Settling in for the long haul

I’ve got a few weeks under my belt for this year, so it’s time to take stock a little bit. The main thing is that I’m so glad that I committed to having my desks in groups every day (except for tests). That’s a major accomplishment in itself for my poor college-trained brain. I’ve also started using the document camera to have students show their work, which they’ve liked. It hasn’t been a spur to very rich discussions yet, but I hope it’s a step in the right direction. I’m trying, half-heartedly perhaps, to practice teacher moves that enhance discussion, as opposed to getting on my soapbox and taking over (which I still do plenty of).

I finally got fed up with the system I was using (the aforementioned document camera) to make mini-lecture movies, for the students to watch outside of class (thereby freeing up class time for work and discussion). The audio was always out of sync. It was too bad, since it was convenient in every other way. So I switched back to a what I had tried out a year and a half ago and abandoned because of stupid file compatibility issues, which is to just film myself at the board using a Flip Video camera. The file issues have gone away, so it should work fine. I just can’t make a movie unless I can grab an empty room with a board—that’s the main downside. (I share my classroom with another teacher, who is in there part of the time that I’m not.)

One new thing I’m trying this year is to keep a bare-bones diary of each class, as a place to record notes about how things are going, what I’m skipping and need to come back to, how the students are liking things, etc. It’s particularly useful for the one course I teach two sections of (Trigonometry/Precalculus) since they are not always synced up exactly. I hope it will be useful next year…I hope to avoid the situation of looking at an old test and trying to remember whether it was too hard or too easy.

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2 Responses to Settling in for the long haul

  1. Joe says:

    I’ve also dived right into strictly grouped seating, and I’m pretty happy so far. Of course, much of this is due to combined factors of classroom size, furniture shape (trapezoid tables), and the fact that it wouldn’t fit any other way. Switching into test mode was difficult and my Plan A (cardboard dividers between students) was an admitted failure.

    I’m also interested in your idea of filming mini-lessons. Do you have a notion of how many of your students actually watch the videos?

  2. My classroom has individual desks, so test mode just involves putting them in rows.

    I think typically over half of the students watch the videos…not great, since they are supposed to often substitute for lecture, not just be complementary to it. But it’s just enough so that I haven’t felt I had to quiz them on the videos…yet. I might get tempted soon, though. (As in “what color shirt was I wearing?” or “what was the word problem about?”, that kind of thing.)

    Hopefully if I emphasize that that material will be on tests, they’ll get around to watching them.

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