Management, Pedagogy, and Differentiated Instruction

I haven’t posted in about two weeks, mainly due to having tutoring sessions right after class.  I’ve also had less interesting things to write about since it has mostly just been more of the same classroom management struggles.  Most of my classes in the past two weeks have involved a short lecture (<10 min) while students take Cornell style notes followed by group work on worksheets to apply the information from the Cornell notes.  After doing this for a few classes, I have decided I want to change how I approach this.  

My main issue is that my worksheets are long and students are either concerned with finishing it all or not interested in doing any work.  There are many questions and I end up bouncing from table to table to try to engage in a socratic dialog or give examples for the students to then apply to their work.  It has worked well for the groups that ask questions and go through this process but I meet only about 1/3 of the class at best and jump between helping some students out and managing behavior issues with others.  Many of my lesson plans have included a presentation segment, which has often not happened due to timing.  I want to change this so that there is less total problems people complete in class but students get the opportunity to present and teach each other more.

My new plan for non lab days is to have the same mini lecture to introduce new content and ensure that students have notes to look back on, but give each group one different problem.  The groups can work on their problem and then present to each other, and maybe have some kinesthetic or chanting component to aid learning.  They can then apply this concept to a short homework assignment that is given as they leave.  I want to place a large focus on presentation like I did in the beginning so that students practice speaking to each other and learn by trying to teach others.  To help with accountability I want to try randomly selecting a student to do the entire presentation if it is a small problem or randomly choosing different people for each component for multistep problems.  I will start grading these presentations so that students get credit for work and don’t shirk responsibility.

For labs I want to follow the advice of Hubbs and Madigan (and Elizabeth Cohen) and give roles to each student.  I can do this randomly with my cards and table board at the front of the classroom.  This will give everyone a role to play and include a leader (which may not be random at first) to keep everyone focused and on task.  Accountability is going to be a huge focus of mine.  I’m also going to take back the reins some and give students the procedure for the next few labs.  I gave too much freedom at once and my 9th graders were not ready for that.  

Based on my benchmark data, my two classes with behavior problems also are my lowest performing classes.  Even the good students that do all of their work and try to ask questions performed lower than my other classes.  This comes to no surprise since I don’t get through many aspects of my lesson with them and missed some of the greater pedagogical activities such as the graph walking/running/chanting activity.  I’m working hard on getting them back on track and my administration is helping a lot with that, but I feel really bad that students who really want to learn are losing that opportunity.  While I work on management, I want to plan lesson in a way that will allow students who want to learn to do work and learn the material without needed me to always focus on them and answer questions.  If I’m talking to students outside or trying to get students to stop distraction and work, I want my good students to have an activity that they can do to learn so they aren’t just sitting they getting angry.  One other teacher gave me the suggestion of textbook reading and taking notes/summarizing or textbook problems as a group since they can answer the questions by looking through the section.  By taking the emphasis off me in some way I can allow the students the opportunity to learn while I reprimand those that are off task and distracting other students.

Another thing I want to do with my books is reading jigsaw activities.  This would involve each table reading, discussing, and summarizing a short section (a page or two) then jigsawing to teach other students.  Each person will need to participate to understand their section and it will practice reading, discussing, and teaching skills.  I want to add peer grading to this segment so that students are accountable and the students who have been trying to work and have been putting up with off task students can have more of a voice.  I’ll add a few questions for each section so that students have reason to listen and can communicate understanding.

I realize that as I’ve been dealing with behavior issues the quality of my pedagogy has dropped and I don’t want that to continue.  I know that some students like my class because of the games and interactive activities that we do and I need to maintain that enjoyment, especially as content gets more difficult.  For behavior, I’ve been working on individual interventions with students during and after class, as well as phone calls home.  This works for students who do something big, but it is still not very effective when many students are chatting and I can always tell who is responsible.  Today was more effective than some of my past days, but there is still a clear lack of control and some students did little work.  I know my students names and that helps a lot for quieting them down, I just need to keep talking to them and their parents until they can work with me.

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