Thursday, September 23, 2004

Graphing Redux

First period today, I taught a model lesson on graphing in Mr. Kelvin's room. I was modeling classroom management more than lesson structure, but I think it was a pretty good lesson, nevertheless. I got the idea from Mrs. Chew, who suggested it last year when I was teaching graphing, and just yesterday posted some of her hopes for the lesson. To continue the conversation, let me describe what I did.

I first reviewed the various types of graphs that Mr. Kelvin had presented to them the previous day, then gave each pair or group of three a copy of a data set (time/distance) and a piece of chart paper. I had already drawn axes on the chart paper, but left them blank otherwise. I told the students to think about what the data meant and then make a graph that would help someone see the patterns in the data. Most of the students chose to make line graphs, but a few made bar graphs. Some students carefully spaced the numbers on their axes, others left the numbers floating around near the axes. They peeked at each other's graphs and learned from each other. I heard conversations between students debating how to set up their graphs, stating their opinions, defending them, listening to each other. I praised that kind of talk. The students asked me for guidance, and for the most part, I answered their questions with more questions. I smilingly told them I wasn't going to give them any answers, so they'd have to make those decisions for themselves. Occasionally, the urge to guide overcame my determination to let them explore - but not too often. The students put a lot of thought and hard work into their graphs, so the lesson ran a little long. We started hanging the graphs on the chalkboard and walls, and talked a little about a couple of them, but Mr. Kelvin will have to finish the discussion part of the lesson tomorrow or Monday.

Tomorrow he is giving his first quiz. I don't think it's going to be a pretty sight, but I think it's important for him to get some feedback on what the kids are getting and what they aren't, so I didn't tell him not to. I did urge that it be low stakes, a mini-assessment, more for him than for them.

He seemed really pleased with the model lesson. He took notes and thanked me afterwards, and my principal said he even told her that it was helpful and went well. He said that he didn't realize how focused the kids could be - which was exactly the point, it helps to know what is possible.


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