How can I teach 30 kids at once?
I love New York City! One of the things I love most about this city is the subway, which I use for my goings about in town. This Monday I was on my way to Brooklyn in the F train when a woman came in and sat in front of me. She was middle age, good looking, had short hair, and was wearing a very large coat. Most striking however it was the fact that she was holding on to a child’s hand on each side. As I took a closer look I could see the girls were identical twins, beautiful and about 4 years old (sometimes I wonder if I look at this age child because there is one that I adore!) but let me not divert, there is a point I want to make here. Both girls looked worried or sad, their eyes told me that much, and the woman kept holding their hands and speaking softly taking turns to each one from side to side, in what looked as a comforting speech. I imagine maybe they were going to school for the first time and worried about it, or had a doctor’s appointment and were afraid of the shots, so many things that can worry a 4 years old child! I could not hear the conversation, I could only wonder, but I could clearly read the eyes.
That is when I found myself relating to this trio, first as a mother, in that she had to divide her attention evenly between two same age children, probably with very similar needs all the time. Then as a teacher with a class full of students trying to explain the same concept to 30 of them at many different levels of readiness and understanding! How impossible to do this in a lesson that I wrote paced and delivered while looking at eyes that showed angst, doubt, disinterest, sadness, or eyes that did not even want to look up to what was being explained. I decided that teaching in this model was not the best to serve my students.
To reach my students I needed to speak to them for small periods of time to deliver nuggets of information and provide them with opportunities to apply and expand this knowledge through interactions with one another: group work, rewriting lessons, creating activities and preparing for everyday success became then a massive investment of time and energy. Without accounting for the fact that I still had to create tests and mark them!
In a 30 years long classroom journey I accumulated some knowledge, success stories and plenty of ideas to share. Then together with my Finnish partner we created the materials that I wish I would have had 20 years ago, except that then we were both busy creating it.
If you are looking to reach more students by providing material that can be differentiated according to students needs, rich with short films for students to study alone, interactive questions, opportunities for interdisciplinary lessons and differentiated assessment, you have to check www.pathstomath.com. Mathematics materials for Percents, Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry for grades 7 to 10 are available to get you started on the path to save you planning time and help you to teach students and help them to succeed.
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