Last year for my Annual Learning Plan, I focused on using more math problem solving in my Grade 1/2 class. This professional focus really changed me as both a math teacher and a teacher in general. I recorded my lessons and interactions with students a lot, and I learned from these recordings, as I started to ask more questions, give more “wait time,” and stop responding with just, “good job.”
This year, I changed grades, and again I’m at a point of thinking about my Annual Learning Plan. Looking at the needs of my students and our previous EQAO results, I really want to focus again on communication in math, but this time at a Grade 6 level. I want to see the impact that Web 2.0 tools can have on developing communication in mathematics. As part of my Annual Learning Plan, I’ve spoken about using blogs, Twitter, and various recordings to help my students explain their thinking and learn about the importance of what to share.
Having now submitted my plan to the office, I’m carefully considering how I’m going to implement my new plan. This week, I began by podcasting various math discussions with my students. Below are my two podcasts:
It’s funny, for as I was recording the first podcast with my students, I thought, “Boy I talk too much!” Then I listened to the recording, and I learned that I was right. I really need to work on giving more wait time. This may seem strange, but somehow “wait time” seemed easier with primary students. When you ask a question to younger students, there’s usually lots of hands that go up almost instantaneously. This doesn’t mean that all of the students have answers, but there are always people to choose from. When giving my Grade 1 and 2 students “thinking time,” I knew that I needed to ignore these hands for a few minutes, but I always knew that I’d have someone to pick at the end of the wait time. This made me feel better.
Teaching junior is different though. There’s not always these hands up, eager to answer. It has taken a lot of work in the past three weeks to get students willing to attempt an answer to a question, even if they’re not sure that they’re correct. Despite this, it’s still common for Grade 6 students to need encouragement to answer a question. A lack of hands, worries me. I compensate for this worry by talking. I fill the silence. I know I do, and I know that I need to stop.
In the second podcast, I really attempted to improve. You’ll hear the wait time more. Is it perfect? No. Did I still feel the need to clarify my first question with a follow-up one, without giving students a chance answer? Yes. But I know that I did this, so I know that I’ll be thinking about this the next time that we create a podcast in class. Thinking about this will make me more aware as I go to do something that I shouldn’t. Hopefully this awareness will help me stop myself from talking more. Will I still make mistakes? Absolutely! I do plan on learning from my mistakes though, and I hope that my students and I can learn together.
What advice can you offer me as I start again with my “math learning” in Grade 6? I would love to hear your thoughts!