Tuesday, 6 August 2013

What's for dinner? Hang around and my class will tell you.

The last couple of weeks have been an absolute roller coaster for me. I've started my new contract and LOVE my class. I think I've mentioned how excited I am to be working with my 'co-teacher', but I'm going to do it again: she's amazing! So much drive and energy! And just a never ending pit of knowledge. I'm like a pig at a trough sucking it all up. (Yep, there's an image you won't get rid of for a while. Sorry!)

We also have a pre-service teacher (student teacher) in the room for the first four weeks of term.  We're all comfortable in acknowledging that it hasn't all been smooth sailing so far but it has been a time of huge growth for us all and  we've definitely hit calmer waters now. It's been fascinating for me to reflect on how much my teaching practice has grown in the past year. 

One things I'm particularly enjoying is the fact that this classroom - in fact this whole school, - follows Ann Baker's maths pedagogy. (In fact today instead of a staff meeting we had a 90 minute professional development session linking her pedagogy to the new national curriculum. Gotta love a school that prioritises ongoing professional development!)

Our numeracy blocks typically follow her pattern of:
  • a mental routine
  • the main part of the lesson (such as strategy teaching or a problematised situation)
  • reflection.
Possibly the most powerful part of this, for me, is tackling problematised situations. In a nutshell we offer problems that have their basis in real life, in ways that the students can relate to, and are engaged by.  The students then use their own (or shared) strategies to find possible solutions. It's a fascinating process that allows the students to apply their understandings and offer reasoned options. 

We're currently working on a rather large situation that involves my class  working toward making recommendations about what I should feed my (six) children. I presented the problem:
I just recently got married, and there are now six children in my family. Yep. Six. They all like different foods. Dinnertime is an absolute nightmare. I don't know how to manage this situation. I wonder if you could help me figure it out?

And  threw it open to them. We're working on data at the moment so they very quickly established that I needed to ask 'a bunch of questions'.  They then provided me with 176 questions to take home to ask the boys. (Oh yes, all six kids are boys.)  There were many repeats and so I ended up with ten questions and related answers.

On presenting this data to the class I commented:
That's lovely but it's not overly helpful. It's a whole bunch of words and numbers on a page. I still need your help.

So now they're all analysing the data to make recommendations.  Each at their own level of understanding.

I've seen tallies, tables, graphs and a few things I can't quite name.

Some students are using information from one question to help shape their recommendations based on other questions. It's AMAZING.

 Now my challenge will be to keep coming up with awesome problematised situations. I realise they don't all have to be this grand,  in fact I'd prefer they weren't, but the challenge is on.  I'd be happy to hear your suggestions.

If you haven't read about, or heard of Ann Baker head over to her website and check her out. I've bought a few of her books and am finding them to be a wonderful resource.

And here's the new bit to my blog. I'm going to try to link my posts to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Feel free to ignore this part if you wish.

Standard 3.1 Establish challenging learning goals; 
Standard 3.2 Plan, structure and sequence learning programs; 
Standard 3.3 Use teaching strategies; 
Standard 4.1 Support student participation; 
Standard 6.2 Engage in professional learning and improve practice; 
Standard 6.4 Apply professional learning and improve student learning.

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