Day 33

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 8.43.21 AM

I wanted to share a screenshot from “lecture” today.

(Digression: When people ask me what I think of  Powerpoint, Prezi, Sliderocket, Slideshare, Google Docs, my somewhat snarky, Ayn Randian retort is “I don’t think of  [insert presentation-software brand-name here]”.  I suppose Google Docs is a great place for me to post my agenda so that I can share it with students, because have the time I forget to open my slides, and if they want to know the agenda, they can look it up on their phones, tablets, or laptops. )

As I have shared in the pat, my “lectures” consist of questions from me, responses from students on small whiteboards, and my cherry-picking either clear work or work with mistakes, which I use mainly to model thinking aloud.

I tried something different to teach my students a definition.

The traditional approach to teaching vocabulary words like average speed and average velocity is to write it out, and then calculate it.

This time I calculated the result, and asked students to guess the definition of the term based on the calculation.

One block did really well. They were the second block of the day, and were working at 9:00 A.M. in the morning. The third block of the day, needed a little more (ahem) encouragement. Specifically I told them to write down my two calculations and to explain what each number was. From there they were able to get to a working definition of both terms. in a way that made more sense to them.

I don’t think of this as teaching. I think of this as a necessary preparation. To me vocabulary is not learning:

To once again borrow a quote from Richard Feynman:

“You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird… So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing — that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”

I want my students to know something, but knowing the name of something lets them talk to others about it. I am NOT under the illusion that helping them learn the name of something is in fact teaching. It isn’t. It’s often a necessary pre-requisite to teaching.



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