Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 39: Accountable Talk

"Why do I have to do it?"

We were reviewing the practice problems on monomial multiplication and division in pre-algebra.  I asked students if they had specific problems that they wanted to go over and received several.  We began going through them as a class.  I was writing, but offering no other assistance.

"What should we do here?" I asked the class.
"Couldn't you expand them out like we did the other day?" they replied.
"I have no idea what you're talking about. Can you elaborate?" I said coyly.

And they did.  As a group, we went through half a dozen exercises.  I called on random students to tell me what they did next, or to agree or disagree with the previous students had said.

Then I got to one young woman.

"What do we do?" I inquired.

Her reply came with a surly tone and attitude.  "I don't know. I wasn't paying attention."

I smiled.

"That's fine.  We will all work together on this. What do you THINK you do?"

"I don't know. I wasn't paying attention."  She was gonna be a tough nut to crack, but I knew she could do it.  I felt that her resistance was due to an annoyance of being called on rather than the frustration of not knowing.

For the next few minutes, I cajoled her and encouraged her.  I asked her to look at previous examples that were on the board and tell me what she noticed.

"Why do I have to do this?" she asked, putting emphasis on the first person pronoun, indicating that perhaps someone else should be the victim of my academic encouragement.

"Because I know you can do it and I want you to know it too."

She bit.  Yes, she continued to fuss and complain and claim that she had no idea, but she demeanor changed and she began answering.

Then I handed the pen to a student to put her answer on the board.  That broke the dam.

Kids were fighting over who got to do what.  I let them pick which problems they wanted to do and, by allowing them to write, I was able to use proximity with normally disengaged students to get them more involved.

"While she is putting this one on the board, I want you to try it here.  Tell me if you get the same answer."

I didn't tell anyone if they were right, but looked instead for consensus in the classroom.

For the first time in a long time, the productive students were louder than the unproductive ones.  Accountable talk reigned.

This was followed by a VERY productive and supportive parent meeting.

I may play the lottery tonight.


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