Wow! I thought I would write a follow-up to all of the comments on my last post. Thank you all so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. Because of confidentiality issues, I can’t tell “the whole story,” but I will try to touch on as much as I can. :o)
I do have a very positive relationship with this student. He has told me I am the best teacher he has ever had and that he loves talking to me. He tells me more things than I care to know (you know, middle-school boy stuff like socks and girlfriends and bloody video games). We’ve had lots of talks about how smart I KNOW he is.
My students and I have taken learning-style inventories, most recently about two weeks ago. I have a wide range of learning styles in my room and try to incorporate them as much as possible. This particular student scores high in the areas of visual and kinesthetic learning.
Students have lots of choices when it comes to showing me what they know. For example, right now in language arts we are doing a lesson I call “Choose Your Own Literary Adventure.” Each student read the book of his choice and then selected a related project from a menu of options. They could write a letter to a character, develop a test on the book, write an imaginary interview with a character, make posters to advertise the book or the genre, design new book covers, or write fortune cookie fortunes to characters based on what happened to them. So there’s lots of cool stuff going on with this project.
I’m pretty flexible in math, too. We almost never do worksheets. Instead, we do a variety of things on paper, on the board, using the document camera, or by projecting the laptop. Students can use pencil, pen, crayon, marker, colored pencil—or we’ll even write it for you. They can work it out on the big marker board or one of the little ones. One day a student wanted to sing his answers—so we let him. :o) And we do just a handful of problems a day. Today, for example, the class did three problems to practice our new concept (more on that below).
The biggest motivator for my class, especially this particular student, is computer time. Each boy has a laptop and loves having free time for (appropriate) activities.
Another good motivator with this group is food . . . and not just eating it! They really like to cook, so lots of schoolwork gets done in an effort to participate in this activity. They also do a great job with the holiday project I described in another post. My students help others every chance they get.
Field trips also inspire them. We’ve gone swimming, to a sit-down restaurant, to a hands-on mystery-solving exhibit, and shopping (grocery and department store)—just to name a few. By the end of this year, the plan is to have toured a few post-secondary options, visit a Web design firm, and go behind-the-scenes at a restaurant.
I love the idea of cross-age tutoring; unfortunately, that probably isn’t a feasible option. Most of my students don’t like “new” people, and this student REALLY doesn’t. For example, last year each student wrote a children’s book and we then went to two kindergarten classes to read them aloud. This student would not even enter the room. He uses some coping mechanisms to block out people and situations that cause anxiety.
Also, if anyone has any ideas on how to make Algebra concepts exciting, let me know! My students are all so smart that we are at (or above) grade level. I tried something this week that seems to be working well for teaching slope intercept form (y = mx + b). I made gigantic graphs (about 4 ft. by 3 ft.) on the colored paper of their choice, gave them Post-it notes for coordinate spots and a string for the line, and had them show me stuff like positive and negative slope, undefined slope, and slope = ½. They really seemed to like getting down on the floor and getting into their graphs. :o)
Thanks again for all the ideas! I really appreciate it!
P.S. I ordered the book that one reader mentioned, Here’s How to Reach Me: Matching Instruction to Personality Types in Your Classroom. I chose expedited shipping; it should be here tomorrow. :o)