Last semester I completed my field experience in a second grade classroom and I remember going over how to properly build and write lesson plans with the teacher. She told me that when you teach anything, first you want to demonstrate it, than you want to guide the students to do it, and then finally you let the students do it themselves. You move from demonstration, to guided practice, to independent practice. Watching this video made me think about that, and I was pleased to notice that the instructor in the video used the same method. Before she even asked the students to count their own pockets, she defined what a pocket was and showed the class how many pockets she had. At one point in the video, there was a student who wasn’t able to count how many pockets she had, so she let her classmates help her to discover the answer. Instead of helping the student out one on one and taking her attention away from the whole class, I really liked how the teacher used the student has a demonstration for the entire class- reinforcing the concept of how to collect the data. As she stood in front of the class, everyone counted how many pockets she was wearing together. So at first she demonstrated on herself by defining and showing the class how many pockets she had, then she used another student as an example of guided practice with the whole class, and finally she had the students count their own pockets independently.
I also liked how the instructor pointed out what might be considered unusual data- the student who only had one pocket. Instead of just graphing the data and moving on, she took the time to go over with the class why this particular data might be surprising to some. For instance, she had the student point out that his one pocket was from his t-shirt, not his pants, which was unusual compared to the other students’ data. As a class, they also interpreted the data to state that nobody has 3 or 10 pockets. When we analyzed our data on who we would like to have a conversation with, one of the questions you asked us was if there was any data that didn’t fit into any of the categories and what we did with it. I think it’s important when learning about data analysis that you always look for the “unusual data” and understand why it’s unusual.
I’m not going to say that it “struck me”, but something that I was reminded of when it came to the students’ thought process in the video was that you really have to use baby steps when teaching. For instance, it would be so easy as a teacher just to say 2+2 is 4 and have all of the students agree. But unless you take baby steps and explain and TEACH the students WHY 2+2 = 4, then you’ll find a completely lost class when you ask them what 3+3 is. There are times in the video that you see the instructor call on students who aren’t paying attention or will ask someone to just repeat what a previous student already said, and it takes a couple of kids being called on in order to do so. This is all so typical! Nothing about teaching is perfect, and I think these moments made the video much more realistic to what really happens in the “real world classroom”.
When I refer to taking baby steps, I mean that the instructor started with a general question at first – “What do you notice about the data?”. One of the students answered that 5 had the most marks. The instructor then asked the class to expand on that thought – and eventually another student interpreted the data to state that “A lot of people have 5 pockets”. So the instructor took baby steps and 1) started with a general question, 2) called on one student to answer, and then 3) had that student’s classmates expand on that original thought. I really liked how she encouraged the students to help each other out, incorporating peer-to-peer learning. I also appreciated that she wrote “A lot of people have 5 pockets” on the board so students not only verbally heard the answer, but saw it as well… and if she left it on the board, then it’s something they could see and reflect about later on as well. From there, she even further expanded the original statement of “A lot of people have 5 pockets” by asking the students “WHY?”. This leads to the 4th baby step- pushing the students to a higher learning, or critical thinking…Why would we might predict and expect a lot of people to have 5 pockets? Which eventually lead the students to realize that most jeans have five pockets, and a lot of the students were wearing jeans. There was also a point where one student mistakenly said “Most of the people have 5 pockets”, and the instructor pointed out the difference between “most people” and “a lot of people”. If it’s anything that struck me about the teacher’s moves, it was a combination of these small but very effective things she said and incorporated into her teaching style. I’m sure she didn’t write “go over the difference between most and a lot” in her lesson plan, but it’s these spontaneous moments that you so often have in the classroom that really justifies how capable you are as a teacher.
Throughout the video, I thought the teacher did a great job keeping the class on task (which isn’t so easy with young kids). Each move or action, and everything she said, had a purpose. From little class management techniques such as “when you’re ready, give me a thumbs up” to keep the class quiet and focused, to explaining to the whole class why she’s changing the data when certain students wanted to change their answer to how many pockets they have- it was all done with a purpose. I especially liked how she talked her thought process out while changing the data, saying things such as I’m erasing one x from the seven and adding one x to the eight because you first told me you had seven and I marked it down, but now you found one more pocket, so I’ll mark you down for having eight pockets. One of my biggest issues I’ve found (from my little teaching experience so far) is that I have a hard time staying within the time frame I’ve designated for each lesson. I’m always scared I’ll run out of time so I tend to rush through certain parts that I later wished I had taken more time with when I reflect upon how the lesson went afterwards. There are little things that the instructor in this video did that I hope to incorporate into my lesson plans. And several of the things she did didn’t take up that much additional time to the lesson at all. For instance, just giving the students a few more seconds to think over their answers before calling on anyone, or asking the class what the next point on the line plot is when first collecting the data instead of just writing it all out (i.e. First we counted how many students had zero pockets, than we counted how many students had one pocket, what should we count next?).
There were a lot of different ideas that the students were working on: how to collect, record, interpret and analyze data. In doing so, I heard the instructor use key vocabulary words such as line plot, point, range, etc. And as I mentioned before, I think one of the most important things the students were working on (whether they knew it or not) was expanding on one another’s ideas and thoughts to critically understand the lesson being taught. For example, one student noticed that there were ties among the data, another student pointed out one of the ties (that 1, 4, 7, and 8 all had 2 x’s), and a third student interpreted that tie to mean that 2 people have 1 pocket, 2 people have 4 pockets, 2 people have 7 pockets, and 2 people have 8 pockets.
Overall I thought this classroom activity was comparable to The Shoe Problem from our Teaching Children Mathematics article. I know these classroom activities provide a great lesson for teaching students about data collection and interpretation, but I think you also have to be careful doing them when you’re dealing with students’ clothes. You don’t want to individualize a student who may be wearing something different from all of their classmates and ends up being embarrassed by it. So at first, I thought that I wouldn’t want to do these types of activities, but after reading the article and watching this video, I realized that it’s all in the way that you as an instructor handles it. For instance, in the video, the instructor uses one of the students (the girl with 11 pockets) as an example in front of the whole class, but the way she handled it made the students focus on the lesson being taught instead of thinking “why’s she different?”. And making the data personally about the students in the class, I think helps to keep their attention on the lesson and shows them how math could be directly used in their lives.