We may have only had three days of class this week, but I’m already observing some interesting things teaching lessons aligned to the Common Core.
First, I planned my lessons with only a few questions/problems because I knew my class and I would be involved in discussion of concepts needed for or related to each question. Yet, I’m still running out of time. But, I’m getting to the same point in a lesson with each class, so at least I’m consistently running out of time. It seems that I’m only getting about half of the problems finished that I would like to, but the discussions we are having in class are awesome. I’m really surprised at how many students want to share and how much students do know where normally I would have assumed they didn’t. During Thursday’s discussion of different types of numbers (rational, irrational, integers, whole numbers, counting numbers), a student who may not have participated in a previous class when answers were only correct/incorrect, shared that numbers could be “big or small.” I know that may not be a technical term, but he was willing to share and seemed proud of himself when I didn’t say he was wrong and that he participated.
Another interesting thing was brought to light on Friday when students were comparing rational and irrational numbers. Students had to determine which number was larger, given a pair of numbers. For one example, the two numbers were pi and 3.5. The student I called on said 3.5. When I asked her to explain her answer, she said that since pi was irrational and went on forever as a decimal, it would eventually be bigger than 3.5. Although her reasoning was incorrect, she was correct that it was irrational. Another student correctly disagreed, so we had a discussion of who was correct and why. The students came up with a better explanation that I probably could have. One student agreed that pi continued going on forever, but the digits in the ones and tenths would always remain the same, so pi would never get bigger than 3.5. I feel I should add that these were regular level students, not honors. Some people probably think that discussions like this only occur in an honors class, but my regular level classes have had great discussions and debate as well. Today, Friday, there was a great debate over whether 2/3 was rational or irrational. One student said it was rational because “the decimal repeats or has a pattern.” Another student said that it was irrational because “the decimal continues on forever.” Both points were correct and the class as a whole helped put the two together to clear up any confusion.
During this first week, I still have a few concerns about Common Core. One of them is assessment. I know how I’m going to assess and I know that I’m going to identify students that don’t do well on the assessment, help them, and then allow them to retake the assessment to show that they now understand the material. I’m first concerned with how grades are going to look. It is possible after the retake that nearly every student could be getting an “A” in my class, which would be great. I’m just hoping that everyone else, including parents, are ok with nearly everyone getting an “A.” Another concern is not unique to Common Core. Once I have retaught material to students who do not understand and they retake their assessment, what then when they still don’t do well? Then I reteach and then still they may not do well. I know this is nothing new, but I already feel rushed and don’t know how things are going to work out over time.
Speaking of parent concerns, I sent out my parent letter Tuesday to inform parents about what the Common Core is and how their student’s class will look different. As of today, Friday, I have only received one response about Common Core. The parent is understandably worried about how the change will affect their student. Unfortunately, I have only taught three days of Common Core and I’m unsure how the change will affect students as well. I told the parent of the positive things I am already seeing in my classroom and that I will be constantly assessing and reflecting upon my teaching with help from my student evaluation form in Google Forms. Unfortunately, I won’t know the answer to questions until later in the year. I hope through communication and transparency I can ease any worries that parents may have with the transition.
I’d love to hear any observations you have made during teaching the Common Core so far.