My fifth graders have been doing research in science and then presenting their findings in Adobe Spark Video. I noticed a real lack of understanding of the design process so I created a guide to use with them. It has really helped!
Today I met with each team to check in on their progress. It made things really concrete to say, “Show me your work. Where is step one? Where is step two? Etc.”
So I thought I’d share. Feel free to alter the guide and make it work for your kids. If you have suggestions to make the guide better, I’d LOVE to hear them! Let’s collaborate for the good of our students.
Last year, it was my turn to be observed. After teaching for 27 years, I was ready to take a risk, try something new. So I went to my principal and asked, “Do I have to be in my classroom when you come do my observation?” As you can imagine, she didn’t exactly know how to respond. But since my boss was a good sport, and trusted me, she said, “Well, what do you have in mind?” After I explained, she decided to play along.
When the time came, my principal walked into my room and I walked out. It was a very good year, probably the best group of kids I’d ever had, a class of very mature fifth graders. One girl ran the class. She managed 32 students reviewing a language arts assignment. The students worked in groups, pairs, and held a whole class discussion. According to my principal, my observation went well. I had to take her word for it, since I wasn’t there.
So why would I do such a crazy thing?
About 12 years ago, I began my journey to make my students the most independent they possibly could be. I had read an archived newsletter at learningcentered.org that told the story of a sub who didn’t show up for school. The principal was walking the hallways, noticed the kids in one class working away diligently, but didn’t see any teacher. Upon inquiry of the students, the principal found out that the teacher hadn’t shown up, and neither had the substitute. So the kids just went about their business of learning. This struck me. Could my students do this? Would they?
So to me, the real assessment of my teaching is how my students work without me. And if that’s my goal, then why should I be in the room for my teacher observation?
I am on a mission to help students master conceptual understanding of fractions. This is NOT an easy task. Fractions are so hard for kids whose minds still operate primarily in the concrete.
I’ve been tutoring some struggling mathematicians after school a couple days a week. This last week, we were looking at comparing fractions with different numerators and denominators. I showed the students region models that represented 2/3 and 3/4.
Just about every one of the 10 kids looked at the model and said that 2/3 was greater than 3/4. I was dumbfounded. How could the kids look at these two models, where one was clearly bigger than the other, and say the smaller one was larger?
I tried to get inside the heads of my students. Where was the misconception? Then it hit me. I had been showing numerous examples of unit fractions and pounding into the kids’ heads how 1/4 was smaller than 1/3, 1/10 smaller than 1/5, etc.
I did my best to drive home the point that the larger denominator actually indicated the smaller fraction. Then, we switched to comparing fractions like 3/4 and 2/3. Eureka! The kids were looking at the individual pieces, not the entire shaded region! When I asked which was bigger, they said 2/3 was greater than 3/4 because 1/3 is greater than 1/4!
Lesson learned. When kids seem illogical and out-of-touch, there’s a reason. Our job as educators is to pinpoint these misconceptions and help students make sense of the world around them.
For a really cool visual math resource, check out this fraction model on the NCTM website, Illuminations.
Have you discovered any math misconceptions with your students that you could share?
An Amazon Echo is quite pricey. I accomplish pretty much the same thing in my classroom by playing the part of Alexa. Learn more about this technique as well as how to use an analog clock to teach angles in my latest episode of The 5-Minute MishMash podcast. Give it a listen and let me know what you think!