Earlier this week, I blogged about a math lesson that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I was not happy with my questioning skills, and I felt that I talked way more than I needed to talk. I asked people for some suggestions on what I could do differently the next time, and as always, my wonderful PLN came through with many fantastic ideas!
Yesterday morning, Kelly McCrory, the school’s math facilitator, came by before school started. Kelly has shared numerous math lesson ideas with me this year, and she has been a great person to talk to and reflect with after different math activities. I sent Kelly the link to my blog post from earlier this week, and Kelly came to me with an idea. In a Grade 3 class, she did an activity where students were given a Venn Diagram and a photocopied page of different shapes. Students determined their sorting rules and wrote them on the back of the Venn Diagram (with sticky notes). Then they sorted the shapes accordingly. Other students walked around the classroom, looked at the different Venn Diagrams, and had to work together to determine the sorting rules. Since I wanted my students to realize that the same shapes could be sorted under numerous categories, she thought that a similar activity might work in my classroom. We decided to use one oval instead of a Venn Diagram: students would put all the shapes that met the sorting rule into the oval, and all of the other shapes around the oval. Maybe with an activity like this one, the focus could be on more student talk and less teacher talk.
Today, I gave it a try. It was great to walk around the classroom as the children were working. There was so much “math talk.” Students were discussing the properties of the different shapes. They were trying to decide how to sort shapes that they couldn’t even identify by name. They were problem solving and working cooperatively.
The best part though came when the students were going on their “gallery walk” around the classroom. One child had a very difficult sorting rule. He used connections to the number 4 to sort his shapes. Many students looked at his shape sort and went onto another one, but some students stayed at this one to discuss what they noticed:
In my last blog post, Heather suggested that I continue to videotape my discussions with students, as she thought that hearing and reflecting on these discussions would help. I’m so glad that I listened to her advice. Unlike with my last videotaped lesson, this time I did talk less. I gave more wait time between questions, and I tried to let the students talk through their thinking. I guided a bit at the end, and maybe I still guided too much, but I think that the students eventually got to the solution on their own. From the ideas that they wrote down on the sticky note, the class was able to enter into a conversation around this more complex sorting rule, and we were able to explore numbers as well as shapes. This was a far more successful lesson!
Thank you so much (again) to Kelly for helping me “try again” with your activity idea! Thank you as well to all of the educators that shared your great advice with me in response to my last blog post. I was thinking about what you said as I did this lesson today. All of you help guide me as I strive to become a better math teacher, and ultimately, a better teacher!
I told my students today that I did this activity because I wasn’t happy with the questions that I asked during our last shape discussion. I admitted that I made a mistake, and I tried to show the students the importance of “trying again.” Have you ever done this before? What were the results? I would love to hear your stories too!