The Achievement Gap and Middle School Math

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 29 2011

New Teacher Orientation

Earlier this week, all of the new teachers in my district went to a district-wide new teacher orientation. We heard from a bunch of administrators, board members, the local Chamber of Commerce president, and a keynote speaker. All of the new math teachers also got to meet with the district math curriculum person. Most of this was pretty interesting.

After that ended, several of the new teachers from my school all went over to our school. We found maps listing where our rooms are and telling us what grades we’ll be teaching. I’ll be teaching 7th grade math.

I am in a team of four teachers (Math, English, social studies, science) whose rooms are all interconnected. My understanding is that we will all be teaching the same four groups of kids who will rotate between our classes during the course of a day. It seems like I will only have one main course to prep for each day (I’ll teach the same content four times in a row) which will be very nice! The rooms are interconnected in such a way that students don’t even have to go in the hall to rotate classes (except to go to lunch, gym, etc.). I am curious to see how this works—each class might develop as a tight group, but, if I were them, I might start getting a little stir-crazy over the course of a day.

It seems like each class mostly stays together as a group during the day. This is different than my own experience in 7th grade. For me, in  7th grade (and to some extent also in 5th and 6th grade) students all went to classes based on their own personal schedules (they didn’t rotate as a homeroom). At my school this year, that is a privilege reserved only for 8th graders.

On Tuesday, we had new teacher orientation at the school. We got lots of info about a variety of different things including technology stuff (we have mimeo boards in the classroom and all teachers get a school-issued laptop!), a tour of the building, etc. We also had a session with a literacy person at the school about how to make sure students are getting deep writing practice in all of their classes. It is nice that this is a school-wide initiative. In addition to being good practice at writing, I think that lots of writing in other classes can actually help people understand the content in those classes better. I know that for me personally, writing stuff down helps me understand my own thoughts better (case in point being this blog!).

Apparently, one of the reasons students at my school tend to score poorly on their state writing assessments is that they don’t include enough detail (the school has a system in place to help students recognize how much detail—or lack of detail—they are including in their writing). One of the ways students are taught to increase the amount of detail is to include statistics in their writing (hooray!). However, since students can’t possibly know actual statistics about all of the topics that could be part of the prompt on the test, they are encouraged to make up their own statistics….which I find pretty hilarious.

Hopefully, getting them to write about real things in other classes will help them actually become writers (and understand the point of writing). I think that real writers of non-fiction (at least the good ones) tend to know lots of information about something and let their thesis emerge out of all of the stuff they already know. Then, they do some more research to decide if their thesis really is supported by all of the information that other people know and, if it is, they write about it, which is pretty easy because their thesis emerged out of all of their information to start with…..instead of taking a test where they are given a random topic which they don’t care about and taught to support it using made up facts.   But maybe that’s just me. : )

Teacher in-service at school starts on Monday. Since I have no scheduled things to do until then, I decided yesterday to take a quick road-trip to visit the family in Cincinnati before school starts. It is nice to see everyone!

2 Responses

  1. Dan Mirus

    Are the classes that rotate from teacher to teacher ability group or just randomly placed? So you teach just four classes? What about the rest of the day? Colabberative planning? Study Halls? Tutoring?

    • zacksg1

      I don’t know yet. Hopefully I’ll know more on Monday!

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Closing the achievement gap with middle school math

Metro Atlanta
Middle School

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