We are at the end of our second week of school. I’m much further along this year as I’ve decided to introduce elements of our classroom structure as they arise instead of frontloading everything (waiting to get into Khan Academy until our first Khan Academy assignment instead of doing this big period-long scavenger hunt on day 2). I’m also spreading out the Week of iMath activities from YouCubed over a few weeks instead of just doing that for the first couple of weeks. It’s helped.
What I’m really excited about this year is that several teachers have jumped on board with writing a weekly reflection! I almost never get a chance to see my peers teach so to hear some of their thought processes and how their first weeks have been going is a treat. I’ve been sending out reminder emails that have included a couple optional prompts. This weeks prompts are the following:
- How do you handle inappropriate moments or jokes in class? Can you share any of these anecdotes?
- What’s the funniest thing that has happened in class thus far?
I don’t get a ton of inappropriate moments, but my classes do have some jokesters. The jokes seem to bother me a lot less when they’re actually pretty funny. I laugh and move on. It ends up being less of a distraction that way. I do have a student in one of my classes who is a giggler. He will just get on these giggle fests. This week, he was actually giggling about one of the answers he put for a math problem; he had realized it was such a bizarre answer and started laughing. He couldn’t stop for a few minutes. I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I kind of just calmly asked him to regain his composure. But I mean, he wasn’t even giggling about some off-topic issue, it was actually a response to reflecting on his work…but it still was a distraction when it persisted. He seemed to really be trying to get a hold of himself but as those things go, the more you fight it, the more it takes over. I’m kind of laughing thinking on it now. The best course of action would have just been to ask him to sit outside for a bit and come in when he was good to go – not as a punishment but just as a way to diminish the distraction. Of course his giggling became contagious so I had a whole table of kids just trying not to laugh for like 3 minutes. I got mildly frustrated but they stopped after a bit and we moved on.
Besides that, I can’t really think of any really funny moments in class so far. I’d like to relax a bit and laugh more with my students. I laugh with them outside of class (during lunch, PE, before/after school) but I feel I can tend to become a lot more serious during class; seeing the joking as an avenue for off-task behavior and lack of focus. I guess it’s knowing when to laugh things off and when students need a little bit more redirection.
I do remember one instance when I was teaching 5th grade. It was my first year teaching. All the students were talking with each other about a problem and I asked that they stop talking, but it was one of those situations where everyone stopped talking pretty abruptly but there is one student who finishing their sentence really loudly. I’m pretty sure he was singing a song but his last line before he realized no one else was talking was PUMP MY DONUT FULL OF JELLY! I pretended not to hear and tried not to laugh but couldn’t help it.
Youcubed.org has a lot of resources for math teachers to help them create a very discussion based, growth mindset centered classroom. Both last year and this year they provided some resources called the Week of iMath where it’s a collection of videos & activities that are all about the value of making mistakes, how math isn’t about speed, how math is all about finding patterns, etc. Last year the activities really tied in with whatever message was in the video. This year, many of them seem to be a bit unrelated. One of the videos had a message that mistakes are needed for us to grow but I felt the video focused so heavily on how great mistakes are; it felt like they were saying that mistakes were the goal, not growth. I instead read THIS story about a boy who helped a butterfly out of it’s cocoon and the butterfly died because it didn’t gain the strength it needed because it didn’t struggle to get out. I showed THIS slide show as I read the story.
Next week I will be doing Day 4 of the Week of iMath; it talks about how speed is not what’s important in math and it has an activity that’s all about the unsolved mysteries of mathematics. The activity defines the word conjecture for students and has them come up with their own conjectures (fancy word for ‘a mathematical guess’). I’m excited about that one.
6TH GRADE MATH
I’ve written about in previous posts but I am really trying to make my 6th grade math class much richer this year. In the past, I feel it’s been my weakest class (weak in the sense that the lessons weren’t as engaging as I had hoped and we took a very long time to complete units). These first couple weeks where we’ve been exploring decimal place value have been much better than any previous years. Students are seeming to have a firm understanding that a decimal is just a way of showing part of a whole. They seem to be realizing that the relationships between each place value as 10x bigger/smaller. I wrote about some of the activities we’ve been doing in last weeks reflection.
Sara (my wife) has been working nights the last week. She’s usually sleeping when I get home from school. I laid down a couple days this week when I got home and ended up napping for over an hour each time. Pretty refreshing. Here’s to the 3-day weekend 🙂