Monday, October 6, 2014

Day 29: Group (Un)Work

I am trying to get my students to do more group work.

I began class by reviewing the homework and the work we did on square roots from last week.  I handed out a group assignment.  I had a student read the directions and outlined the expectations for the class.  I asked if there were any questions about what they were being asked to accomplish.  I said go.

24 pairs of glazed eyes stared off into space.

I walked around from group to group, asking if they needed clarification.  I asked the to run through the steps that we've been using since day 1, asking "what am I looking for?"  We had discussions about the assignment.  I answered the questions that they asked and clarified objectives.

24 pairs of glazed eyes stared off into space.

It took a solid 15 minutes to get all 7 groups working on the assignment.  For some, it was confusion about the directions.  For others it was anger at having to work with a group that they didn't like.  For the majority, it was the belief that if they sat there doing nothing, eventually, someone else in the group would pick up the slack.

This is not an assumption.  This was explicitly stated by at least 1 person in each group.

So how could I have made the assignment better?

I could reword the questions.  The assignment was about cooking and finding proper measurements based how many cookies needed to be made, how many each recipe produced and the amount of ingredients.  It was a fairly basic fraction exercise couched in practical terms.

I should have re-written it.  I should have talked about it as a story in plain language.

I rely too heavily on material that is not my own.  I know my kids and know what they are willing to do.

I fall under the delusion that it's all about the teaching.  If I teach well, the assignments will take care of themselves.  Or worse, if I teach well, the kids will be able to do any assignment.

But this is simply not the case.  I am working with them to come around the my way of thinking, but the assignments that I'm giving are not always in line with that.  This is because of my own shortcomings as an educator and a planner.

Two years ago, this is where I would type my excuses for why I don't do these things, even knowing that I need to.  I list the reasons why it was out of my control, but the reality is that it's not.  If I were willing to put the time and effort in, I could do it.

As usual, I'm the only one standing in my way.

Thankfully, I'm able to learn from period 1 and fix many of the errors by the time period 8 shows up.  We spent MUCH more time talking about fraction division and did several examples as a class.  For the most part, period 8 did much better with the calculation aspect of the assignment, but they still got tripped up by the interpretation.  What were they trying to find?  What did their answer mean once they found it? What was the question asking them?

However, after several attempts to get the groups in period 8 back on task and failing to do so, I gave them an appropriate homework assignment.  Tonight, the students in my 8th period are to write me 2 paragraphs answering the following question:

When you are off task, how would you prefer Mr. Aion to get you back on task?

I am at a loss for how to keep the few loud students from sabotaging the rest of the room, so hopefully, they can help me.

I will be making up a new seating chart tonight based on aptitude, seating students of similar ability near each other, allowing me to concentrate my effort where it is most needed.

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