Learning from Teaching Cases - Middle School Focus Summary

Monday - Friday, July 7 - 11, 2008

Monday & Tuesday
Both the Middle School and High School participants worked together on a list of "smartnesses" for math. We defined what the group is about. We also thought about four of our own students and shared what their smartnesses were, how they were perceived academically, socially, and how they actually performed in class.

Thursday - Middle School
We talked about a lesson on video and then we talked about all the different things that can happen while teaching a lesson. The lesson on video was a math activity about a linear relationship between the consumption of coffee during days traveled. One of the things that we talked about was about making groups and we liked the idea of creating a facilitator, a team captain, a resource monitor, and recorder/reporter. The strategy is that all the facilitators get together in a group and the team captains get together in another group and so on respectively. When those groups finish their problems they go back to their original groups to explain the problems to the rest of their group and so they won't get, all the group get similar problems.

Another thing we talked about was strategies on how to keep the groups honest by taking participation quizzes and the grade posted for the groups to see so that they get motivated and start talking to each other. Shuffle quizzes are also used to keep the groups working by the group randomly choosing who will be presenting the problem to everyone else. One more thing that was very important while we were talking about groups was the fact that sometimes student don't know basic arithmetic skills therefore they don't solve problems correctly but when they move on to other concepts, these students excel and so the saying was that we should not let these basic arithmetic skills be the gatekeepers for higher education. Lastly, we talked about student's different ways of learning and that we as teachers need to know because many students are quiet and others are verbal and yet others are visual so we need to know so that we can reward these students accordingly.

Friday - Middle School
We discussed our responses to the article "A New Lens on Teaching: Learning to Notice," which described several methods we as teachers can begin noticing and reflecting more deeply on our practices and what is happening in our classrooms.

Issues of interest in our discussion included

  • the importance of continuing reflection on one's practice, even after many years of teaching
  • the difficulty of fitting in time for observation and reflection, along with all our other duties
  • the importance of realizing, as we set priorities, that observation and reflection are not simply personal goals for our own interest, but are essential tools for continuing to improve our ability to meet our students' needs
  • how some more "private" and autonomous observation methods can be made more interactive and collaborative

We next watched the video "Group Test" from Teaching Math: A Video Library produced by Annenberg Media. This led to an extensive discussion about the nature of teaching in today's math classroom. Discussion topics included the challenges of motiviating students, adaptation of curriculum to student needs, and effective assessments.

Our discussion ended with reiteration of what we all know about teaching: that the best teaching begins with connecting with and caring about students.

Homework: Read article about group-worthy tasks. Think about group project.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under DMS-0940733 and DMS-1441467. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.