"Friends and colleagues are very sustaining. They're the people who get you through it... It's no good to be on your own."
- Attributed to Dame Judi Dench
When has a lesson you've planned out not worked? Did you scrap it midway through or persevere? How did you move past that moment of failure in practice? What was your learning?
My regular readers would be aware that this year I am working in a team teaching context. Four weeks in and I have to say that it is working out fantastically well. On a daily basis I am learning new strategies for different needs; negotiating with challenging students, getting alongside students with low self-efficacy to build them to undertake the learning task without doing the task for them, different strategies for whole-class reading, strategies for managing assessment of learning and using it as data for the next phase of learning and am very slowly building my own self-efficacy as a Stage One teacher.
It is a completely different world to Stage Three. The strategies are different, the questions you ask and the questions you answer are different. The learning tasks are different.
Yesterday I was leading a whole class maths lesson focusing on place value. It seemed to go well to start with, but when we got to the guided learning part, it fell apart a little. I think where I went wrong was that I brought in the the number zero and started including that in our discussion (it had been our focus in the previous) and I think that it confused students as from their perspective it seemed like I had changed topic. I had been asking questions such as if i have 421 sheep, how do I write that number? We were talking about the need to write 421 rather than 400201 or 40021 etc. When I brought in zero it was on the back of if I have 100 sheep why do I write 100 and not just 1? which generated some very productive discussion about why zero is important as a digit.
The next task was where I got things wrong. I split the class into three groups and asked them to use their bodies to represent the three place values we were working with for various numbers (hundreds, tens, unit). I.e. I gave them 342 as a starting number, modelling this with one group, and asked for three people to stand together to represent the hundreds, four to represent the tens and two to represent the units. They struggled to get past the hundreds as they each wanted to form that group, then they each wanted to form the tens group. We got through one number successfully, eventually, and then tried it as a class. It did not work. I pulled them all back in as a single group and we moved on to a different activity.
I asked my colleague afterwards if it made sense what I was trying to achieve, and he said he could see exactly what I was trying to do but that it was perhaps a little too abstract for this particular age group. It may have worked with Stage Two students, or if it was just a group of Year Two students, but not with this particular cohort.
It was a valuable lesson in reminding me that I need to spend more time thinking activities all the way from through from start to finish and consider ways to bring it back to the focus if things start to go off the rails to ensure that the students are achieving the lesson focus. It was also a reminder of how valuable having a colleague in the room can be to not only remind you that are a capable teacher after failed lessons, but to pick up on questions or ideas that you have missed or forgotten or to help manage a small group of students who need additional support.