Internship Reflection Week of 2011-11-14 [12] (CSI Elective and Math Classes)

Reflection Monday 11/14/2011

This is a reflection on 3 hours of instruction that I did today.

Today was the start of the third series of the 8-week "Science Behind CSI: Crime Scene Investigators" middle school elective that I am teaching at my school. We have a smaller group this time, only 4 students, whereas in the past we have had as many as 7 and 8. Dan D. (my mentor teacher) and I imagine that this may be the last time we offer the elective. That works fine for me since an SAT prep course may be starting up in February, and I have started to do more math instruction in the middle school, for all our middle school students.

"Science Behind CSI" Middle School Elective, Series 3, Session 1

For the introductory session of the CSI course I try to get all of us on some common ground about what crime scene investigators do, as a role and as a potential career option (if students take STEM especially, i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also go into a little bit of the history of criminalistics (e.g. Sherlock Holmes, among others) and forensics as an overall category of work that is done to support the criminal justice system in this country. Pretty broad and deep themes, even though they masquerade under the title of the course which alludes to a popular television show.

I have a bad habit of saying "so" and "um" a lot in my instruction. [Actually I say it a lot in
everyday conversation as well, if you have noticed this and not told me, feel
free now because I am confessing it to you, and acknowledging that I need to
work on it.] I tried to work on that today, consciously suppressing the need to verbalize as a connector for thoughts or transitions between ideas. I also have noticed in viewing my films–since I have filmed almost every course I have taught here since September and uploaded many to Vimeo–that I often get so caught up in the flow of the course that I brush off really good questions or statements from students. I endeavored to alter that today, by really following up on every idea that was presented and either incorporating it into the discussion or capturing for a future class. This capturing piece was suggested by Dan D. and involves a simple flip chart where I write certain topics that come up in class that I don’t want to blow off and I may want to cover in a future class. I can also ask one of my high school teaching assistants in the class to follow up on the topic and make a presentation.

Two students seemed to be very engaged today, very chatty and throwing out ideas, the others were much less talkative, and the fifth had to put his head down on the desk for a little rest at the beginning. I have noticed in my other interactions with some of these students that they could grow in their comfort level of sharing their ideas with the group. We will work on that.

Math Class for Middle Schools Session 1 & Session 2

Today I taught two more math classes (2 sessions of same content) in the Middle School on a POGIL (process oriented guided inquiry learning) model. The students are getting much more used to the way this type of class operates. Initially there was some resistance to each student having to change roles in the groups which they had been assigned last week. I assured them that the rotation of roles was to help them get better at all roles and not let them stagnate in a given role which they were inclined to like or feel more comfortable in. There was still some grumbling but most folks were able to get over it and start working.

I tried to spend more focused time in each group (or at least the groups that had trouble focusing or were loudest in the room), and help coach individual students in their roles. I would say things like "B. as manager you would say something like: ‘is everyone done with this page/question, can we move to the next." That seemed to go pretty well, and I think Dan D. or Mrs. B. got it on tape, which I will review soon.

We started each hour with a quiz, two questions on the document projector, which each student solved on a 1/4 sheet, and then handed to their neighbor to grade. I have to be careful here since students are not clearly differentiating between group time and individual time. I’m not yet ready to say that there is a flaw in the instruction process, but it seems unfair for students to say they have passed their quiz and then grade their own, but also write down/correct their answers. I will get with Mrs. B. in specific cases where I believe that occurred. I am most worried that students that are higher achievers may get disenchanted with the whole group learning process if they don’t feel they can excel or get differentiated results. That is a whole larger discussion, which I would also like to treat in a separate blog post, namely "are high achievers always bought into the group learning model? Or, do they defect actively or passively?"

I then had the technicians (a specific role that each of the 3 groups of 6 students has) come up and get the worksheets that we were using that day. I gave them instructions that they were to pass on to their groups and later checked up on them, but I’m not sure it worked. Namely, when I went to a group and asked if they understood the instructions that I had hoped would have been passed on it was quickly clear that those instructions were not passed on.

A couple more things I noticed…

o sometimes students want to work ahead, what is the official POGIL thinking on that?

o sometimes groups just get off-track, what is the best way to bring them back?

o one group had followed a more proficient student right down the path to getting a wrong answer and all agreeing on that answer, how can you coach students to prevent that?

o there are some bugs in the document I produced I should fix those before the next run…

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