Monday, October 13, 2014

Question, question, who's got the question?

Professional's like eating broccoli, I think. It so good for me as an educator, but sometimes it's tough to chew and hard to swallow. As a reminder, my degree is in Elementary Ed, I'm certified in elementary grades, middle grades integrated curriculum, and math 9-12. I teach high school math. I love teaching and I love learning, but there are lots of times (like today) when I feel in over my head. Now this is a reflection post so please forgive me if I babble, but I desperately need to connect with you master teachers out there so please read and respond.

Today, we discussed the idea of using essential questions to direct our teaching. Like any normal human being, I googled essential questions for Alg 2 because it's the hardest course I teach. Here are some of the links I found helpful:

F(t): Essential Questions for Alg 2

Kingsley's Essential Questions

Saugus High School curriculum map for Alg 2 - extremely in depth, uses Holt curriculum

Incorporating EQs in math:

1) Focus on the strategy side of mathematics.

2) Look at the concept separately from the strategy. What are the big ideas in math? These are the grooming grounds for essential questions.

One of the challenges is that math is taught as a succession of skills. Students need to know these individual skills and there is more content than there is time. That is a reality. So how do I incorporate essential questions when I know that it means students may not memorize the algorithm for every skill and still ensure that they are ready for the next math class and the next set of skills? This is where vertical collaboration is so critical. I need to ask the next teacher what is critical for success in the next step.

The next level of consideration is that EQs can not simply be put on top of an algorithmic model of math. They are pointless in this setting and, I think, can be quite confusing and overwhelming for students. EQ discussions must occur within a setting of rich problem solving experiences. Maybe at the end of a unit, after I've taught the skills and quizzed along the way, we could have a class discussion of our EQs before the test. Could they be used to drive the review for a test?

I would also like to have at least one, if not two, EQs posted in the room, that I can refer back to, as it comes up, regularly. I will have to remember that Ss may not have the answer, that's ok. They might come up with more questions. That's great!

Now, if I do this in my classroom, I've got to think about what happens when students come to the wrong conclusion? My first response would be to give them an example to illustrate that their conclusion is incorrect. But then I wonder, do I need to know how to address every possible misconception? What do I do if I don't know how to address it? This is a scary thought process for me, but my principal, who is awesome, encouraged us with this quote on Columbus Day "You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore."

Teaching is hard. Can I get an "Amen?"

What are your thoughts?


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