Our quest blogger today is 2nd grade teacher, Emily Jones. She shared a little bit about herself and her love of math, "This is my sixth year teaching. I have taught grades 1-3 and I have a passion for math! My kiddos are 11 and 14. Prior to teaching and being a stay at home mom, I worked in banking. I found a love for math from my banking experience and in teaching. I have greatly improved my math thinking as an adult." Thank you, Emily, for sharing your passion for math!
Right now the end of year checklists are begging for attention and teachers are trying to figure out how to keep their students engaged. Let’s be honest, teachers are just trying to keep kids safe. Having engaged learners during the last week of school is a BONUS. So, how can we send off our students longing for more math? How can we continue to focus on rich learning even when summer and swimming pools are on the brain?
Recently, I became inspired to seek out answers to these questions and after reflecting I arrived at these three words: novelty, exploration, and structure. After modifying a few Bridges in Mathematics marble roll lessons I came to realize the magic of the fab three—the triple threat. Novelty, exploration, and structure, I decided were the key to any great end of year lessons. The result? Instead of ending my year with guilt and glazed over eyes as I desperately tried to fill in any learning gaps, I was witness to happy, enthusiastic learning.
Novelty tends to be the first item checked off on my teacher-shopping list. When I get excited about a lesson, it is typically because I have found something interesting or unusual to add to it. In this case, my novelty came from extremely long tubing because I just bought two new rugs and cool tubes were included in the packaging. As predicted, the cool tubes sparked a ton of interest and drama. But I’ll save that story for another day. So, instead of using regularly shaped paper towel tubes we had intriguing sizes and shapes! In an instant a plain lesson can go bold with the slightest of tweaking.
My second best friend is exploration. If anything got me sucked into education, it is the art of exploring. I could watch kids explore all day. My class’ curiosity about our materials for the lesson mixed with summer fever made it very hard to give instructions on the front end. Sometimes my strategy is to give freedom and then reign in. So instead of giving a lengthy set up, I allowed them to create first without a ton of explicit learning expectations. While I lead one group by digging deep into the heart of the lesson and facilitated, I allowed other students to construct, build, and test.
Equally crucial to a successful lesson at the end of the year, is strong structure. I saw immediately that I would need to orchestrate a careful plan to make sure that students were learning at high levels. I used my time working with groups to ask questions, speculate, and clarify any misunderstandings. I managed switching groups and moving from more structured environments to less based on observing various groups. Then, I reeled everyone back in when I felt like the freedom of discovery had reached its limit.
In the end, not all of my students filled in every box or answered every question for their written portion of the assignment. Instead, they had meaningful learning. They had a purpose. We had rich conversations, involvement, and excitement. What more can you ask for at the end of the year?