This is definitely my weakest subject to plan for. By weakest, I mean most time consuming and frustrating. It makes me want to tear my hair out and crawl under my desk. BUT! That’s a good thing. It’s a challenge and I’m always up for a challenge. The reason I hate planning for math is, as I’ve previously mentioned, it was a subject that I hated in school. It frustrated me to learn. Now as a teacher, I’m so aware of the problems that can occur with a lesson and I want it to go perfectly.
Traditional vs 3 Part Lesson
Traditional teaching is exactly what it sounds like, traditional and boring. Alright, maybe not all traditions are boring but when it comes to education – it almost always means boring! It means desks in rows, the teacher talking and students sitting quietly and “absorbing” what the teacher is lecturing about. In elementary school, I was lucky enough to have teachers that didn’t spend a whole lot of time lecturing but I still remember a lot of images similar to:
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that intense in elementary school but I imagine to a struggling student in math, the image is pretty close to what they are seeing. With traditional teaching, the struggling student doesn’t really matter. That student just needs to do more worksheets, practice questions from the textbook and have more homework. Eventually, they’ll get it. Right?
So what do we do instead? What should we, as teachers, be looking to do instead? Obviously the answer is to move away from traditional teaching. I know it’s hard! Rip it off like a band-aid! It’ll sting at first, but I promise this new method will be more rewarding in the end and your students will love you for it! Take a deep breath…Ready?
Alright. Feel better? Now, let’s get started.
3 Part Lesson
So what is this 3-Part Lesson that everyone in the education world is talking about? Well, it’s a lesson that’s in 3 parts! I know, my students love my humour too! This method is all about the students. It requires students to think about what they already know, what they need to know and how to use the resources around them to solve the problem in a way that works best for them. Do you notice what I don’t repeatedly say? “The teacher is doing this, and this and this”. It’s not about us. We had our education, it’s time for us to help the students with theirs.
This part of the lesson is where students will activate prior knowledge. It generally involves the whole class or small groups. This part might involve the teacher the most but don’t let that fool you! This moment doesn’t last very long! This section of the lesson shouldn’t last more than 10 minutes.
This is the moment where students are introduced to a problem. In my class, I liked to use Dan Meyer’s Spreadsheet in my classroom. He’s full of ideas and everything has a “suggested question”. Most of the suggestions are open-ended enough that students can arrive at different answers or they can arrive at the same answer in different ways. I preferred using the spreadsheet to get ideas because my students found the questions engaging and they were often in video format so it gave the students someone else to listen to for a change.
During this time, the teacher can be reminding students how to solve a question or prompt students.
For instance, I used this problem during out Percents unit. Students automatically started telling me which coupon was better and which one they would use (most originally said $20 off because it sounded like a large number). I would constantly ask students questions to get them thinking such as “how do we change percents to decimals?”, “how do we multiply decimals” and “how do we figure out how much money we save”.
Working On It
This portion of the lesson allows students to work independently or in pairs on similar questions from the Getting Started section. This is the longest part of the lesson and should last between 30-40 minutes. The teacher is now circulating the classroom, helping students as needed and paying attention to how the students are working. Think about the language the students are using, the methods the students are using to solve the questions and what resources they’re using to solve their problems. Students should be constantly encouraged to use any manipulative or resource that they need in order to solve the problem. Think back to the Traditional method for a second. What did your teacher used to always say?
Okay, so maybe Primary/Junior kids won’t have a cell phone in their pockets but let’s face it – they will in a few years.
The students are in charge of their learning and they have a bit of independence. I guarantee you, your students will be more engaged and willing to learn. They might not be willing at first, but don’t give up! Don’t put a new band-aid on!
Reflecting and Connecting
At this point of the lesson, all students meet back to reflect on what they learned. Students will use this time to discuss what worked and what didn’t work for them in order to solve the problems. During the Working on It period, the teacher should have been collecting exemplars of student work that the teacher would like to go over during this time. The teacher can guide the discussion to focus on how other students achieved their answers. This opens up a world of opportunities as students may see a “simpler” way of answering a question than their own.
Now, I don’t know about everyone else’s classes, but mine hated sharing. They had been trained that there was only a few “smart kids” in the class and they always had the answer. So, what I opted to do instead is have students write down, anonymously, what they would like to discuss or their answers my questions and I would go over the common ones and if I had time, I would go through other questions.
I would also include “Exit Cards” at the end of most math lessons. I generally only remembered to do this during the more complex lessons but I hope that I can remember to do it regularly this year! This gave me the opportunity to learn what students were struggling with that I might have missed while I was observing. Generally, my students were pretty honest with their answers.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you to move away from the Traditional Method of teaching because we honestly don’t need any more disengaged students out there.