Bombed! That’s how I would describe the lesson I taught this afternoon. And I know exactly when it went awry. It was the moment that 19 second-graders raised their hands at once, claiming pepperoni pizza was their favorite. “I know it sounds silly,” I tell my husband in the car on the way home. “But let me explain.”
Nineteen kids voted for pepperoni pizza in a lesson that was intended to move quickly beyond a data table to a picture graph and on into a bar graph. In my mind, I’m thinking ahead to their work: the page they will use to turn this data into a picture graph only has room for a vote of ten. So–to give myself time to think–I give them a question to turn and talk about.
- I could give them blank paper and they can freehand their graphs, but then it will be difficult to show them just how similar a picture graph is to a bar graph.
- I could modify their data to fit the boxes, but that will defeat the real-world application and authenticity of this lesson.
- I could gather new data, using a measurement that I was saving for the extension activity, but this will mean that my lesson, intended to be less than ten minutes, will be longer than I think they have the stamina for.
- I could introduce the concept of pictures representing two data points, but…Eeek, I’m not ready…
Did I mention that this isn’t my classroom? These aren’t my students? It’s a scene straight out of THE dream. You know the one: the first day of school nightmare, where I am not ready and things go from bad to worse.
I make a decision to go with Option C and vow to be quick. I can tell I am already losing them, and honestly, I can’t blame them. But we make it! I release them to work back at their seats to turn our data into a picture graph.
Did I mention that this is not even the goal of the lesson? Nonetheless, they are working. Now I can read the room, see who needs what, and decide what to do next. Within mere minutes, though, I realize my mistake. I released them too soon. Some of them. They all have the same questions, are making the same mistakes, are having trouble with the same things. And I honestly can’t blame them. So I bring them back together.
I start with a heartfelt “I’m sorry that my directions weren’t more clear. Let me show you what I mean.” A few light up immediately. They are released to go work. The rest work with me until they, too, understand and go work at their seats. By the time they all go, the ones who left earlier are ready for the next step. And by the time they are ready to get back to work, the others are ready to come back to me. Ahhh, here it is, the flow I was looking for from the start. The back and forth, the catch and release. We have found it at last.
Maybe we would have found it sooner, had it not been for an overwhelming love for pepperoni pizza. Who knew?
I am participating in the 9th annual Slice of Life Challenge over at the Two Writing Teachers. With this post, I’d love to hear what you think about the balance of story-telling to teacher talk. I wonder if there are too many details about the lesson itself, if I should have kept it more general. Thank you in advance for your feedback.