Resolving Dissonance

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Math Study Hall: individual work or collaborative?

on January 26, 2013

I teach 6 classes.  Four of them are honors classes.  One is a “math lab” for students who need extra help.  The last is the 9th grade class.  We only have about 20 ninth graders in the entire school, so they are all in the same class, no split between honors and regular education.

The 9th grade class I struggle with.  I’m not sure what the solution is yet.  I keep adjusting and keep getting better.  I’ll write more about them later.  My most recent adjustment is helping them focus on the goal by grading standards and testing less material more often.  Little quizzes instead of big tests.

Today I want to focus on my math lab class.  Typically in my math classes I encourage discussion.  I encourage them to talk to each other, work together, etc.  I actually have a class point system where they compete against other classes, and they earn points if I overhear good questions and explanations.

I started out the math lab class (a new class for second semester) the same way.  I teach them good study strategies/habits in quick mini-lessons, then they get the majority of the class period to work on whatever math they are doing in their class.  After the first couple days I realized that wasn’t working out this time.  Was REALLY not working.  They were wasting a lot of time.

The math lab class is mostly students who have a hard time staying focused in their math class, or at home.  Many don’t necessarily do poorly in math because they struggle to learn it, but because they are easily distracted.  VERY easily distracted.  Some diagnosed with ADHD/ADD, some not.  I’d get them all working then one tiny little thing would distract half the class.

If I allowed students to work together it became such a distraction to other students.  But if I don’t let them work together, many don’t get questions answered because I can’t make it around to everyone.  And they don’t get the opportunity to explain and discuss what they are working on.

I talked to the special education teacher about it to get some suggestions and two of them helped!  The first one was headphones.  Worked great to help some of them block out extra noise!  The other suggestion was give them something quiet to do with their hands, so they aren’t making noises.  Both of those suggestions have helped TONS.

They are doing much better at focusing on the math work.  So my final solution? (for now)

They mostly work on their own.  But I have students grouped together with others who are either in the same class or who work well together.  Then if they do have a question they can ask the people around them.


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