Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Don't Forget to Celebrate the Small Gains as well as the Big Wins - Part 1

Today I had two double sessions with the two classes I feel I haven't quite jelled with yet. First up was the 'bottom' 9's. Goodness me, it was like a different group of students. They were smiling, they settled well, they had a go at the 'engager' and there was an air of 'noisy' calm about the class. They'll never be quiet but I like it that way. I did plan, I had tons of stuff, some maths games, some options for them to choose their own pathway and a quick reminder to myself that it's all about the relationships.

There's about 22 of them on any given day and some had asked if they would be able to move up to the 'middle' year 9 group. So I offered it to the whole class and set the challenge; there would be work that would need to be done and, as importantly, there would be behaviours they would need to show. They would also have to lose the term 'dumb' and replace it with an attitude that everyone can learn maths. I thought I had 5 of them that would be willing but 10 had a go. Small gain #1....when you give kids an option to stretch some of the most unlikely ones will want to try as long as they feel safe. The others also had choices to make about what task they would do based on previous tasks they had done. Never was the choice to be made based around how many questions they got right, but was centred on how comfortable they had felt and how well they believed they had managed the tasks. I explained they needed to reach for something just beyond their comfort zone and they always had the option of changing their mind. By the way, the tasks were nothing to write home about at this stage, just a bunch of questions to determine their numeracy ability and a goal to keep the work familiar for now. It's been my experience that most students will opt into the appropriate task as long as they've had plenty of feedback about their understanding prior to the choice.

So we were off to a great start and it continued. Small gain #2 comes when some of them realised they had opted for the wrong task. This happened with the 10 who were reaching for the 'middle group' but they didn't opt out until they'd had a go, got some help, had a chat about what was happening for them and what the expectations were. I reassured them that they could do the 'middle' work and still stay in here if that's what they wanted...we could just slow it down.

Small gain #3 happens toward the end when we started playing my favourite place value game where I draw out numbers and they try to create the biggest or smallest number. It's a simple game but one that students usually enjoy and one where the level of difficulty can be adapted for each group. The gain was though that they were queuing up to be the one at the board that the rest of the class had to beat. They were participating, they were putting themselves on the line to show how good they were at this game and even when they had trouble saying in words the number that was on the board (sometimes an 8 digit number) they still had a go. So even though we hardly know each other and I had thought the last couple of classes weren't so great the trust was being developed.

We finished the lesson with a quiet reflection where I told them how impressed I was with their effort and their behaviour and the choices they had made. I was exhausted but happy and they were bouncing out the door. A small thud to earth for me though came from one of the girls who pointed out that the boys were better because student X was away so I wasn't to get too excited!

And my celebration...feet up, only this blog to write, no work and that inner glow that you're the most amazing teacher in the world and you can do anything, and I haven't even told you about the year 10's. That'll have to wait for day 5 of #28daysofwriting.

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