Friday, August 3, 2012

Interactive Modeling...math manipulatives

Responsive Classroom has a few new books out including one on Interactive Modeling (formerly called Guided Discovery).  This is an important teaching tool ALL year, but is especially crucial in the first six weeks of school. 

So what does it mean?  It is the approach you use to teach your expectations.  When I was a child we were told the teachers expectations - one time! It was usually really fast and expected that we knew exactly what she meant, right???  Our kids have changed (or maybe we just understand them better) and now in order for your class to truly run smoothly you need to not only share expectations but also model expectations.  We know to do that in Kindergarten...but do we still do it in the upper grades? 

As I blogged in an earlier post about teaching routines for art supplies, we also need to teach these procedures for math manipulatives as well. 

Several years ago, my team brainstormed together a way to introduce expectations for using math manipulatives.  One of the things that my primary teaching emphasized was the need to have time to "freely explore" materials before you expect them to use them as an educational tool. 

By fourth grade at our school our students have had years of experience of using math manipulatives as tools.  However, there are always students new to the school who have had limited exposure with these tools.  They need to learn how to use them as well as have time to play!  (HINT:  If you don't give them time to play, they will play when you are trying to teach....)

We introduce our math materials on the second day of school.  We pull out our tubs of pattern blocks, multi-links, dice, and unifix cubes.  Each table group gets a tub and a piece of chart paper.  We ask each table to spend about 15 minutes exploring with the materials.  As they explore, we walk around and ask "What can you do with the materials?" "Tell me why you...."

After 15 minutes we ask each table to become the experts of their math materials.  They will use the chart to brainstorm a list of all the ways you can use the materials for math - counting, patterns, measuring, etc... The groups will then bring me the charts and we will go over the uses of each of the tools as a group.  It is at this time that I make my own chart to show how I expect materials to be used and put away. 

1.  Use the materials for math purposes and follow class directions.
2. When you are finished, put the items back in the tubs and but them in the spot on the shelf where you got them.

(I would have pictures, but my math shelves are in the hallway at school right now as they are cleaning my classroom - we still have a month off!)

Simple, direct and no secrets....One thing I have learned over the years is never assume that the kids know what to do...and they DO NOT learn it the first time!

Hope this helps you this year!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this! It was something I've always known, but needed this reminder to get me back on the right track.