Learned another wonderful lesson at school today. While working with the grade one math class I had my students split into their two regular groups. During the 45 minute block I have six students working on iPads exploring the math apps while the other six students are with me at our round table. It is during this round table time that I get to really see how my students are doing and I understand what it is they are struggling on. Even though we are set up this way there are still times when I do not see what the students truly understand. Today was an example of the importance of listening and then taking the time to engage in a conversation.
My student, Curtis (pseudonym), had been struggling mightily with his math work all year, however he never quit. Each day he would ask me for guidance, use my assistance and try his best. Curtis was always willing to try new strategies and techniques, sometimes he would be successful, sometimes he would not. Today's lesson was about combining numbers to 10 and the activity involved finding a missing addend using coloured tiles (i.e. 4 + ?? = 10). The first question the students had to answer was 1 + ?? = 10. Curtis got down to work and was able to organize his coloured tiles to solve the problem and he confidently wrote down the number 9. I left him to do his work and check in with my other 5 students to see how they were progressing. When I returned to Curtis I found he had successfully answered all of his questions and we just getting started on the last one. Wouldn't you know it, this question was 9 + ?? = 10. He stared at the question for a moment and then had that "a-ha" moment, and it was marvelous. He looked at me and said, "hey, it's just like that one up there (pointing to 1 + ?? = 10) but the numbers are just backwards". Celebration time!
So often it is easier to give kids work to do and walk away, circulating but never stopping long enough to catch those moments. Curtis was able to show me a level of thinking I had not seen all year and had I just "cruised by" I would have missed it. I obviously don't catch everything, after all a person can only be so many places at once, but if you just slow things down and make a conscious effort to listen, it is amazing what you will hear. What about your "a-ha" stories? What amazing things are your students doing or saying that make you stop and take notice?
As always, comments are welcome.