Teacher appreciation week

First Person

teacher appreciation

New York

Anatomy of an action- and algebra-packed middle school class

Ryan Hall watches students work out a graphing equation. "Every second counts," teacher Ryan Hall said about the math classes he teaches at Williamsburg Collegiate Charter Middle School. The Brooklyn teacher, who was recognized by a national nonprofit as one of the top teachers in the country last week, packed a recent eighth-grade class with algebra drills and word problems, presented at a rapid pace to discourage wandering minds. Last week TNTP named Hall, who got his start as a teacher with Teach for America in 2007, as one of 20 teachers up for the brand-new Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice. Though Hall did not win the $25,000 prize, he was one of just two city teachers honored as finalists. GothamSchools spent Tuesday morning watching Hall teach at his school, which consistently posts top scores on the city's annual progress reports. After class, Hall explained how he organized the class, grouped students, and assessed progress. Hall's commentary is framed in block quotes beneath our observations. 8 a.m. By moments after first-period started, Hall's 21 students were already sitting in silence, scribbling the answers to a set of six mathematical problems. As he does on most mornings, Hall started the class with two timed exercises: the "Cranium Cruncher" and the "Do Now," which teachers across the city have used to kick off their classes since the Department of Education first mandated the "workshop model" in 2003. Hall said it typically takes him 30-45 minutes to prepare for the class, which always takes place in the morning. "The 'Do Now' is more like grade-level work, with five to six word problems, and we go over that," Hall said. "Then there's one to 12 problems on a 'Cranium Crunch12.' It's a drill sheet — basic skills in isolation, like computation."