As all of you know, my focus for this year is on math instruction and on increasing the amount of problem-solving in my math program. Yesterday, our math facilitator, Kelly McCrory, came into the classroom to observe a math lesson. It was stressful. I know that she wasn’t there to observe me, but when anybody is coming into watch the class, I feel like I’m being observed. I can’t help it. I start to question myself. I listen to every word that I say, and I want to go back and take back at least half of them. 🙂
I think that reflecting while teaching is a good thing though, and having another teacher in the room to teach and learn with you is even better. When Kelly came into observe, I was doing an introductory measurement lesson. The other day, the students learned how to measure length using non-standard units, and they’re now learning how to measure perimeter. The Grade 2 students helped define perimeter for the Grade 1’s. Students then applied what they learned last week about the size of non-standard units to this perimeter activity, and they made some predictions about their results. They went off into small groups to start measuring objects around the classroom.
I took the video camera, and I recorded some of my interactions with students, but I also listened to the conversations that Kelly was having with them. Wow! She was really making me think. Not only was she questioning students, but when they gave her their answers, she had them, “prove it.” She was taking the questioning piece one step further. I often stop once the answer makes sense to me, but Kelly keeps pushing their thinking. It made me realize where I need to go next too.
I then watched her talk to some students that were measuring a sticky note using teddy bears. One of the students realized that the bears all needed to go in one direction, and she also realized that she needed to eliminate the spaces between the bears. I listened to Kelly asking her questions about her choices, and then I looked at another student that was leaving spaces in between the bears. After hearing the questions that Kelly was asking this other student, I was able to use some of these same questions to the student that was having difficulty. I now knew what to ask. Being able to listen in on Kelly’s conversation helped me with my own.
It was then time for the reflect and connect piece. I had the students start by sharing some results. I was going to ask the questions after I got all of the results down, but I’m glad that Kelly helped me change this plan. One student started by sharing how many Bingo chips she needed to measure the perimeter of another student. Many other students shared that they didn’t get a final answer because they ran out of time. Kelly asked, “why?” This got them talking. We then started to compare using playing cards to using Bingo chips for measuring different objects. Which ones are better in which cases? Why? We needed to get out the visuals again. We needed to try out some examples with the class. We needed to be patient, and we needed to keep on asking follow-up questions. We needed to reword the questions to get more information. It was a long process, and no, we didn’t get all of the other results recorded, but we did get some very deep conversation. We got meaningful math talk.
I think it was two teachers that made this difference. I think that having us build off of each other’s questions, helped. I think that we pushed each other forward as much as we pushed the students. Yes, it can be initially stressful to have another teacher in the classroom. And yes, I was initially hesitant. But would I have Kelly come back into the classroom again? Absolutely! Together, we’re better!
Have you experienced a similar situation before? What do you think: is “two” better than “one?” I would love to hear your thoughts!