Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Teaching Through Tasks

So at this point I am 35 days into my first (and longest) unit, focusing on linear relationships. The overall goal of this unit is for students to have a deep understanding of slope and y-intercept and be able to build, represent, and compare general rules for linear relationships. So far, this has been my most successful attempt at structuring a whole unit around period-long tasks. Generally speaking, I have used tasks for two purposes-- to have students surface informal reasoning that lends itself to both the concepts and procedures that are part of the unit (which I generally do as a whiteboard task routine) and to continue to develop or apply a concept/procedure that we've started to formalize (which I generally do with a refine your strategy routine). Following a class-long task, we analyze and apply one or more strategies that were generated as students worked on the task. In between tasks, we formalize some of the work they've been doing, introduce vocabulary associated with it, and practice the associated procedure(s).

Here's the sequence of tasks we've done so far:

Day 4 - Refine Your Strategy
Day 5 - Follow-Up

Day 9 - Whiteboard Task (adapted from Mathalicious)

Day 10 - Refine Your Strategy (adapted from Mathalicious)

Day 18 - Whiteboard Task

Day 19 - Follow-Up

Day 26 - Whiteboard Task (Adapted from Mathalicious)
Day 27 - Follow Up

Day 30 - Refine Your Strategy

Day 35 - Refine Your Strategy (Adapted from the Shell Centre)

But now, with about 10 days to wrap up the unit, students are in very different places. I would say that at least half are pretty comfortable with identifying and understanding slope and y-intercept (in context) and writing equations with understanding for linear relationships. This has been a way of learning that really works for them. A smaller, but still substantial group of students, are pretty frustrated and confused. This group includes many, but not all, of my beginning English language learners and students with learning disabilities. Clearly, this is a big problem. So here are some things that I am thinking about trying in order to make sure that all of my students are learning:
  • Putting more structures in place to help students listen and learn from each other
  • Push our formalization of student-generated strategies farther (step-by-step directions?)
  • Use more targeted questions (than what did they do? how are these strategies similar/different) when analyzing worked examples
  • Modeling strategies more explicitly
  • Pausing in the middle of working on a problem for me to teach a new skill, rather than always waiting for one or more groups to figure out that skill, and then analyze it at the end/the next day
What have other people found to be successful?

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