Jan 25, 2011

Finally, Effective Afterschool Sessions

One key piece still missing at my school is a space designated for peer-to-peer tutoring and peer-to-peer collaboration. Each time my math team comes together to brainstorm 'math intervention', it seems we are chasing an elusive white rabbit. I tell 'em "I say we set a time and a space where we get kids comfortable to visit and work collaboratively."


I've had a few attempts, but the most effective thus far is what I've seen these past three weeks. Tuesdays and Thursdays til 4:30 afterschool in Mr. G's room. Find yourself some tutoring.

In past years, I've felt aversive to tutoring. After all, it's unpaid, extra work with students who [some may claim] should've 'got it' if they had put more effort during class time. Don't get me wrong, I understand the effectiveness of one-on-one student to teacher time as much as the next teach. I just haven't found a way to make it a regular habit for myself nor my kids. Aside from this, the past 3 years of what some may claim "the teacher hazing process" would always leave me pretty exhausted and in need of non-school thoughts and nap time by the end of the school day.

But now, things are on the up. Now, we've got both. Each Tuesday and Thursday, I readjust the seats to accomodate group seating by 3:05 and students fill the space. What normally provides house to 54-minute algebra and geometry periods becomes a relaxed afterschool atmosphere where students are welcome to give and receive math help. You should hear the conversations in this place! Students are at the white board doing multi-step problems. Students are seated in groups of 3 or 4 focused on specific concepts and teaching each other. Not just current students, but ex-students as well. Not just students of Algebra & Geometry (the subjects I teach), but Algebra II'ers as well. This is what I call a community of learners:

What am I doing during this time? I'm sitting at the desks with them. And I help where I can. I advise students on how to become stronger students. Of course I can't conduct a 1 on 15 tutoring session, but I can pair students up where I see fit, and I act as the last resort "ugh, I really really don't get this... let's ask Mr. G" answer giver.


Lastly, these relaxed spaces for math help act as a relaxed space for fun, cool interaction. In today's session, for example, we had another one of those age-old dialogues concerning my youth:

S1: Mr. G, how old are you anyway? You must be like, either 25 or in your early 30's.
Me: Hah, those are two very different ages.
S2: So, you started teaching right outta college right? When you were 22!? What did the kids think about you then?
Me: They thought I was either 25 or in my early 30's.
S1 & S2: LOL.
S2: Here, tell me what year you were born. I'll do the math.
Me: 1968.
S2: Aright, what year is it? 2011... (3 minutes later)... No, you lyin'!


April Isabel said...

I told my students that I was 42 and their jaws dropped to the floor. They've evolved to suspecting that I am not 42, but they're not quite sure.

One student also said, "you're hecka old! You must be, like, 18."

April Isabel said...

Also, laid-back tutoring time sounds fun. Maybe you can get parents involved and ask them to provide popcorn or little snacks for the kids?

Jason Buell said...

One of the math teachers at my school just started after school tutoring sessions. After each test she designates certain kids to be math tutors and assigns them a group after school to work with. It's kind of a zoo but in a good way.Like kids at the door trying to get in. I have no idea what she bribes the math tutors with to get them to come help though.

Eyawn said...

@Jason: I find students' willingness to assist each other quite amazing as well. For some, my carrots been a piece of chocolate (a re-gift of what administrators had given us for Christmas) or a random school supply I normally give out as prizes for review games. But, in general, I've found students don't need extrinsic motivation at all, which I love.

@April: In fact, parents HAVE already come and sat in. In my opinion, it changes the atmosphere some. In a good way or a bad, who's to say... but it does change. Popcorn and snacks sounds a bit gimmicky to me. It is high school, after all. Then again, I've ran teacher meetings where I provide pizza and those teachers loved it... Then again, there's a big difference between pizza and popcorn.