The First Week: A Play-by-Play

The first week of class (four days) is behind us and at the risk of sounding like I might be exaggerating, sugar-coating or boasting… it couldn’t have been better! That honestly isn’t what I expected I’d be saying at this point; I really imagined that the first weeks/months of the PAHLI pilot would be a rocky struggle but that it would be worth it down the road. I’m aware that we’re in the honeymoon stage right now but I’m cautiously optimistic about the week ahead. There were a handful of logistical challenges in the first week but I’m going to keep this post positive. Here are the highlights:

First day: The room was set-up for station work when they came in and I asked them to sit wherever they were comfortable instead of assigning them to a seat. This was a nice way for me to get a feel for the class – most of the students were drawn to the desks that were set-up in groups. When those seats were full, they tended to choose the teacher led station. I told them that there were no assigned seats in this class and that got a lot of smiles. I told them that they were going to move around during class, that they would sit in at least two different seats everyday. More smiles. Then I asked them to tell me what they thought the class would be like based on what they saw in the room. This sparked a good  discussion of the rotation model. My favorite part of the day was pointing out that at the group station students are expected to talk and share ideas and that at the independent station students are expected to work by themselves without asking questions or helping each other. Every student seemed simultaneously nervous and relieved. I felt like a good teacher.

Second day: We jumped right in. Students were introduced to the real number classification sets. In the collaborative station they were asked to work together to think about and record some ways that numbers could be classified and list examples. They came up with the following list:

  • negatives
  • positives
  • fractions
  • decimals
  • square roots
  • radicals
  • “irradicals”
  • even numbers
  • natural numbers
  • whole numbers
  • integers

At the independent station they watched a video that I had made explaining the real number classification sets and took notes on a guided notes sheet. At the teacher-led station, they looked at some examples with my coteachers. Students used their definitions to assign classification sets to each number. As students were leaving the room I overheard part of a conversation: “This class went by FAST!” “Yeah, its way better than listening to the teacher talk the whole time.”

Third day: Students continued to rotate through the stations and work with the classification sets. At the collaborative station they sorted a bucket of numbered poker chips into baskets based on their characteristics. At the independent station they did a worksheet on classifying numbers. At the teacher led station we checked their independent work, discussed their questions and students gave each other tips on how to determine which numbers fit into each category. On this day, I notice that the room is very noisy during some classes and very quiet during others. My students seem to be “getting it” much faster than my students did last year and making fewer mistakes. I’m not sure if this is a function of the rotation model or just a more advanced group this year. Another possibility is that their understanding is no different from last year but just that I’m interacting differently with the students so it seems different to me. I have a large population of learning disabled students this year and this model seems to be working well for them especially. One of my coteachers left the room on day three and put it simply: “I love this.” “Me too”.

Fourth day: Some students needed more practice with the classification sets. Others were ready to move on to something new. At the collaborative station they either continued work on the classification sets worksheet or did an activity to review ordering different types of numbers. The activity involved taking turns pinning numbered clothes pins to a line until they were all affixed in increasing order. At the independent station they practiced classifying numbers and/or ordering numbers using I was able to login later that day to see how they did with the assignment. At the teacher station, we did a practice worksheet on ordering numbers and answered questions they had come across at the other stations.

I am planning our first quiz early next week. My anxiety is lessening. On Friday, I actually found myself looking forward to the afternoon (I use a traditional model in my morning Geometry classes) because I knew the Algebra classes would go quickly and I would have more interesting and higher quality interaction with the students. That’s what it’s all about!

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