I have spent most Monday mornings of this term at Quilchena Elementary, teaching in the primary classrooms and meeting with the teachers during a collaboration block. The school principal brings all the primary students together for a block each week for choir which provides time for the teachers to come together to collaborate and plan.
The teachers wanted to focus on number sense and over the weeks we looked at the importance of understanding number in different ways.
In Jessica Preswick’s Kindergarten class, we often began our classes with a short number talk involving dot cards or ten frames. Through the students “subtilizing” what they see and then describing it, we are able to get insight into the students understand of number. We also had students use materials to decompose a quantity into parts, for example, showing all the ways to make seven.
After much work with subitizing, decomposing and counting, we connected what we had been learning about number to think about measurement by comparing. The students used the language of longer than, taller than and shorter than to compare objects. They ordered objects from longest/tallest to shortest. They also measured some of the objects using cubes and figured how much taller or longer the objects were, compared to another.
We also compared the capacity of bowls and cups by filling them with cubes and then comparing the “towers” of cubes.
In Marla McPherson’s and Karen Maeir’s Grades 1&2 classes, we focused on number talks, developing the students mental math strategies for addition and subtraction. I did need to demonstrate some of the strategies and remind students about the range of strategies they could use sometimes. We focused on students naming the strategies they were using as they explained them to create a consistent awareness of the strategies in the classes. Both teachers created strategy posters for their classrooms. It was amazing to see the students’ confidence with the strategies develop over the weeks and their increased ability to discuss the strategies. We also played card games that focused on them using the strategies to help them develop computational fluency.
In Andrew Livingston’s grade 3 class we began looking at multiplication and division and then moved on to fractions. Approaches we used to learn about these concepts included number talks, use of concrete materials, visual representations, games and use of iPad technology to represent our learning.
Using Cuisenaire rods to learn about fractions…
Using the ShowMe app to explain what we know about fractions…
In June, we introduced some geometric language and materials to the students, focusing on comparing the attributes of both 2D and 3D shapes. The students used the camera and PicCollage app on the iPads to collect examples of one shape.
The teachers felt it was a powerful professional learning experience to have the weekly visits and discussions as a group. It was an opportunity to plan next steps for the week ahead as well as make connections between concepts at different grade levels. An ongoing professional inquiry like we had at Quilchena this term reminds me that collaboration and making time for reflection and professional learning is essential to professional growth.