A Peek into Mr. Birkholz’s 8th Grade Algebra
An observer might expect a classroom full of middle school students during the first hour, on the first day back to school from Spring Break, to look a little weary. This was not the case in Mr. Birkholz’s 8th grade Algebra I class! Students walk into the room in clusters, speaking softly with each other, finding their seats. After Mr. Birkholz announces it’s time to begin, the chatter in the room stops and all eyes await further instruction. This experienced teacher (over eleven years), believes in jumping right back into a lesson after a school break. Students expect this and they are prepared with their chromebooks, pencils, calculators, and workbooks ready.
The algebra lesson for this class includes some review along with the introduction of a new chapter in the workbook. To begin the hour, students work on a few problems independently. Mr. Birkholz tracks their progress and notices when the students complete their work through the google classroom platform. He encourages their progress as he comments on scores from a previous test, “scores overall are good, and it wasn’t an easy one!” Mr. Birkholz works through the warm-up problems and points out the areas of common mistakes, then asks the students to put away their chromebooks and take out their workbooks.
Next up, new material. Throughout the lesson, Mr. Birkholz refers back to previous concepts and links the material to academic extension concepts which provides a framework for the students to build upon. All class members are focused on the smartboard, asking and answering questions when appropriate while jotting notes in their workbooks. Overall, the class is quiet while they concentrate on the information, but it is apparent questions are encouraged. Mitchell Weiss (grade 8) says, “He’s a good teacher because he explains everything in depth and whenever we ask questions, he always explains it even better than before.”
Once the guided lesson is over, students have time to begin their homework. This Algebra I class can expect about 20-25 minutes of homework each day. Mr. Birkholz walks around the room checking to see if anyone needs help. Towards the end of the class period, a new member joins the class. Douglas, one of two therapy dogs at West Hills, lives with Mr. Birkholz and sometimes visits his class. Douglas does not distract students as he walks in, as they are used to his presence. He slurps some water from his bowl and lays down in his bed. What a fantastic way to end a productive class period.