Friday, August 3, 2012

Park It Like Its Lot

Hi friends! My first week of subbing has come to an end and what a week it's been! My GATE combo class is such a joy to teach, but it certainly comes with its own unique set of challenges. I would say the greatest challenge I faced this week was teaching math to both grade levels by myself. Since it was the first week of school, I didn't have an Impact teacher to take one of the grade levels to work with in a separate room. I can't imagine how teachers teach combo classes without any push-in support. Luckily, my students were learning about place value this week and so the content was fairly similar between the grades, with sixth graders studying their place values a bit more extensively than the fifth graders. Nevertheless it was quite the juggling act and I had a lot of things to consider to ensure that the lesson flowed the way I wanted it to.

After reviewing the 'Problem of the Day' whole group I split the two grade levels. I started sixth graders on some independent work first, reviewing the previous day's lesson. I would later use this as a way of assessing what they learned from the previous day's lesson. While my sixth graders were working independently I introduced comparing and ordering whole numbers to my fifth graders and combined whiteboard work and partner talks to complete the guided practice. I then assigned the fifth graders their independent work and switched back to the sixth graders following a similar routine with their lesson. My biggest concern in planning for the day was how I would attend to my students' questions while I was working with the other grade level.

It is so important to me that my students feel and know that they have a voice. Part of this voice is inquiry. Learning to ask questions is such a valuable life skill for students and not one that is necessarily easy to acquire. How would you feel if you raised your hand day after day with questions and never had any of them answered, much less acknowledged? Discouraged. This wasn't the tone that I was willing to set for the rest of the year.

One teaching strategy I implemented this week was a play off the "Parking Lot" and I found it was very effective in helping me to attend to both grade levels at the same time. I told my students that if they had questions while I was working with the other grade level I would not be able to answer them. In fact, I made it very clear that I did not want to be interrupted while working with the other grade level. Instead, I instructed students to try a three-step process. First, if students had any questions they were told to ask their table partner. If their partner didn't know the answer then they were given permission to quietly ask another student in their grade. If they were still unable to have their question answered I introduced the class "Parking Lot" for students to "park" their questions as a last resort. All I did was tape a couple pieces of construction paper to the cabinet doors, label it, write the instructions, and leave a pad of sticky notes for students to post their questions on.

I was easily able to focus on teaching each grade separately and answered "parked" questions when I got around to circulating the room. Students felt heard and I was able to manage staggering the lessons to teach both grade levels in the same math block. I was really surprised at how well everything turned out and can't wait to get the extra help next week! I also really appreciated how patient and understanding my students were of the situation. Happy teaching!

1 comment: