Student Perspective question

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Student Perspective question

Postby Ixtellor » Tue Dec 08, 2009 5:31 pm UTC

Every decade the educational buzz words and strategies get reworked and there is generally a lot of data to support it.

Currently, one of the buzz words is "Bell to Bell" -- meaning the students should begin working on something immediatly upon entering the classroom, then the normal lesson, and some sort of activity at the end -- with the key being, no down time.
Research indicates this is effective in learning.

I have been bucking the trend in terms of:
If I have a lecture planned for the period (I always warm up with a quote,news story, or question related to current topics)
AND if I cover everything I intended to cover for the day and the class was engaged and giving me their attention, I generally give the students the remainder of the class 'free time'. (5 mins on average).

I Do this for two reasons:
1) I feel like giving them a 'bell ending' activity is going to feel like busy work especially if they were involved in the lecture.
2) I feel its ok to let students 'unwind', particularly if I have demanded their attention on new, sometimes difficult, and sometimes 'dry' material. Its like a chance to gather their thoughts and get ready for their next class, plus enjoy the social aspect of High School, which I also feel is an important part.

So I am curious what students think about this 'method/belief'. Feel free to be critical. (Idenying you educational opportunities?)

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Re: Student Perspective question

Postby psychosomaticism » Tue Dec 08, 2009 7:33 pm UTC

(what course do you teach? I can't say I've read it in your past posts)

Personally, and without any research or evidence to back this, I should think anyone will learn better if they're treated as an equal. Forcing students to be productive all around the clock would stress out and tire out everyone. Obviously if there are individuals who don't cooperate with a more lax environment then considerations should be made in terms of authority, but I don't think the majority of high school students are going to abuse a relationship that considers them adults and responsible for their own actions. I think your strategy is good - it'll ready them for university academia, where they don't have anyone forcing them to do work (and no bells for that matter).

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Re: Student Perspective question

Postby ntietz » Tue Dec 08, 2009 7:45 pm UTC

As a student, I definitely prefer the approach that you take - in high school, I did better in the classes that were more relaxed like that, probably because I felt more motivated to do work outside of class because I didn't feel at odds with the instructor. In college, I like getting out early when the lecture is over - it's a good way for students to stay focused because we have a common goal.

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Re: Student Perspective question

Postby Feddlefew » Fri Dec 11, 2009 4:14 am UTC

Personally, I need about 5-10 minutes to change modes, so to speak. When I have down time at the end of a class, say, french, I won't suddenly realize I'm still writing in french during the essay test next class.
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Re: Student Perspective question

Postby Ventanator » Fri Dec 11, 2009 12:20 pm UTC

Well, the bellringer (activity to do as soon as you enter the class) can be a good thing if you do it right. One teacher at my high school does his on something that gets you thinking about the class that he is about to do. I can't think of any good examples, but I'm assuming you know what I mean.
As far as anything after the lecture or day's activity is over, no. Give them free time! I've always liked free time because it gives you time to study, catch up on work, and socalize with folks. An activity after you've really finished class is busy work, and I (and every other student who has ever lived) hate busy work. Now, say there is something relevant to do. Go ahead, pass it out. This is also a good time to encourage them to do homework. Just giving them work to make them work isn't being a good teacher though, it's being lazy, IMHO.

Also, students need naps, and if they aren't getting free time, how are they supposed to accomplish that?!

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Re: Student Perspective question

Postby Adrien » Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:57 am UTC

I always enjoyed problems on the board as you enter class, as long as they are done right. My Science teacher would always put one up on the board either reviewing a topic we covered last class or introducing a topic we would cover in that class. The answers themselves were never graded, instead she graded you on how much you explored the question and whether your answer actually addressed it.

As for ending assignments, I loathe(d) them. I always had the mentality "If I am giving the teacher all of my time during class, they should respect me and give me all of my time after class", AKA, I would do little/no homework for classes that purposefully filled up spare time with useless tasks. At the same time, I've had a teacher who took up all class every class, but she actually used the entire hour for notes and things like that. I had no problem doing homework for her. I guess it's a matter of respect, filling up the entire hour every hour just to fill it up is likely going to incite a feeling of separation between the students and the teacher. While filling up the entire hour because you want the students to learn will come off as you putting forth your all to impart knowledge.

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Re: Student Perspective question

Postby Pistols327 » Tue Dec 29, 2009 3:40 am UTC

I totally agree with what your doing. Not only is it nice to have a few minutes to get ready for my next class but its a nice foot in the door for getting us older students better at organizing and using our time well.

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Re: Student Perspective question

Postby Yreval » Tue Dec 29, 2009 6:26 pm UTC

There's a lot of variables involved, if you ask me. If it's the start of the day, I'm gonna need a little time waking up and warming up before I'm really ready to get going. If it's the last period, most kids are tired and anxious enough that a little wind-down time is necessary; last-minute busywork won't be received well. During all the periods in-between, though, a bell-to-bell class generally works fine, so long as it's administered correctly.

During the warm-up/bellringer, be sure to go over the question or activity aloud with the class at the start of the period, rather than just having a problem up on the board and expecting them to take initiative and do it themselves. Walk around the class and help kids who are having trouble. If you're collecting homework, do it before or during this time, rather than afterwards. If you don't, it's pretty much inevitable that at least some students will use this time to complete their homework instead of the intended activity.

If classwork continues to the end-bell, I personally prefer that it be part of the lesson or bulk of the class, rather than just some worksheet at the end meant to fill up classtime. I think a great way to let class sort of wind down but also keep kids a little busy and active, though, is to let them get an early start on their homework for the last couple minutes. If kids really need a break, they'll take it, but most (in my experience) will spend the time active to get a head start. This sort of "wind-down" time is also useful if a student missed a chance to ask a question or make a comment during class, because they can talk to the teacher personally while everyone else is chatting or doing their homework.

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Re: Student Perspective question

Postby raspberryicicle » Thu Dec 31, 2009 5:18 pm UTC

Many of my teachers have a similar approach to you, and as a student, I appreciate the five minutes free time at the beginning or end of a lesson, especially at the beginning.
I've seen this be done a few ways, one of them being, at the same time, writing on the board and preparing for the lesson. This allows the class to finish their conversations from the corridor, 'get in the zone' if you'll excuse the cliched expression. They'll see you've already started the lesson, and will instinctively quieten down after they've cleared their system.

Well. Our class was a class compiled of the top English students, so we were a little more studious and cared a little more about learning, etc. So I'm not sure the 'the-lesson's-started-so-pay-attention-if-you-want-to-keep-up vibe worked for us.

I especially remember our English teacher from last year starting his first lesson off by doing this- We leisurely took our seats, still talking, and this took a good five minutes without him telling us to be quiet. He didn't need to in the end- When we realised we already had a whiteboard-full of definitions to find, we quickly shut up.

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Re: Student Perspective question

Postby Internetmeme » Thu Dec 31, 2009 6:08 pm UTC

In my Algebra II Honors class, this is usually what happens on a day-to-day basis:
1) Some warmup assignment on the board, usually relevant to the previous day/the current chapter's topic.
2) Warmup checked, homework hastily finished during previous time turned in.
3) We go over the homeowrk, spending about 20-30 minutes. Several students (including me) sleep during this time.
4) The lesson for the day
5) Usually, we'll get about 10-20 minutes to start the homework. I like this because the examples from the book usually aren't close to the problems we are given (from the book) for homework. Oftentimes, the book will throw a curveball at us for homework, and we can ask the teacher what the heck we are supposed to do for specific problems. Most often, though, this time is used to socialize.

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Re: Student Perspective question

Postby mmmcannibalism » Thu Dec 31, 2009 9:24 pm UTC

The great Algebra II teacher at my school(liked by even non math kids in general) would teach by showing an example of each problem type from a worksheet then assigning problems from the worksheet, if anyone needed help they had the class time to ask question while everyone worked on the assignment/homework. I think this worked mostly because of the way Algebra II works(unlike Calculus most people can understand Algebra II with one or two examples.

My Calculus teacher who does extremely well with AP results(and is a table leader at grading); teaches differently. The first twenty minutes are usually going over homework problems, and using them to teach the final part of a lesson(ex. last few problems will be beyond exactly what was taught) then the rest of the class is lecture on a new topic(usually with a few examples) with the last minute or so used to give a new assignment.

I think the main thing is to structure the work around what you are teaching. If you are going over something that is uses a guided reading type worksheet, then doing the work for homework is the same as doing it in class. The main thing I would say is it is fine to work until the bell if that is how the class day turns out, and its fine to expand a lesson to make it to the bell; however, it isn't a great idea to force the work to last until the bell.
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Re: Student Perspective question

Postby Bakemaster » Thu Dec 31, 2009 10:07 pm UTC

Every student learns in a different way. That's not to say that you can't make generalizations or look at groups of students; but there will always be people who, like Feddlefew, greatly benefit from a bit of a longer transitional period. At the same time there will always be people who do better work when there's no downtime. I am one of those people. I was so much to one extreme in elementary school that I honestly hated summer vacation, because it was all downtime. I wanted to be doing things, and learning was something that challenged and entertained me at the same time.

I recently re-took the SATs, for reasons too complicated to go into here. I found the downtime between sections, as well as the downtime between when I had finished and when time was up, to be very obnoxious. I want to be able to work at my own pace and move on when I'm ready to move on. I was also a bit put off in the aquatic bio lab this past semester when we were required to work in groups, but not put together according to our ability, so that each group had some people racing ahead and others lagging behind.

But again, there will always be people who learn best by focusing in on one thing, to a degree such that they need extra time to refocus before approaching another task. I think the best question for you, Ixtellor, is: Which way are you most comfortable teaching? Which method allows you to capitalize on your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, as a teacher? You can't teach only to one type of student, so in my opinion the best strategy is to do what you do best, as well as you can. I'm not sure what exactly you teach, but obviously this works best in large schools and at the college level, when students have the most control over who their instructors are.
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