This week's Sunday Funday post is forcing me to think out my goals for the new school year. I wanted to postpone this until right before school starts, but it really is in my best interest to think this out sooner rather than later. When I was reflecting on what my goal could and should be, I realized that I had my goal in mind all summer long.
My goal for the 2017-2018 school year is to increase student engagement.
This has always been my biggest weakness as a teacher. (Skip to the next paragraph if you don't want to read the mini-rant.) As a student I absolutely hated being called on in class. I remember becoming anxious anytime the teacher asked for volunteers, and even more so when the teacher would "randomly" start calling on people. My anxiety would approach its apex anytime I ever dared to volunteer an answer. I also remember being annoyed with teachers that would use the report card comment, "participation in class limited." My parents would start talking to me about what I had to do because they thought I wasn't participating in class. But I was. Why can't participation be recognized in its nonverbal forms? Anyway, because I didn't like this being done to me, I don't like to do it to my students as a teacher. Luckily, calling on students is not the only way to engage them.
Here are the steps that I am going to take to engage my students in their learning:
1) I will have to incorporate questioning into my lessons. I will have to plan questions ahead of time to ask during the lesson. I may even have to write them out on index cards or post-it notes to keep with me during the lesson. I am going to have to force myself to call on my students. For the past few years I have written out my students' names on popsicle sticks so I could call on them randomly, but I've never followed through. Maybe I will give this method another try this year. I know there are apps on your phone that will do the same thing, but I don't always wear pockets and, sadly, I don't trust my students enough to just leave my phone out in my room during lessons.
2) Last year, my school was awarded a grant to purchase TI-nspire calculators and pay for training. We also purchased two sets of Navigators. The sets went to the Algebra I and Algebra II teachers. Before the end of the year both teachers were telling administration how much they loved them (one of the administrators had seen them in action during an observation), and how beneficial it would be for other math teachers to have them too. The administration agreed, and ordered us a few more sets of Navigators. I'm hoping, wishing, and praying that I can add using TI-Navigators to my repertoire of engagement tools. I could use them to ask questions before, during, and after lessons and collect and record responses from every student.
3) I have a few ideas for some inquiry based lessons. I want them to be short experiments toward the beginning of a lesson for students to gain hands-on experience with what we're learning. I've been mulling this idea over for years. There's so much you can do in Geometry, but so little time. My compromise is to keep it short and simple. I may also be able to do some things using the Geometry feature of the TI-nspire.
4) During the 2016-2017 school year my school sent me to a conference to learn about strategies to improve math instruction. I implemented a few strategies immediately after, but not since. I need to refresh the training I had, and start incorporating the strategies into my lesson plans. For example, there were many strategies that involved students working together, and I would like to have more student collaboration in my classes.
5) At the beginning of summer vacation, I went in to visit my principal and to ask him about what he thinks I need to change to improve, and he gave me many ideas, but one that has stuck is that I need to "push" students. He mentioned that my mentor has become great at it, so I'm going to have to ask her more about what I specifically need to do.
I'm proud that I not only have a goal for the new school year, but I also have a plan. I always say that I am going to journal to keep myself accountable, but I don't know that it will work for me. I think instead, I might come up with some sort of form to check off what I did each day to engage students. Also, I want to share this post with my school's instructional coach. I'm hoping she can give me more ideas, and help me keep accountable.