Monday, June 23, 2008

"That was the best Maths lesson ever!"

At 5:30am my alarm clock went on and off in quick succession. My lightning reflexes meant that I could snooze for ten minutes. After this snooze my reflexes once again granted me another ten minutes of "snoozing", and this continued until 6am. It makes you wonder though, why the heck don't I just set the alarm for 6am instead?

I was waking up at that time because last night I was unable to do my lesson plan. My lame but non-fictional excuse is that I had a headache, and the slides just wouldn't form. Hence why "Plan A" came into action, that of me waking up early in the morning. My computer doesn't have Microsoft PowerPoint (and I haven't learnt Beamer yet), so I dragged myself downstairs to use my Dad's computer. Five minutes later I was "snoozing again" until 6:20am! So I should really have set my alarm for then...

My slides were made and my nerves were set. I got to school two minutes late and was relieved to see that I wasn't the only "teacher" to be late. This Monday (yes, it's a blimmin' Monday) follows from the longest day of the year, which was yesterday, and it was very very slow. My lesson was going to be after break and I decided to use the first two lessons of the day to print resources and put the slide show on the appropriate computer. Whilst doing this I was annoyed to find that the school had an old version of Windows Media Player,, and couldn't play the video I wanted to.

The teacher got the ball rolling with a starter, and then I was asked whether I would like to take the lead. I had a chance to chicken out. But I didn't. Gulping, I looked towards the kid who had loudly exclaimed "Not you again" when I had walked in, and I nodded my head.

The lesson was titled "Mathematics and Origami" and the objective was to have made a chatter box, paper boat and hexaflexagon by the end of the lesson. The first two were just a warm up so that the kids would be more confident when going on to make the 'hexa'. I was banking on a few kids knowing what to do, which seemed to be the case.

I did go slightly fast at times, and wasn't clear perhaps when giving verbal instructions, but thankfully the teacher was there repeating everything I did. (I hate the word edge!) The teacher made me to realise what I was doing wrong without saying anything, which was nice of her.

Steve was right--the kids had a ball. They did jeer a bit when we did the chatter boxes, but the teacher made them write maths questions inside it, which shut them up! The boat though was slightly more challenging and most of them were now fully paying attention. (There were two "gits" in the corner, who tried disrupting other people because they couldn't follow instructions, but apart from that everyone was participating).

This was a year 8 set 3 class and when we got started on the 'hexa' I noticed that most of them had not cut around the strip of paper "nicely". They hadn't folded it in half properly as well, which meant some unnecessary problems for later. This has taught me one thing: to do the cutting myself next time, but not the folding.

The teacher was an immense help at this stage, as she walked around the class and helped the students with their folding, when she herself was doing this for the first time too! The pictures on the slideshow were actually quite useful to many students, but the teacher later informed me that I show try to have more pictures of the intermediate steps. (Some did struggle to follow instructions).

Anyway, after the lesson (that overran slightly), the nervous and excited ball of energy which had been flowing through my veins throughout the lesson, finally exploded. I could relax now! Quite a number of students had produced a completed hexaflexagon which was great to see. They all walked out of the classroom positive, and those who hadn't quite completed it told me that they will see me at break time to do so. (They didn't come by the way, but one said he'll ask me in the maths lesson tomorrow...)

So, doing something different has paid off. One student told the teacher that the lesson on Origami had been the "best ever", which was nice to hear. It's only one student saying this, whilst five others are walking out in a huff binning their precious 'hexas', but I can live with that. I'm just glad that the lesson didn't fall to pieces and the students actually enjoyed it. (They have been doing construction work recently, and I was glad to see that a few students remembered the mathematics of drawing equilateral triangles).

As I drag this post out, I must say that today has been the busiest day of my life.

My link teacher wasn't here so there was a non-mathematics teacher on cover, and I was supporting. The year 7 lesson was a nightmare without my link teacher, for she has really got the class working for her. Because I ended up taking charge of the class, I didn't get to work with the SEN kids as I would have liked. One has finally opened up now, and tells me straight away that she's stuck.

The teacher was an assistant teacher (I think) and did not control the class effectively. It was mayhem at times and I was conflicted on what to do, but I ended up trying to take charge for they were all doing my head in! Some children in that class are desperate for attention and want you to hold their hand for each question. This gets annoying when five such students, at different corners of the class keep on tugging at you. I even had to use the whiteboard for the first time ever on my own, but thanks to a cool student I didn't make a mess of things. Sigh. Recalling this year seven lesson is giving me a head ache.

I shouldn't have to deal with student who have behavioural problems! One got really aggressive, for although he was on question seven and well on his way, he felt a need to shout "I don't get it" which vexed me out, and I told him so too. I'm not sure whether to believe him, when at the end of the lesson he told me he was joking... What these year seven students need is a lot of encouragement and motivation. I actually had one student get to question 23 and made sure the class knew of this!

Enough of that, let me just mention the year 9 set one class before I fall asleep. (It was my first time with them, but that was because it was being covered).

One point I noticed. The students in set ones don't ask for help from the teacher straight away. Instead they are confident to ask their neighbours and discuss problems until one has the"aha" moment. They only ever call for help when two neighbours are unable to resolve a problem, or when a group of four students get distracted and lose the will to continue tackling the problem. Students don't mind walking across the other side of the class to get assistance from a friend, before actually asking help from a teacher.

On the other hand, students from lower sets tend to copy their neighbours, as they are sometimes reluctant to ask for help. Some always have their hands stuck up for they want reassurance every time, whist many tend to start distracting others when they are stuck. With such classes you have to make sure that you are going around and asking the students if they are OK. (You do this for the upper sets too, but they just shrug you away).

I had a good time talking to a few students in the year nine class, as I let them take the mick out of me for finding maths tasty. Well they were doing pie charts and I mentioned how maths looks after mathematicians certain needs! I told them about the sandwich rule which they know from English, and the pancake function which caused one student to topple over... "What's the pancake function?" one asked, whilst the other gave him a poke with, "Stop asking more questions, it's a function which gives pancakes of course!"

They complained about how boring maths was, how useless it was and that it would never help them in the real world. One challenged me with: "So when you go to the shop, do you make an equation with variables to work out the change?"

This was a different and more welcomed challenge from the students, and I actually saw some motivated students for a change. One nice student even told me that I should be a maths teacher for various reasons, but for some reason my heart didn't react to this. This time next year I could be enrolled on a PGCE. Sounds scary doesn't it?

Since I have done the first lesson and it went OK, I am looking forward to the other two on origami. I have a starter tomorrow as well which should be trivial. I know that I haven't delivered on a "proper topic", but I might try doing so with the year 10s. I want to do this now and get the experience under my belt.

Enough of me now. I want to sleep.

PS: I just looked outside and noticed that it is still a light blue sky! I seem to have the lights switched off in my head and I'm sleeping in the dark, so that was a shock to the system. It doesn't matter though, for I can shoot some hoops now.


Steph said...

Well done on the lesson!

Beans said...

Hi Steph,

Thanks a lot. :) That lesson actually went much better than the starter I gave today... Well they were year sevens but GAH do they know how to make the simplest of intrusions seem impossible.

However the positives of the year seven class is that I can use my "serious" voice and they listen. (Unlike the year 9s who would probably laugh in my face and then do something equally stupid).