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First Days

First week of the 2015-16 school year is in the books! Monday and Tuesday were professional development, meetings, etc. for teachers and the kiddos showed up on Wednesday.

My team created a modified schedule of classes on Wednesday so the kids could meet each teacher for introductions and we spent the rest of the day doing team building/community building activities.

On Thursday we held “regular” classes to continue team building in smaller groups. I used “Dealing in Horses” from Marilyn Burns’ blog.

I displayed the following on the board as students entered the classroom:
A man bought a horse for $50 and sold it for $60. He then bought the horse back for $70 and sold it again for $80. What’s the financial outcome of these transactions?

Each class had a different experience with this problem. Below I am capturing the experience of one of my classes.

I greeted the kids as they entered the room and practiced learning their names but didn’t say anything about the problem on the board. It was fascinating to observe which kids read the problem, which kids read the problem and immediately began to solve it and which kids never glanced at the board!

After everyone had found my classroom and I took attendance, I asked the kids to think about the problem individually for a few minutes.  Then, I asked for volunteers to offer answers. Answers included +20, +10 and 0. I Identified different locations in the room for each answer and had students choose a location. If someone wasn’t sure of the answer, I told them to remain seated and join a group when ready.

Groups in each location formed a team to come up with the most convincing argument for their answer. Each group was instructed to choose a spokesperson and the goal was to convince people to join their group. I wandered around from group to group listening to the reasoning. After I few minutes I gathered everyone’s attention and the spokesperson from each group began to convince their classmates of the perceived correct answer.

Some kids got confused midway through the explanation and asked a teammate for help (awesome!), some kids asked to use the board to help illustrate the thinking (yes!), one student kids switched groups midway through his own explanation (so very cool).  All this led to a great class discussion about being precise with our language, how to properly and respectfully disagree with someone, how visuals can aid in our understanding, learning from each other, taking risks, etc. I was then able to point out the Math Practice Standards on the wall and talk through each one.

There were a few kids who struggled with the answer to the problem.  I displayed the following on the board:

     I bought a lamp for $50 and sold it for $60.

     I bought a table for $70 and sold it for $80.

     What’s the financial outcome of these transactions?

Some students said this was the same problem, some students said this problem was easier. We had a great discussion – students were able to point out the structure of the problem was the same but the way in which it was presented was different. Students pointed out the first problem was presented as a block of text and the second was “broken out” into three sentences. Three separate sentences made it “easier” to “see the information”.  Students also noticed the second problem talked about two distinct objects rather than one object seemingly being sold back and forth. This led to further discussion of the Math Practice Standards. It was great class discussion about problem solving and communication.

Friday was Laptop Deployment Day and we ended with some more large group team building.  It was a fantastic week. I have such great kids – I love them already – and I’m looking forward to a great year!