Practical Session 1
Below is an email I sent to the instructor giving him a report of the session last Wednesday. I’m reluctant to write something from scratch and I think this best summarizes what we did that day. I really like the group that I have this semester.
The students collaborated effectively today. Each group was on task and following the schedule. Only one student was absent out of the 19 students enrolled. The students did not have any questions for me during the question and answer period. I waited 2 minutes in silence while students shuffled around their notes. No one came forward with anything. I told them that this period was their only chance to ask me about problems and told them to come prepared for next class. I worked problem 68 [large power saw] from the suggested problems on the board. We quickly discussed my solution (which was somewhat long) and a student in the back suggested an easier way to solve the problem by taking the ratios of intensities instead of explicitly finding the power.
When we started the activity session I had to rearrange the groups. They sat roughly in groups of 4 and they were reluctant to move. I told them not to argue with me and they grouped themselves into 6 groups of 3. It was clear that the students knew what was expected of them in their groups. The group quizzes ran smoothly. I had 2 groups volunteer to present their solutions. The first group received a 3 because their presentation was really quick and their collaboration while writing out their solution was one sided since one of the three students had already worked the problem herself. Their solution was good and I asked the rest of the class to comment on what they liked about their solution, what could have been improved and any other remarks. The second group received a 4. Their solution was fantastic, they made good use of their time during the work period and the 5 minute set up. They evenly distributed speaking roles and board work and were able to address student questions. Again, I asked the class to comment on their performance.
The activities worked:
I had 6 groups.
All groups worked 1, 2 and 4.
5/6 groups worked 5, 6 and 7.
4/6 groups worked 3.
The students asked me questions about activities 2, 3 and 5.
The Chronicles of Mr. G: Summer Semester
The summer semester is rolling around and I’ve been hired to teach a 3-hour tutorial/practical session for undergraduate physics at the University. It’s going to be exciting since the TA in the practical next door during my session is also a concurrent ed. teacher. Hopefully we’ll be able to do demonstrations and get to use the techniques we learned while at OISE.
Stay tuned for more physics and teaching stuff.
Differentiating Instruction/Differentiating Feeding With Budgies
A couple of months ago, I received a pair of male budgies. A friend of mine didn’t want them anymore (Actually, I’m supposed to give her something in return; and I haven’t yet done so…I’m going to, though!) so I decided to take them because I had budgies when I was younger. Anyway, for the time that I’ve had them, the white budgie took the longest to warm up to me. It took a really long time before he started to get used to perching on my finger. Sometimes he still doesn’t like getting picked up first. The only way I got him used to getting picked up was by using the yellow budgie as an example. Now I pick them up all the time. For the record, they do have names. I named the yellow one Lolly and my dad refers to the white one as Ivory; formerly Pimms and Alex.
If there’s anything I learned at OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education UT) and my concurrent teacher education program it has to be differentiated instruction. That is, recognizing from the get-go that all students are different. Unique. They all have their own way of learning. So in response to that, teachers have to differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of each student. It’s not easy. Especially when their needs are radically different and you aren’t prepared for it. Now getting to the birds. I’ve been trying to feed them by hand. Eventually I want to have them tame enough to bring out of their cage. So far Lolly is the only bird comfortable eating from my hand. Ivory always loses his cool. He’ll either fly away from the open palm, grab onto the sides of the cage, or perch on my palm and look away from me and the food. Needless to say, I’m frustrated. Then I remembered about DI (differentiated instruction). I can’t force Ivory to eat out of my hand, but I can just keep on trying. He may get eat from my hand eventually, but I have to recognize that he just doesn’t like it. Ivory doesn’t like interacting with humans the way that Lolly does.
So when I feed Lolly out of my hand now, I have to differentiate the way I feed the two birds. I get Lolly to eat from my hand and place a feeder in the cage for Ivory. Initially I just wanted Ivory to get jealous and eventually eat from my hand out of hunger. Then I realized that I would never do something like that to a student if they needed help. It’s not my aim to cater to the capable. I need to think about the good of the classroom. Be equitable.
I’ve heard about superfluids before, but this is the first time I’ve actually seen what they’re about. Pretty awesome stuff.
Practicum Day 31 (Last Day of Practicum)
I didn’t teach anything on my last day. In the grade 12 calculus class, I handed out course evaluations for the students to fill out. There were 5 items on the sheet:
- List 2 things that you learned during Mr. G’s teaching period? Explain one of these in a couple of sentences.
- What did you not like about Mr. G’s teaching/ assessment style? Can you suggest any improvements?
- What did you like about Mr. G’s teaching/ assessment style? Explain.
- Did the tests appropriately assess the material presented in the course content sections?
- Please feel free to write any other remarks about the course, Mr. G, or anything else.
I brought my laptop and hard drive that day. While I they were writing I put on an episode of a couple of a cartoon on the smart board. I ordered a party pizza for them and another student brought in some chips and drinks. While we ate, I put on a video of Mr. Bean’s greatest episodes. At the end, the students gave me a card that they signed. I told them I really enjoyed teaching their class and they said their goodbyes.
In the grade 9 class I did much of the same. The downside to their classroom was that they didn’t have a smart board so we couldn’t watch anything. It was very fortunate for me that no one in the grade 12 class ate 3 of the 4 bags of chips. I ended up giving them to the 9’s to eat. I had the students complete the course evaluations as well. When they finished, I gave them a free period more or less. I allowed them to play around with my laptop and play songs from YouTube. When the period was done we said our goodbyes.
I gave my associate teacher a 16 GB USB drive that had the Linux based operating system Ubuntu. I told him about it before and mentioned that a lot of free software could be found related to mathematics. On the drive I also put a bunch of resources that I found on the internet. When the day was over, I went to the bar with the teachers in the math department and a couple of other teachers. They usually do this on a Friday and I come every once in a while.
I really had an awesome practicum experience. I can’t wait for the next one!
Practicum Day 30 (2nd Last Day of Practicum)
Today I only had the calculus class. The grade 9’s had an assembly and I had some extra time in the day to do some administrative work and marking.
In the calculus class we discussed the topic of curve sketching. I wrote out the curve sketching ‘algorithm’ on the board for the students to copy. After doing that, did a couple of examples on the board. In truth, I think I remember only doing one example. The curve sketching examples are the longest to do since they’re so involved. The functions that they sketch are pretty easy to do anyway since the curriculum only gives the students a taste of what differential calculus is capable of doing.
Practicum Day 29 (3rd Last Day of Practicum)
I marked the calculus quizzes at the school and the grade 9 quizzes at home. The students were very happy to see their marks. For many of the students, the bonus question helped the students boost their mark up; They performed well and some scored perfect on the quiz after getting the bonus. It was pretty surprising and pleasing at the same time. On the other hand, I do not think it would be very wise to continue to make less challenging quizzes and generous bonuses.
In the calculus class we worked on points of inflection and concavity. This was our last step in order to start graphing functions. The lesson content was very similar to the one involving critical points and intervals of increase and decrease. I showed them a couple of examples that used the methods of the section and then put up the graphs on the smart board. I find that having the visual element to the lesson is important to their understanding.
In the grade 9 class we reworked the investigation that was done the previous week. I found that the day they worked the investigation was somewhat of a bust. Many of the students had trouble with the graphing calculators. I brought the graphing calculators back and gave roughly 1 to every 2 students. I did the investigation for a couple of mathematical relations. I made sure to highlight the important parts of the investigation. That is, I wrote out certain “a-ha” moments that the students should have come to conclusion.
Practicum Day 28 (4th Last Day of Practicum)
Today was my 4th last day at my practicum school. I gave my calculus class a quiz on the elements of curve sketching. My AT was away today, so I had a supply teacher supervising me. Everything ran smoothly as usual. Several students were missing today. I hope that they come tomorrow and write it at lunch time. I allotted one hour for the class to finish the quiz. They finished it in roughly 45 minutes. I didn’t have any material to teach the students. So I just decided to ramble on about slant asymptotes and did a couple of examples. In the grade 9 class, I gave the students a quiz as well. I feel very control of them now. I get my whistling hand ready so I can get their attention whenever I want. I spent the first 15 minutes of class doing a short review of the concepts that I was testing. I started the quiz at 2PM and let them write until the end of school. I made a relatively easy quiz so the students can boost their grade. The students still had a lot of questions to ask during the quiz. For the most part the students looked like they were performing well. I even gave them an easy bonus question to get extra marks. After school I hung up my students’ optimization posters around their classroom.
Practicum Day 27
In the calculus class, we had STAR time, the school’s literacy initiative. It was weird because today was day one in the cycle and they had scheduled it for 2nd period. For the first 20 minutes of the class, some students read and a couple of students had asked me to take up a couple of problems from the test. Once STAR time was over, we continued with the subject material. One of the girls at the front asked me to take up a couple of problems from the assigned work. I liked that she asked me problems because I don’t expect that my students do the homework. I tell them up front that I don’t check and don’t need to check their homework. In university no one cares if you do your work. They need to get used to taking initiative/responsibility for their actions.
The problems that she asked me were from the previous section and were under the ‘thinking’-category. Students usually have trouble making sense of questions that ask them to solve for arbitrary constants. There are a couple of pieces of information that the students need to interpret in order to get it. Once I highlighted which pieces of information, I continued to solve the problem and made sure that the students were understanding what I was saying.
In the grade 9 class, we continued our discussion on slope by talking about first differences. The section included an investigation with two methods to choose from: using tables of values and using graphing calculators. I wanted to introduce the students to the graphing calculators since it would have been their first time seeing them and interacting with them. Just as I had predicted, the students had troubles right away working with the calculator. They’re young, so their intuition kind of sucks. Some of the students don’t wish to follow instructions so when they can’t get it, they sit around in class talking to other students.
Today, I was a little frustrated with the trouble makers. They like to pick on a student that is identified as spec. ed. I quickly ended their stupid behaviour by pointing out how unnecessarily distracting and rude they were being to myself, the class and that particular student. I found that at times, I wouldn’t even have to say anything. The students were eerily more quiet than usual when I was doing things on the board or talking. So when the students were being silly, all I had to do was stand there, stare and wait.
The regularly truant student attended class today. We talked about the current manga he was reading. He also took some coaxing to do the investigation. He figured most of it out. One thing that bothered me with the weaker students is that they chose not to write anything down during the investigation. It seemed like they did all the steps, noticed a few things about the exercise and then thought to themselves, “So what?”