Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jose Strikes Again

During the warm up today, I asked the question:

When does the absolute value of r equal r?

I liked the way the students handled themselves during the discussion so I took out my phone and recorded the following. After a little prodding, Jose jumped in.  I'm thinking of changing his name to Q.E.D.


Lance Bledsoe said...

I have to say, you did an absolutely amazing job of keeping your mouth shut during this conversation. For almost nine whole minutes, your students were the ones talking (and arguing!) about math, and essentially the only thing you said during that whole time (except when you gave that one student permission to go to the board to illustrate something), was about 7.5 minutes in when you asked Jose when he was going to say something. So you kept your mouth shut for 7.5 minutes, and when you finally did say something, instead of "giving them the correct answer" you simply encouraged another student to participate.

I'm just marveling at how powerful this technique is, and also at how difficult I think it is for most teachers. We just love to hear ourselves talk! We're so anxious to jump in with the "correct" explanation that we often deny our students the opportunity to create that understanding for themselves.

Chris said...

A couple questions for you David. First, what level of students are these and are you teaching a class that was tracked? Second, how many students are there in this class (a number of distinct voices are evident but I am wondering if there are many that are not involved). Last, what kind of strategies have you used to encourage your students to have such discussions. Many times in my classroom, if the floor is open the students mouths are not. This doesn't seem to be the case in your classroom. Thanks for the great audio.

David Cox said...

Yeah, not talking is tough. I learned a while back that the more they talk, the more they learn. I had also done some work with Socratic seminars when I was an AVID teacher, so keeping my head down and mouth shut has been a posture I have come to enjoy.

This is a class of 30 7th grade GATE kids. There were quite a few observers but, I don't always have the same 5 kids talk all the time either. Out of the 30, 15-20 will jump in when the time is right. Another 5 or 6 will speak when engaged by either myself or another student and I have a couple that blank out if they are asked to speak publicly. It is an interesting mix. There are a couple that like to hog the mic, though, and we're working on that.

I try really hard to establish an environment where we question the heck out of stuff, so eventually, they realize that an open floor is just how we do business. Sometimes I have to wait longer than I'd like for a response, but my resolve is a bit greater than theirs.