Small Group Vs. Big Group

Today we did our first 105 the Hive radio show for math. We’ve been learning about solving equations in class, and as one of our final tasks, students hosted a radio show where they explained their thinking when solving four different math problems.

I really did a lot of thinking before today’s math activity, as I wanted to make this “big group” activity about a “small group.” Even though all of the students in the class participated in the Today’sMeet or Twitter backchannel, only four students ran the radio show. Through emails and discussions with the principal, Paul Clemens, and the vice principal, Tammy McLaughlin, I have really been pushed to think even more about small group instruction. I know that guided groups — whether in literacy or math — benefit students, and I have tried to spend even more time with these small groups.

What about today’s math activity though? All 27 of my students were involved, so how did this activity really target the small group? Today my guided group of students was the group of the four radio show hosts. I was basically sharing my guided program with others through this LIVE radio streaming. Students, parents, educators, and administrators could hear my questions to these four students, listen to our discussion/lesson, but also chime in with their own thoughts and questions through our backchannel.

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A special thanks to Alley for recording our radio show today with this pencast.

The focus may have been on the small group, but I think that the large group benefited. When I followed up this radio show with a math problem on balanced equations, more students understood and articulated the strategies they could use to solve the problem. Yeah! This was what I wanted to happen!

I still have a problem though: while more students shared their learning later, the Today’sMeet and Twitter backchannels produced very little “communication” in math? Students shared the answer, but not the process.

Solving Equations

I think I need to model more of this type of written communication when working with small and large groups. Maybe we need to look at the student responses, and as a class, even share ways to add more details. While I read the contributions as they appear, I think that I need to start responding with questions to the students as well. Maybe my questions would have produced deeper discussion in these backchannels. What do you think? I want to continue to guide the small group and the big group of students, but I want the same communication to happen in both groups. How would you make this a reality?


4 thoughts on “Small Group Vs. Big Group

  1. Good on you, Aviva, for bringing your students and math to #105theHive. Math communication has been a key focus of mine for the last few years. We want our students to be able to calculate, while understanding that explaining their thinking is just as important.

    As part of a PLC I participated in a few years ago with the high school teachers my feeder school would be attending, we came to an agreement on the type of information that should be included in their answers. Definitions of any mathematical term, an example, and finally the explanation.

    Looking forward to hearing more from you and your students on the livestream!


    • Thanks for the comment, Heather! I find it interesting to hear what you and your PLC have been focusing on when it comes to communication in math. I really like the sound of this format. You have now given me even more to think about.

      I plan on sharing even more math broadcasts on The Hive. Students loved this way to communicate their learning, and I think that this could be a useful tool to help students as we focus on communication in math.


  2. This is timely for me, because I’m putting together a workshop for staff on math and technology,and one of the things I want to figure out is how we encourage small-group math work (reading some interesting stuff on guided math), but also how our kids can “talk” to each other about how they’re actually solving problems. I even wondered about Skyping between classrooms, and having groups explain why they did what they did on the Smart board. Today, in French (where we’re doing a little math very day), I asked my kids “en anglais” what they might write in a math journal about our activity. They were a little boggled at that thought, but not totally baffled, and came up with some interesting feedback. It’s a start….

    On a completely other note, thanks for the radio inspiration. I think my Grade 4’s and I are going to try a French broadcast with @colinjagoe’s help in future!

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Lisa! When I taught Grades 1 and 2, I did small group Math Skype Calls all the time. This was a great way to get students talking about math. I hope you give it a try! I hope to do some this year as well. This oral language component is crucial, and I think helps the students with their writing too.

    I’m glad to hear that you might try a radio broadcast also. These radio shows have been great learning opportunities for my students!


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