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The Final Stretchhhhhh

on June 1, 2011

The final weeks are fast approaching for “work school” and for “school school.”  I have to say, at this moment I am feeling exhausted! Looking over my May-June plan I see the glimmer of exhaustion already appearing;

What actions might you take in the final weeks of school to clarify or inform some of the questions you still have?   This is a hard one, I feel that right now I am mainly focusing on management in my class. I think the goal should be how can I maintain what the students have learned about their own learning and how can I ensure they keep it for next year.

That is really it! I am still focusing on the students wonderings as well as creating a safe environment to wonder. We all know at this time of year things start to unravel ever so slightly in our classrooms.  Over the past two weeks I have decided to be more aware of how the students have continued work in their collaboration activities and how they are retaining their questioning skills. Despite the high noise level in my room….I am actually seeing and hearing the kids collaborating on projects and questioning their learning.

With our Play homework we had two weeks ago, I asked the students to create math games that included math strategies we have learned throughout the year. Looking over my last blog, the kids really enjoyed it and were engaged in their own learning. We started the project the day after our class on Play.  The following week they kept asking me when do we get to teach the other kids? Can we teach our games to our buddy class. Well of course last week was only a three-day week for our school, so it was extremely difficult for me to fit it. First thing, Monday morning…guess what? Ms. Eppele can we teach our games today? So instead of reader’s workshop this morning we taught the class.

I allowed some time for the students to re-group and discuss their games before they taught the class. Everyone and I mean everyone was on task and to me they looked engaged. When it was time to teach, I asked the kids to make the criteria for what makes a god student? For the teachers were new to teaching! The kids of course said all the right things; listening, not talking, not playing with their games while they were being taught, and one student said to make thoughtful comments and questions! Moments like this I love my class!

They all listened intently to each group. They all said thoughtful questions and comments, and what surprised me was that some even responded by making a connection to a math strategy they know. BUT my big aha moment and the moment when I wanted to jump up and down and a scream you are doing it! You are truly collaborating! To them it was second nature, it was at that moment when I saw that all the hard work we have been doing in class around collaboration and group work did stick!  Two boys, A and N, had been working over a week on creating a Math Monopoly game. These boys even used their exploration time on some days! Today A and N invited a student, who had been away for all the game creating, into their group. A and N, took the time to explain the game to L so that he could help teach the game to the class. They boys were so patient and did a wonderful job and catching L up!  When it was time to teach they got organized together and communicated what they were about to share with us. They explained the game, rules, and all the math strategies they included in the game. When it was time for questions, a student said why don’t you have a get out of jail free card in your chance pile? This student tends to be a little pushy with the three boys, so I held my breath waiting to see A, N, and L’s reaction. The A looks at his group and says, “you know what? I think we should put one in, what do you think?” N thinks about, very seriously ( I wish I had a camera!) and says you know what that will work, thanks for the idea. The rest of the class was quite excited to play the game, but A said “we need to make a new card then we will teach you again.”

It is truly amazing when you see how far the kids have come in group work. I start off every year teaching and re-teaching effective group behavior and collaborative skills. What is also pretty amazing here, is that I did not make the groups for this activity. I asked the students to select members, and we reviewed how to go about it and what we do not want to see and feel and what we want to see and feel. When I first saw A and N together, I won’t lie I was a little leery. These boys blew me out of the water, and that was only the first group to share! The rest of the morning went the same way. So next stop? To keep giving them group projects to practice the skills they have learned throughout the year. I am going to facilitate when needed and I am even going to try some more challenging group activities, carousel anyone?

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