Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day 75: I Admit It, I'm Counting The Days

I don't go to many sporting events.

I spent a good amount of time preparing reassessments for my geometry kids so that they could boost their scores on my SBG.

Then, half of them went on a field trip, or something.

So the other half played games!  It's difficult enough to get kids to concentrate on school work in the week before a long break, but they were all HIGHLY engaged in their games, discussing strategy and arguing about the math and logic.  Two students who fought in the cafeteria yesterday managed to play Forbidden Island, a fairly complicated cooperative game.

Games: The ultimate peacemaker!

One of my students, after learning how to play Set, challenged me to a math during the next game day.

I know, at some point, someone is going to want me to "educationally justify" the games that we play.  To that end, I think I need to start working on a Game Log and Reflection sheet where students will write down which games they played, things they liked, things they didn't like, how they chose the strategy that they did.

Even as I'm typing this, I'm thinking that a long-term assignment will be for students to find or make a NEW game that we can "educationally justify," become experts on it and present it to the class.  I'll have to pick the brain of @jacehan because he runs the game club at his school.

Plus, I hate reinventing the wheel, so someone out there MUST have a "reflect on this game!" activity.

Maybe I'll just show this card that a student gave me today...

In pre-algebra, I was looking for a fun activity dealing with Pythagorean Theorem and, in my Googling, happened across this cool hands-on activity from my dear friend, Julie Reulbach.  It has students making right triangles on grid paper, then drawing squares on the sides and using more grid paper to measure the length of the hypotenuse.  It's a kinesthetic version of the activity we did last week and talked about yesterday.  It lead me to an interesting discovery.

I found something more frustrating than students not reading or listening to directions: HALF-reading or listening to directions.  Worse than this is half-reading or listening to directions when they are asked to color/cut something.  I went through twice as many grid papers as I should have because students couldn't listen to the instructions about where and what they were supposed to cut.  There was even a PowerPoint with picture for the visual learners.

After the activity, they worked on their independent work.  Once again, I wasn't able to put out all of the fires that needed my attention, so I picked two to concentrate on.  The two fires didn't necessarily need my help, but by focusing on them, the rest of the class was MUCH more on task.  They didn't need my help with math as much as with focus.

Productive teaching through strategic selection!

My frustration in the second class came with the sheer number of times I heard "Mr. Aion, my square is 5 by 12!"

I typed two paragraphs about students making bad decisions before I said to myself "OF COURSE they make bad decisions! They are children! Most adults can't make good decisions, why should I expect them to?"

I've been having many internal and external debates as of late about the purpose of school.  I think the answer I give will depend on the day, which I think means I have no idea.  That scares me.

How can I continue working towards a goal if I don't know what that goal is?

The answer, of course, is that I have to come up with my own goal and purpose.  What do I want from my students?  When they leave my class at the end of the year, what do I want them to be able to do?

I want my students to be critical thinkers.  I want them to be problem solvers.  I want them to be empathetic to others.  I want them to be citizens in the true sense of the word.

I want them to develop curiosity and take ownership of their own education.

Many of my students do incredible work when I'm sitting with them, even if I'm not helping.  I need to figure out how to extricate myself.

Or get 20 cardboard cutouts of myself with a quizzical, yet warm expression.


  1. Yeah! I'm happy that I have been Googled. :) Also, glad to know you were able to use my lesson. Let me know if you have any improvements.

    1. I liked it very much! As we were going through the PowerPoint, I thought that maybe the lines could be drawn first, then the accompanying squares.

      Also, I was thinking about how to have smaller, detachable squares to demonstrate that the two little squares added up to the big square.

  2. Ooooh, I'll take a cardboard cutout of Mr. Aion, too!

  3. You should buy up the domain name "" ... Good tagline. Also maybe a good way to describe the weather.

    1. Today, in spite of it being December,it will be temperate outside, leading the public to feel that it is quizzical, yest warm!"

  4. Justin

    A couple of things hit home here. First, you are wondering aloud about the purpose of school. I have a PreK little girl and a 4th grade boy of my own and I have had some serious conversations over wings and beverages with a friend whose children are close in age to mine. This is a pretty BIG question for the young ones and we need to keep asking it all along the path. The second thing I want to remark on is the passage about your own goal and purpose for your students. To preserve your sanity and to recognize their reality, make sure your goals are framed in terms of progress made during the year. What I mean is that if you have a goal about your students being problem solvers, make sure the goal is something along the lines of 'Students will have made noticeable progress as problem solvers as evidenced by…'
    It's all about progress day to day, week to week, month to month. One of my favorite questions to ask my students at the end of a class is this one - 'Do you feel like you understand this better than you did 40 minutes ago?'

    1. I think you're very right about yearly goals. I'm sure that's the reasoning behind the CCSS, but those aren't really the skills I value and I don't think that they adequately represent what I want for them.


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