Q&A #7008

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Support for a first-year teacher (math)

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From: Mary Lou

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2003112116:41:29
Subject: Re: support for a first year teacher in math

>1.  i have to tell them to get started every day even though i have
>their journal topic or problem on the overhead everyday.

This type of response is indicative that the students have not
internalized the "discipline" that you expect at the beginning of
class.  I might suggest that you continue with the journal topic or
problem on the overhead as you have been doing.  However, change your
behavior during this time.  Do not take attendance.  Do not answer
individual questions that students bring up to you.  Do not hand out
papers.  In short, pay attention to their writing by walking around
the room and reading what they are writing..  Perhaps have the
students get into groups at the beginning of class and tell them that
after xxx minutes that they will be sharing solution or journal entry
with each other and the class.  Stick to the time limit.  For those
that do as you ask, give them a sticker reward directly onto their
notebook or the cover of their text if feasible.  In other words act
as though the students are doing as you expect and reward those that
do.  Ignore those that don't.  I would plan to take at least a week
to try to get them on task.  
>2.  my students lose focus after 15 minutes of lecture and sometimes
>i feel like i am fighting them for the last 5 or 10 minutes

Fifteen minutes is about the length that students can take.  After
your instruction, do practice or quick response.  Small white boards
that they can hold up for everyone to see generally encourages them to
participate.  If you are doing vocabulary, hand out a crossword puzzle
with these words that students can do together in pairs.  From the
difficulties that you see arise you can do a quick review or
clarification before errors become engrained.

>3.  how do you handle immaturity?  students will take each other's
>calculators and make sounds.

The only way to handle immaturity is to support those who exhibit
mature behavior for their age.  Punishment rarely changes students'
behavior.  If you truly wish to change a behavior you have to deal
with it individually wherein students have to tell you what they will
do to change their behavior.  Then hold them to the contract of
change.  You haven't mentioned what the immaturity is.  If it is
shouting out, ignore it.  If it is getting out of seats, gently have
the student sit down while you are teaching, stand next to a student
while you are teaching, have students write for you on the board or
overhead as you navigate the room.  The best way to keep kids on task
is to keep them busy with meaningful work. Find interesting problems
that use what you wish them to learn.

Be prepared.
Keep the students busy.
Attend to the students.

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