cheesemonkey wonders

cheesemonkey wonders

Friday, August 12, 2016

#MTBoSBlaugust 4 - Dear Pam (starting the year and Exeter Math 1)

Dear Pam,

The closer the start of school gets, the more I realize I need to be wise about how I choose to introduce Exeter problems. I want to set my students up for success. They are an extremely diverse group, coming from all over the city and all over the world. They are new to our huge school and to high school. And my classes are huge. There is still load-balancing to do, but right now my Algebra 1 rosters are topping out at 42. This is a special problem in my room because we can only fit 36 desk-chairs in the room. Literally. So I have to practice basic trust that this is all getting worked out through placement and class balancing and other dark arts of administration.

But all of this thinking has made me realize that I need to rely on my proven, first-two-weeks training plan to get them ready for my course and to help accomplish all of the transitions I am expecting them to manage. Bottom line: I need to start by training them with Talking Points to ensure equity and access for all.

Accordingly, I've created a set of Day 1 Talking Points about ratios, units, and rates (actually for us it's Day 2 because Day 1 is a loss), which are the topics of M1:1#1. I want to use this to train them on norms and practices in my class so that we can begin our problem-based learning together. For me, the first two weeks are critical. They are when I train my students intensively on my rules and norms, using Talking Points and other practices. With 36 students per class, this is a must. Everybody has to get bought in and skilled at the structures so we can proceed.

I also need to work this beginning-of-the-year routine into my four-stage How People Learn groove. Talking Points is my go-to beginning-of-the-year Stage 1 task structure (initial encounter with new concepts and activation of old). Our debrief and shift into doing notes/INB organization is Stage 2 (initial provision of a new expert model).  We'll do some notes on ratios, units, and rates to review and organize our thinking, and then we'll do a little combo-plate Stage 3 / Stage 4 work (deliberate practice with metacognitive / transfer task) in the form of some opening Exeter problems.

I've changed my mind about ordering page 1. I'm going to have them do 1#1 first (easy application of ratios, units, and rates) as a "deliberate practice with metacognitive awareness" problem and then 1#5, the journey of a thousand miles problem (J-1000). What I like about this one as a first transfer task is that it pushes them to use their bodies and to involve their whole selves in the investigation. Once somebody in the class asks, "Hey, Dr. S — can we have a yardstick?" I know I've got them. ;)

From here we can move on to 1#2, which is really the heart of the intro to problem-based learning in my opinion.

But realistically, we won't get to this until Day 3 (which is my true Day 2). So I'm having to accept that this is the reality of where I can get them and when. I can tweak the rest of everything to make it fit the first two weeks, but this is my reality.

So Day 3 needs a new set of Talking Points to begin and then a handout for problem 1#2, the problem about counting non-stop by ones to one billion.

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