Jun 25, 2016

BOOK: The Math Myth

I'm not going to spend a lot of time reviewing this book. I'm not a reviewer. I'm a teacher who reads. Mr. Hacker is a professor and author. He researched and worked on this book for twenty years. That's amazing.

From The New Press...
The bestselling author’s timely and provocative argument that requiring all students to master a full menu of mathematics is causing more harm than good.
It's easy to read and I was surprised by much of what I read. Not only does it dispel the myth that math is essential for every student, every major, and every future, it offers a thorough explanation of why this myth was created and how it's perpetuated.

As a fifth grade math teacher, I know that much of what I teach is important for the future--basic operations, fractions, decimals, and reading graphs. So, what is it that I take from this book?

As we prepare for an avalanche of assessments in elementary school, feeling the pressure to perform, we try to motivate students by reminding them of their futures. On one hand, we remind them that they need our lessons to find good jobs. The Math Myth makes the argument seem a little silly. On the other, we remind them that they need to do well to pass tests and make good grades. That rationale just lacks... heart. I didn't become a teacher to help students pass tests or report cards. I want them to enjoy school and enjoy learning, so my job is to find ways of making that happen.

Jun 23, 2016

Quest for Engagement #3

Todd Finley @ Edutopia

To help explain engagement, Mr. Finley uses Adam Fletcher's definition.
"Students are engaged when they are attracted to their work, persist despite challenges and obstacles, and take visible delight in accomplishing their work."
That's good, right?

Mr. Finley continues by listing the benefits of engagement, including increased academic achievement and better social skills, and the results of disengagement, including disruptive behaviors and avoidance behaviors.

Finally, Mr. Finley summarizes the results of Kristy Cooper's extensive study on three effective strategies to increase engagement. The third engagement, Connective Instruction, proved to be the most meaningful. There are six behaviors that teachers can use to build relationships. Read them. Use them. Engage them.

Jun 22, 2016

Quest for Engagement #2

Brian Sztabnik @ Edutopia
"If a lesson does not start off strong by activating prior knowledge, creating anticipation, or establishing goals, student interest wanes, and you have to do some heavy lifting to get them back."
This reminds me of the lesson plans I had to write in college. Miles long, they began with attention grabbers. I remember having discussions in class and spending so much time trying to come up with good ones. After that, though, the discussions turned to procedures, materials, questions, and conclusions. Important stuff, sure, but we stopped talking about grabbing the attention of students.

I'm worried that, twenty years later, the expectation remains the same. Grab attention in the beginning and get right to the lesson and data collection. So, for the last few years, I've made a point to create unique, engaging activities and avoid traditional, boring ones.

However, I get so caught up in the games and technology that I've ignored the 8 minutes that matter most. Mr. Sztabnik offers some great ideas for Beginnings and Ends, and reminds me that every minute of a lesson should focus on student engagement.

Quest for Engagement #1

John McCarthy @ Edutopia

In his article, Mr. McCarthy outlines three practices for improving student engagement.
Practice One: Be Real
Practice Two: Launch Events That Matter
Practice Three: Keep the End in Mind
I want to address Practice Three. Mr. McCarthy encourages us to treat lessons as journeys. The students need to know where they are going from the beginning, reminded of their journey with essential questions, and given feedback of their progress through assessments. 

In my district, we are expected to post the objective on the board before each lesson. I do it, but I struggle with it. Fifth graders have short attention spans and have trouble tolerating boredom. Frankly, school is boring, and students expect that. I think beginning a lesson by stating the objective simply confirms their expectations. So, considering I have to post them, I would argue that even objectives should be stated in engaging ways. I know that it's just one more thing that teachers need to consider, but, if engagement is the secret, we need to make every part of the lesson engaging, including the bits we're forced to write on our boards.

Today, you must multiply decimals to the hundredths place in order to solve the... 
Maze of DOOM!!