Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Day 53: Lower Order Engagement

Get the kids doing higher-order thinking!  Have them engaged in ways that result in amazing products!

My students aren't used to this.  I would venture to say that very few students are.  They are so used to lower-order thinking that they fight the higher level stuff as alien and unfamiliar.

I want mine DOING higher-order thinking tasks, but it's a struggle to get them there.  I go back and forth between wondering whether or not the fight is worth the benefits.  Do I persevere, pushing through the resistance believing that soon they will come around to my way of thinking?  Or do I cut my losses with the idea that the fight will take more time than I am able to commit?

My pre-algebra students have been doing lower-order thinking.  They have been working through workbooks at their own pace, either individually or in small groups.  There are word problems in the books, but they are mostly grinding practice problems.

I hate that I am doing this.

But they are engaged.

I give a quick intro, going over basic concepts and answering questions.  Then I unleash them to do their work.  I walk around the room, helping students who need help, checking off completed work and getting kids back on task.

I hate that I'm doing this.

But they are engaged.

They interrupt my conversations to ask good questions that will help them move on.  They seek me out to check off the work they have completed.  They work together and challenge each other.

It's low-level work.

But they are engaged.

I am torn.  I need to find a way to keep that engagement and vault them into higher tasks.

On a positive note, geometry was AMAZING today!

We did another single problem today, courtesy of Five Triangles and pointed out to me by Julie Wright in the blog comments yesterday. (Thank you so much to both of you!!)

I LOVED today's problem because it was JUST outside of the limits of the covered content.  We haven't really talked about circles or triangles yet so to complete this problem with good justifications, they needed to look up some information (SMP 5).  In addition to this, because they felt that they SHOULD be able to do it, they spent the entire double period working on it (SMP 1).

I hadn't planned for them to take that long, but they were working VERY well.

About an hour in, one group completed the problem with me asking them only a single question: "What do you see here?"  They started talking about radii and isosceles triangles and I walked away.  10 minutes later, I asked them if they thought I should give the rest of the class a slight hint.

"No! They are struggling and the struggle is important!"

 I was so proud of the entire class and spent a good 5 minutes at the end of class telling them so.

I wonder if there is something fundamentally different between the kids in geometry and the kids in pre-algebra.  Is there a single problem that I could give to the pre-algebra students that they would work on for 90 minutes?

Maybe the only difference between the two groups is that one has more persistence and, as a result, has done better playing the game of school.

If I can get that level of persistence from the majority of my pre-algebra students even once this year, I will consider it a good year.

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