Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
When I am supervising my student teachers in their student teaching experience I use Frances Fuller's Stages of Concerns Model as a means of determining where my students are in their development as teachers. The model has three basic stages through which students pass, quite naturally, from the moment they first set foot in their classrooms. The first stage comprises a set of survival concerns; (Can I do this? Do I look the part? Will I last 16 weeks?) The second stage of concerns is all about their ability to teach; (Am I using the technology properly? Am I planning my lessons effectively? Is my classroom management working?) Finally, and this is the exciting part, their concerns focus on the students; (Are they learning? Are they engaged in what they're doing? Are they constructing meaning?)
This series of concerns is actually played out over and over again each time the student has a new classroom experience from their very first one in Schools and Society to the last, the student teaching experience. It even happens again when they get their first job as a licensed teacher. I remember my first week teaching my first 4th grade class as if it were yesterday especially after my Headmaster said to me "Do you realize that if those 34 4th graders you're about to meet all decide to sit there and ignore you there's not a thing you can do about it?" That advice assured the length of my survival concerns was the absolute minimum.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
It's been a busy few weeks with stacks of papers to read, student teachers to observe in their solo weeks and conference presentations to make. It's also been a busy week for the St. Michael's Teaching Gardens where a new, large stone was installed faced on one side with a chalkboard. It looks like the first person to take advantage of this chalky mode of expression was a math person (although maybe not as members of the SMC Math Department have assured us that the expressions don't make a whole lot of sense). It's fun to write on a chalkboard again as they finally disappeared from school classrooms with the advent of computers which are allergic to chalk dust.
The conferences I presented at were quite different but there was a common theme of mathematics education. The first was the annual Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress in Worcester, Mass. on November 3, where I presented a paper on teaching math to students with Down Syndrome. The presentation comprised four parts; some theory, some math, some Andrew and some applications. These four aspects of teaching are based on the idea that you have to make connections between your theoretical understanding of math, your knowledge of the student you are working with, and the available applications for helping the student interact with the math.
The second presentation was yesterday at the annual ATMNE (Association of Teachers of Mathematics in New England) conference and focused on the application of the idea of the referent unit in elementary school math. It's something we often don't think about but has a significant impact on the way children develop their ideas of quantitative literacy. For example, in 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4, what is the 1 (the referent unit) of each fraction if we are asking what is half of the first half of a football game? No wonder operations with fractions is so difficult.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Remember, remember the 5th November
the gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason the gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
t'was his intent
to blow up the King and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match
Halloa boys, halloa boys make the bells ring
Halloa boys, halloa boys, God save the King
Hip, hip, hoorah.
The poem commemorates the deeds of Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament during a ceremonial opening by King James I in 1605. Every year on November 5th children and their families light bonfires, topped with a stuffed effigy of Guy made from old clothes, in their back yards and let off fireworks. Such was the excitement of it all that the word "fifth" now can mean nothing else to me, and probably every other British person, than November 5th,
This is a wonderful example of how out cultures are ingrained with numbers. Not only our cultures but our subcultures and our individual lives. 89 can mean nothing else to me than I89, the Interstate road that I drive on twice a day to and from St. Mike's. 217 is important to me because it is my house number while 19 has a special place because it is the day I was born on. What numbers are important in your culture and in your life? These significant numbers are important to children as they learn math in school and see its relevance in their daily lives.
Students in my ED325 Teaching Math and Science course will soon be completing their Math eNotebook assignment in which they have to find the math in their favorite past-time or activity. Hopefully, graduates from my course will be able to help children see just how relevant math is in their lives in not only a utilitarian sense but in an aesthetic sense as well.