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Things I’ve Learned in the First Quarter

October 28, 2011

I have a twitter, but the 140 character limit is still too limiting to me. I’m too verbose. Sorry. In any case, I’ve tried to compile the list of things I’ve learned/have been reinforced in the first quarter of my first year of teaching. I present them for your enjoyment and also to document somewhat where my mind is at this particular moment in my career.

  • If I teach a lesson that is more exploratory and conceptual, the next day should be a lesson that is direct and concrete with guided practice. Homework should be assigned on this second day, not the first.
  • Classroom management issues are usually the result of (1) the student is bored, (2) a student is confused, (3) I’m not providing enough structure with my activities, (4) I haven’t made clear the expectations for refocusing, or (5) the student is purposefully trying to disrupt class. I should be able to fix all of those in the moment except (5).
  • The farther you distance yourself from direct instruction, the more likely it is that your lesson will be a disaster. At the same time, the more you distance yourself from direct instruction, the more likely it is that your lesson will be phenomenal.
  • The biggest factor in the success of an activity/project is how explicit your directions are and how much you model (1) how to start and (2) what the finished product will look like
  • Have enough examples prepared that you could teach the lesson for 2 days if necessary.
  • It’s okay to tell a student no. To answer their question after class. To wait until Monday to grade their exam. That the question will be answered in a moment when we’re full-group again. I don’t need to answer every question all the time right when they ask it.
  • Making a new seating chart is the most amazing stress reliever on the face of the earth.
  • Part of teaching high school is teaching appropriate and respectful behavior in class and correcting inappropriate behaviors. It is appropriate to punish well-intentioned students so they learn the difference between what they perceive their actions to be and what their actions actually say about themselves or other people.
  • Having posters of expectations and discipline procedures makes all the difference in enforcing them, especially in a student’s perception of ‘fairness’.
  • For every 4-5 days of instruction, plan 1 day for an activity/project that has the students summarize/synthesize/practice the material from the last few days.
  • Eat lunch every day
  • While I should strive to reach those higher-level Blooms verbs with my students (create, synthesize, represent), there is absolutely a place for those lower-level verbs as I plan my curriculum. I can’t try to jump straight to the higher-order thinking without first creating a foundation in the lower-order skills. I wish someone had told me this before my first unit – it’s okay to plan formative assessments or homework assignments that are low-level thinking skills as students are becoming familiar with a concept.
  • Having a concrete, measurable objective for each day of my unit really helps me avoid trying to pack too much material or activities into a single day.
That’s what’s been floating through my head as I’ve monitored and adjusted my way through this quarter. Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t – you can let me know in the comments. Only 8 more weeks left in the quarter. Crazy.
  1. Jennifer Lockett permalink

    Things I still need to learn after several years…

  2. Nice reflection. I’m interested to see if any of those change in the second quarter. The only one I’d slap a warning sticker on is the one re: Blooms (and avoid a separate conversation about the value of Bloom’s itself). It’s a huge trap to say “first create the foundation.” You can easily get stuck into the “they’ll need it for next year’s math class/calculus/college” routine and before you know it, a student has graduated high school having done nothing in math but prepare for the next level. I’m definitely a fan of explicit skill building but just make sure it’s situated in some sort of meaningful, immediate, context.

  3. Goog stuff. I’m in year 17 and just learned bullet point 1 yesterday.

  4. Jim Doherty permalink

    Regarding Bloom, I ran across this ( not too long ago and felt that it was a more helpful way to think about levels of understanding as a math teacher.

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  1. Homework-Centered Classroom or Bellwork-Centered Classroom « Mathy McMatherson


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