Every once in awhile (sometimes in a LONG while), a lesson just clicks. It's some combination of the right planning, the right group of students, the right materials, etc. that just works. For myself, I'd like to start keeping track of those lessons so that I can build on them and refine, polish, or just re-use them in the future. For others, I hope I can provide some materials and ideas to help build a great lesson in other classrooms. I'm going to try to keep posting these as the "Lessons I Like" (LIL) series on this blog.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take over a colleague's classroom for a day to introduce his students to GeoGebra. This was my first time fully teaching another teacher's class, and there are some parts of that dynamic that I would do differently next time, but the lesson went well.
Setting the scene
Introducing a new piece of technology can be super frustrating. I've learned from experience that it's best, at least for the instructor, if -at least for the preliminaries like account creating, passwords, etc.- I can keep all of the students on the same page. Otherwise, they can sort of get all over the place and the room becomes really difficult to manage.
To curb this frustration and keep everyone together, I use Red/Green Cards (RGC) (two sheets of construction paper, one red, one green, sandwiched together and laminated, then cut in quarters).
I've been playing around with these for awhile, but this is the first lesson where I was really intentional about using them as a management tool, and they worked pretty well. Here's the idea:
Why this works
I decided to have the teacher set up a GeoGebra group to keep track of student progress. If you use GeoGebra in class, but haven't tried their groups, I strongly suggest you check it out.
Here are my slides for the introduction:
Some things to note
I was lucky enough to stumble across this bundle of transformations exercises on tes.com by Mark Horley. It includes a paper worksheet and a bunch of GeoGebra files, which I've uploaded to GeoGebra (they can be found here).
I really like this blend of paper and tech, and the directions are very clear. These students would have benefited from a little more of an introduction, but they seemed to get into the activity pretty quickly. For a 40 minute lesson, this was a great introduction to one of my favorite math tools. Special thanks to Elizabeth (@eab69), Lilian, and Marty for supporting.
I had a really rough class last week with my 8th graders. They'd been using a Chinese word pretty regularly in class that I suspected was a swear word. So I decided to call them out on it. When I heard a student using the word, I'd ask them what they said. And what did they do? As you can probably imagine, they totally lied to me. Then their classmates backed them up.
I left that class pretty furious and went directly to the Mandarin teacher to confirm my suspicions (it's like the worst word you can say in Mandarin). Then I started stewing... Losing sleep... Plotting my revenge...
Because of the schedule, it turned out that I didn't see this class again for a week, which was probably a good thing. I asked a colleague for five minutes with them at the end of her class the next day, and I let them know that I knew what they were saying, and I was really disappointed with them. I tried to make sure they understood that it wasn't the profanity that really bugged me (I use profanity, although I don't throw it around in public), it was the dishonesty. Also, that this was an indicator of a bigger problem with this class: the lack of academic language in our daily discourse.
Silence... Blank stares... Some guilty looks... Some grins...
So then we all had a week to think about it. I spent a lot of mental energy on it, although I doubt they did. I got an email from one of the students involved apologizing for the profanity, but didn't hear anything else.
The next time I had them in class, I started out by making sure they understood the problems:
I sat at my desk in the corner and left them to have a conversation. Slow start... leaders emerge... They ended up having a pretty decent conversation for 8th grade students.
After about 45 minutes, I stepped in and gave a little direction to solidify and wrap things up, and then led them through some roleplaying scenarios (1 plays teacher and 2 play students).
The school trip is coming up, so again, we have a long period of time until our next class. I feel like they did some good work today, and I hope it sticks. At least it got them talking and thinking about this.
Take-aways, Lessons Learned:
Let's see if I can keep up with a blog!