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Finding Time

47 minutes....the amount of time we have each day to teach a lesson, answer questions, differentiate instruction, assess, and connect with our students. As teachers, this time flies by as we work to cover a certain amount of content and give our students time to start on/complete their assignments. While we always have high hopes to teach a lesson and give the students time, the reality is that having only 47 minutes makes this task difficult. Regardless of this obstacle, teachers really have to make student time a priority in their classroom.

As I visit the Math Department this week, I've found that it is essential for teachers to give students time to process, work, question, understand, and collaborate during these 47 minutes in order help them actually grasp the material at hand. And this is the truth for all classes students take throughout the school year.

Time to Process
We all know that students need time to process information. It can be very easy to call on the students who raise their hand immediately as we work to get everything done during a class period, but the reality is that students need time to think and process. Ms. Samantha Hannon's lesson during Algebra Block asked students to listen, process, and demonstrate their understanding of the content. As her students worked through a problem and had to share their process and understanding, she didn't call on students who immediately raised their hand; instead, she verbally responded, "I am going to give you all some time to process." With this simple statement, the students knew that she wasn't letting anyone off the hook. As I observed the room, all students were engaged in the problem at hand and were given a chance to process what they learned and then ask questions if needed.

Time to Work and Collaborate 
It can be very difficult to reserve time in class for students to complete their work; however, this is the best way to help our students, as they can ask us questions in the moment, and we can assess their understanding. Individual work time and time to collaborate with peers are both extremely important in a student-centered classroom. In all of the math classrooms I visited, students were given time to work through problems and ask questions. Some teachers asked students to come up to the smartboard in order to demonstrate their understanding. Others asked for student feedback about problems and then completed the work on the Smartboard for the rest of the class to see. However they decided to do it, students were given time to practice. And as we all know, practicing is key to success. Also, in Ms. Roxanne Vandervelde's Precalculus classes, her students were given time to complete various problems and then reviewed them as a class. The setup of her classroom provides the option for students to collaborate, as the students sit at rectangular tables. She told me that while she was nervous about the tables, it has opened the opportunity for more math-centered discussions. Students can collaborate, ask for help, or even help their peers as needed. Even in rooms without tables, teachers can move desks as needed in order to provide opportunities for students to collaborate while working and learn from each other.

Time to Question and Understand
In giving students time to work, we automatically give them time to ask questions and hopefully understand the work at hand. Encouraging questions and trying to understand how our students learn should be a daily part of our learning as teachers. In Ms. Teri Braband's class, she posed questions and did not receive any responses. She didn't stop there; instead, she asked the students why they were not answering. Are you confused? Do you get it? Are you dialed in? She made it known that students needed to be involved in what they were doing and held them responsible during the lecture. Students then started to ask questions and worked to understand the content. Similarly, Mr. Luke Gotfryd and Ms. Peg Vandeleur listened to their freshmen students' questions as they worked through the previous night's homework. Students asked great questions for clarification, and I was impressed with how they both modified instruction in order to make sure they were teaching in a way that students could understand.

Accessibility...What happens after class? 
This is where we can use technology to help us help our students. Teachers can make lessons, examples, and assignments accessible for students to use when they are at home and cannot directly ask us questions. In the Math Department, many teachers use the online program, Math XL, for homework. Students complete their assignments in the program on their Chromebooks. A few students in Ms. Jessie Lavin's class showed me that the program gives them multiple chances to get the right answer and also has an example problem for the assignments in case the students need some help. Ms. Lavin explained that this program is extremely beneficial in her math classes as it helps her understand how her students are learning and what needs further clarification. In Ms. Julie Many's classes, she creates an awesome unit calendar that links to the class topics, in-class notes, and homework. At the end of a lesson, she takes her lesson from the SmartBoard, adds it to the Google Drive, and then links to it on her unit calendar. Since students have access to this calendar, they always have access to their class materials and can use the notes for help as needed! What a wonderful way to make work accessible for students!

Class time for processing, working, questioning, understanding, and collaborating will help make our learning environment student-centered; consequently, we will help students in the moment and can differentiate instruction as needed. While 47 minutes fly by when we are in a teaching groove, we need to always remember that students need time to apply what we are teaching and be given opportunities to struggle, learn, and master. #whatsup