The last class we had for EMath was mostly a work period, but I do have one thing that I would like to discuss quickly. And that is the note that stuck with me the most from our attempted lesson plans last week. I really liked the point that was made about what we teach, and how we decide what the class needs to know.
During our lessons, I felt bad for those of us who had to go up to the front and attempt to engage our class in a lesson on math. Our class was noisy, we were rowdy, we were having too much fun. And a lot of that came from the fact that we had all taken the math lessons being taught before. We already knew the lesson, we already knew the material, and we already knew the next step to take in the next feasible lesson in the unit. As such, we were intensely distracted. Now, I know that there were other factors that were in play with our lack of focus, but it was an interesting lesson that can be brought into a classroom.
What do we teach? What do we omit from our lesson? A lot of our lesson planning should come from the skills of the students. What do the students need to know? What do they already know? If you have an advanced class that is all ahead of the game, you should not expect your students to sit silently and listen to you explain concepts that they already grasp themselves. If you have a class that is struggling with math, you cannot force them to truck on ahead because they will simply not keep up. This is another big reason that I am pro adaptation in the classroom, and strongly believe in improvisation being a key skill that every teacher needs. There is that one chart that illustrates the research of Vygotsky and his Zone of Proximal Development:
That tells us that students should be met with an equal level of challenge to their competence in an area. If we do not recognize the level our students are at, we cannot effectively teach them. This is why we cannot always rely on the same lesson plans and the same lessons to teach to every class. There is no be all, end all way to explain derivatives. There is no secret method of factoring that will be useful to every student. This is why problem solving is so effective in a classroom. It plays to the strengths of the students. Good problem solving challenges students while giving them reasons to explore without the looming threat of failure if a question is not completed in the ‘correct’ way.
For myself, I am excited to go into a math classroom someday and actually teach math. I want to see the way students learn. I want to challenge myself, learn new things. Find new ways of teaching that would never have worked for me as a student, but are immensely effective for others.