Setback. The Lesson That Wasn’t

December 18, 2013

This is the post that is supposed to show the difference between teaching and pretending to teach.  Both processes start the same way with gathering materials, but then go in two different directions.  One is the thoughtless approach that doesn’t take into account the profile of the learner, the second is an effort to meet the learner at some point and guide it from that point on.  It still might fail, but it is a process that deserve to be called TEACHING

Yesterday, I was not prepared to teach Robert.  Yes, I did gather a few worksheets, but I did not read them and did not rethink the approach. No surprise that it was a disaster. Just this one example:  There was a problem that called for Robert to find the times of the bus’ departures.  Knowing that the buses leave every 35 minutes starting with 6.00 AM, Robert was supposed to find the departure times of the six or seven next buses.

What should I have done?

1. Analyze  different approaches to solving this problem:  1A.  By using Judy clock and count minutes by five while moving the minutes hand.  1B   By adding 35 minutes to the previous times, and if necessary regrouping minutes into hours and minutes. 1C Practice mental addition of minutes by first adding a part to the full hour and then the rest.

2. Formulate possible goals matching each of the approach and state the challenges associated with each.  Using Judy Clock, the simplest of the method, would allow for extra practice and increase Robert independence. Adding times would offer a tool that could be used without support of the clock and allow for additional practice with changing minutes into hours. The third method could increase mental counting abilities and, if mastered, would offer the quickest tool to solve similar problems in the future.

3. Choose one method and through appropriate introduction remind Robert what he already knew and could do.  The introduction might include some easier problems.  For instance changing 80 minutes into 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Or for the third approach practice adding minutes on paper 45min +20min= 45min+15min+5min=60min+5min=1 hour+5min.  A few exercises like that would allow Robert to connect the skills he had (or he method he was exposed to) to the new sort of a problem. OR remind Robert about the two approaches (He used both in the past in different circumstances) and let him choose one.

4. Given, what I knew about Robert, I should have chosen second approach and use it consistently all the time, despite the fact that Robert could do some operation mentally (for instance adding  35 min to 7:10). The reason for that is to demonstrate to  Robert that the more difficult addition with a regrouping is a form of the easier one not demanding regrouping.

5.  Observe Robert’s performance,and decide on needed adjustments or the next step.

I did not do that!

Instead, I started with the most demanding, the third, approach.  Noticing difficulties it caused Robert, I abandoned it in the middle of the lesson and presented Robert with Judy clock suggesting  to count by five while moving minute’s hand. That did not satisfied me, as too mechanical, so I suggested to Robert to first count the minutes till full hour, and then add the remaining.  This way, I returned to the third approach, which had already failed and… complicated the easiest one.  Finally, to find the last three times, I suggested to Robert to just add the times with regrouping.

This way, I managed to completely confuse Robert, leaving  him without any  tool at all for finding times of departures and causing him to regress.

I made similar blunders with a reading page.  I did not read it myself before, and thus couldn’t do any pre-telling by invoking similar events from Robert’s life.

I continued making errors with science pages while “teaching” about animals’ adaptations and I even failed the part of the lesson devoted to talking in sentences.

Two hours were completely lost by the teacher – me- not being prepared to teach.

I was not prepared because, I became  arrogant in believing that I could do everything well specially since those were such “easy” topics.

Well, they are not easy.  The most basic concepts are the most difficult to appropriate and thus the hardest to teach.

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