T Sale's Blog

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Shape of Things

I just observed Jared Rottschafer’s 6th period Geometry class, and it has inspired me to end my (unintentional) hiatus from my personal blog. Jared taught what seemed to me a wonderful constructivist lesson, in which he had students derive the definitions that differentiated a parallelogram from a rectangle and a rhombus. He also had students derive a definition of a kite shape using geometric terms. During the class it occurred to me that I took Geometry 40 years ago! Looks like the shapes and the definitions are the same, but the teaching method Jared employed showed how different teaching can be. He was allowing students to discover ideas. They never even opened a textbook. He even did his homework check mentally (which seemed to freak out some students, but in a good way; freaking out students seems part and parcel of constructivism to me). His comment half way through class that “We have to hurry up because we have more to cover” pointed out yet again that constructivist teaching takes time; you have to let the students explore and make mistakes and self-correct and question. I forget sometimes that I’m lucky to teach English because we don’t have to “cover” material the same way a math or science or history teacher has to; we basically do the same thing over and over again (read, write, read some more, write some more). [Of course the ”sometimes” when I forget how lucky I am is when I have a stack of essays to grade, but that’s another story, though a story related to why I haven’t written on my blog for a while…but enough stories.] Anyway, I got the sense that the students would retain what Jared was teaching them because he was taking the time. Thanks, Jared, for allowing me to see you in action.