This year I get to have a support math class for 7th and 8th graders for the first time in years. I have learned a lot of different things since the last time I taught this class. I am trying an entirely new approach this time around. I am going to build the class around 4 pillars.
1. Computer Program - DreamBox Learning
This pillar is pretty typical in a support math class. I choose DreamBox over other computer based programs because it does a pretty good job of focusing on concepts and big ideas over skills. My own children (7, 11, and 13) used the program over the summer and liked it. I plan on not even introducing this part of the class for quite a while.
2. Number Talks
I think this pillar could really be a whole support math class by itself. I love number talks. I use them in every class, just not often enough. I plan to use Chris Danielson's "Which One Doesn't Belong" to start with. It has a low enough entry point that most students should be comfortable talking about these problems. I will then shift math talks, visual patterns, estimation 180 and activities from Pamela Weber Harris' great book. I envision this as the main pillar of the four.
3. MakerSpace/Hands-on/Genius Hour
This pillar is kind of a mish-mash approach to getting the students moving and trying to ignite their passion. I started the first couple days on this pillar. I envision creating, making and igniting curiosity. I am worried about resources for this pillar, especially in the MakerSpace part. Trying to find the right kind of things the students will be curious about seems daunting, especially with no funds.
4. Restorative Justice/Circle Practices
This portion will be used to create a community feeling in the classroom. I was a circle volunteer for years in my county in the RJ program. It was a great way to help and connect with youth and connect youth to the community. I say in a 4-day training on using RJ in schools this summer. It got me completely excited about bringing this tradition to my classroom. This article is a nice summary of using the circle process in schools. Here is also a nice edutopia video about circles.
Trying to get all this together in a cohesive fashion is going to be a challenge. It is a challenge I look forward to in the upcoming year. I look forward to the mistakes, the victories and all the in-between.