Friday, February 25, 2011

The Little House in a Big City

Here's a post about an old house in a new version of an old big city neighborhood. The new old neighborhood has plenty of big new buildings, none of them anything to write home about while this house, clearly, has an awful lot written in it, on it, around it, through it. So, this city being the kind of city it is, the little house will probably be torn down. But, really, read the post.

The Quickfire Challenge as Math Lesson Plan

As part of my teacher training, I'm taking a course in math methods, which means it's teaching me how to teach math. One thing I learned in this class this very week is a math lesson should be built around a math problem. We as teachers are not to start a math class by teaching a procedure like, say, subtraction, then have the kids practice the procedure, and then give them a word problem about two cars that start at different times but ending up in the same place at the same time, a problem which would probably require the procedure known as multiplication to solve, not subtraction, but you get my point. (By the way, procedures like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are apparently called "algorithms." I thought an algorithm was a very fancy and long sequence of calculations that told you things like how much protein is in your blood when you're pregnant and how populations tend to move over time, but I was wrong.)

In any case, organizing a math lesson by putting the procedure/algorithm first is apparently not so good. It was how the math lessons I was taught were organized, and since I remember almost none of the math I was taught, I can't argue that teaching this way works well. (Please don't ask how I'm going to teach math if I don't remember any of it. I'm working on that.)

The alternative to the procedure-first lesson plan is the problem-first plan. Here's how it goes. First, you introduce a problem. Next, you explain to the kids what they need to do (set up the problem) but not how they need to do it. Then, let them work it out. When they're done working it out (or as done as they're going to get), talk about they're solutions as a group. (Eventually, they'll practice the procedure, or their own variant of it, to get more proficient.)

Now, except for the talking instead of eating, doesn't that sound pretty much exactly like a quickfire challenge? I suspect that quickfires might be the perfect model for the problem-first lesson plan. I don't know this for sure, since I've yet to plan a lesson, but it's possible. After all, if reality shows can serve up life lessons, why not lesson plans?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On Bullying

Marjorie Ingall posts a deeply moving poem about bullying written by W.D. Ehrhart. Read the poem and post here. Really. I mean it. Go read it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

If You're Going to Make Chicken

You might as well make some really delicious chicken. This recipe (yes, it's Melissa's) which has the chicken roasting over chickpeas and carrots is super fantastic. You know I wouldn't lie about something as serious as cooking a baby-chicken.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Writing Problem

Usually, when I give a post a title like "the writing problem" I'm about to write something about time and how I have none of it and more of all that harried, boring same-old, same-old. This time, however, I'd like to nod in that direction by saying that of course I have no time and who does anyway and if someone DID have loads of time on her hands, could she admit it? With that out of the way, I'd like to just mention my other writing problem. In a word: School.

I have to write things for school. Things like "article reflections" for which I'm asked to answer specific questions about an article I've read. I have to write critical responses to articles I've read, for which the professor asked that I note the main argument of an article, its value and any criticisms I have of it. These are valid exercises. They're the kind of thing you do when you're a student and now I'm a student. Only, the thing is, I find them excruciating. I write sentences and reread them only to discover I've used the passive voice. My sentences are long, very long, extremely, terribly long and not because of artistry but just because it's taking me way too long to get the damn thought out. I'm doing that thing where I'm writing sentences that sound vaguely like they've been too literally translated from French. The word "ponderous" comes to mind. Do you see my problem?

I hope that at some point I'll loosen up, that I'll get less nervous, because right now I'm still in that new-student-I-want-to-get-it-right nervous mode. Then again, I may not loosen up because, you know, sometimes the medium shapes the messenger. All I can say is this: We'll see.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Roasting the Chicken

OK, it was a crazy week, my first back in school, and here it is Friday again. And, as you know, on Friday I often cook the one dinner the whole family eats: Roast Chicken. Only tonight, I was patting down my chicken and it flopped over to the side and it was very, very, disturbingly, baby-ish. So there I am thinking I'm cooking some chicken's baby and that baby probably didn't have a very good life and should I be eating chicken anyway and I wish my kids didn't like it so much so I could eat much less of it and, oh yes, do I want another baby?

Whether or not I want another baby, I'm not having one, but maybe I should become a vegetarian.