I should have known that when I was sweating through my shirt before the kids even entered the building, that it was going to be a rough day.
I hit a major stumbling block. I hinted about this yesterday, but today it became a glaring issue. My frustration started to get the better of me.
I began working on the project extensions from Mathalicious in all of my classes. Mathalicious provides an amazing worksheet for the students in the form of a Project Planning Guide. I explained to the students that it is just a guide, something to help them focus their ideas into a flow chart. I wasn't looking for specific answers to any of the questions, but rather I wanted them to fill out the planning charts in a way that direct the flow of their projects.
The geometry kids got it and worked very well.
The math 8 kids seemed to have tremendous difficulty with the concepts being asked of them. The driving question of the activity is:
How does displaying menu items in terms of minutes of exercise, instead of calories, affect what people order?
The first question on the planning sheet is "Restate the question in your own words." The responses that I'm getting are depressing me to no end. Many of them are things along the lines of "how do certain exercises burn calories?" or "How many calories are in a meal?"
I tried asking directed questions, but clearly I have some gaps in my questioning skills. I wasn't able to come up with the right question to get them to say either what I wanted, or something close enough that it even made sense. The inability to even analyze a sentence to determine the contents is frightening to me. I asked the class as a whole and only one person could even come close. We tweaked it together and when we finally got something close to what it needed to be, everyone refused to write it down.
I told them that we could cover the same content doing worksheets for an hour and a half a day, 180 days a year but that I wanted to do projects and interesting content. I got blank stares and heads down. I had flashbacks to last year and almost had a panic attack.
I know it's going to be a long road and I'm committed to it. I have to teach them persistence as well as myself. I need to learn how to ask enough questions to get them to the answer I want, or one that's acceptable, but not so many that they (or I) get bored and frustrated.
I also need to remember that they aren't used to this type of assignment or project. As I said yesterday, there will be an adjustment period, not just for them, but for me. I think I made a huge mistake having them try it on their own, or in small groups. With the first time we're using the form, I should have walked with them, holding hands where I needed to, perhaps through a class discussion of each piece.
At least I know what I'll be doing tomorrow!
I found myself thinking "If they can't answer these basic questions,
how can I expect them to write a survey, ask people questions, compile
data and display it in a coherent fashion?" Now that they've left my
room and my frustration has mostly passed, I'm able to answer that
question: "I can teach them how to do those things. I can take the time
to show them the methods and help them as much as I have to." I'm not
going to give up on this project, or on doing projects. I will teach
them to struggle and to succeed. I will teach them that hard-won
accomplishments are the sweetest.
Maybe I'll even teach myself that in process.
On the other hand, maybe the fact that my room was overcrowded and unbearably hot was what lead to their lack of involvement...