In a class of nine geometry students, I am assigned to work specifically with three tenth graders. They attend lectures and class activities with the other students, then typically leave to work independently or go over homework with me. This allows students in both groups to get more attention from a teacher, and provides me with a sort of teaching apprenticeship. The students, like their classmates, have learning disabilities that cause me to continually reassess what I think I know about how they think.
My latest realization is that I’ve been overusing the whiteboard. At the beginning of the year we introduced angles (acute, obtuse, right and straight) and I found colored markers a great asset as we practiced identifying angles on the board. The students enjoyed working problems on the board with such a small group and even grew comfortable enough to work on the board in front of the whole class when the groups were together. Based on that experience I continued to use the whiteboard each day, expecting that a good method in one case would be good in all cases.
Only this week I accidentally let the students sit down and get to work on their own without rolling out the whiteboard. They worked at individual paces, and I was soon circulating to answer questions on paper instead of addressing each question with the whole group. I was able to see how each student progressed from question to question and was pleased to find them frequently succeeding. Clearly the whiteboard is an invaluable tool but should be given a rest from time to time.