|Those tiny black flecks are birds|
I handed back the geometry tests where I wanted them to explain their reasoning. We talked about the difference between knowing the material (which they clearly do) and being able to explain it (which some of them do.) Since it is the only grade they currently have, many of them were VERY upset. Since I've been moving towards standards-based grading and the philosophies that go along with it, I'm allowing them to make their corrections and demonstrate their knowledge to me. I think that having a 45% on their report cards will motivate these kids to correct their errors.
Thankfully, I spoke with the pre-algebra kids yesterday about why we don't do cross-multiplication. As a result, I was ready to talk to the Geometry kids about it today. We had a long discussion about it and I felt good about their understanding at the end.
My strategy in pre-algebra yesterday seemed to work, at least moderately and at least today. Yesterday, I ignored all student behavior that didn't distract those students who were working. Today, I noticed an increase in the number of engaged students. It was a small increase, but still an increase.
I make eye-contact with the students who are asking or answering questions. I ask them follow-up questions that force them to explain their reasoning. I encourage students who participate and thank them for their contributions.
In period 4/5 yesterday, there were 5 students who were engaged in our discussion. Today, there were 7. In period 8/9 yesterday, there were 3 students who were engaged in our discussion. Today, there were 6. The two girls who, yesterday, were singing and yelling, today were arguing about a conversation they had over Facebook. I asked them to please step outside to finish their conversation, which they did. When they returned, they weren't on task, but they weren't disruptive.
I know that this tactic, if it's effective, will take time. I know that I can't expect each day to get better the way it did from yesterday, but I'll take this as a good sign.
I am providing an environment where students can learn if they choose to. I am doing my best to provide them reasons to choose to learn. Ultimately, I don't know if it's even possible to do more than this.