Traditional Resource + Standing in Groups

November 30, 2012

The first unit (Linear Relations) went so poorly that I'm actually reteaching it now. But the difference is I have created a "traditional" resource. The lessons progress logically to build concepts and skills, and each lesson consists of the following:

• An "exploration" section where students do some work and look for patterns
• An "information" section that gives facts or patterns that may have been identified in the previous section
• Examples of the problems to be solved in this lesson
• Key Ideas listing the key concepts and/or skills from the lesson
• Practice questions

What I've realized is that a traditional resource like this is great for experimenting for two very important reasons:

1. It provides a clearly defined set of skills and concepts, in a logical progression, that can serve as a road map of skills and concepts that must be addressed. So when you're thinking of innovative ways of teaching (students standing, working in random groups, in my case), you know exactly what needs to be addressed and in an order that makes sense.

This is so much better than a non-traditional resource where you first have to figure out what they're trying to do and in what order. Then, if you don't like the resource's approach, you've hooped and have nothing to fall back on.

2. If you're trying an innovative approach that just doesn't work, you can fall back on the traditional approach. At least with a traditional approach, it's familiar to students and teachers alike, so it's easy to use.

So today I did one of the examples, then had students complete the next two in random groups. It went really well; In one group, a stronger student was teaching a weaker one how to substitute x values into linear equations. In the other two groups (yes I have a small class!), members were arguing about how to correctly plot points. Arguing about math--music to a math teacher's ears!

Not only were the students engaged and learning, but it was also very illuminating for me to see the difficulties students were having.

Between now and the end of the next semester I plan to create traditional resources for the remaining units so I can have a logical map of concept/skills to address (hopefully with random groups), and something to fall back on when the group work isn't successful.