## Monday, February 10, 2014

### Day 98: YOU ASKED FOR THIS!!!

Half of my geometry class was gone for some unknown school function, so we went over the test a bit with the remaining students.  Then we talked about the school musical, which most of them were in, and the Olympics.

Since tomorrow, our students are taking the PSSA Writing Field Test (A test to test the test...) we have been instructed that we had to read the Code of Conduct to the students 3 times.

For the pre-algebra classes, I signed out the iPads for the whole week so that students would be able to look up dimensions of the various items at their parks.  Two of the six groups were working VERY hard and paying close attention during the explanation of scale.  The rest had, at most, one person doing what I asked.

I spent the period walking around, trying to get students back on task.  When I saw them struggling with a concept, I sat and tried to work with them.  They are supposed to be doing a scale drawing of their park, birds-eye-view, with the dimensions of the various park items.  One group was drawing a side on view with no scale or proportion at all.  I had spoken to them previously about how this was not what was required of them.  They ignored my direction and continued doing what they wanted.  When I sat with them, they refused to even acknowledge that I was there.  They sat quietly, staring at the table or floor, waiting patiently for me to go away.

So I obliged them.

After 3 minutes of asking them questions and receiving no answer, I decided my time was better spent helping a different group.

The iPads were very useful for about half the students.  They looked up dimensions of basketball courts, volleyball courts, slides, swings, etc.  What they did with them afterwards, I couldn't say.  One group was keeping track of the equipment and attempting to draw things to scale.  The rest were either arguing about the shapes of the stepping stones that they wanted, or just sketching items on their graph paper with no thought to scale or relative size.  The baseball field was smaller than the basketball court.

They wanted us to do projects, but I'm starting to get the distinct impression that what they meant was "free time."

I have one group who seems interested and the rest...

I take that back.  Most of the groups seem interested.  They want to design the parks and come up with cool stuff to put in them.  What they DON'T want to do is the math that's associated with the reality of designing a park.

I spoke with my principal about my frustration.  She told me that she liked the idea very much and to keep working it.  Have I mentioned lately how much I like and respect my building principal?  Not because she tells me what I want to hear, but because she's a realist about the challenges that we face and the effort that we put forth to meet those challenges.

I had to take iPads away from several kids because they simply refused to stop playing games on them.  Then they got resentful that they weren't allowed to "work" with the iPads.

We do a terrible job of teaching digital responsibility and I have no idea how to fix it.

In period 8/9, I spent much more time at the beginning explaining the concept of scale, hoping that doing so before they got revved up might keep their attention.  It worked to a certain extent.  I also went over what was and was not an appropriate way to use the iPads.

"You are to use the iPads to look up information that you need, such as the dimensions of the items you want in your park.  What are you NOT to be doing on the iPads?"
"Games, music, shoes."
"Excellent! Thank you!"

I also had a list of items that they were to have completed by the end of class:
• Name, logo and slogan of the park
• Scale chosen
• Rough sketch with dimensions
• List of items needed
They started to lose the thread of it near the end, but overall, they did MUCH better than period 4/5.  I attribute this partially to the make-up and chemistry of the class, but more to the fact that I laid out clear expectations, goals and guidelines before the activity started.

Lesson from today: Set up clear expectations, goals and guidelines.

 One group did this! Then promptly left it in the room...

1. Not so bad. Setting up clear expectations is very important for these kids. When I forget to do that all hell breaks loose. Some days nothing seems to work at all. Today I was trying to be very clear, but they wouldn't listen to me. There are days when they just keep talking over me as if I wasn't in the room, so I go sit down in a desk. When they realize that I am not competing with them, they usually stop talking and ask me to tell them what they are supposed to be doing. I really do think that the majority of the behavior is immaturity, that's why they can't settle down and focus on anything either. It still doesn't make trying to teach them any easier either. :(

1. I had a conversation with a coworker about how some teachers are elementary teachers, some are middle school, some are high school. There are a few who are all levels, but VERY few.

I am a high school teacher in a middle school setting. I have expectations of behavior and maturity that may be unreasonable for the age, but I refuse to change them.

I just continue to get frustrated when they talk over me and then immediately ask me to repeat the directions...

2. I had a thought, I don't know if it would be relevant to your kids, but I do distinctly remember being in year 7 and 8, and being in groups for the occasional group project (never for maths though). If the class was one of the level 2 or 3 classes (level 1 was for the top performing students), there was always an unspoken student rule which stated that "You must not appear to be trying too hard". This was why I preferred individual projects, since I could do all of the work at home and go to class and follow the unspoken student rules for disengagement (or psuedo-disengagement) in those classes. The penalty for breaking those unspoken rules ranged from name calling, to complete ostracization.

In an effort to try to make them take some real responsibility, perhaps you could suggest that their work would be published online on a class blog? I have no idea if it would work, but it would have made me sit up and take notice when I was that age.

1. I think that's a very legitimate concern. There is a stigma about being "smart" but even when I do stuff as individual projects, they don't get done. It's not as though the work is particularly taxing.

I have told them that I would like to put their work online and they know it will culminate in a presentation to the class. I'm a little worried about what will happen when I ask a group to present and they have nothing...

3. Perhaps you could create a class list of dimensions of playground objects. If anyone thought of something new, they could sign out an iPad to look it up and add it to the class list. If finding dimensions is the only reason for the iPad use, get that done and put them (and the distractions that come with them) away.

1. I think that's a pretty good idea. Several students were doing a great job, but many were just wandering aimlessly around the internet

4. Man - you stole my clever idea. I was going to suggest that the promise of display and sharing might help out here. Sad to hear that that might not even help. Reading of your trials, Justin, I realize how incredibly spoiled I've been. I'm trying to remember the genesis of the park project (I read it, I swear!) and I cannot recall how much inout they had. Obviously, it might not be a great idea to completely hand over the keys but I wonder how much more engaged they'd be if they felt a little ownership. Could be that I'm just being a total pollyanna thinking that they meant it when they told you they wanted to work on projects.

1. Every place has it's challenges. When I first started teaching, I was in a public school on the VERY opposite end of the economic scale. Many of those kids thought they could buy and sell me and therefore, didn't have to listen to me.

I don't think you're being a Pollyanna. I think they truly DO want to do projects. I think, however, that they are unused to actually doing work, even work they want to do.

5. Thanks for using the phrase "digital responsibility" ... Good you realize it as something that can be learned and taught--and by sharing it now I can realize that it is something that can be learned and taught.

I have been blogging for a few days now by the way. Today I blogged but I didn't really say how things went. I am kind of inspired to go back and change the original entry, but ... I'll just say how things went here.

In our Algebra 1 class, we had a practice-heavy agenda ... I gave them thick packets to work on and we got to it.

In my Geometry class, we had a boring-lecture-heavy agenda. I told them what inverse-trig functions are and how to use them, and then I passed out a project we'll be working on.

The project is something I just found on the Internet--I need to make sure I give credit to whom I got it from. I think I got it through twitter, but from whom? I think I got it just googling "make trig fun" or something like that. Here it is. It looks like fun.

In Algebra 1A, we're going back to Chapter 1 of the textbook and doing some review. That sounds tedious and boring but ... 1) It's this textbook by Jacobs that I actually like. (Unfortunately it's not the textbook we have, so I'm copying packets from it, which I found out online today is a violation of Fair Use doctrine) ... and 2) I got points from the students by claiming that this was my two student captain's idea--to go back and review. They're so down in the dumps about math that not a one of them is complaining about doing this review. Going to have to settle that textbook issue though.

One girl in the back, I went over to talk to her and her classmate, and she just put on her best disaffected teenager voice and was like, "Go away." And ... I had no comeback! I hated that! But it was still on my mind, so I went back over there, and was like, "Hey, you can sometimes be just really rude and mean ... to me. That's not good ... for you." So that was something.

1. I'm glad you're writing more. Writing helps me in ways I can't even begin to describe, not the least of which is organizing my thoughts enough to say "this wasn't all bad today! This thing worked, so I'm going to try it again."

I think your reply to the girl was excellent. MUCH more appropriate than what mine would have been. Sometimes the students are rude without realizing what is and is not an appropriate way to interact with adults.

Sometimes, I wish I didn't have snappy comebacks so I could have to time to think of something more productive than "Your FACE should go away! OOOOOOOOOO SNAP!"