Sunday, December 20, 2009
My Algebra I kids don’t like to read. When given an assignment on a worksheet or in the book, they just sit there. When I check in with their groups, they ask, “What are we doing?” or “I don’t even know what were supposed to be doing.” I try to remain calm when I hear this question, but in my head I’m flipping out that it has not occurred to them that reading their book, the piece of paper in front of them, or the instructions on the board will inform them of what they are doing. Students seem to ask this question regardless of how many oral or written instructions are given. I’m not sure how to make changes such that this is less of a problem. I realize this strategy (not reading) is intended to eat up time while not doing work. I’m not sure how much is because they just don’t like math, they don’t know how to do the math, they don’t think that they’ll understand the instructions, they enjoy being defiant, or they don’t want to or don’t know how to work with the people in their group. Perhaps some of it is because they want the individual teacher attention. Unfortunately, it seems that in order to do more complex, interesting math that is perhaps grounded in some real life context, reading is required (if I’m not going to lead everything at the front of the classroom). Something I’ve learned in my years teaching is to make instructions as short and concise as possible, ideally under a page and in a larger font. Ambiguity can even be okay (if it makes the problem open-ended and interesting and requires the students to think about their choices). Reading the instructions as a class can lead to better results, but it can also lead to boredom, frustration, and side talking. This is something I will be thinking much about during my student teaching weeks.