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Monday, September 12, 2011

I say "math," you say "YES!"

As is so often the case, my morning and afternoon classes seem to be so widely different in their attitude and attention. In my morning class, I feel like I spend more than half my time BEGGING the kids to answer questions. I could ask, "What is 1 + 1?" in that class, and only 3 hands would go up. Out of 20. The same 3 that ALWAYS go up. If I call on one of the other 17, odds are that that kid will stare at me -- either because he/she didn't even hear the question, he/she has no interest whatsoever in even attempting to answer the question, or he/she truly does not know how to add one and one.

In my afternoon class, usually when I ask a question, nearly half the hands go up, and a good 3/4 of the OTHER half at least appears to be thinking about the answer. There are really only about 5 kids in there (out of 22) that have the apathy of the morning group.

Today, the afternoon class gave me a giggle. Right before we went to lunch, I said to the class, "When we come back from lunch, we are going to continue talking about..."

I trailed off, because the kid sitting closest to me appeared to be having an epileptic seizure, albeit the happiest, most attention-seeking seizure ever. As I gave him, "The Look," one of the other kids tried to finish my sentence.

"Math?" he said.

I kind of smirked at that. "Well, yes, we ARE going to continue talking about math," I began, intending to finish with the intended statement about pictographs, which we had begun on Friday. I was unable to finish my sentence though, because at that point, I was interrupted by a smattering of applause.

The kids were clapping because we were going to continue talking about math. In math class!!

When I did continue with pictographs, I got even more cheering. Over half of the hands went up when I asked who remembered what a pictograph was.

In the morning class, only 1 kid could tell me what a pictograph was.


During a small group activity today, one of my kids was stuck on 15 + 4. I had finally gotten him to stack the numbers vertically so that he was just adding the 5 and the 4 in the ones place, but he was stumped. He was staring at it, not writing anything, not making any move to write anything, possibly not even contemplating the solution. I stood by him and asked what 5+4 was, and he just stared. Most kids, even the strugglers, would start counting on their fingers, but he was showing no signs of having ANY addition experience at all.

I asked him to hold up five fingers with one hand. Then I asked him to hold up four fingers with the other hand. Then I asked him how many fingers he was holding up.

"Five and four," he replied.

"OK, and how many is that altogether?"

"Five and four."

It took me about one and three minutes to finally get a total out of him.

It's been a VERY challenging year...


TeacherFromTN said...

Okay, so what do you do with your morning class? This is the exact story of my class this year! It is bringing me to my knees. Last week we did adding on a hundreds chart. We were going to do the first few together on the ActivBoard, so I called on one of the "duds" to read number 1 to me. When he looked at me with a completely blank face, I again asked him to read number 1. His response? "I forgot." What do you even say to that?? And, sadly, he's one of about five in the same boat.

Mister Teacher said...

I just keep plugging away. I spent a lot of time (too much time, I'm sure) taking them to task, telling them that they couldn't just let the same kids answer all the questions because those kids wouldn't be able to answer questions for them on a test. It's still hard, but I'm starting to get a little more participation out of that group.

Teacher Man said...

I've been there before. :)

Edna Lee said...

I've eliminated hand-raising in my classes just for that very reason: the same 3 kids participate and the rest just try to fly under the radar. I use index card to randomly call on kids and I reinsert cards into the deck so any kid could come up at any time, even if they've already answered. I give them plenty of time to think and partner talk before I call on them and they can ask me for help, but I've found more students are prepared with answers this way. Oh, and I keep score on my whiteboard. Every right answer earns them a point and every wrong one earns me a point. What do they win? Knowledge! (They're happy just to beat me!)

Mister Teacher said...

Edna, that's a really cool idea! I would love to see you write a blog post about how that "contest" works in your class...