Thursday, October 21, 2010

Still looking but teaching a little, too

Wonder of wonders! I finally started doing a little teaching, or rather tutoring. I have one student in Physics and one in Geometry. Both of them tell stories about teachers who lecture up front and then give homework. The Physics student even had a lab about the recent unit AFTER the unit test. The teacher evidently considers labs to be "activities" to make things a little interesting, not real learning experiences.

The Geometry student flunked Algebra I with one teacher and got an A with the next. Geometry was going the same way before she signed up for a tutor.

As students of education we're taught to differentiate teaching. In order to do that, you have to know who's getting it and who isn't. You can't know that standing in the front of the class and collecting homework once a week, graded by teacher's assistant.

On the other hand, it's a lot to ask of a teacher to know each of 40 students well enough to differentiate. So it's a teacher problem as well as a problem for teachers...and their students.

I've been enjoying Coach G's Teaching Tips on the Teacher Magazine website. On October 5, he told us his secrets for Differentiated Instruction: A Practical Approach, where he writes:
You do, of course, need to provide some whole-group instruction, and you should certainly make it as engaging as possible. But you should also make it as brief as possible. Forget the ideal of every student grasping every lesson. What's more important is that you present key information in a clear, organized way so that students have notes to refer to when the real learning begins--during practice. In fact, in my classroom, where I assigned students to heterogeneous groups for independent (and interdependent) practice, as soon as I was sure at least one student per group grasped a concept, I was ready to move on, since I now had a full complement of assistant coaches.
or how about this great tip from September 27:
Don't Tell Students to Show Their Work--Make Them!
Are you constantly on students to show their work in math (or other) classes, but to no avail? If so, try giving them the answers up front--for class work, homework, even a test or two. Really, what better way to stress the problem-solving process than to limit an activity to that process?! Do this, and you'll really be messing with kids at first--especially if, like many of my students, they care more about getting work done than getting it done right. What are these students to do when the directions for an assignment are, "Show why the given answer is correct," and they can't get it done without getting it done right?
I am just looking for an opportunity to put these great tips to work!

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