Thursday, January 5, 2012

Solving the problem

I know I have written about using manipulatives in arithmetic in a number of different ways and today I watch two different ways of using them when working with area.

In this first way, the students were using cubes, some as single units, some as blocks of ten and some as 100 unit shapes. Their task was to take the area of flat objects such as this table and count the number of units with these "base 10" blocks.

As they counted and recorded the sections of the table, they built the larger numbers which eventually resulted in the area of the table. It was interesting to watch.

In another class, students were using tangram shapes to measure and to build shapes that had specific areas. The shapes were irregular, unlike the more rectangular objects the other class was measuring.

Different shapes were identified on paper for these children to duplicate with the blocks and come up with solutions. After one of the students in the class finished his assignment early, I started to challenge him with puzzles for which I gave him both a measure of area, but also perimeter, so that he had to build a shape that accomplished both measures. I enjoyed working with him on that challenge until the time came for the class to end.

Earlier in the day, I worked with a child in our Sunshine class who was himself using dice, another great manipulative. Area was not involved of course, but rather he was making oral number connections to what was rolled on the dice. We then grouped the dice and counted the occurrence of each number. Using manipulatives can be a lot of good learning fun!

After lunch is often a time that teachers give students the time to read silently on their own or in groups and when I am around, I will sometimes find students on their own, crouched behind boxes or under tables, or stretched out on carpets. These young ladies were sitting on a bench in the hallway reading to one another.

Reading is so important. I once read that school should focus on reading for three or four hours a day. With our curriculum requirements, of course we don't have the opportunity to do that, so getting in as much quality reading time as possible is what our teachers try to do.

One of the staff was asking me about our policies regarding electronic games, listening devices and phones.

The question gave me an opportunity to look at what our planners say about that question.

We encourage you to leave electronic devices at home, however they are not forbidden at school... only that they not be used in the classroom during class time, of course that would be a potential distraction, so teachers will remove them from students if that is the case. One of our other concerns is that these devices tend to be expensive and with misuse, not just by the owner but others, can get broken easily. As you see here, this student feels a need for a cell phone and she keeps in in her back pack while she is at school, using it only out of class.

Some have asked about access to our networks with personally owned devices and wireless access. That practice will happen in the future, though likely very little in the elementary schools, and at this time students in Cedar Grove do not have access to the internet ... that is, unless their phones give them that access. But that is another social responsibility issue I will talk with our older students about later this Spring.

Enough rambling for tonight...

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