I wrote a blog post at the beginning of the school year talking about our plans for research this semester. I’ve been reflecting on our project and the progress we have made so far, and I thought I would share a few of those reflections with you.
As I mentioned previously, we have been working at a classroom math station in 2nd and 3rd grades, implementing the towers task we tested last year outside of a classroom (watch for posts beginning October 31 that will describe this task in detail). Currently, we have four groups of six students that are rotated every 20 minutes at our station. We have been working on making the task and group size manageable for a teacher to implement. As expected, it is much easier to pull four kids into a separate room, with plenty of time for transitioning between groups built into our scheduling. We must switch groups within moments, and have a task ready for each group, with all of its modifications very clear in mind. There is not much time for thought when there are 25 students and a fixed time for stations before recess or lunch. So we had to make some adjustments.
One adjustment, in particular, helped to cut down the prep time needed. Our task included blocks the students would use to make towers. Later, we wanted to use Trick or Treat bags and pretend candies to change the context of the problem while retaining the same goal for the students. It turned out that we hadn’t created a task that would allow a teacher to easily switch contexts without recreating all of the supporting materials. To address this, we ended up finding a way to present the tasks that would enable a teacher to just slide a new sheet into a sheet protector whenever they want to use different materials in the task.
Another issue that arose was having six kids per group instead of four. This can make things hectic due to limited table space. For instance, we had to change the cover for the towers so things wouldn’t fall over and cause distractions. There are so many elements a teacher has to consider in order for a station to be successful.
So what I have learned is that there has to be room for improvement. Sometimes we might be afraid to try something new, because we don’t think we will be great at it right away. But this is not a reasonable expectation, especially for a teacher. If you are considering making changes to what you do in your classroom, give yourself the time and permission to make mistakes and learn from them, because the other realization I had is that, although we had to make adjustments along the way, the students have been growing and learning.
Lastly, I would like your feedback. What are some of the things that make teaching a challenge for you? I would like to keep these in mind as we continue our work.