Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Combining Classes

I ran Dan Meyer's cup stacking activity today with a group of combined classes -- mine (9th-grade low group) and my colleague Tania's (9th-grade high group). It was my colleague's suggestion and I thought it was an interesting experiment, so we went ahead and ran with it.

The plan was that we would combine our classes, I'd run the activity, and then afterwards she would give me feedback on how she observed it went and how she thinks it could be changed for next time. She will then do the activity with her other class (I believe it's a 10th-grade low group) on her own.

Anyway, we did it! It was very interesting. I am glad we did it, but I don't know if it's something I would want to do regularly. Here are some quick thoughts:

* Discipline was challenging (although it still went OK). The high-level kids were a lot brattier than I had anticipated; they didn't bother listening to any suggestions I made during whole-class discussions, and they went ahead and made up their own methods anyway, and ran up to me during class to try to tell me how much better their method was.

* I noticed that my "low" group was really trying to keep up with the other guys, so it was good motivation for them. I didn't get a chance, however, to circulate and make sure that they were each individually understanding every part of the assignment as I normally do, since the higher level kids were working fast and they were always ready to move on to the next step.

* In the end, one group made a very accurate prediction (83 cups, right on the money). Others were off by quite a bit (most were in the high 70s range). It was a good check of their over-confidence, I think. (3 minutes into the assignment and everyone was already ready to tell me how many cups they thought we needed.) We started to have a really good discussion of sources of error, but then...

* Apparently today was Picture Day. So, near the end of our discussion, over 2/3 of the kids left with their homeroom teacher for pictures. Oops, I guess it's bad planning on my part.

* Finally, I think the kids are not really understanding the value of mathematical process. They seemed to only want to know if their initial guess is correct. I think maybe we can address this by running this lesson a bit differently. We can first test out their predictions to show them concretely that they are wrong, and then choose a different person (of different height) to use as our new target of modeling.

* In the end, when I opened it up for questions, one kid asked why we decided to combine the high-low classes. I think that speaks to the school culture; the kids (and their families) are overly focused on who's in what level class, and not on whether they're doing quality mathematics.

* Afterwards, Tania thought the whole thing was really great! She said that in the future iterations, the only thing she would change is to project in the background the stage of modeling we're in (planning, data collection, modeling, prediction, testing, error analysis), so that kids can be more clued in throughout the process, to the bigger picture. Great suggestion! Me gusta. :)

Have you tried something like this sort of combined classes at your school? If not, maybe give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

No comments:

Post a Comment