Wednesday, October 25, 2006

would you like a headache?

In an attempt to be creative, interesting and a good teacher all at the same time, I decided to get my grade nines to perform a little activity this afternoon. This seemed like a fantastic idea yesterday afterschool as I was planning it. In my mind everything was going to go tickety-boo, complete with an administrator walking in making some comment to the effect of "my, what a spectacular learning environnment you have created here!"

The plan - have them measure their height, femur length, head circumference and then answer some simple ratio and proportion questions. Sounds simple right? At first I was thinking I would just write the instructions on the board, and let them go at it. Then a little voice piped up that maybe a detailed worksheet would probably be a good idea. Bless you little voice.

So today. I get everyone seated, quiet, paying close attention. There are some simple instructions that go with the activity. All measurements need to be in the same units. I don't care which units, just the same ones. I told them where their femur was. I demonstrated how one would go about measuring apporximate femur length. We discussed what circumference was. I reinforced that to measure the circumference of your head you would need to use string and not a meter stick. Ok, good to go. Anything else they would need to know was on the sheet I had so carefully prepared. One last warning about how the meter sticks were not to be used for anything besides measuring and we were off.

I think it took less than 2 minutes for chaos to break out. Kids yelling for my help in every direction. I am incapable of helping anyone because I am utterly confused at how the instructions "Measure and record your height" followed by a space to record said height could be confusing. When I finally can speak, I consider hitting some of the children with the metersticks myself because they have already forgotten how to make a ratio. They love ratios. Nothing gets easier than first value, colon, second value. We spent the first 20 minutes of class making ratios. Somehow femur length and height are outside what we can make ratios with. Girls and boys in a class, easy. Minutes spent reading to minutes spent watching tv, done deal. My personal favorite, chocolate cake to marble cake, to white cake, super fantastic. Femur to height, wha?!

In the meantime the noise level has gotten loud enough that my neighbour feels the need to check in. His wall is shaking. You need to bang to measure. Of course you do.

The questions continue.
"I don't get #2" impatiently says student.
"What does #2 say to do" I exasperatedly reply in my most patient tone.
"Check with 2 other groups..."the trail off.
I don't reply, I just raise my eyebrows expectantly. Student stares at me.
"What does check with 2 other groups mean?" my expectant look obviously getting me nowhere.
"Oh! You really want us to check with other groups?"
"Ummm yeah..." I trail off, not wanting to say anything inappropriate by accident.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

I may have been pleased at my students knowledge of integers, but they sure do have a long way to go in the domain of being independant thinkers!!!


Rach said...

what's an integer????

Big Red said...

What the hell is Tickety-Boo????

bag_marla said...

too funny!

Kilometres said...

Rach stole my comment... no fair.

I enjoy that you have some of the same problems that I do. Let me tell you it doesn't get easier in University. It's like you ask them to do something that in your head could only be construed one way and they don't get it.

What do you mean write my student number on every page?...