot of time getting the activity set up in the hopes that they would actually practice and learn the concept since other methods weren't working.

Well, what's next? Next week I am out Monday and Wednesday (scheduled doctor's appointment and committee meeting, respectively). I would be ready to begin solving rational equations on Monday, but since I won't be there, @druinok suggested that maybe reviewing how to solve equations with fractions in them without a calculator would be good practice. This is the worksheet I came up with:

On Tuesday, hopefully they'll be ready to go with solving rational equations and it won't be so horrid. Since I'm out again on Wednesday, I am going to have a practice Pizzazz worksheet for them, We'll see how that goes.

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