In the opening keynote to this must-attend conference for math teachers, David Coffey presented a quote that challenged us to blaze our own trails instead of following in the footsteps of others.
All weekend long this really hit home with me as a teacher.
To begin with, I tried something that I don’t think many other teachers have tried. I let my students have a say in what sessions I attended. Most of them didn’t have much of an opinion but some of them took the time to read through the sessions descriptions and pick a couple they thought would be good for me to learn about.
I figured since what I’m learning at the math conference ultimately impacts how I teach (and therefore impacts them as my learners) they should really have a say. So on Day 1 I attended two of my “Student Choice” sessions. Two of their top 3 choices were at the same time 😦
Chris McCullough – ATA Speaker: Engaging Students (@mccullough9 on Twitter)
From Chris I picked up on 2 key learnings:
2. A key strategy in getting kids to learn is to make it interactive. Get them thinking out loud, get them talking, and get them sharing with other kids. It makes them think about what they are doing and learning and how to share it in a meaningful way.
David Coffey – Keynote Presenter for MCATA 2011: Metacognition and Memoires (@delta_dc on Twitter)
Think about math, but think it out loud! Coffey talked about having kids write down the steps they used to solve a given problem. This doesn’t just include the steps or the procedures, but how you even started solving the problem in the first place. Why that method? Why not another one? Did you go back and try something else? Did it work? Did it not work?
We must get kids past the “I just know it” phenomenon. David suggests that you do that simply by saying to kids: “Ok, but what if you didn’t? How would you explain it?”
Coffey suggested we ask kids three questions when it comes to their learning:
1. What? (What is it that you have learned?)
2. So what? (What was important about what you just learned or what you just did?)
3. Now what? (What is the next step? Where do you go from here?)
And he suggested a great article called: Making Learning Visible by David Perkins….because often times the learning is invisible because we don’t articulate it.
Joe Bower: Avoiding Mimicry in Math (@joe_bower on Twitter)
I am a follower of Joe’s blog and I can tell you one thing….Joe is VERY passionate about education. Joe challenged us to think outside the box and really question how we go about teaching. He played a segment of a video from Alfie Kohn who talked about how a group of Grade 1 students discovered standardized measurement.
Kohn says: “The best teachers have bite marks on their tongues.”
Ask questions worth answering, let children discover the answers, and hold off on your urge to just simply give it to them. Wait time might not just be seconds or minutes…it might be days. While silence to a radio DJ might signal death, in a classroom it signals thinking.
We don’t want our students to be mindless robots that can recite math facts and spit out formulas. We want kids who can think about their learning and be persistent problem solvers. Not all students are created equal, so we should not expect them to all develop the same exact skills in the same exact ways. They are learners, not assembly factory products.
And so sums up Day 1 of MCATA 2011 hosted in Edmonton. Day 2 was shorter but just as powerful when Dan Meyer took the stage. More about that in my next post…..