One week in and the swing of things has started to fall into place. I'm getting to know the personality of the classes. We finally are on the normal school bell schedule. Buses have started coming on time. I'm finding my rhythm in the day.
This year it's going to be about training the students to handle transitions. I have TONS of transitions during a class period. I have the luxury of an 82 minute class period and I use it to the fullest. I try to fit a few different types of learning into one class period- partner work, mini whiteboard time, group discussion, individual practice time. That means about every 15-20 mins I need to give new directions and have students execute them quickly. I've noticed this year's bunch likes to stop and chat along the way and that getting settled back in TAKES SOME TIME. But not too worry, I'll get them trained.
I'm particularly proud of my ability to take a boring worksheet and turn it into an interactive experience- which is usually where many of my transitions come from. For instance, yesterday I wanted to review proportions. I had, in my possession, a math riddle sheet. I have tons of these. Worksheets that, when the right answers are produced, give the answers to funny riddles. Okay, fun and such, but it's just the same old drill and kill with a riddle.
I took the sheet and cut the riddle part off. I then cut the problems in half- making two half sheets (A and B) of problems. As students came into the room, they were instructed to pick up one or the other, based of last names. In theory I had half the class with one sheet and half with the other. Right away, this creates interest. Students start comparing the sheets and figuring out what's different. As they work to finish the problems I have time to walk around and work with a few kids individually.
But still- it's just been worksheet time. Kids who already understood the work haven't been challenged. Students who were lost MAYBE got a minute to work with me, but nothing that will keep the math stuck in their heads. At this point, the students got to get up and move. The task was to get into groups with two A half sheets and two B half sheets. Movement- always wakes them up a little. Choice in groups (with some limitations)- always a bonus in middle school. Once they were in groups, I gave them the riddle portion of the sheet I had removed. As a group they worked to fill it in. Automatically, answers are being checked. I hear comparing of strategies. Conversation leads to deeper thinking.
So great, the riddles are worked out, the math is done- but let's take this deeper. Each group now had to come up with one rule or hint to share that would help someone solve a proportion problem. They recorded it on a slip of paper. I then warned them I would be calling on group members to share the strategy AT RANDOM, so they needed to make sure EVERYONE in the group could explain what was written. Cue the more capable kids quickly coaching and teaching the rest of the group how to explain what's on the paper. Beauty. And I did call at random- remember my "No Raised Hands" rule? I pulled names from a jar.
So we shared work, made an "proportions hints board" in class, and BOOM- a boring math worksheet turned into something so much more. It was 50 well spent minutes.