Teaching two sections of 3rd grade, I've often commented on how the 2 classes seem like entirely different entities. But never so much as this year.
One of my classes gets into the lessons, almost everyone participates, they listen and remember, and they give me a standing ovation when I announce that I'm passing out homework.
The other class contains only about 3 kids who participate on a regular basis, they often forget things that we've discussed ten minutes prior, and they seem to be recess-resistant.
The second six weeks of school began yesterday, so my partner and I flip-flopped the order of classes. I now have HIS homeroom in the morning and MY homeroom in the afternoon.
The past two mornings have been wonderful. The kids have brought their completed homework, we've had plenty of time for science as well as math, and the kids can tell me that estimating means the same thing as rounding, and that both terms mean choosing a close number to make math easier.
Yesterday afternoon on the other hand was nearly fatal to me, and today was only slightly better. Only 6 kids out of 20 did last night's homework correctly and/or completely, we squandered yesterday's science time ENTIRELY because no one would admit to saying something (5 kids finally admitted it, after 15 minutes of stonewalling), and the kids tell me that estimating means the same thing as rounding, and both terms mean... estimating. Or rounding.
My homeroom is also the one that, when they DO participate, tell me random math words in the hopes that one of them will be the answer to my question.
Me: "What math word means the answer to a subtraction problem?"
Kid 1: "Expanded form!"
Kid 2: "Estimate!"
Kid 3: "In all!"
Kid 4: "Estimate!"
Last week, our Daily Depositor had two addends that ended with an 8. I asked the kids what we called it when we are adding the same number twice (having seen a SECOND grade friend whose kids all seemed to grasp doubles pretty firmly).
One little kid, A, raised his hand triumphantly and answered, "Regroup!"
Later, when we had just written a number in word form and I asked what form the original number was in (standard form), I saw several hands go up, including A's. I said, "And please don't say 'Total,' or 'Sum.'"
A's hand slowly went down as the most dejected look formed on his face. Poor kid.
Report cards come out next week, and 7 of my homeroom kids are failing math. And every day, on the drive home, I hear in my head the voice of the woman who gave a presentation on the new STAAR test -- "This test will really evaluate the LEVEL of your teaching!"
And every time I hear her say that in my head, it pisses me off just a little bit more. The level of my teaching isn't the full problem here, or (dare I say) even most of the problem. The level of attention and retention of many of my kids is the problem here.
Here's hoping that one day soon, I will stumble upon SOME motivation or incentive that will actually matter to these kids. I'm going through my bag of tricks pretty quick here...