I expected my Algebra 1 class enrollment to be relatively stable since I had the same kids in class on Tuesday as at the end of class on Monday. Today, I showed up and there were about 45 students in the room. There were more students than there were chairs so some were standing in the back. I didn’t prepare enough handouts and hurriedly printed more on the laser printer in the room. About 10 minutes into the class, another teacher took about 10 of them away to another class. The class started off in chaos and I never felt like I regained my composure.
Also, I made a crucial mistake in my lesson. I chose a beautiful problem (partly, because it has more than one answer) from the CPM Algebra 1 textbook as the main activity today.
Students were arranged in groups of four and I told them to work together. I did not anticipate that students would not know how to calculate the area of a rectangle. There were many students who confused perimeter with area–for example, quite a few students set the living room to be a square with four sides 45 ft each and concluded that the area of the living room was 180 sq ft. Many other students didn’t know how to start and they grew frustrated and gave up because I couldn’t get to all of them quickly enough. Thankfully, there were two other teachers in the room who were helping answer questions, but none of the students were able to come up with a possible solution by the end of the period.
My Geometry class today didn’t run much better than my Algebra 1 class. Again, students were in and out of the room during class. (I noticed I had at least two students who were in both Algebra 1 and Geometry–their schedules are also messed up.) The activities that I had prepared went ok for those that were engaged, but there were a number of students who just didn’t want to do anything. Today I tried to redo the activity that I wasn’t able to do last time–finding the shape with the largest area with a fixed perimeter using string and graph paper. One student was surprised by the finding that a circle has larger area than a square with the same perimeter, so I guess it was a success at least for one student. The rest of the time, we played sprouts. Again, some were into it, the rest were not.
It was really discouraging to feel like I am mostly babysitting these students while the school figures out who is in my class and who isn’t. I haven’t given students textbooks yet as I’m not sure who is really in the class. Should I continue giving interesting but somewhat unrelated tasks during class, or should I just begin class and try to help students catch up as they join the class? What if my class doubles in size the next time we meet? How sure should I be about my enrollment before I start class? Any advice from experienced teachers would be appreciated!