April 26, 2015

When Blank Stares Work - #tmwyk

It's allergy season so I'm exhausted most of the time. I was checking over J's math homework rather half heartedly when she said she didn't know how to do the angle ones without her reference sheet. The first one was a pair of intersecting lines with a sixty degree angle given. I asked what a straight line would measure in degrees. She stumbled a bit but I continued staring at her (partially waiting her out but partially unable to come up with a good hint because allergy haze) and she eventually settled on 180. So I drew a diagram with only the sixty degree angle and the adjacent (supplementary) angle. Then I asked her how many degrees should go there to get the 180. She fumbled, I stared, she started counting by tens from sixty, keeping track on her fingers. She declared "12." I stared. She said "60+12=180. That makes no sense." I stared. Realization hit, "120!" "Great, go finish your homework."

Staring blankly at kids isn't going to win me any awards for most effective teaching strategy, but sometimes it is the best thing we can do. Tonight I used it because my processing speed is so slow I couldn't come up with a helpful response faster than she could help herself. But extended wait time and letting kids ask us for help rather than continuing the conversation as soon as they have responded really does work. I need the occasional reminder to slow down. I wish it didn't have to come in the form of immune system overload, but I'll listen nonetheless. 

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