I’m out of my depth.
Like 3 bazillion leagues out of my depth.
I took a math teaching position at a school for kids with neurological differences. I knew it would be hard. But I didn’t think it would be this hard.
Lesson 1: Everything you know is wrong.
It’s a Weird Al song, but it also applies to teaching kids with special needs.
I gave this great math artwork activity that I thought would be perfect. My students are all 12-19 years old. They can communicate, be polite and follow instructions. And they are all listed as over 2nd grade in abilities.
So this should have be a perfect activity. Or so I thought.
The idea was to color each of the one hundred squares one of 6 colors. Then fill in a chart with the percent, decimal and fractional amount for each color.
Pretty cool and fairly simple. At least from the coloring perspective.
Oh, but with this population, everything I know is wrong.
One kid spent all 45 minutes coloring 6 squares. I had to encourage him to move to the next one each time.
One student decided that my 6 colors were severely insufficient. When I realized what he was doing, he’d already colored 30 squares 30 different colors.
There were a handful of students that nailed it. But only a handful.
Lesson 2: Don’t bother expecting the unexpected.
I was working on an activity for the folks over at cwist using LEGOs. I thought I’d try it with my students to see how it would go.
The instructions: Build a structure that touches both floor and ceiling (simultaneously) and uses only LEGO brand items.
After 45 minutes and multiple reminders of “we’re building UP!” here’re some of the things I got:
- A five inch tall stack of red LEGOs (all red)
- A four inch tall structure made of thin LEGO plates
- A three inch by 24 inch platform
- Two cars
Again only a couple of students built up. But they lost interest after about 10 inches of bricks.
It might be that you should expect the unexpected. But with these kids, you can’t even fathom the unexpected.
Lesson 3: Changing the rules is essential.
So I’m done giving “traditional” (yet creative) assignments. For the next couple of weeks I’m going to try something new.
I’m going to put out a box of LEGOs with new instructions: Play.
And I’m going to watch.
I’ll make notes in Evernote for each student. I’ll use the bricks to see who can count, who can subitize and who can categorize.
I’ll find out who can do one-to-one correspondence of the studs to match one size brick with another of equal size.
I’ll use the arrangement of the studs on the bricks to see who can multiply and divide. I’ll learn who can factor and see that a 2×6 brick has the same number of studs as a 3×4 plate.
And I’ll figure out how to create activities that are meaningful to each student.
We won’t get a lot of math done, necessarily. But we’ll be laying the foundation for appropriate math learning.
Wish me luck.
I’ll need it. Plus any advice you have… share it in the comments.
And tell others on , Facebook and Pinterest.