This class is boring/Can't we do something fun...

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by CanadianTeacher, Nov 14, 2009.

  1. CanadianTeacher

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    Nov 14, 2009

    I've been a middle school teacher for 5 years. No matter where I go, this seems to be a typical scenario. I'd like to hear from the veteran teachers here so I can figure out if I'm out in left field or what.

    As a teacher, I make an effort to use a variety of learning/teaching/assessment strategies, some group work, some individual work, projects, etc... I offer extra help and I try not to maintain a balance in my students' workload. Typically, it is not my teaching style to make up games. I teach Grade 8 Math and Science this year and I just started at this particular school about a week ago. Things are going well, but my classes are fairly large (30-35) and quite chatty. Yesterday 14 people did not do their homework, so I gave independent work to those who did it, and for those who didn't, they had to follow me on the board as we did it together--this way they were sure to get the added instruction they may need and for those who just didn't do it, they were still accountable for having it done. Then, they had to do the other assignment for homework, so they should have learned that not doing their homework was not going to help them.

    There's one girl who is always more focussed on the social aspect and is outspoken, coming close to the line of disrespect. She wanted to work in the hall, so I let her and she said: "Good, out there is better than in here." When I asked why, she said: "This class is boring." Honestly, though I didn't let on, this really hurt my feelings because I haven't had any real run ins with her and I feel that comment was uncalled for. Now, I wonder how or if I should address it, or just let it go.

    With all the efforts I make to ensure they get an interesting and varied experience in Math class, (that includes structure for my own sanity), I was a little taken aback and it got me really second guessing myself and wondering if my expectations are unreasonable or if they are playing me to see what they can get away with. They're good kids, but typical middle schoolers in that they are very socially distracted and lack some commitment in the area of learning.

    When I was young, I never EXPECTED fun in my classes, but obviously enjoyed it the times it turned out that way. I don't feel I should be an entertainer. Am I off-base?
     
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  3. MsMar

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    Nov 14, 2009

    I am sure my class is boring at times for my students, but that's just how it goes. However, I do try to keep it interesting so here are some of the things my students do that as far as I can tell they are not "bored" by but are still learning...
    * any activity with a white board such as review questions, making lists on a topic we've studied, writing down appropriate questions for me to answer. For whatever reason, give em a white board and suddenly it's not boring. I had shower board cut up from Home Depot and my class set of 32 boards cost me less than $20 including the duct tape to wrap around the rough edges.
    * partner or groups of three work. They can usually get the work done pretty well but will find times to chat too, and as long as they're getting their work done while randomly chatting, I'm fine with that. I find that groups larger than three results in one or two people doing nothing and the other two or three covering for them.
    * letting them be the teacher. They get a section of whatever we're studying and then either independently or with a partner they teach it to the class. I interject as needed, and for the ones that do a good job I make a big point of not having to say anything. They hate being corrected in front of the class so it makes them usually do a good job so that they look good in front of their peers.
    * review games at the end of the unit. Jeopardy and BINGO are my two favorites.
    * when possible I do hands on activities. This of course varies for whatever subject it is. Next week in my nutrition class we're learning about fats and one activity they do it find the total fat in a typical meal at McDonald's and then they measure out that fat in graduated cylinders and we compare different meals. They are always grossed out/amazed at how much fat is in some of the meals. Anyway, the hands on aspect makes it interesting. I fill one tube with how much fat they can have in a day and they compare it to that one as a frame of reference.

    And BTW, no I don't think we have to be "entertainers" when we teach, but if we find ways to make it interesting then the kids sure seem to learn more. I can still recall how much I was bored in my 8th grade history class when it seemed all we ever did was take notes from the overhead. Boring, boring, boring! And I think of all my NY Regents exams I took, I had one of my lowest grades.
     
  4. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Nov 14, 2009

    To start - this is my 4th year teaching, and I have 7th grade LA. And to be honest - your kids are in 8th grade. They'll do and say anything to get under your skin - especially since you're new to the school! It's just the middle school kid - learning about defiance/saying what you want.

    As for the homework fight - a lot of teachers told me not to bother, since it won't come back. Well, I still made 'em do it. And it what it took was a homework routine - and an obvious tie-in to a quiz grade - that made them realize doing homework = better grade on quiz. But it took them 5 weeks to actually learn the routine. Most kids think homework is something teachers do to torture them.

    As for games - well, they ARE fun. I look back at my school days and realize it was fun because of all the games/project-based learning. But at the same time, they need to PROVE themselves responsible enough to participate in such activities in order for them to be meaningful academically. So I start them off slow - a review game before a test, maybe 10 minutes of Apples-to-Apples on a Friday after a quiz. But if they don't behave during the game - or are more concerned about the "game" than the learning aspect, I won't let them have it the next week. They do catch on.

    But as for being an entertainer... well, teachers are entertainers. Actors. Psychologists. Friends. Adversaries. We are whatever it takes in order for the children to learn.
     
  5. wrice

    wrice Habitué

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    Yeah, 8th graders can be a pill.

    What do you like? Personally, I'm into aviation. I try to structure science and math lessons around flying. I'll bring in my headset and radio, my maps, watch a YouTube video of me piloting my airplane. Really interested kids get a coupon for a discounted hour with a flight instructor.

    What is a real-world application of what you are teaching them? Is there some science experiment kids can do at the school then report the results in a letter to parents? Have them go around campus and find circles, take pictures of them measuring the circumference and diameters to confirm pi.

    Games are one thing. Learning for a purpose, having kids make a contribution, make their own discoveries, or develop a passion of their own demonstrates that what we're trying to teach them has importance.
     
  6. CanadianTeacher

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    Nov 14, 2009

    This is exatly the type of feedback I was looking for. Lots of good points. I like the white board idea. To be honest, I know myself and part of it may be that I am afraid to to anything too unstructured because I don't want to lose control of the class-especially since the class is large. Maybe more confidence is needed on my part for starters. In answer to the question of what I like, well I like figuring things out, reading for pleasure and to learn and I like to be challenged intellectually. I don't like chaos, either. So I guess my teaching style tends to migrate towards those things, although I do try to find ideas that address the more active, hands-on kids, at least once in a while. Sometimes I spend hours on the computer trying to find some awesome idea that will blow everyone away. I do put a lot of effort into my work, but to be honest, the original ideas don't come easily. Math is one of my favourite subjects to teach and I'm very comfortable with it. I think I like it because there is little room for deviation.It's just a good subject for a quiety, introverted person. It's a first for me in Science this year, but I have two teachers in my school who are turning out to be great mentors in Science and I'm saving everything I do as notes/copies for future use, so that's great. Right now in Math we are doing Geometry and I can think of some great things to do with that to get kids moving, but some strands are more of a sit down, listen and learn then practice (like algebra). I don't think it's unreasonable for me to expect eighth graders to be able to suck it up, especially if they know I try to switch it up once in a while, is it?

    Thanks for the feedback, I've definitely taken note of the great ideas mentioned and I hope others will contribute with more since I'm sure I'm not the only one with this problem.
     
  7. SpecSub

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    Nov 14, 2009

    You should not be an entertainer, that's correct. But many kids' learning styles have them preferring to learn with games. That doesn't mean that you have to do games every day, but you should try to step out of your own teaching style to meet theirs at least once in a while. Research shows that students who spend too much time learning outside of their own innate style can experience stress that inhibits learning.

    It sounds as though you are trying to offer varied experiences, but just try a little more to step outside of your own comfort zone once in a while.
     
  8. Ima Teacher

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    Nov 14, 2009

    Most of the time "I'm bored" with middle school kids will translate into "I'm not doing what I want to be doing right now".

    I try to offer a variety of activities in a typical unit, and I can't please everybody every day.
     
  9. Limegirl

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    Nov 14, 2009

    I am a first year teacher, teaching 8th grade math. I have the same exact problems you are having with kids saying its boring, no homework coming back, and lack of respect!!

    I just finished our first project of the year and the kids absoletly loved it! I have lots of discipline problems, so I wasn't sure how it would work, but they stayed on task and were very involved! It was a scale drawing project that we did in class for 3 or 4 days. Try it!

    As for homework I started off the year telling the classes that every time the whole class had their homework done they would get a letter to spell out "Pizza Party". Then once they spelled it out I would give them one. We just finished our 10th week of school and they have 2 or 3 letters and that's it!

    So I am now giving stickers out to students who have their homework completed and after 10 stickers they get 2 pieces of candy and a free homework pass. It seems to be working now! I didn't think the students would be interested in stickers, but they ask for them every day!

    Also, the kids love the white boards and they are great for review days!!

    I hope these suggestions help! Just remember, I'm in your same situation :)
     
  10. CanadianTeacher

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    That's kind of my thinking too, and I try not to take it personally, but it's hard. I just have to keep telling myself that the self-centredness is very normal at this age, and no matter what I do, I'll probably hear that from time to time.
     
  11. CanadianTeacher

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    I do like the idea of a project. We are doing Geometry right now. Maybe they can build something with a specified criteria, then talk about it using the appropriate terminology to show their learning. Hmmm....

    I love how dialogue works to get creative juices flowing. Please keep the comments coming.
     
  12. tb71

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    This may be a little young for 8th grade (I teach 6th grade math, 1st year) but one of our geometry activities is to make an origami frog. Once it's folded, they unfold and have to identify the shapes made, they can measure the shapes for area, perimeter etc. In addition, we use the frogs to see whose from jumps the furthest and measure the jumps. You can tie this into graphing. FYI--from what I'm told the kids will want to make smaller frogs and these jump the farthest.
     
  13. CanadianTeacher

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    I guess it would depend on the group, but that does sound very cool for a Friday afternoon activity that ties into curriculum, evenfor 8th grade. Thanks! I will keep it on file.
     
  14. wrice

    wrice Habitué

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    A good gauge for me is how hard I'm working compared to the kids. If I'm working way harder than they are, then I'm spoon feeding them content and all they have to do is digest. Boring. If I work a little to set up an experience and an expectation, then the kids have to work their tails off to create and analyze and produce, then they are empowered in their own education- exciting, productive, authentic.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    A project is probably a good idea. They're good for stirring things up a bit.

    What are you doing in geometry?
     
  16. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Sometimes math isn't fun. That's life. I get that. I also get the fact that in order to do the stuff that IS fun, you have to do the boring stuff. That said, I always had the best luck with projects and assingments that related the topic at hand directly to their lives.

    My kids LOVED it when I brought in the blueprints of my house and they got to remodel the living room/kitchen. It was a pretty long project, more of an end of term thing, where they had to deal with measurement, surface area, ratios, decimals, percentages, ect. Basically, they had to learn to read the things, then figure out just how big my house was, then they had to figure out what to do with it (oddly enough, everybody wanted to knock down the exact same wall that I hated so much that I would have paid somebody for the privledge of knocking down), then compute the cost of materials. There was a lot of on-line reasearch ect. I split the project up into several chunks so it wasn't overwhelming. They always got excited when they got to "work on my house".

    Another thing that came tomind when somebody mentioned working in groups. Sometimes that idle chit chat can turn productive. I remember doing a class activity with implication statements (logic). I had a group of girls that just couldn't stay on task. Finally, I said in exasperation, "I don't care WHAT you talk about as long as your statements are in "If-Then" form and you form valid arguments". Those girls spent the next 20 minutes discussing which boys were hot and who wanted to date who in if-then statements (along with a few simple statements to complete valid arguments). Those are also the 4 students who caught on to the process the fastest. I still laugh when I think about that conversation, and after that, I used the idea to teach the topic (the assignment was to have a normal conversation using only formal logic). Sometimes you just have to be open to something different.
     
  17. MissEducation

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    I don't have a lot to add to these great points, other than this - next time, I would address it to the entire class by telling them, if not that it hurt your feelings, that it is a rude thing to say. Students in general have no clue how much time and effort we put into lessons and it would not hurt to encourage them to see things from another's perspective, without of course resorting to complaining or having a "poor me" attitude.

    I'd use it as a turnaround on them - When a boy in my class said that to me, I said "I'm coming to your basketball game this afternoon. How would you like it if afterwards I told you that the game was boring?" He admitted that it would make him mad.
     
  18. CanadianTeacher

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    This is a very good point.
     
  19. CanadianTeacher

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    I've tried setting things up as an independent study where they have a set of instructions/assignments/learning journal entries, etc... to complete within a week (only a week's worth at a time). One of my Math classes is a split 7/8 with only 8 grade
    8's who are somewhat good at working independently. I set it up for them so I could have time to teach the much needier grade 7's, and thought I'd try it with my all grade 8 class too. They seem to like the freedom/responsibility/knowing ahead of time what's going on. I'll keep it up for this unit and see how it goes. I think it'll help on a lot of levels - preparation for high school, they won't wonder what they missed if they miss a class, stronger students can work faster, weaker ones can have my attention for help...we'll see. I also mentioned to them, that if they are able to handle the responsibility of doing this and doing it well, we could lighten it up on Friday afternoons, as long as everyone takes care of getting their required work done and handed in by Friday afternoon. I'm feeling good about it and today it seemed to be well received when I introduced it.

    Obviously, there will also be lessons taught, but it won't be everyday drudgery and if I slip a project in here and there or as a culminating activity, then I think all base just may be covered.
     
  20. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I think, all in all, that this age just wants to know that what they're doing has a point. They're in a pretty rebellious time of life, so they can say and do hurtful things without fully realizing it. I wouldn't go off and change your teaching style just because of a snotty adolescent. At most, throw in some more interesting, current projects from time to time, but don't let the kids get to you. You're a good teacher, so don't stress too much.
     
  21. CanadianTeacher

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    Thanks, mmswm. They really are good kids, but in listening to the other teachers talk, work ethic is not one of their strong points. Maybe I can change that.
     
  22. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Kids will be kids, though the nature of that changes from generation to generation. I do like the independent study idea though. Maybe taking ownership of their own learning is just what they need.
     
  23. Limegirl

    Limegirl Rookie

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    The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off due to budget cuts.



    That is a great quote, haha!
     
  24. Genmai

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    I get this same complaint. One of the mothers says the same thing too. This is what I want to ask:

    Would you want to teach your son to go his future boss and say that he won't do his work because the job is boring? This is how you're training your son to think....

    There is a difference between "boring" and poor instruction. Hopefully, I'm not too far on the latter side.

    :|
     
  25. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Entertained kids are engaged kids. Engaged kids are motivated kids. Motivated kids are working kids. Working kids are learning kids.

    I will never understand the idea that we shouldn't be entertainers. ALL public speakers are entertainers.
     
  26. CanadianTeacher

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    There's a delicate balance. At some point kids need to make the transition between being entertained and learning, and taking responsibility for their own learning because it will benefit their future. I was never entertained, I was taught that I had a responsibility as a student and I grew up to have good work ethic. IMO, there is too much focus put on extrinsic motivation and it's not helping them. That being said, things should not be dull and uninteresting, and there should be variety in teaching and learning strategies.
     
  27. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Nov 20, 2009

    Not to beat a drum here but times have changed. Every aspect of public life has an aspect of entertainment now - for better or for worse. At least here in the US, for example, you don't even consider nominating a candidate for higher office if they aren't telegenic. It's the old Nixon-Kennedy debate where Nixon won if you heard it on radio and Kennedy if you saw it on TV. Society today is heavily based on entertainment. We are doing our kids a huge disservice if we ask the most boring part of their lives to be school.

    I realize you are not advocating that but I'd rather err on the side of entertainment than on the side of "we're doing this because that's how I did it."
     
  28. CanadianTeacher

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    As I said, there's a delicate balance. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one. I don't say it should all be boring and humdrum, but we seem to have a different definition of entertainment. I believe we are doing our kids a large disservice in bowing down to constant entertainment.
     
  29. CanadianTeacher

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    Update...

    Well, my independent study unit has been very successful thus far. Students are learning to manage their time, think critically and work indepdendently. We have been working with angles and angle properties like complementary angle, opposite angles, corresponding angles, etc.. My students have been working very hard and I'm quite impressed. What I would like to do in the next week or so is to wrap up all of their learning in a culminating project that I can assess instead of a test. I'd like this project to maybe incorporate the arts, but I can't find anything online and I can't think of anything really good. If I can come up with something, I could have them work on it during the last week before Christmas holidays and it would be a good way to spend that last week and still be productive in a way that's not to 'heavy'. This is grade 8 Math (Geometry). With my grade 7 math class in Geometry, we looked at tiling a plane today and we will be doing a tesselations project. I'm just not sure what I can do similarly with grade 8's that involves lines, angles and angle properties. Alice? Other math teachers?
     
  30. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Ummmm....

    let me think about it, OK?
     
  31. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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  32. mmswm

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    Okay, I have an idea. On the Feliciano website, the painting thumbnails...third one down on the left. Have them find the 180 degree angles throughout the painting and talk about the various angles of the objects thorughout the work. Ask them to point out where the line segments meet the straight angles and how that contributes to the overall flow of the work. I'm grasping here, but maybe Alice has another thought?
     
  33. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Okay, pick a painting, any painting. Print out copies of said painting and have students trace out the lines and angles throughout the paintings. Ask the students to measure various angles and then to predict other angles based on properties of lines. For further enrichment, have students discuss how the mathematical properties contribute to, or take away from the overall appeal of the work.
     
  34. CanadianTeacher

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    Wow, very cool ideas mmswm. I like it, and thank you for your input. Any ideas for having them using lines, angles, angle properties, etc.. to produce their own art, architecture, etc.. Some concrete criteria to give them where they could use the knowledge to produce something original? I could start with the analyzing you mentioned as part 1, then move on to producing as part 2. Ideas?
     
  35. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I believe that in creative, gifted teachers' classrooms, students who say they are bored are making a choice to be bored. In my classroom there is always a choice students can make to push their thinking, engage in an independent learning experience, "stretch their brains".
     
  36. CanadianTeacher

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    :confused:
     
  37. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Nov 28, 2009

    What's confusing you? Boredom is quite often a choice.

    I provide extension activities, challenge packets, math games, books on unit topics, independent study opportunities... this on top of modeling an enthusiasm for learning, a passion for our class activities...not much opportunity for real boredom.
     
  38. CanadianTeacher

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    The confused look because of the tone of your post...
     
  39. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I'm not sure what tone you are inferring. From your first post, it sounds like you are providing plenty of opportunities for students to become engaged in the material- in which case, boredom would be a choice that a student was making, not a result of anything you did/didn't do. Seems to me that the student who made the 'boring class' comment has other goals..attention? trying to get under your skin? In either case, why not just say something along the lines of "I'm sorry you feel that way, this class is what you make of it"...and then let it go.
     
  40. CanadianTeacher

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    My mistake. It sounded to me like you were trying to say that you thought I wasn't doing enough. Lesson: If you aren't sure what someone means online, ask! Tones are hard to inflect with only typed words.

    Anyway, I think the girl in question was upset that the other teacher left and she was taking it out on me and she said that to get a reaction (which didn't happen...outwardly anyway). Since then, she's settled down and we are understanding each other much better. She actually understands herself quite well because we had a conversation about how well she did in math last year and I asked her what is different for her to not be doing as well this year, and she said that last year's teacher was very strict with her. The teacher she had this year before me (I took over Nov 2) was a very new teacher, young and not so strict so the girl took advantage of the situation and her marks suffered. She said to me: "You have to be strict with me." I consider myself somewhere in the middle and I've made it a point not to let her get away with anything, and she's been great for me ever since.

    Sorry about misinterpreting your post. :eek:
     
  41. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Wow...I'm really impressed with this girl's sense of self. It's not common for a kid her age to know herself and what she needs that well. You've got a good kid there :)
     

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