A brief post here as our labor day winds down. As with most boarding schools, we actually have classes on labor day.
Yesterday I wrote about the clever solution that one of my Calculus students presented and, as I guessed, he did make a clear decision about when a power of x can be negative versus when powers of x cannot be. I had him present his solution to the class to start things off today. In my Calculus and my Geometry classes I am using flippity.net to generate random groups at the beginning of each week. I am not brave enough yet to randomize groups every day, I feel like it is important to me to have some comfort (even if it is just a few days at a time) within my small groups. I have also (finally) bought some whiteboards and have one at each table group. It has worked fantastically well in Calculus. The kids have been talking vigorously, they have been enthusiastic about sharing their work out to the whole class. One of my goals coming in to the year was to increase student voice – especially in whole class conversations – and so far I have accomplished that in Calculus. In Geometry I am also shuffling groups at the beginning of each week. They have been better at talking in their groups rather than projecting out. This is not surprising to me. They are younger students and generally not quite as confident as the Calc BC kiddos. However, last Friday I was pretty insistent about having students stand and say what was on their mind and to say what their questions were. I made a big show of sitting down and asking students to stand so that everyone could focus their attention. We had multiple solutions to a problem offered and a great question from one of the students about a particular solution. I think that as long as I can be consistent, and insistent, about stepping aside and having students take the lead in the conversations then I think I can make some progress with these students and help set the table down the line for our department in having a student body that sees participation as a central part of their job.
My other two classes are each super small right now at 5 students each. They will each grow a bit but the whole idea of random grouping does not work with groups this small. We all sit together at a conference table. These are the sections of our senior-level elective called Discrete Math. We are having some good conversations about voting and ballot strategies. I was delighted to have one of my students tell me how excited she is that a number of her classes are all touching on the same ideas. She is in an AP Government class and I love the idea that students see that ideas can work across course departments.