What you imagine and even meticulously plan on paper, doesn’t always pan out so well in reality. This is true in many instances, but perhaps most so in the arena of teaching. With a diverse population of students as variables, contingencies are absolutely necessary to survive and eventually thrive, especially with hands-on learning experiences. I have found over the course of my first year of teaching, anything that can go wrong, inevitably will go wrong.
Take, for example, my initial foray into Science Jeopardy, a game mirrored after that fabulous TV game show. Teaming students who should never have been in a group together; having the game board on the blackboard (never ever turn your back to your class, especially during fun games that can easily get out of control); not properly explaining or modeling the game; and, worst of all, no testing out the game on my own before the day of.
As teachers, we are so bogged down with paperwork, classroom management, and meetings, it can prove difficult to find the time to truly know our subject matter through and through, and prepare ourselves for each lesson in the same manner. It is a vicious cycle, as preparation is vital to better classroom management, and reduces the amount of paper on our desks when the students get the concept the first time. Lately, I have found myself focusing less on the big three, and more on preparation. And yes, it is working.
Take, for example, today’s lessons. I reviewed my plans at home, had all of my worksheets stacked and ready to go for the day, tables were clear for student conferencing, and my attitude was in check. Something so simple as forgetting to put a behavior chart on a student’s desk can lead to major issues. I make my list of the most important things to do … and get them done. Everything else is just gravy.
Tonight, I’m taking my own advice. I’m doing some brownie preparation. No, I am not talking about the service organization for girls, I am talking hands-on math experiences. I’m doing a math experience with Perimeter and Area using brownies, graham crackers, pretzel sticks, plastic knives, and wax paper. Oh yeah, I’m also going to pour some milk at the end of this experience to allow my students to enjoy the fruits of their labor, if they so choose.
My students will be using small box grid paper. I will give them a perimeter. They must outline the perimeter in a rectangular shape of their choice. They will find the area of the of the rectangular shape. They will cut out the rectangular shape and place it on top of the brownie they are given. On each side, they will cut down a graham cracker to match the length of the side. They will use their knife to create grooves in the brownie on the outer edge of the shape. The student will then create outer “walls” for the shape/house and place the crackers in the grooves. The students will create a perimeter “fence” one unit outside of the original walls using the pretzel sticks. They must calculate the new perimeter and area of the “fence”
Once complete, I will pour any of my lovelies who wish a glass of delicious, cold milk. Thank goodness none of my fourth-graders are lactose intolerant or have anything more than seasonal allergies.
In preparation, I will be going through this experiment tonight. Tomorrow, I will use the strategies of a cooking show to model the entire process for the students before they begin. Wish me luck! Oh wait … that’s preparation meeting opportunity!