Oct 8, 2009

Another Hurdle

A new school year is in full swing. This means a slew of new experiences for even me, an undergraduate high school tutor working (for no pay) in the Bay Area.

For starters, I've gone from shadowing in an Oakland Algebra I and Geometry classroom to doing odd-jobs at a charter 8th-12th high school in Berkeley. Coincidentally, one of those odd-jobs consists of shadowing in a 10th grade Algebra II class. I feel like I've been promoted alongside Mr. G.'s students from last year.

I'll have plenty of stories to share about this charter school later.

For now, I just wanted to say that I stand before you all, absolutely humbled.

I've formally tutored for a good 5 years now. In those years, never have I written a single lesson plan. None. Nada. Zilch.

That being said, I sat down to write my very first one five hours ago. Granted, I've had a week to do this and it's been on my mind for that long... so it's kind of like I've been working on it for a week. In my head.

Now, five hours after the sitting-down part of the lesson plan-writing process, I've come up with the following:

Objective: Learn how to identify graphs of corresponding equations with rational exponents.

...yup. That's it.

And let me tell you, I've been graciously provided resource after resource -- worksheets to fill in my "Objective" and "Materials Needed" and "Students' Prior Knowledge"; instructions on the 5E Lesson Plan; an entire Algebra II student textbook; website after website of complicated (and boring) suggestions -- but I can't come up with a single, comprehensive lecture or activity.

I've taught, I've bonded with, graded, and even disciplined students. But this -- this lesson planning -- is foreign territory. I have a compass, but no map. And certainly no GPS.

Best regards to the experimental class who will be the first to experience Lesson Plan à la April.


Sue VanHattum said...

Graphs of equations with rational exponents? So you want them to see what y=sqrt(x) looks like, and compare it to y=x^(1/3), etc?

If I understood more clearly exactly what you're trying to get them to understand, I might have some ideas. But, yeah, it's a pretty technical topic. I wonder what the point of it is. I teach at a community college, and have explored lots of math, but I can't think of many times I've cared about that.

I find it intriguing/weird that the domain of the function depends on whether the denominator in the power is odd or even. I doubt the kids would care much, though...

If they were drawing pictures, some of the graphs look like birds...

sam shah said...

I just wanted to say "good luck!" I'm sure you're going to do fine. Like Sue noted, I don't know if I have any suggestions without knowing a little more. But even getting to the point where they can build their intuition about what y=x^(2/3) might look like versus y=x^(3/1) might look like versus y=x^(1/2).

If you want an "activity," you could come up with a bunch of different (or the same) bingo cards with these sorts of equations on them (but each of them which has a very distinct graph) and then at the end of the class, put up pictures of various graphs and have students X out the equation that could correspond with that graph. You could be nice and throw a few easy equations (unrelated) in there, like y=2x and y=5.

But yeah, lesson planning is tough, and time consuming (so time consuming), but intellectually it is the most fun/challenging part of the job. How do you get a group of different people who don't know something to really know something. The sad part is: there isn't an easy answer. The good part is: it's fun to try to find one, each day.

So have fun, and don't worry if the lesson is boring or bombs. (It is a very dry topic.) Just go with it. The good news about teaching: there's always another day.