I recently had my second content observation for my student teaching. I wanted this observation to focus on how I was using my time in class. As I teach my pre-calculus class I’m feel as though I’m not getting through the material as quickly as I could so I give my students time in class to work on homework. My goal is that they should be able to finish a majority of the homework in class so that they have the support that they need. When looking at the data that was collected I spent 15 minutes on the warm-up and going over homework, 35 minutes on the material from that day’s lesson, which left 10 minutes for homework. My goal everyday to to try and give students at least 20 minutes a day to work on homework.

In the coaching session I started to think about where I could save time during a lesson so I get the amount of homework time in at the end of each hour. In thinking about it I do not like spending the amount of time we spend going over homework. Besides the time it takes I feel like I lose a lot of the class because generally only a few people need to go over that question. I would rather spend the time while we are doing homework to work one on one with students when they are stuck. Part of the problem I have seen this semester is that a majority of my students lack the confidence in their abilities to do the math. Many times the homework includes questions that requires students to use what we talked about during the lesson to apply to a new type of question. These typically are the ones that I have to go over. When students ask these questions I hear, “you never showed us how to do this type of problem so I can’t do it”. I want them to be able to reason through it but thats a skill that has not been built up until this point. They have a hard time understanding the value of a productive struggle and that problems worth solving do not always have an answer that can be found in under a minute.

I also have realized that I spend way too much writing definitions and going over them during a class period. In an ideal world I would like to have students homework be to go through the definitions for the next day. The way I envision this working the best would be in a one-to-one environment where I could do some kind of short video of audio presentation. I don’t have this luxury right now so I thought about trying to give students definitions pages so that they have them already down on paper and we can get through them much quicker.

As I think about the future I want to make sure that the limited time I have in class is being used in the most productive ways. I have a better understanding of where time goes during a lesson and want to use that to help me budget my time more effectively. I also want to build up the idea that applying what we learned to a new type of question is a good thing and the hand shouldn’t go up right away. All of this is going to take time to build up the confidence in students but I know it can done and I’m excited to see the effects during the rest of the semester and in my future classroom.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the lesson and debriefing conversation. It seems you are aiming to get students to feel more comfortable with perseverance, with reasoning, with problem solving. What progress have you made on that since the observation?

Reducing the number of problems or examples is a great way to make time for some longer, richer problem solving tasks. It also helps to be explicit about that expectation. It does takes some scaffolding, but it is so worth it when you reach the tipping point and the class begins to drive itself toward posing and exploring interesting questions!

Here’s an example of what that looked like for my math for elementary ed course this semester. http://profjonh.blogspot.com/2014/11/quadrilateral-hierarchies-productive.html.