The Math Hospital
There's one very important thing you should know about me as a teacher.
I am a very big fan of all things dorky, dweeby, or lame.
This self-proclaimed dweebiness has taken a lot of forms in my classroom over the course of this year. I've sung songs, worn silly headbands, handed out valentines, created fake dating profiles for functions, the list goes on. Today, my dweebiness took the form of a new activity I called, "Math Hospital."
Borrowed from this post I saw on The Art of Education, the Art Hospital easily transformed into a Math Hospital. Essentially, the idea is that students are given a piece of art with a "mistake" on it (an ink blob, a weirdly-placed piece of tape, etc.) and their task is to turn the art back into a masterpiece by working with the mistake. I am currently working a lot with my Honors class trying to get them to accept that mistakes are an inevitability, they do not make you stupid, and they are something that can be corrected and that will help us learn.
Let it be known that the original activity is not dorky, dweeby, or lame. I created my own dweebiness by adding some silly group roles and insisting on calling all of my students "doctor" for the entirety of the class period.
Here's how I adapted the Art Hospital to become the Math Hospital:
Teaching After Parkland
Yesterday as I was leaving school, I sat on the train and read about another deadly school shooting.
This morning, I had to walk back into my public high school and face my students.
Without getting into the realm of any Chicago Stereotypes, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the issue of guns in schools is very real for them, and for me.
Thanks to the combined efforts of SAT testing and a field trip, my 3rd period class had six students in it today. Six young men who have demonstrated to me countless times that they are question-askers and sense-makers and critical thinkers. Today I didn't push anyone to work on the projects they had been assigned.
Today, I just listened.
I listened to six young men talk about school shootings. I also listened to six young men talk about school-adjacent gun violence. Violence involving students in neighborhoods, by the train stations, just outside schools. I listened to young men asking me if we could learn about these things. If we could find the math in them and talk about them and learn about them, so that they might be able to begin to understand.
The kids know. They are so painfully aware.
We need to act. We need legislation, we need gun control, but we also need to listen. We need to hear our children and we need to understand the ways in which these things affect them. And we, as teachers, need to help them to learn about the causes of these tragedies. We need to use this as a sad but important opportunity to give them the knowledge they need to make a change.
So I believe that will be my challenge over the next few weeks - to help my students use math as a lens to look at these big problems and come up with solutions. I think we owe them that much.
A Mild Crush on Steven Krashen
I think that there are several factors that impact language learning, and that they vary in their impact both inherently and on a student-to-student basis. Some factors, like the availability of comprehensive input and the opportunity to produce meaningful output, are inherently essential to language acquisition and generally will remain important to all learners’ ability to acquire language. Without comprehensible input and the opportunity to produce meaningful output, language acquisition would be nearly impossible. Things like human interaction are also generally considered to be essential and have a significant impact on language learning, although now with the availability of computer programs and smart technology, the role of interaction for some learners may not be as significant as it once was, as people are finding new outlets through which to practice their language skills. I’ve seen both of these utilized (and not utilized) in field placements and service learning opportunities, and it’s interesting to see the ways in which they impact language learning. In my current 494 placement, students used to have the ability to interact with each other socially both surrounding class content, and purely recreationally at different points during class. While this was not always productive to their schoolwork, it did have a noticeable effect on their comfort and fluency speaking the language, especially for emergent multilingual students in the early phases of their English acquisition. Recently, however, my mentor teacher has enacted a policy where students are no longer allowed to speak in class, unless it is to ask questions of an MSU student or the teacher. I’m interested to see the effect that this policy might have on how quickly her students acquire English and their confidence levels participating in class and interacting with peers. In the same classroom, I also get to see the teacher’s efforts to make the input and output that her students receive in class meaningful and comprehensible. She utilizes strategies like pictures and hand gestures to help make her lessons and instructions comprehensible, and makes them meaningful by using real examples and stories from her own life so that she is both teaching content, and connecting with her students and offering them information that is authentic and socially valuable. She does the same thing when she asks the students to produce output - they write and speak about things that are relevant to them and their lives, with their peers, in a way that is relaxed and allows for lots of negotiation of meaning and mutual learning by everyone involved in the conversation.
Questions of Investment
Norton doesn’t give a clear, single definition of “investment” in language learning, but I believe that is because of the unique and individual nature of investment for each learner. Investment deals with the notion that language learning is rooted in identity, power dynamics, potential gain, and a multitude of other factors that go deeper than just “motivation” to learn a new language. The idea of investment takes into account the “relationship of learners to the target language” and looks at how factors such as the context in which the language is learned, the power dynamics present in students’ interactions and, most importantly, language’s impact on a student’s identity, as factors in their willingness and ability to acquire an additional language.
This idea differs from that of “motivation” in its multi-faceted approach. As Norton states in the article, previous researchers have looked at motivation as a quantitative character trait. If a student lacks motivation, they cannot learn a language as well as a student who is highly motivated. While this does have some merit, the study of motivation does not take into account the multitude of factors that impact a student’s motivational level, and also often fails to account for the idea that motivation is dynamic and can shift with changing power dynamics and student growth. All in all, the study of investment in language learning is a much more holistic, contextual, and qualitative view of language acquisition.
Social Media in the Classroom
I am a big fan of Social Media, as anyone who has ever interacted with me can tell you. So when I was searching through Edutopia for a video to watch, one on Social Media in the classroom was a natural choice for me. In the video, educators discuss how using social media, particularly twitter, has allowed them to share ideas with other classes outside of their school. By sharing a classroom project on twitter, for example, one teacher inspired others in schools around the world to try an Engineering lesson he had created for his kids. In addition to having activities "go viral" in the educational sphere, the classrooms also benefited from social media by allowing teachers to connect with each other to ask questions and get advice using things like hashtags for their school district to connect.
In order to use technology like this in the classroom, a teacher would definitely have to have a certain set of skills. The first would be a knowledge of how to use the media platform that they wanted to utilize in their classroom - that one is a given! Some platforms are simpler than others (I still cannot figure out Vine to save my life), so it's important to know how to properly use your technology of choice.
Beyond that, however, a teacher would need a firm grasp on some internet and social media etiquette, both through common sense and as prescribed by the school district. One would have to be aware of how to set privacy settings so as not to breach the privacy of their students or to allow unwelcome snooping into their own life. They would also need to be aware of school or district restrictions on social media - some districts have policies regarding photos of students, locations, names, and other types of personal information that is regulated or restricted on the internet. As with any innovation in teaching, the safety of the students has to come before anything else.
One resource I have discovered in my time as a student has been Edmodo, a Facebook look-alike for teachers and students. It's designed to give classrooms a secure space to share ideas that has the feel of social media without so much potential for security problems. While students would have to go out of the way of their normal social media use to utilize the site, I think it would be a great resource for teachers just starting with social media integration in their classroom.
If I were to enter a school where I was expected to use social media, I would take advantage of other teachers and administrators to help me understand the social media culture of the environment I was teaching in. The point of social media is to connect with peers and share ideas, so it seems only fitting to me that one should try to connect with peers outside of that media first in order to learn how to utilize it properly. If, however, Twitter in the classroom was an unprecedented idea in my school environment, I would tread lightly at first and consult other teachers' blogs, classroom websites, or forums on the internet to get ideas on how to utilize it safely and effectively.
Getting Into Translanguaging
During my undergraduate career, a few of my classes addressed how bilingualism can be supported in the classroom and the unique challenges that bilingual education has faced in the US. The passing of the Bilingual Education Act (Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1968, 2015) intended to champion the cause of providing educational opportunities to emergent bilingual students that not only supported academic success in English but also the maintenance of the home language of the student. This was faced by opposition from people who believed that teaching languages other than English went against American values of assimilation, and as a result many students continued to go without English education resources. Now schools are required by U.S. law to ensure that children have access to English education that allows them a meaningful school experience (Lau v Nichols, 1974), and bilingual education remains a hotly-debated solution to the issue of providing meaningful English education to emergent bilingual students. Translanguaging takes an approach that would have made opponents of the Bilingual Education Act curl their toes; the idea of Translanguaging is to utilize a student’s entire range of linguistic resources in order to help them grow as scholars, languagers, and in their own identities.
TED Does Ed!
Recently I watched two really exciting TED talks about education, so I thought I'd share them here for you all!
Mainstream math has a lot to do with language.
Many people believe that math and language don't have much in common - that math should be easy for an Emergent Bilingual student because it's some kind of "universal language". Contrary to what Cady Heron would have you believe, the language we use to do mathematics varies greatly across languages and cultures, and that language is key to understanding and being able to create links between concepts in mathematics (Schleppegrell, 2007). While emergent bilingual students do face a variety of unique challenges in a mainstream math classroom, there are several things that a teacher (even one untrained in ESL practices) can do to make the learning experience better for the whole class.
Helping Your Students Succeed
We all did it when we were in school - we would dutifully go home, check our planners and rejoice when there was not an assignment to be done. We'd enjoy the evening, hang out with friends, and kill time until we inevitable went to sleep at 1 am anyway, only to arrive at school the next morning and discover that there was something due! We just hadn't written it down, and our grades suffered as a result.
For most students, this is the occasional result of being in a rush to get out of class. But for some students, like the one discussed at the beginning of Providing Student Reminders, Protecting Student Privacy, this forgetfulness is rooted in a more serious issue. For students with special needs in mainstream classrooms, or with behavioral disorders like ADD, the inability to think ahead or write down assignments is what puts them in hot water academically (not a lack of intelligence or poor understanding of the course work). This is where technology-based reminders can help to save a student.
Today, I'm going to be doing a quick review of 5 different technologies that would be applicable in a Math content setting! These tech tools are versatile, innovative, and would definitely contribute to the whole class's understanding of material
As an educator, Abigail Johnson reflects on several relevant topics impacting today's students in mainstream classroom settings.