Let me start by saying my students are never the reason for my bad days. Never. Usually my bad days come from the thought that I am not doing enough good for my students in a world that is in short supply of it.
However, instead of discussing the bad in the world, I wanted to share something good from today.
Today my students did their typical good, hard work using math to solve problems they might encounter in their daily lives. But this post is not about them, well, not directly.
It’s about my assistant teacher. She is in her first year at our school and also finishing up her master’s in special education at Hunter College. I really enjoy talking with her about math and teaching. If you are a veteran teacher I highly recommend casually chatting about teaching with a new teacher. It really gets the juices going.
Anyway, so what was good about today you ask?
I’m getting there.
One of my favorite blog posts is from Joe Schwartz, an elementary math coach in New Jersey. Last year he described how to build a better worksheet. The main idea is to eliminate extraneous stuff that exists on curriculum worksheets and doesn’t lead to mathematical thinking. Joe’s post proves to me why he would make a great special education teacher, because it illustrates what most special education teachers do on a daily basis. They have to identify the most mathematically essential pieces of a worksheet or task and eliminate the rest of it that might cause obstacles to their executive functioning. They have to create easy access to hard math. That’s the goal. Joe does an amazing job exemplifying this in his post.
So that leads me to today. As I was reluctantly perusing some EngageNY worksheets for usable content for our measurement unit, my SMARTboard was also on. After several minutes of scrolling my assistant teacher exclaimed, “That would make a good notice and wonder!” She was referring to the following worksheet.
I asked her to tell me more. “Well you just give them that picture and ask what they notice.” I used the I Notice/I Wonder instructional routine with some regularity, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear her use it during our planning time. So we came up with this worksheet work-around.
I think the title may also be unnecessary, but giving the students a hint as to what direction the teacher wants to go in and to frame some of their noticings seems fine to me. Hopefully, after the students are given the opportunity to notice and wonder about this picture, a conversation about how to appropriately measure the paint brush using the cubes will come up organically. And maybe, just maybe, your students will surprise you and wonder something that is just as mathematically interesting as the original direction in which the lesson was meant to go.