What I Saw, What I Learned

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Free Choice: Students utilizing yardsticks to build an intense trail of dominoes.

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Language Arts: The glass tiles students used as inspiration for a story–any kind of story!

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Mathematics: Exploring perimeter and area using square-foot-paper,
formed into shapes.

A couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t really feelin’ my dyad placement. I mean, I found my CT to be genuine and a strong teacher, but the school culture was so new to me, I kind of felt like a fish out of water. And of course, as some of us do when confronted with the new, I resisted evolving to fit the situation. But I’ve had a change of heart, and now I know it was bound to happen–I just needed to acclimate! Get used to the new and learn to feel comfortable and willing to extend my mind and abilities to succeed in an environment I thought I didn’t fit in.

With this new perspective, I was able to fully see and appreciate the learning I saw take place, and the learning I experienced myself. One one morning, during their “Free Choice” time, when the students come in and are allowed to partake in an activity within the classroom as long as they are respectful of other peoples’ activities, a couple of students went straight to a popular activity: dominoes. They grabbed a yardstick to connect two tables, and began constructing a trail of carefully aligned dominoes. Pretty soon, the group was half the class! They worked together cooperatively and kindly; even when one accidentally set of the dominoes, the group would say, “That’s okay, let’s just fix it.”

For Language Arts that day, my CT pulled out glass tiles and set forth the task: write a story inspired by the tile. It didn’t have to be a story in the strictest sense–one student chose to write a song and another a poem! One child in particular, J, surprised me by actually wanting to write her story. It is usually her that needs the most help getting started, and usually her writing process starts with drawing (partly to postpone the inevitable writing part). But this day, I was excited to see that something about the glass tile did inspire her.

Then in math, the students were introduced to perimeter and area in a way that was both concrete and conceptual: their teacher used square sheets of paper, 1ftx1ft, to form shapes. Most of the students had an understanding that perimeter is the distance around, and the area is the “amount of space” within the lines of the shape. Using the shapes formed by the sheets of paper, the students as a group “counted” feet to figure out the perimeter and then counted sheets to figure out the area. This instructional moment was especially cool for me because perimeter and area were taught to me strictly in the terms of the formulas needed to find them. It was taught in a way that was meaningful because it was on a level the students could see and develop a deep understanding of the concepts.

The learning I got to be a part of this week was pretty inspiring–I took these pictures and wrote about them here so I would remember to do them with my own future students! And also, to remind myself to give those students some “Free Choice” time to pursue their interests, while learning through play and cooperation.

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2 Comments

  1. I agree, what a great math lesson. The curriculum I’ve been observing is very textbook focused and I’ve been trying to consider ways the formulas can jump off the page. Would be interested to know how these kids would define the terms – especially area – after doing this exercise. Is their take away from the activity what the teacher expects?

    • Talking about the lesson after school with the CT that day, it turns out they didn’t make the concept-to-abstract understanding jump she thought they would. They were able to do the concrete task she was presenting to them, but she’s not sure if they were able to, as she expected them to, have it “click” in a way that they would start asking about the other ways they have heard or seen perimeter and area talked about. But I think… it’s only 2nd grade… it’ll “click” soon.

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