Since the start of my blog, I’ve planned out my posts. I’ve had an idea, mulled it over and collaborated with colleagues. Not today. Today is different. After experiencing a particular moment, I am inspired to write and share.
I’ve been working in Peytra Becker’s classroom consistently all year. She teaches three 6th grade math classes, two of which are SAI classes. This means that two classes are co-taught with special education teacher, Julie Dill. Our focus has been to find ways to increase mathematical conversations among her students. Our work is starting to pay off.
She has one student, “Aaron”, whose skills are very low, but due to the support of his group, he had a shining moment.
Today I introduced a technology based activity using Google Presentations. The math topic was solving one-step equations. Pairs of students where assigned a slide with an equation. Each pair had to model the process using algebra tiles (using the copy and paste functions) and then explain the process in written form.
I started by explaining the directions. This part required me to review the process of solving a one step equation.
Me to the class: What is the next step for this process? Talk to your groups. Mrs. Becker, Mrs. Dill and I will be around to check in.
Then the 3 of us circulated the room, checking in with groups. As I approached one group, I repeated my question. This is what I heard:
“Aaron say it”
Aaron paused. The group continued saying repeatedly…
“Aaron you know this?”
“You can do this, Aaron”
“Aaron say it”
“You just said it”
“Say what you just said”
Aaron: “Add 2 to both sides”
The group celebrated!
I finished my part of the introduction and then turned the class back over to Peytra. Roughly 15 minutes later, I saw Aaron talking with his partner as they worked on their problem. He was leaning over, looking at the screen. Then he grabbed the computer and started typing.
In my earlier observations, Aaron was easily distracted and did not participate in group discussions. He’s still easily distracted but his contributions to the class have increased and his classmates have started to take him under their wing. This change didn’t happen over night. It was slow and incremental. It sneaked up on me and I was truly touched to observe the actions of the students – my eyes started to water. This moment is a true testament to Peytra’s dedication to her goal of creating a classroom where all students practice the mathematical language regularly.
There’s been such a hyper focus on state testing that sometimes (in my opinion) the humanitarian aspect of education gets pushed aside. The reality is: When students work together and help each other learn, learning in general will increase and in turn so will test scores.