Am I making a mistake my NOT prepping for my 6th grade math class?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Pi-R-Squared, Jul 14, 2014.

  1. Pi-R-Squared

    Pi-R-Squared Connoisseur

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    Jul 14, 2014

    OK, to remind everyone, I'm now teaching 6th grade math. I will have only 6th grade math, so, there will only be 1 prep. Before I got the news, I was making Powerpoints for each section of the 1st few chapters of 8th grade math for I didn't know I was being swapped. I took a look at the content, the standards, and the textbook for 6th grade and see very simple stuff to teach. Multiplying / dividing fractions.... Multiplying / dividing decimals...... perimeters, areas of circles... Honestly, nothing I really need to brush up on until way later in the year (box-and-whisker plots, interquartile range, etc...)

    Am I making a mistake by not preparing and just feeling like I can wing it?
     
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  3. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Don't wing it. Your kids deserve you at the top of your game...it's easy for you, not for them.
     
  4. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Possibly. It depends on your teaching style. I am preparing for my speech courses by reviewing the content, but also looking for examples and activities to teach the content.
     
  5. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    Since you said you took a look at the standards and stuff, I am assuming this is your first time teaching 6th grade math. I wouldn't wing it if I were you.

    Good luck!
     
  6. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    6th grade math for 6th graders is at least as hard as 8th grade math is for 8th graders.
     
  7. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I would definitely be preparing. You're going to need to differentiate-how do you plan to do that? 6th graders are definitely different than 8th graders. You may need to tweak what your daily structure looks like. I'm different with my seniors than I am with my sophomores.
     
  8. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Yes, you are making a mistake. When you move to younger grades, the material might be easier to use, but it is more necessary to break it down in simpler ways to get your less "math strong" students to be able to understand it.

    I think you are underestimating the challenge, and that always leads to a very long year.
     
  9. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Yes.
     
  10. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    PI...you had 'legitimate concens' that this move was about you getting a better handle on classroom mgt with a new bunch of kids. Planning and preparation will go a long way in helping you get control. Winging it...not so much.
     
  11. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    The fact that you ask this question is...odd.
     
  12. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    I'm going to go against the norm here- since you mentioned classroom management issues in the past, I would recommend spending time really thinking through what you want your classroom to look like. That needs to be set from day 1. The curriculum can wait a bit.
     
  13. mathteachertobe

    mathteachertobe Cohort

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    I do think you should be doing some prepping. I wouldn't focus so much on constructing powerpoints as on finding engaging hands-on activities you can use to support your instruction. In particular, many sixth graders seem befuddled by fraction operations, especially multiplying/dividing, and decide they hate math. The more concrete and accessible you can make it, the more successful your students will be.
     
  14. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    I'm going into my 4th year teaching the same class and I STILL don't "wing it" by not preparing at least the first few units over the summer. Heck, I still rehearse my first day speech! :p
     
  15. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I would definitely be prepping. I would figure out exactly how to space out the year and make some basic plans through December and have the lessons done for the first month.
    Because it is a younger grade - as others said - you need to break things down more, and 2 years does make a big difference in behavior, maturity, attention span and engagement. There is a big difference between 8th grade and 6th grade.

    I would definitely want to think of engagement techniques, somehow to win the kids over to want to do math. Some are just not good at it and already shut down or will, if you don't engage them.
    You're still a new teacher, you should do everything possible to be your best, and not just for yourself, but for the students, actually even if you're not new :)

    Classroom management should be equally important, not everything that worked in 8th grade will work in 6th.
     
  16. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jul 14, 2014

    Even if I know all the material by heart (which I do), I do a ton of prepping. I plan out the units for the year, organize all of the learning goals for each unit, plan out all of my procedures and organization, print posters, set up the class website, etc.
     
  17. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    I guess I'm in the minority- I've never prepped over the summer and wouldn't recommend it. Perhaps this is more specific to elementary, but in every school I've worked in every year there is some "big new focus" that we have to implement. We also have to be so focused on "data driven instruction" that there is no way you could just look at a textbook and map out your plans way ahead of time based on that- we have to spend time on what the kids need according to assessments, which obviously you don't know about in the summer. If you tried to prepare units ahead of time in the summer, you'd just have to redo them once the year started. I also find that each year of students has it's own unique challenges, and it's hard to prepare for those without knowing the kids. There may be some activities and teaching styles that work wonderfully for one class, but fall flat in another. They may know considerably more than you expect already, or they may need a ton of background information before starting the first unit. A couple of years ago, I got a new job and was given the reading and math curriculum the spring before and was told by the principal to "work on my planning." I ended up doing nothing, because I had no idea what my grade level teammates were doing or what the district expectations were. When I started that fall, it turned out that the school had decided to completely go away from both of those curriculums, to the point where we basically weren't even allowed to even use them as resources. I'm SO glad I didn't spend an entire summer mapping out a year based on them!

    I wouldn't call not mapping everything out over the summer "winging it." Of course you need to have your lessons planned before you get in front of the students, but that doesn't mean they need to be planned months ahead of time. I planned for 1-2 days at a time last year for the first time (had previously planned for 1-2 weeks at a time) and I was amazed at how much better I was able to differentiate my lessons that way. I could plan the next day's lessons specifically based on what I saw they still needed the most of based on the current day, and it completely eliminated any redundant work for me since I never had to go back and make major changes to things I'd already planned.

    I would suggest that you spend some time figuring out routines, procedures, and rules for your class that you want to implement on day 1, especially since this is something you said you wanted to work on from this year.
     
  18. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    Jul 15, 2014

    I was never one to do detailed lesson plans over the summer. The most I've ever done is map out the units & very generally at that. Things like what books, equipment do I need, ideas of things I may try.

    As for detailed lesson plans, I don't do that. I don't know the kids coming in & what their strengths & weaknesses are.

    I would spend my summer thinking about my classroom management and room setup and what to tweak to make everything run better.
     
  19. Pi-R-Squared

    Pi-R-Squared Connoisseur

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    Thanks for all your advice. The main reason why I am hesitant to go all-out to prepare is knowing that most of the incoming 6th graders will not be prepared to handle 6th grade math. In fact, I had 8th graders last year who weren't ready for 8th grade math. It's as if I will need to review and review and review basic math facts (5th grade and even lower) before I should even attempt to teach new stuff! And their coming back from summer break? They would have lost so much knowledge I would be at wits end trying to introduce new stuff if they can't even add, subtract, multiply, or divide! I'm also going to talk to the former 6th grade math teacher to see how he handled things. It might help just to see another teacher's POV who is in the same school.
     
  20. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    So you need to be making plans on how to review and get them up to speed and move on with your required curriculum. Research some pre assessments that you could give the first week to see where your students are. Reaching out to your colleague is a great idea. If not making full unit plans, you should at least be sketching out your irst few weeks so that by the second or third week you can get into the meat of grade 6 math. Winging it isn't going to get you or your students to that point.:2cents:
     
  21. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    I don't do any prepping during the summer, but I'm starting year 22 and wouldn't think of winging it. Yes, I know what I'm doing, but it still need a plan. A huge part of classroom management is being prepared with the lesson.
     
  22. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    I am moving from 1st to 2nd. I haven't done any prepping and don't plan on doing any for a while (we don't go back until Sept.) But in the last few weeks of August I'll start sketching out a yearly plan with rough units and timelines.
     
  23. ready2learn

    ready2learn Comrade

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    I will say that I don't usually do much preparation over the summer. If anything I look for ideas for specific units and organize materials. Planning specific lessons though or mapping out what I want to teach at specific times in the year I don't do.

    Saying that, if you felt like it was a good idea for you to do that for 8th grade though it is also a good idea for you to do it if you're teaching 6th grade. I have taught both 6th and 8th grade math. The content part wasn't hard for me in either grade level. I might have needed to review a concept or look at what a standard meant but I knew the content. Getting the kids to understand the concept is the difficult part. As I have said before, sixth grade is my favorite grade to teach. This thread read a little to me though like you weren't putting forth 100% effort because you thought it would be easy. (I do hope I am misreading that.) Of course the content should be easy but having the students understand the content will be what is difficult.
     
  24. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Agree! Even review needs planning. What pre-assessment are you giving them to see where they are? How long are you going to review? 2 weeks? 2 months? How will you determine what was enough review?

    I would definitely be prepping. Maybe not right now, but before the school year starts.
     
  25. nyteacher29

    nyteacher29 Comrade

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    I am teaching same grade and same curriculum next year and I am still going to review rules, routines, and lessons for first month or so. I can't go in the first day after two months of being out of my element and know I am at my best if I do not not prep and plan. Not saying I spend every day prepping, but I will spend some time
     
  26. Pi-R-Squared

    Pi-R-Squared Connoisseur

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    After having read all your replies and comments, I think I know where my flawed logic was coming from.

    For starters, I kind of "winged it" last year because of my short preparation time between date of hire and first day of classes. Did I go in unprepared? No way! I made sure I knew what I was teaching. Basically, the day before the lesson, I prepared by doing the homework problems making sure where students could easily make mistakes. I went through the problems and listed the step-by-step approach. I also took notes from the textbook to guide my lessons and planning. Things were going quite smoothly until classroom mgmt problems started and continued to happen. (The P said it's the 1st 2 weeks of school that determine the rest of the year!) That's when I made up powerpoints to keep my eyes on the kids (less turning my back toward them).

    Now, I'm moving to 6th grade and a teacher at the school said to me, "Teaching 6th graders is easier. They tend to have more respect and will do whatever you tell them to do." Later, the AP said, "The 6th graders aren't used to the middle school environment so they aren't gonna try you as much as 7th or 8th graders would." And finally, a teacher who taught 6th and 7th math said to me, "The 7th graders are awful. I love my 6th grade classes."

    So applying everything above and with all the advice here, I'm definitely going to prepare. Not the lessons as much but teaching the kids about procedures, rules, and consequences. For instance, I want to teach them that if I want undivided attention, I will raise my hand. Then EVERYONE will raise his/her hand AND quiet down. That's something I saw during observations in graduate school but I didn't think it would have worked in 8th grade so I didn't bother. I believe this can work in 6th grade. Now, if I can just keep them in their seats (no sharpening pencils OR throwing trash away OR constant bathroom requests), that would win me almost all my battles, I think!
     
  27. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Jul 16, 2014

    Pi-R-Squared,

    I agree that preparing yourself with strong classroom management ideas will be helpful. After 20+ years of teaching and reading probably 100 educational books, I have found 2 that are outstanding and simple to use for classroom management. They are not secrets and dozens of teachers have recommended them on this site. They are:

    The First Days of Teaching by Henry Wong
    Tools For Teaching by Fred Jones

    Another one that is good, but much more complex is "Teach Like a Champion."

    The nice thing is that these books have been out long enough that you can find a used one for almost nothing at amazon.com

    While 6th graders may be more pleasant in the classroom than 8th graders, there is an important challenge. This is usually their first year of middle school and they need lots of help with organization and expectations of many teachers. I found when I taught junior high that having some consistency with the other teachers was helpful. If the students know the rules are the same in all their classrooms, that can help make things often run smoother. Of course it depends a bit on your colleagues.
     

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