We’ve taken a little break from partner work in our class. Increasingly our struggles with problem solving were getting all tangled up. Instead of feeling frustrated because working with partners is hard, I felt too many of the students were starting to blame math for the problem and I didn’t want that feeling to perpetuate. We took some time to do some worksheets *GASP* alone – mostly because I needed a bit more data to feel confident about assigning letter grades on report cards. Geometry has been the focus of these. We also took some time to loop back to patterning because this seems to be an area where lots of people hadn’t made a connection between patterning and using an open number line to add numbers. I think we are there now!
Before we dive into our next unit (Trades, Jumps and Stops from the Context for Learning kits by Cathy Fosnot), I’m going to take some time next week to do some work on the collaboration part. I have been assigning partners all year. We’ve talked a lot about why I am choosing those particular partners for everyone. Now it is time for them to make some choices of their own and I will also be asking them to justify those choices and articulate what makes a good partners.
Once partnerships are established, partnerships last for a month. They stick together for every part of our day when they might need a partner – writing, reading, science, math and anything else. We will be working on building our collaboration skills all day long. Specifically in math, I am going to ask everyone to do a “turn and talk” with their partner during each Number Talk. Usually we do what I think most people do: I put up a problem, kids work them out alone, then we discuss them together. I think the turn and talk time will help them practice actually talking to their partner about how to solve the problems. They will be empty handed, so they can focus on talking about the math instead of arguing about who will be using the marker to write it down.
The second thing I am going to do is create some problems for everyone to solve. Today we are going to do an activity from The Super Source where partners work together on some describing and listening skills. One builds a design using no more than pattern blocks. The second partner is not allowed to see this. The first partner describes the design that was built so the second partner can recreate it. It’s a tricky exercise for 7 year olds, believe it or not. Positional language, attributes of geometric shapes, and expanding on one’s own words are all practiced. I find that the person describing often reverts to giving directions such as “get a triangle and put it on top of the square…no that way…no that way…no down…YES!” The other problems are going to involve some addition, maybe some subtraction and will be put in a context they can work with.
The final thing I really need to work on is how to respectfully disagree, and how to accept that “No, I don’t think so” isn’t the same as “I hate your guts and will never speak to you again!” It’s a hard one, but necessary.
I had initially planned for next week to be the start of my next unit. But I’m feeling better about this plan of action. It’s going to help us have a smoother run through the unit, and it is going too help me set up the Math Workshop groups we’ll need during the unit.