February 13th: MATHtastic!


I mentioned in an earlier blog that I would probably post two more blogs before last week: a detailed plan for Monday’s lesson and a conference reflection that I attended last last Friday. Obviously, I didn’t have the chance to do so; I’ll include the plan with what actually happened in this post and I decided to make another post for the other on a later date.

Last week was my second week in school and I had the chance to teach Grade 7/8 Mathematics with approximately 40 students—not everyone was there but most of them were, plus an additional new student that day. Honestly, I didn’t finish my lesson plan until Sunday night. I didn’t know what to teach until the latter half of last week because the Math curriculum was just too much for me and I felt lost where to start. I e-mailed my co-op teacher and she gave me a suggested topic for review that will help the students a lot. Fortunately, it didn’t take me that long to find the topic on the curriculum. What actually took my time though was coming up with a fun and interactive activity that will catch the student’s attention—since handling student’s attention was my overarching target for the first two weeks of actually teaching the class—and actually writing all the instruction and script that I will need, in case I forgot everything as the class start.

As a student, I never liked Mathematics. It has always been my weakest area and I tried really hard to avoid doing Math—Fun fact: this is one of the reasons why Faculty of Social Work was the best faculty when I applied for university. I just got my secondary diploma from the Philippines when my family moved in Regina. However, the difference is that we don’t used to have—well, they recently started the program—the K-12 program that makes my secondary diploma equivalent to grade 10 only. I was placed in grade 10 trial classes but it became easier for me since the system was student-centered—less competition—and allowed me to excel in my academics for the following grade levels. I was the recipient of St. Peter’s Auxiliary Extended Mathematics Award—an award given to the student with the highest GPA in Mathematics for overall grade 11 levels. Nevertheless, this didn’t encourage me to fall in love with Mathematics—and actually avoid it from this point; I didn’t take any further Math class just because I don’t need them to apply for university.

Long story short, I never liked Math. On our first day in field, it wasn’t really good news to figure out that one of us have to teach Math—since we both don’t like Math. However, it wasn’t a bad news either so I decided to take the challenge and offer to teach the Math part instead. Since I have a background of not having Math as my most favourite subject, I really want to make the activity as engaging and as fun as it can be. I first thought of having dice as a way for them to practice their integers. However, I don’t have enough dice available in our house, I’m too broke to buy a package, and it’s already Sunday night—too late to ask my co-op teacher if there were some dice available around the school. I searched our game box and I managed to find a deck of cards. Perfect! I decided that the red cards could be the negative integers while the black cards as the positive ones. After that, going back to continue working on my lesson plan became easier.

The next day, my co-op teacher—who was supervising at that time—approached me on the parking lot as I make my way to the school’s main door. We had a little conversation about my plan for the day and asked her if there were deck of cards around their library. She said no but she helped me gather cards from different classrooms. Overall, she collected 10 decks of cards, which were perfect for having groups of 4 in the class. The only problem now is the seating plan. My plan was to make a seating plan for them when I get the copy of both class lists; the problem is that I still haven’t received them and it was too late when my co-op teacher remembered. Good thing that I prepared a back-up plan last night. The alternative that I did was to cut the construction boards and make empty name tents for them. I used their Science time at the back of the library cutting and folding papers to make name tents. I didn’t thought that doing that would actually take the whole class time. Nevertheless, I made it on time. After Science was a quick recess, which gave me additional prep, time to set up the room. I forgot my USB where my presentation class guide was but fortunately I also have an on-line copy. I quickly edited my Prezi presentation and revised the seating plan into name tents. I placed my markers and empty name tents on the left side of the room while my presentation was projected. I welcomed the students by handing out colourful index cards. Picking a colour actually made them feel special.

The warm-up instructions were projected on the white board on the front but I walk around the room to check if they have any questions about the instructions. One student told me that he didn’t know what name tents are and was happy to learn the term. The class is getting loud so my co-op teacher instructed them to be silent and focus on what they were supposed to do. I know class management was not my focus this week but I felt like I should be more prepared next time to handle this. I checked the time and asked them if everyone was done. One student was not yet ready and we are on time so I gave them few more minutes.

Soon, I started my introduction since the latter grade 7/8s missed our introduction last week. Then, I started with my set of refreshing their memories by asking who remembered about integers. I then asked them to tell me which among the numbers projected were integers; this time, I asked few random students. The hardest part was not only being unfamiliar with their names but also trying to see their name tents since some of them wrote with pens instead of the markers I provided. Nevertheless, I managed to work on my target for the week during that time.

I went back to the front and presented a mini review lecture about integers. Most of them knew all of these already and I do not want to bore them. This is the reason why I felt like I rushed this part of the lesson. Finally, the time has come for their group activity. Again, the instructions were projected and they read it all before I read each of them aloud. I asked them to find groups of four; one group asked if it’s okay to have groups of five and I said yes. I handed out deck of cards. Since the activity rules were projected on the board, it was easy for the class to start the activity after receiving the cards. One of the groups closest to me seemed to be out of focus about the cards so I came and did the activity with them as starters. Then, I went around the room stopping at each group, watched them play, and asked them for answers. We were still on time so I let them continue playing. Some groups decided to escalate the fun by competing, which one answers first, then take turns. After having the chance to observe all the groups, I had a mini time to reflect. This classroom is loud, but I think it is a good type of loudness. I remembered that I wrote on my teaching philosophy that classrooms doesn’t always have to be silent, that sometimes it is okay to be loud and have some fun. I felt accomplished during that time. I never felt that Math could be this fun. However, I soon have to silenced them all and get the attention back at the front. We started wrapping up by asking the whole class. I held two cards and asked them what the sign of the answer would be and they answered them all. The closure of the class ended up with overall class wrap up. I asked them few questions about multiplying and dividing integers then asked them to write one comment, question, or suggestion about the class that day. They gave me their index cards and went back to their chairs. I finished 15 minutes earlier but I know that they have to finish answering 6.4 of their textbooks so I think that I finished at the right time. My co-op teacher gave the further instructions of working on their textbooks for those who haven’t finished their 6.4; those who were done were free to work on with cards—some played our activity while others just played a variety of card games. Few minutes before the bell rang, they said their goodbyes and I started recollecting my markers. We saved their name tents on our co-op teacher’s table so that we can use them later on. While putting back my markers to their container, one student came up to me and said “Thank you for teaching us today; it was fun”. All the hard work paid off and this gave me that reassurance that I am on the right path and why I must continue aspiring to become a teacher. We had a brief post-conference with our co-op teacher and left. Comments about me included slowing down and generalizing but overall good. My co-op teacher said that I seemed to rush at first—which I recognized while teaching the review—but my co-op teacher said that it could be because I was just nervous; she said everything went smoothly after I started being comfortable with the class. Another factor is generalizing and advised us to still explain as if they know nothing since some of them really need them but were just too shy to ask. Nonetheless, I felt accomplished especially that I fulfilled my target for the week.

At home, I started reading their index cards. Some of them didn’t finished the warm-up but I think that it’s okay. intro 7/8

I previously shared that my partner and I didn’t had the chance to have our introduction lesson with them which made me felt like we lost the opportunity to know anything about them. This is the reason why I dedicated the warm-up for introduction. I asked them for their names, their preferred names, two facts about them, and allergies—just in case we decided to bring food/snacks in the future. Their answers in the cards made me felt like the gap that I missed from last time was filled and I guess better—it’s like sharing a secret but not really.

On the other side of the index cards were their response about the class. All of them gave me the right answer about my questions about integers—except for one student who decided to put Satan will give negatives while Jesus will give positives. Nonetheless, I think that he knows the answer and just decided to add a little twist on his exit slip. Overall, the best part of the index cards was the comment about our class. I get all positive comments that they enjoyed the class especially because they got the chance to play with cards as part of understanding integers. They said it’s a good way to present the topic and that it was really interesting.

1st exit slips

All these comments made me felt appreciated. Now, I have to think of an engaging activity for my English lesson next class.

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