Thursday, September 4, 2014

Day 8: A Tale of Three Groups

I'm starting to become concerned over my lack of excitement.  I'm reading lots of blogs with lots of posts about how excited other teachers are for a new school year.  There are fresh faces and fresh lessons.

But my excitement is minimal to non-existent.  I hate that.  I want to be excited.  I want to feel the joy of exploration that I felt last year.

But I don't.

I feel bored.  I'm not truly bored in my teaching, but in the planning.  I have minimal interest in finding or developing new and exciting activities.

Once my homeroom starts, that boredom subsides because I like the students.  My students seem to fall into three categories.

1) High-energy, high-volume, high-engagement students.  These are the kids who can be heard from halfway down the hallway.  They usually do good work when given specific tasks  and love showing off when they get things right.  They love to answer questions and get upset when other kids are called on.

2) Low-energy, low-volume, low-engagement students.  These kids quietly sit and wait to be given instructions.  Sometimes they work, but usually spend the period drawing, or doing homework for other classes.  Occasionally, they put their heads down and pretend they are elsewhere.  In the clamor and attention-demanding volume of the first group, they are often overlooked or ignored.  In my district, this group is the majority, but is often forgotten because they aren't the immediate crisis that must be addressed.

3) Low-energy, low-volume, high-engagement students.  This group is also frequently overlooked for the same reasons as the previous group.  This is also the smallest group that I've seen in my time at my current district.  These are the students who worry me.  I'm concerned that without the attention they want and need, but don't ask for, they will slip into the second group.

I, like many teachers, am guilty of spending too much of my time on the first group and not nearly enough on the other two.

In previous years, the second group was, by far, the most numerous.  There were, of course, kids in the other two, but usually only one or two LE-LV-HE students per class.

This year, I'm noticing that the low-energy, low-volume, high-engagement students DRASTICALLY outnumber the others.  In my homeroom of 26 students, the breakdown of the groups looks something like:

LE-LV-HE: 20

It's an interesting experience and I'm trying very hard to find a way to keep that majority engaged so they don't slip into the last group.

I think I hit on something today.  As the period ended, I overheard several of that group mention how they never understand how my class goes so quickly, even though they are there for 90 minutes.  It made me feel good.

We started by going over the assignment from yesterday, with me paying special attention on the 4-Steps.  While I found the activity boring, that second group was making constant eye contact and asking good questions.  The students in the first group started getting louder and louder as I wasn't catering to their constant needs, so it was time to switch activities.

I handed out a grid covered in numbers and basic operations.  The students got into pairs and used two different colored pens or pencils to make "snakes" of numbers and operations that could be manipulated to create 16.  They were to race each other, finding the snakes faster than their partner.

They went to town on this!  I planned to give them 5 minutes, but 20 minutes in, they were were still going!  They found great combinations and were having arguments about whether certain snakes counted.

When they found out that the winners were getting marshmallows, they worked even harder!

In geometry, we talked about the importance of being able to sift through superfluous information to find the important bits.  I talked about a good Tineye is not one who hears or sees well, but one who can shut out what they don't want to hear or see.
Why yes, I did make a Mistborn reference in class!
One of my goals for them, and all of my students, is to improve their skills at identifying what's important and how to shut out the rest.

As someone who teaches by anecdote and rambles, I should find someone else to teach this part of my class.

1 comment:

  1. I hear you on the lack of excitement at the beginning of the school year. For me it's hard at the beginning--mostly due to my introvert-nature. In the beginning of the year my classrooms are filled with all of these *strangers* and I have to work really hard to get to know them and explain all of my expectations and do all of this work that isn't fun. Once I get to know the students and they get to know the routines, then I start to feel that excitement.


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