Friday, January 19, 2007

Observations cont'd

I visited a new classroom and a new teacher. Although there are great similarities between the two classroom, there are some major differences as well. One of the things that I liked immensely in the new classroom was teacher's constant inquiry and/or revelation of alternate methods for solving problems. The beginning of the class was spent by going through some problems from the homework. 4-5 students were on the board at the same time giving their solutions to the problems that other had asked to see. Once they were done writing, each student had to explain their solution to the whole class. Whether the solution was correct or needed fixing, the question that would be asked was whether somebody had a different solution. Sometimes there was, and they would go to the board and write it out. If nobody offered anything, the teacher gave her solution. I am pretty sure that on all but one (sample of 10) they have shown more than one strategy.

One of the things that bothers me and seem to be common across the board: each class was interrupted by something/somebody from the outside anywhere between one time and three times during the class. I am not talking here about student's random talking, but PA/phone/students walking in or out/student council announcements/teacher aids.... This is something I do not remember ever being done when I went to high school. I don't even know if we had AP!


Mr. Carlin said...

Unfortunately, interruptions seem to be very common, and it seems as if they have been a part of the high school experience in the U.S. for a while, at least in larger high schools.

A question about the homework review: How much class time did it take? It seems great to talk about alternative solutions, etc., but I'm wondering if the time spent is worth it, compared to an alternative use of the time ...

e said...

interruptions: it bothers me. let's consider the issue of telling students to check their answers. it is a useful practice, and they should be doing it. do the teachers do it? rarely. do students do it? not really, because with our behavior we reinforce that it's really not that important. similarly, by letting things irrelevant to the subject interrupt the class we implicitly concur that those things are more important than things we are trying to teach them.

homework review: she spend a fair amount of time on it. this time i neglected to write down the time, but my guess would be 15-20 minutes. however, they are doing review in prep for the exams, so my guess is that this is not a usual practice. i do have a comment about the homework issue. it all depends on your definition, remember? what do i mean? so, you can define your unit as one classroom period, form the time they walk in til they walk out. you can say that all you wanted to teach them should fit into that class period, in which case you probably do not want to spend time on homework. on the other hand, you could define your unit a little differently: 20 minutes from the beginning of one class til 20 minutes into the next class period. why would that be beneficial? let's say i measure my lessons that way. in the perfect world, you could teach your lesson in whatever format you want to: little lecture, little group work, little something or the other. then you assign homework not in such a way that it's a perfect reproduction of what you've covered in class, but so that it in fact contains concepts that you have not covered, that they would benefit from thinking on their own. then next class period, whether they figured it out completely or not they will have thought about it, and see where they got stuck, and maybe remember better the resolution you come to together in the next class during homework review. this way going over homework is not wasted time, but time put there as a part of the lesson, for a reason!