Monday, February 15, 2016

Looks Can Be Deceiving...

To the "outsider's" eye, this shot of our math time today may make you cringe a bit.  Students diligently working seated in their chairs, computing math problems in their individual textbooks...whole group instruction, no differentiation, no critical thinking...just roboticly working away.

Maybe it conjures up a picture in your mind like this.

And you are probably wondering just what in the world is going on?  We know this isn't best practices.  We know our mathematicians all learn differently, so why are they getting a one-size-fits-all instruction today?

The truth is...they aren't!  We began three-digit addition today and, yes, we used our textbooks.  But we used them in a collaborative critical-thinking activity.  Here's how:

The class was divided into "random" groups of four.  I say "random" in quotations because while I do believe in heterogeneous groups, I also know what research says about placing gifted students together.  So I made sure and put my kiddos who are on that higher level with a buddy who can push them as well.

In each group, each student was assigned a number, 1-4.  I read the math problem aloud to the class and set a two-minute timer.  The groups had two minutes to solve the algorithm and have each member of their group agree to one "correct" answer.

Once the answers were agreed upon, I used my new favorite tool from (look for a post later this week to see other ways I use this online tool!) to create a spinner numbered 1-4.  

I spun the spinner and the person from each group who is numbered whatever number is shown must go to the board and show their strategy for how their team solved the problem.

Teams then earned points for solving the problem correctly, using a logical strategy, and justifying their work.

Working in groups can sometimes be risky.  Usually, the class extroverts do all the talking while the introverts sit back.  But our class is a whole new risk!  We have almost all extroverts so I have to make sure our group work is always on task.  As I walked around monitoring today, I was so darn IMPRESSED at the math conversations I heard.  

I'm telling you, this activity turned a textbook assignment into a collaboration of minds.  LOVE it and will definitely be using this again.  You see...even though you think we're just a boring old math classroom...take another gander...looks can be deceiving!

Have a great week!