Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Socratic Teaching in Practice

Today I was required to teach a math lesson to my university methods class. I taught it Socratically, and in hindsight I realized that it was my first experience doing so! My peers hated it. They were polite, but I could tell the only thing on their mind was, "We didn't do anything! There were no activities! There's no difference between lecture and what you just did!" Part of that was because it was my first time teaching using this method, and the other part was because the group I taught was not familiar with it. If I had a regular class of students I taught using this method frequently, they would have been more at ease with it.

I did think, however, that because teaching Socratically is so different than a regular lesson, I should announce what kind of teaching I will be doing before I begin. A good way to do this might be, "We are going to have a Socratic dialogue about decimals, so please turn your desks into a circle." Having the circle will definitely indicate to the students that they will be working collaboratively to answer questions. Having my "students" sit normally today indicated to them that I would be teaching a normal lesson, and they were confused when my lesson didn't meet their expectations.

I may also need to work on the questions I ask. I tried to use a new classroom management today, as well, using the word "together" to indicate when a choral response was requested. It didn't work so well because it was my first time using it and I wasn't in the habit of using it, but more importantly because it clashed with the dialogue. I asked a lot of low order thinking questions that were answered in one word responses so that I could use the "together" trick, and this did not lead to good dialogue. The "together" trick would have been good in a classroom that needs a lot of management, and it seems that Socratic discussion works better in one that doesn't need as much management, at least after the students have gotten used to the routine of the discussion. At any rate, the technique as unnecessary and a hindrance.

This is what I should remember for my future Socratic teaching:
*Announce in some way when I will teaching Socratically
*Remember those higher order thinking questions. Refer to Bloom's as much as necessary
*There should only be one classroom management technique used at this time, respect. Remind students to raise their hands any time they have something to add to the discussion.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pledge to Guide Today's Students--draft 2

Pledge to Guide Today's Students
I pledge to guide my students in learning about the world they live in.

Respecting and honoring others
-Learning about cultures and societies across the world

Respecting yourself
-Self concept, eating well, exercising

Respecting the Earth and the environment
-Using resources and dealing with waste properly

Living in the age of technology and information
-Respect and honesty while using the internet
-Critical thinking skills when learning from any media
-(How to multitask and monotask where appropriate)

Seeing the big picture of life
-The universe and how we fit into it
-The Earth and its inhabitants

I've made just a couple of changes to this draft.

First, the category of "Respecting the Earth and the environment" was the only one that didn't have a subheading. I added "Using resources and dealing with waste properly," which basically speaks for itself--I'll be teaching the three R's. I barely remember reading somewhere a new list of R's more appropriate for the 21st century. I need to do more research on that.

Second, I took another look at the category, "Living in the age of technology and information." I wrote down some notes a week or so ago with the thought of adding it to this category,

Marketing. Kids need to be able to see through marketing schemes. "What are they trying to sell me? How are they doing this? What kind of tactics are they using?"

What is planned obsolescence?

Also, "What is the REAL price of this item? Although the monetary cost is low, what am I paying for? What kinds of practices am I helping support when I buy this? What kinds of work practices? Who gets the money I pay? Do I want to support these companies or stores when I don't know who they are or what they do?"

However, in retrospect, I believe ALL of this is covered in the subheading, "Critical thinking skills when learning from any media." Maybe I should make some bullet points under each subheading? I may do that in a subsequent draft.

Also in my notes, I had written, How to use technology and multitask, but also how to monotask and slow down to enjoy the moment. (((Monotasking Mondays? It sounds nice, but wouldn't a better day for monotasking be Friday, because we are all stressed from the busy week that we need to slow down?)))

I couldn't decide whether this point was important enough to include or not. I finally added it as "How to multitask and monotask where appropriate," in parentheses, considering that I could always exclude it in a subsequent draft.

A Second Look into Cooperative Education

I've been avoiding thinking about cooperative education.

After my first day of basking in the glow of its concept, I spoke with my husband about it--my realistic, down-to-earth husband. I don't even remember what he said, but after that, my glow had burned down to a low fizzle. Teacher Tom, after receiving many comments from others also realizing that this type of education had been staring them in the face all this time as well, began a week long special all about coops. I read them along with everyone else, but could no longer get excited. It wasn't until the last day when I was finally able to (almost) put my thoughts into words. Tom asked if there were still questions to be answered and I finally choked this out,

I love the community that evolves from a cooperative school, but I'm concerned about teaching students that don't already have parents that are that engaged in their children's learning and future. How could I create a cooperative-like atmosphere when a full-fledged cooperative school isn't appropriate? I'll do my best to engage parents at whatever school I'm at, but what about parents that can't come into class to help? Or parents that can't pay the tuition for a cooperative school (I know yours is cheap, but I expect getting costs low is a difficult task that not everyone has the skills to do).

I guess what I'm trying to ask is, how do I get my low-income students into the wonderful atmosphere a cooperative school creates?

Someone else must have asked the same question. In his next post, he referenced the question and someone else's name. (Which is good because I just realized when I went to find my comment that I placed it on the wrong post. So there's a possibility he didn't even see it.) His full response can be found here, as it's too long to quote in its entirety, but the most important part of the answer was,

I'm only half joking when I suggest that instead of putting money into things like high stakes testing, new buildings and text books, or getting teachers competing against one another for bonuses, we might want to consider paying these poor parents to get involved with their kid's school. That's what the research seems to indicate will make the most difference.

(He goes on in an elaborated follow up post here.)

You know, one of the reasons I got into education was to make a difference in the world. The biggest difference. The greatest impact. The students whose parents love them enough to send them to an alternative preschool and go into the classroom to work once a week? They're already guaranteed to get a great education whether I'm involved with them or not. The kids that concern me live with their single parent who works three jobs and is too tired when she comes home to cook anything more than macaroni or read a bedtime story. Those are the ones that need me the most.

So to my question, "How can I make cooperative education work for students in low socioeconomic standing?" I'm pretty sure the answer is, "You can't."

And that's why I've been avoiding thinking about it.

It's a wonderful model, especially for today's world of parents who are choosing to stay home with their young children, homeschooling them, providing them local and organic diets, and keeping them away from anything plastic or corporate-made. Not that there's anything wrong with this type of parenting--honestly, it's how I see myself parenting when the time comes--but it's a luxury choice that the middle-class have. It's simply not an option for a lot of families in the United States at this time.

It's a wonderful model, but I no longer see myself getting involved in it. I'm thrilled to hear that it exists, and I loved learning about it. I wish everyone involved in cooperative education the most sincere best of luck.

Now, like Tom suggested, if we could only rearrange some government spending to pay the parents of those inner city children to come into the classroom instead of picking up an extra job...

To learn more about cooperative education, read Teacher Tom's Cooperative Nuts and Bolts series:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5

Also of interest is Montessori Candy, a blog about a cooperative Catholic Montessori preschool. Here is a list of their posts with the Coop tag.

Just a note, October is Coop month.