I have made some major changes in the way that I teach this year. I had previously been a students-in-rows, me-doing-notes-on-the-board, students-copying-them-down, then-you-practice-on-your-own type of girl. It worked for me. I don’t think I was a horrible teacher doing this. We did group work once or twice a week, and it always felt a little chaotic, and I’m not a fan of chaos. Last year, I was ready for a change. In my 6th year of teaching, I had planning down, management down, assessment down… things were in no way perfect, I was always looking to improve and tweek and make things the best they could be. I learned about foldables and started spicing up my notes. I slowly moved to a notebook system. It was a great change and I knew I was on the right track. Then came the summer that I think will shape the entire rest of my teaching career. I found the math twitterblogosphere and joined the new blogger initative. I will never go back. I have learned and grown professionally more in the past few months than the entire 6 years before that. I do think I needed the first 6 years though in order to be ready to accept and embrace all of this.
So to get to the point, I think this year is going so well because I am doing the best teaching that I have ever done. I have moved the kids to groups. I was terrified, but there are so many great things about this. I now incorporate collaboration and working together into everything that I do. I encourage talking and interacting with the material. I am obsessed with sorting activities where the kids have to move the pieces around and figure out how things fit together and actually WORK instead of mindlessly copying things down and spitting them back out. But I have a problem and I am hoping the people out there in the blog world can help me with it.
How can I get the kids to stay on task and work at a reasonable pace??
Everything is taking FOREVER to do. The cutting of pieces, the gluing in, the off-task talking and then every so often putting a piece down.
Week 1: I gave the kids the expectations for group work, talked about why I want them in groups, talked about the alternative, everyone agreed that groups are awesome. Then group activity #1- they get started immediately, I am walking around, listening to the amazing things they are saying. When the activity is over, I give them a whole class point (blogged about here) on our hundreds chart. I point out the awesome things, we are feeling great!
Week 2: Continue to feel great, point out those great things, continue to give points to the whole group, and now start table points as well as giving out red tickets to individuals doing awesome. (These tickets are turned in to a bucket and I draw names for prizes at the end of the week.)
Week 3: WHAT HAPPENED????? Kids came in Monday and they are different kids. This is my 7th year, I understand that this is normal for the honeymoon to be over and the behavior to change. I get that. So I continue to remind them about how great groups are, why we love them, what the alternative is, continue to give team points. Except now I have one or two teams that have ridiculous amounts of points and the rest of the teams are still there ho-humming along. The problem is that they aren’t doing anything that is necessarily wrong or anything I could give a consequence for. When I say, “I need you to stay on task”, the response is always, “But I’m working, see!” And they are… mostly. They just aren’t seeing the importance of getting things done at a faster pace with a little more focus. So I tell them they have to get it done at home then. Some do, some don’t. So I say, but if you finish early, then you can start on your homework, (and this is what I really want to happen, because I WANT them to talk about their homework and practice together), this motivates some, but doesn’t really make a huge impact.
If you have managed to stick with my problem so far, I thank you!
So anyone out there with awesome ideas for motivation? I have thought about a prize for the first group who has all correct answers, but understand that some kids work slower but they are really on task and working hard and I don’t want to punish them. I have thought about putting 3 mini post its on each desk, and I would take away an individual’s post it each time they are off task, then giving a reward to those students who can keep all 3, but I can’t perfect this idea the right way. I was thinking about offering a string of my red ticket rewards to the whole group and however many they have left at the end of the hour, they can keep… but again, I can’t seem to make this into a realistic workable idea. So what do YOU do to keep things moving and focused and can you please share it with me tonight so I can start it tomorrow morning, please?