Yesterday in math one of our kids asked if negative numbers were irrational numbers. I stopped to think about how I was going to respond, and I looked at my collab teacher to see if she had a quick response. The two of us were hesitating and talking aloud to each other about how negative numbers could be expressed as a ratio, and I paused to look at the kids. I noted that they were watching two people think like mathematicians as we talked examples and non-examples to test out the definition we were going with–rational numbers can be expressed as ratios. I love it when we have to do that, cause it shows kids not everyone knows everything.
I also believe in teaching through storytelling, so I often share cool stuff I have learned…like yesterday we were comparing our handshake problems with the real life example of network nodes and I was using our schools and how we originally set up the WAN as an example of using the mathematical skills we used in our handshake work. As I drew the map of schools, I added in some other stuff, too. I often weave in the factoids they need to know–like Interstates that go east and west are usually even numbers and those that go north/south are odd numbers. After class, my collab teacher said, “That was really interesting–I didn’t know all of that.” It makes kids listen better if the info is embedded in a story.
Yesterday in literacy, fifth graders were reading a wikipedia article on the civil rights of Native Americans, and I wanted them to realize the big ideas expressed in an article on Wikipedia may be alright to quote, but the details should be checked much more carefully. To show that, we went to the wikipedia entry on our school and read for errors, which they did there. That started a whole conversation as to why our school picture wasn’t there (kids thought for safety reasons), and why our principal wasn’t named when the middle school one was. They learned quite a bit about how wikipedia works looking at an entry of something they knew well.
Then I asked them to go back to the Native American article and rewrite two specific sections in their own words to show they understood. I honestly wasn’t so much interested in what they wrote as what they said to each other and the conversations they had as they tried to understand this piece. It was fascinating hearing them sharing their thinking.
Do we do this enough? Turn and talk, (or think/pair/share or turn to your partner and share) is a great way to let kids share aloud, but how many times do we ask them to reword something longer to show understanding?
As kids walked out, I heard some of them talking about how much fun class was today. Really? They read, they interpreted, they looked up vocabulary, they wrote, they made synopses, they rewrote, they questioned, they debated, and they discussed. Um, which literacy skill did I leave out? And they learned about civil rights of Native Americans as they did all that.
They shared their thinking, too, and they talked. And they talked. I think kids should be doing more of the talking in class than we do. I wish it happened in every class. It’s a great way for them to make sense of their world.