The Mysteries of Conic Sections

This sprint was being inserted into a three-week unit on conic sections, something I knew nothing about but would have to teach.

I had to model a learning process radically different from the traditional model that Michelle knew so well – a model commonly referred to as ‘sage on the stage’.

I quickly searched Khan Academy for lessons on conic sections. Lo and behold, they had them. The students could learn conic sections on their own.

My job, as I had done in the previous experiment, was to be there as a guide and community builder. I would identify those students who were learning faster than others and designate them as the resources for other students who needed help: a learning community.

Michelle had never experienced this learning style before. At first, she was very skeptical. But she began to walk around the room with me, listening and watching the process as it unfolded. As a skilled teacher, she was able to see quickly dynamics I couldn’t. She then would gently interject herself to nudge or support students, helping them along the way.

She was also able to identify a handful of students who really weren't ready for this unit on conic sections. They had missed some key concepts from the previous section that were a building block for this unit. So she took them back to that earlier unit and was able to help them put those missing concepts in place before they continued with conic sections.

She was beaming by the end of each class. This was so much fun.

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