Teaching is challenging and personal and important work. Every teacher I work with is doing their best, want to do their best, and do all of this with a kind teacher heart. I love teachers, in fact I still identify as a teacher myself. When people ask what I do, I say I'm a teacher. Because even if I'm a coach or a math coordinator, at the center of my work is teaching.
I was in the classroom for 12 years. I know the difficulties of having a diverse group of learners in one class. The range of understanding on any given topic can be overwhelming to navigate. Am I challenging everyone enough? Is this too challenging? Are kids bored? Are kids checked-out? Are they learning?
These are real questions and fears we all have. And sometimes, being in this work means we develop some short-cut ways of describing the complexity of what we see in front of us. It's normal and natural as humans to look for patterns in our experience and categorize things. If we didn't our brains wo…
Teacher confession time: I used to teach my students about keywords in math class.
I did not create this poster, but I could have. In fact I had one very similar hanging in my classroom from 2007-2012. I even wrote one of my National Board portfolio entries about a lesson designed around keywords!
This brings be to CUBES. A problem solving strategy I've seen quite a few times in classrooms. I never used it, but mostly because I didn't hear about it. I probably would have been all over that. If you aren't familiar, here is the strategy:
C- circle the numbers
U- underline the question
B- box the keywords, or math action words
E- evaluate the steps you should take
S- solve and check
You might be wondering why I stopped using keywords in math class in 2012. Honestly, I was pretty stubborn. I mean, kids got the right answers when I taught key words! I thought I was helping them. Students liked them. Parents understood them. There are actually several reasons I decided to stop us…
I had an opportunity to teach on a 45-minute traditional class period schedule and a 90-minute block. Both models have their pros and cons. I think my own preference is block schedules because you have so much more time to dive into content. There are fewer transitions and it just seems calmer and more conducive to learning.
However, one major challenge is finding purposeful ways to fill that block. If you notice that you are doing one activity for a long period of time, it might be important to think about chunking. What I mean by chunking is thinking of you period in 15-20 minute chunks of time and planning activities within those chunks. I find it's difficult to keep students attention if something lasts longer than 20 minutes, so that was my maximum for any activity (except an assessment).
I developed the following sample block plans based on 85 minutes. So, if you have 60 minutes you can think about cutting out one of these pieces. If you teach 90 minutes, add 5 minutes to o…