Side note about the title: I wish my class had a more recognizable name so I could title this post "Learning Skills, One Month In" but I forget that "Learning Skills" only means something to a handful of teachers at my school. It's what we used to call the level above Life Skills. This year my schedule just says "Math" as the course name, so helpful right?

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I was trying to figure out what to teach my contained special ed class. I decided to try some activities and then determine if the 8th grade IM curriculum would be a good fit. The class rocked my word problems with tape diagrams/bar models handout. I was impressed with their language skills; this activity is great for testing if students can make sense of problems and my group absolutely can! They needed counting objects for most problems but they were able to take the concrete representations and turn them into number sentences (no one used variable equations but that was just fine) and word sentences. Buoyed by this success we decided to move into the IM curriculum.

We've continued to play how many every day. It's interesting how some students are still resisting. They ask "Again??" when they walk in but even on days where I plan a short discussion they bring up interesting ideas and want to share all the things they notice once we get started! I'm enjoying having an organized folder of images. Right now we are working on arrays. Not every student is using multiplication as a strategy reliably but we write down a row x column = total equation each day. We are also working on one to one correspondence (I think? Remember, I'm a high school teacher by training so this is non-native vocab). We talk about how to figure out how many stems there are if we already counted the number of peppers (the same) or how many eyes there are if we already counted the number of stuffed animals (double - this was surprisingly challenging for them to grasp!).

The first lesson of 8th grade IM started with the same response. I think it stems from a feeling of "this seems like it should be easy but I don't feel confident." So I didn't get many kids to dance with me but we got enough practice that we built a list of transformation vocab that was sufficient to define terms the next class. We tried to do the card sort from lesson 2 as a desmos activity but that was too abstract for my concrete thinkers. So I opted to replace the next couple IM lessons which relied on geogebra with paper handouts from my days teaching geometry. We did a variety of transformation practice activities starting with moving (and tracing) physical shapes and graduating to using wax paper for reflections and rotations. Some students had a much easier time seeing the transformations than others, but all felt successful using the wax paper. After two great classes of following transformation instructions I posed the question "Does order matter?" and asked students to generate some transformations of their own to test the hypothesis. This was far too abstract and I stopped them, apologized mid class, thanked Desmos for their amazing timing and opened up transformation golf to demonstrate completing the same transformations in different orders. Then they were eager to play!

Last class we returned to the IM activities to do an info gap. It was excellent and the structured conversation was perfect for my students to practice vocabulary. Then I let them play transformation golf and was surprised to find they had a hard time understanding how to use the arrows (I automatically put the endpoint on the purple figure I was trying to transform, this wasn't intuitive for my students). Even though they struggled some with the interface they were successful at completing several tasks and were eager to have me play their various solutions so the class could see how many different ways there were to solve a problem!

So, where does that leave us? I've learned that concrete representations are going to be essential for this group. I'm not going to be able to use the IM curriculum as it stands with my students but hopefully I can use most of the ideas and activities just supplementing with physical models wherever possible. I think I'm going to need to spend some time soon looking at a year long calendar and the list of topics. Since I'm getting through one lesson per block and we only have class every other day I'm going to have to cut a lot. It would be good to have some idea of how that will work since the Pythagorean theorem is at the end and its definitely worth spending time on with this group. A task for tomorrow perhaps. It would be cool if the OUR site had a built in planning tool, especially because it could link to each lesson (4 clicks isn't hard, but it's still 3 more clicks than ideal).

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