I have been getting very frustrated with my Year 7 class, a sizable core seem to be stumped whenever I don’t give instructions like a cookery recipe.
Last week’s topic was angle. I had flexible angles on the whiteboard, I talked about one being acute, and one obtuse, as one increases the other decreases, they always add to 180. Some pupils interpreted that as a recipe: ‘take away 180’, and then switched off. They ‘took away 180’ in every question be it vertically opposite angles, angles round a point or in a triangle.
I decided to do something different in my next topic – absolutely no recipes!
I had shapes like this on the board
I gave everyone a dull number worksheet to keep them occupied while I gave out squared paper, scissors and glue, and dealt with the normal start of lesson “faff”.
I stopped everyone, held up a cuboid shaped box, and asked its name. We had the inevitable discussion of cube vs. cuboid and cuboid vs. rectangle. I drew smiles on a couple of the faces, asked how many faces there were, and what shapes they were. Eventually we established that there are six rectangles, in three matching pairs.
On the board I sketched the six rectangles fitting together to make a net. “What shall I draw here?” “should this be a skinny rectangle?” “we’ve got two of these and two of these so what am I missing?”
I gave the class the task of making and cutting out the nets for all the shapes on the board. When they achieved a correct net that folded properly, they could stick it in their book with one face stuck down.
Some pupils got really stuck in and got faster and more confident as they went along. Lots of kids asked their neighbour about how to get started.
To the whole class, I said “Each cuboid net has six rectangle faces, even if you don’t understand, just get started, try it, and if your first one doesn’t fold up right, you can improve it on your second and third goes until it works.”
I had lots of conversations along these lines:
“I don’t know what to do”
“Make a net”
“I don’t get it”
“What do you want to know?”
“I want to know how to do it”
“Your net is going to need all the sides drawn out at the right size – how many faces?”
“What shapes are they?”
“OK, can you draw one of the rectangles?”
“On the picture on the board, show me which face that is going to be – will it be the right size? – now draw the other faces, joined on, and just see if it is right”
One pupil came up after 20 mins, with three nets of 1cm cubes,
“Miss, whatever I do, it always comes out like this!”
“So what shape are the faces on your shape?”
“On the cuboid you’re trying to make, what shape are the faces?”
“Can you tell me exactly how big the biggest rectangle is? Could you draw that face first? What sizes are the other faces?...”
I had two or three conversations was getting really frustrated, as if we were speaking different languages. Whatever I said got “I don’t get it” as a reply.
When pupils gave me some kind of a reply, I was prepared to work with them, but some responses were still somewhat odd.
“How many faces are there”
“I don’t know – five? – three?”
(He seems to be trying to think about this, and he is a capable child. I think he’s looking at the dimensions of the cuboid on the board – but what does he think the words in my question mean? Does he believe that all teacher questions translate into “tell me the numbers on the board?”)
eventually his net looked something like this:
His second net had four correctly fitted rectangles.