It is really hard to let some students fall behind, but I don’t really see much of a solution right now that’s not going to slow other students down. Like I could make everyone follow along with an activity at a set pace and I think this would be helpful to some students, but then it means that I am not available for individual attention at all. The flip side being what I am doing now which is mostly giving individual attention to students who are working though the activity at a reasonable pace, but other students are really taking their time, not focusing as much as they could, and not learning as much as a result. It’s a tough call and I’d like to get some feedback from other teachers on specific lessons. I think I may use the “tuning” protocol described here.
In other classes (Algebra especially) I’ve been much more in favor of slowing everyone down in order to bring a few students up. However, there are a few differences that have changed my philosophy in this class. First, everyone is starting from pretty much the same place in a way that they don’t usually in math. Only a few students have any real CS background coming into the class, so while they are all different students obviously, they are starting from the same place coding-wise. Also, this class is an elective with mostly seniors in it. And so far I feel like the material is very hard to understand if you don’t have any desire to learn it, so I am trying to stop myself from forcing it on anyone. But like I said, it’s really hard.
The struggle between collaboration and focus is real. We started out ok with just a little talking but it was not enough to mess up someone who was flowing with the activity. But after about 15 minutes I noticed that the noise level had increased to the point where it was impossible to ignore. How did I notice this? Because it was impossible to ignore! 😉 Maybe the lesson is that 10-15 minutes is a magic number and we need to stay within that time frame for activities in here. Or we might try 10 minutes silence, 2 minutes talking or some other time strategy like that.
We are trying to do our daily reflection in silence in our notebooks today (as opposed to the spreadsheet on the computer) so we packed up the computers and wrote for about 5 minutes. I think this class knew the drill for the most part because they are mostly Engineering students. I think that maybe I should start writing my own reflections in my Engineering notebook as well; that was the point, to model the process right?
We started learning python today. As expected, it would have been totally impossible to lead the class through the first activity. Everyone was at a different pace and there were a lot of technical difficulties. So it was a good thing that the activity is well written so that they could follow at their own pace.
Mini lessons included:
- using the up arrow to retrieve the previous command
- variable types (python assigns them for you)
- .py files are text files
Intro to Engineering:
I realized today that there is a big skills gap between students who took the Gateway classes and those that didn’t. I don’t think I need to modify the activities in the automaton project, but they will need more time to learn the skills. We continued with the manufacturing a box activity, but no one finished it because they were learning skills and then trying to apply them right away (as opposed to the “Gateway” Ss who have the skills and are just applying them).
Introduction to Engineering:
This class is really high energy and we discussed this again today. Strategies we discussed included taking a break when you need one. I think this may be an opportunity to work with breathing techniques with a few students. Because I think that they need a redirect more than once or twice per class, so taking a break by leaving the room might take too long.
I also think the Automaton project is going really well. We are using the “manufacturing a box” activity to learn assembly constraints in Inventor. They are making box joints like the one below, so they’re making the sides as part files and then assembling them.
So I started reading this book. I had been thinking about getting a book on mindfulness specifically aimed at classroom teachers, but this one came to me! My wife went to a conference (Momentous I think it was called) and came back with three or four great books. So I stole this one ;).
I feel like I have a head start on some of the things that she talks about in the first few chapters because of my yoga practice. When she talks about breath, I can feel what she means. Like the way it feels when you breathe in through your nose and the air swirls around in your mouth and heats up a little bit. It slows me down when I notice that.
I have already gotten a lot of great advice from the first section of the book. The other day, I was so close to snapping at a student when he didn’t take his seat after I had asked the class several times. But I took notice of this emotion right away because I was being mindful. I stopped, took a deep breath in, felt the air swirl around in my mouth and heat up a little. This noticing centered me and it only took a few seconds so I was still in a position to handle the situation appropriately. I asked the student if there was a reason he needed to be standing up. This question was intended to get him to think about it for himself. We have previously talked about strategies that will allow him more movement throughout class, like we have a stand up station set up for him when he needs it. This time, he just wasn’t paying attention and so he just took his seat, but my hope is that he will begin to realize for himself when he needs to stand or move around and when he just needs to try and focus. Maybe we’ll work on mindful breathing soon.
But what I’ve found most helpful so far is Ms Srinivasan’s description of helpful and unhelpful seeds. In that situation from the other day, if I had snapped I would have most definitely been watering an unhelpful seed. This student does not respond well to a stern “teacher voice” sort of discipline (and I know this!). So by giving him that feedback, I would be reinforcing in his mind that I am not there to help him, but just another hassle in his day to get through. By not reacting, breathing mindfully, I was able to water a helpful seed. And writing about it here is helping me to water this same seed in myself! 🙂
I am super excited about sharing mindfulness techniques with my students, but I know I need to practice more myself first. One thing at a time.
Getting everyone to stop what they are doing and write a reflection on the day is kind of hard. A bunch of students will typically continue what they are working on, and then it’s weird for me to be like “stop working on your awesome app that you are making”. But I think the reflections are going to be really important. So maybe I need some sort of incentive in order to get them to write good ones? I am modeling the process now by projecting this on the board as I type it, not sure anyone is reading it though. Students: if you are reading this, let me know!
…they did 🙂
Intro to Engineering:
We got most of our motors working with Arduino today. It was difficult at times to figure out who needed my help the most. I think I need better structures for them to help each other out on a project like this. Or maybe we just need more training in figuring out who can help. Like for this one, it was “whose motor is working already? how did they get it there? what was their troubleshooting process like?”. If I am more explicit about these Qs beforehand next time, maybe it will be easier for them to figure out.
Another work day for creating apps in App Inventor. It is interesting working on problems along with students and it comes up a lot because I haven’t created many apps myself. The problem of using the “otherScreenClosed” function needs more time to figure out. We tried using the tutorial here but didn’t get it to work overall.