This week I visited the classroom where I will be leading my workshops this semester. I am working Mr. Smith, a 7th grade mathematics teacher at Environmental Sciences Magnet School.
The school is in a neighborhood near Trinity College, but it draws students from across Hartford and the surrounding towns. Because I observed in the school for my education studies class placement, I already knew about the school and had a good idea of what to expect from this first observation.
When we arrived in the school, Mr. Smith was teaching a lesson about using variables, factoring, and terms. In his classroom, there were lots of visual aid on the walls about mathematics terminology, as well as motivational posters, the students schedule, and some student expectations. I found the classroom fairly similar to those I was used to as a middle school student.
For the lesson, Mr. Smith explained a concept on the board and then asked his students to read a question in their workbooks and underline the key parts of questions and circle things they did not understand. I thought this was interesting because it was making sure the students understood what the questions were asking of them before they did any computations or procedure.
Then one the time he allotted for that exercise was up, he had them share out with the class what underlined in each question and also asked what they circled. He called on students whose hands were up randomly,
While I didn’t see what the students were writing in their workbooks, I assume some of them made progress based on the praise they got from Mr. Smith. I also heard them working in groups and some of them seemed more confident than others but it was reassuring when Mr. Smith told the students that it was okay to no know things, but it was important to be able to recognize what they did an didn’t know, which I thought was a neat way of engaging learning.
In the math class, the students were taught the procedure and the rules for solving the assigned problem and even given some reasoning for why the procedure was the way it was, but there wasn’t much discovery or experimenting within the lesson.
Mr. Smith was using a formative assessment at the end of the class allowing students to pack up for the end of class when they could show him that they had worked out the problem they were discussing in class. He was observing who had finished the problems and who was struggling, probably to decide how much of the material he would review the next class period.
When talking with him afterwards, he told us that part of teaching was constantly adapting, acknowledging that he sometimes even changes his lessons from one class to the next based on what worked well previously and what didn’t.
For my workshop, Mr. Smith gave me the specific lesson that the students need to cover on the day I’ll be teaching. He also shared the resources he uses when creating his lesson plans, including the Eureka book which corresponds with the students workbooks. He said any what that we could make math engaging would be great and that the students needed to hear things and see things multiple times for concepts to begin to stick with them.