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Wednesday - October 29, 1997

Today was my "teacher as a sage" day. In three of my five classes, I used my position as ultimate authority and purveyor of all knowledge to tell the students exactly what was what. No cooperative learning; no interactive learning; no "getting the kids involved". Just plain "this is the way things are, period!"
    And as much as I hate to say it, it seems like it may have worked to some degree. sigh I really don't like even saying that. I believe that people learn best when they get actively involved in the material. If you just sit there and try to absorb something, the retention is much less than if you participated in the learning.
    But there were too many students in 5th hour Algebra I and both Geometry classes that just weren't taking on the responsibility of their own grades and their own learning. Rather then pressing on (and flunking those slackers), I decided that I needed to catch them up, also. So that's what I did.
    In Algebra I, 5th hour was still having problems translating English to math. So I did six problems on the board in such infinite detail that it took me 45 minutes. I did them all without skipping any steps while explaining each step. I then made sure that the majority (at least) of the class (plus a few "key" students) understood exactly what I did. Only then did I move on to the next step. It appears that it worked. By the sixth problem, I was getting much more involvement in the problems -- even from the "clueless" people of yesterday! Since they had been behaving so well the past couple of days, I felt that I could try to put them in groups. The last 15 minutes of class, then, was all group work. They handled it very well. All in all, a great day for that class!
    The two Geometry classes were similar. I've noticed (as well as Maureen) that there are quite a few kids in both classes that just aren't getting it. The way the class is structured forces the kids to take responsibility for their own learning. Those kids that don't want to, though, were quickly falling behind. So today I went over two of the investigations at the front of the class. I showed them, step by step, how to work through them. At every step, I made sure that everybody got it. Like 5th hour, it seemed to work. Sure, there were a few kids that have been doing the work and paying attention and trying in the class and it shows -- they, without exception, had already done the investigations correctly before. So they basically just sat there. Maureen and I decided that we're probably going to do that a few more times, later. It totally defeats the purpose of inductive, cooperative learning... but it also keeps the relatively intelligent but lazy students from flunking out.
    My other two classes were fairly standard. We were still doing word problems in Algebra II, so I had them split up into groups to work on them. I just circulated the room helping out when necessary. I'm not going to kid myself that they are now pros at the material... but at least they got that homework done correctly!
    4th hour Algebra I finished up with the word problems section today. I had them work out all the problems on the board without their notes. Their was a few mistakes, but all in all, they got them right. The problems were rarely translation mistakes, too. By and large, they made careless computational mistakes.
    All in all, a good day!

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