Wednesday, September 17, 2008

First Teaching Experience (Long)

I taught my first math lesson on Tuesday, and it was a lot of fun. Teacher and I talked briefly on Monday about the possibility of teaching the math lesson for Tuesday, but nothing was set in stone. Tuesday morning he asks me if I'm up for it and I jump at the chance. I think I'll just copy what I wrote in my paper journal from Tuesday at school:

My very first lesson! I will be teaching about polygons, concentric circles and congruent circles to my 4th graders in about 15 minutes. I took the last hour and a half getting ready to teach the hour-long lesson... that could be a crazy amount of work in my future.

I can't wait! My introduction will incorporate the students' math homework from last night. One question had them create their own polygon riddle. A set of four questions leading to a certain type of polygon. Most students attempted to answer the question, and I'm taking some of the ones that made sense and putting them into a MS Word document and increasing the font to size 48 so all of the parts to the riddle don't show up at once on the computer projector screen.

From there we transition into a polygon card game. The hard part of the lesson will be the transitions. Transitioning from lunch to the introduction, into the polygon game, then back into more instruction on concentric and congruent circles will be tough. But at least the lesson is only an hour long and sandwiched between lunch and recess!

Five minutes left of lunch--here goes!


Well, that was an experience! I think I modeled how my mentor teacher teaches somewhat well. The first time I got the students' attention I raised my voice to drown out all of the small conversations going on, but I would really like to never have to do that. It worked fairly well, but the next time I needed to get their attention I tried the counting method... 1... 2... and the room was silent after two! It was amazing! It was glorious! Steve has gotten up to 15 before, and there are absolutely no consequences set in place (as far as I can tell), so the kids could have had me counting to infinity if they wanted. I was shocked when the entire room was silent at two--I would have set the over/under at 7 or 8.

Overall, I think the math lesson went OK. I made a ton of mistakes, mostly having to do with forgetting to explain something fully. I planned on using the students' homework to play a few guessing polygon games, but was conflicted whether I could have the kids call out shapes the riddle could be, or shapes it could not be. I started with shapes it couldn't be and the kids just said "circle" or "oval" which are not polygons to begin with. The definition of the mystery polygon would narrow with each piece of new revealed information, but the students would continue to give answers to what it could not be in very general terms--circle, oval, hectogon.

As the students began to groan, I switched the guessing to what polygons the mystery object might be. They got a kick out of it this way, and had much more fun. I had attempted to give them some insight to strategy instead of blind guessing, but the students liked to make guesses!

The final riddle went like this:
1) I am a polygon
2) All of my sides are equal

At this point, the class was in unanimous agreement that the object had to be a square, so I let them go on believing that, knowing that with further clues they might change their answers...

3) I have six angles

"Hexagon! Hexagon!"

I was happy with the way the introduction went, but I bet the teacher was concerned with the amount of shouting out. I didn't really notice at the time, but now writing this I think all the shouting out definitely works in some kids' favor and to the detriment of other kids. It allows kids to slip through, and that is what I want to avoid.

I very poorly introduced the polygon game, already behind schedule. I tried to model the game on the overhead, but I don't think anyone understood me, including the teacher and a parent helper. I also tried to release all the students before I had even explained the rules to the game--THAT would have been funny! Here kids, take these cards and play the game, what do you mean you don't know how to play?? The cards were all jumbled and none of the kids knew how to play, so I had to go through all of the groups and separate out the cards into the two appropriate piles and explain how to play. I didn't have time to get to every group before it was time to move on to the concentric and congruent circles, and luckily the teacher reminded me to tell the kids what to do with their cards before meeting back in the circle, or I would have gotten that question a dozen times.

It sure is true that teaching is the best way to learn something. I don't think I will ever forget concentric and congruent circles. I briefly explained their differences and modeled a few circles using a compass on the overhead projector, then dismissed the students to their table groups to work independently in their student math journals. I had to flick the lights once because the kids did not know how many concentric circles to draw. Teacher thought three would be a good MINIMUM, and I agreed. I then focused on helping M, who had been absent since the first week of school.

M has fine motor skill issues, and trying to use a compass just is not his strong suit. I made some additional rules for him when using the compass, which seemed to help. His first few attempts he pretty much just held the pencil and drew a ragged circle, which isn't quite the purpose of the pencil attached to the compass. I drew a dot in the middle of M's paper, and told him to place the anchor of the compass on the dot, and that he could only touch the anchor and the piece of paper--he could not touch the pencil or the arm of the compass where the pencil was attached. His first attempt with the new rules was almost perfect!

Without the teacher's help and the parent helper, I don't know how the concentric and congruent circle lesson would have gone. There were plenty of questions asked by the students, but nearly all of my attention was focused on catching M back up, and I did not put in place obstacles for the more advanced students to tackle if they finished early. I failed to do that with the polygon game as well. I wonder if there is any adverse effect to always giving additional challenges when some kids will never get to them. I think the good probably outweighs any bad that might come in self-esteem issues for the average and slower students.

*end of journal

All in all, a pretty fun experience. Having a good set of ground rules and expectancies for the students is such a huge part of teaching, as is planning. I felt comfortable with my 90 minutes of planning to give an alright first lesson, but much like school itself for me growing up, I can spend a little time planning and teach at a "B" level, or spend a ton of time and be an outstanding teacher. I'm shooting for the "A" this time around... hopefully it doesn't kill me.



Blogger The Wife said...

You know, I teach our professionals each year, and I totally understand that you become a better teacher by teaching, flailing a little, and then teaching it again.

Hang in there . . . you're a great guy with a passion for it . . . eventually that has to carry through in your lessons.

9:13 PM  
Blogger katitude said...

OMG, I was LOL-ing t some of that, in a been there done that kind of way.

Love to chat with you me up at badkatitude on yahoo.

Don't lose the passion babes.

8:37 AM  

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