Teach, Think, Try Again!

This year in particular, I see teaching as a cycle: I teach, think/reflect, make changes, and try again. I’m really trying to embrace inquiry in the classroom, and I love how it’s making my students into better, more critical, thinkers, but making inquiry work is hard work. Teaching is hard work. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Please don’t get me wrong: I don’t think that I’m a bad teacher. I think that there are lots of good things that I do to help engage students in the learning process, and I have seen some amazing progress throughout the year. But I’m not perfect. I make mistakes (lots of them), and I try to think about these mistakes, make changes, and improve. Sometimes my second attempts work better. Sometimes it takes three, four, five, six, or 3,282 attempts (only a slight exaggeration 🙂 ) to make things work.

Do my mistakes negatively impact on students? No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think quite the opposite. I admit when I make mistakes, but I also show students how and why I’ve rethought things, and what I’m going to try next. Hopefully this process helps students see the power in perseverance and hard work, and hopefully my changes lead to better learning for all.

And it’s with this cyclical process of teaching in mind that I’ve made a change for today. As a Board, we’re focusing on proportional reasoning in math. Proportional reasoning is a big idea that blankets the different math strands, and really helps students develop thinking skills. Right now in math, we’re working on multiplication and division, and I was very excited yesterday when I thought of an extension for our real world math problem that connects to proportional reasoning. This is where I made a mistake though (or maybe even a couple of mistakes).

  • I didn’t finesse my wording before asking a group of students the question. Tweaking the wording during the discussion, I think resulted in some confusion about how to address the problem.
  • I didn’t give students enough “thinking time.” I have a student teacher right now, and we’ve spoken many times about the benefits of “wait time.” I’m getting so much better at this myself, but not yesterday. I think that I had a solution in my head, and when students weren’t getting to the answer in the same way (despite actually getting the answer itself), I started redirecting them too early. I didn’t ask for them to clarify their thinking. I didn’t give them enough time to explain. I interrupted and started guiding.

I was so excited to record the group discussion for the problem, but after listening to it last night, I’m reluctant to even share it here. So now what? I thought about what I did wrong, and what I would do differently the next time. Then I came into class this morning and wrote this math problem.

2014-03-28_07-57-58Today, I’m going to get groups to think about the problem together. I’m going to give groups a chance to discuss possible solutions, work through computations, and address issues on their own. Then after some “work time/thinking time,” I’m going to talk to the groups of students. I’m going to hear what they have to say, and instead of interrupting them with my thinking, I’m going to question them based on what they share. I’m going to remind myself to use prompts like, “why,” or “tell me more.” We’ll see how this goes, but I’m hoping that the change is a good one!

How do you engage in this cyclical teaching process (i.e., teach, think/reflect, make changes, and try again)? What are any benefits or drawbacks you see in doing so? And, on a slightly different note, what advice do you have for me today as I try this updated math problem? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Aviva – Forever Teaching, Forever Learning, And Forever Trying To Get It Right 🙂


2 thoughts on “Teach, Think, Try Again!

  1. As I consider your comments on giving enough “thinking” time, I believe its helpful to get feedback on that. Often we believe the silence that is part of thinking time is minutes when in fact it is seconds. Since you have an amazing student teacher this term, why not ask her to time your actual wait time? Wait time is really important for students who process information slowly. It might be beneficial for you to get some data on your wait time.
    Looking forward to seeing you next week!

    • Thanks for the comment, Carol! That’s a great idea! I actually use a strategy usually to time myself (I slowly count to 15 in my head). I was at an inservice once and this was suggested as a strategy to use. Counting also gives me something to focus on as I watch the slowly hands slowly come up and I can then start taking responses.

      I think it’s important for me to remember to use this same strategy when working in small groups with students. Sometimes I don’t think I remember to always do this, especially when children seem excited to share. You’re right: wait time is important, especially for those students with slower processing times. I may just try this timing strategy of yours. Thanks!

      Excited to see you next week too!

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