The Split

During my pre-internship experience this week I took my first stab at teaching mathematics, and what the adventure it was! I had been looking forward to the challenges of both teaching math, and teaching a split lesson format, but the reality of it all was not as successful as I had hoped.

My co-op had given me some guidance as to the topic to teach on, and it was quite a lot! The grade 8s were to learn about the surface area of a rectangular prism (a box) and the 7s were to review area of a rectangle and move on to area of a triangle and various quadrilaterals. So, while I started with a group activity, the grades eventually split up and the 8s worked on an activity while I did some instruction with the 7s.

It started off pretty good…I think. I had the students do a fun bell work activity before announcements and O’Canada, but I don’t think that they are used to doing something like that, so were quite confused as to the purpose of it, and many were uninterested in participating. I had thought that by giving them a fun thing to think about, and also a list of materials that they would need for the lesson on the board that they would get to doing the tasks. Well, I was wrong. It took quite a bit of prompting for the majority of students to get the hint that they should be doing something other than sitting in their desks and doing nothing. I think that this type of routine could be learned more easily if I were there more often.

My Lesson, That’s a Wrap, started by introducing a wrapped box and asking the students how they would go about figuring out how much wrapping paper I used without unwrapping the box. The students seemed quite intrigued by the box, but were very confused as to how to come up with a solution to the problem. I tried to give them some prompts, but struggled a little as they did not do what I had anticipated. I thought that they would be able to figure out that they had to measure the box and then use those measurements to calculate the surface area of the box, and that perhaps some students would see that they would have to then figure out how big the paper was based on the size of the net of the box (they had been learning about nets). This was not the case though, as students either said they had no idea and just gave up, or the only thing they could come up with was to measure the box. I tried a think-pair-share set up, which sort of worked as it did help them to talk to a partner, but when we got to the sharing part I could tell that no one had really gotten the concept the way that I had anticipated them to. So, I had to diverge a bit from my lesson plan and as a class we worked out the steps we would take, and I had some students come up to the front of the class to demonstrate each of the steps.

In the end I do think that most of the students understood what we were doing, and the process that we had gone through, as I reviewed the steps many times and checked for understanding by getting the kids to give me thumbs up, down or sideways.  I didn’t move on until most of them were up and only a few left sideways. Following the group gift wrap problem I had the students work in partners to find surface area of many other boxes. For this part I think that I should have maybe given them partners as some of the pairs were not a very good fit for the students, and most pairs either didn’t know what to do or were super disruptive. There were some who worked well together though. It was due to these poor partnerships though that I think the noise level in the classroom was quite loud for the remainder of the class and I had to continually ask the grade 8s to settle down. Thankfully I had my partner, Mr. C, who was able to circulate the class to help any of the groups with questions and to help them stay on task.

I taught the grade 7s about area using geoboards, and I think they really enjoyed the hands on visuals! As I had created and taught a similar lesson to my peers in my EMATH class last year, I was able to really anticipate what students would do while learning the concepts of areas of triangles and quadrilaterals. I think that it could have been even better if I had grouped the students a little closer together so that there was less distraction from the grade 8s. I felt quite frustrated that the grade 8s were so noisy, and felt had to continually ask them to bring the noise level down.

In the end I think that both grades did get the overall concept I was teaching, as students were able to explain things to me. I think that in the future I need to work on collecting more evidence from students.  I would also want to find ways to separate the grades better, or to do the same thing with both grades, just having the grade 8s elaborate a bit more on a concept.

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