Although my students understood the concept of area and could accurately work out the answer to simple problems, I had observed them using a variety of approaches to finding the area of a square, rectangle or shape made up of their combination. Also, I wanted each student to become aware of the variety of approaches available amongst their peers so as to adopt the more efficient strategies that made sense to them. So it was time to design a formative assessment.
I gave each small group one problem at a time to solve. As each group explained to the whole class how they solved their problem, I wrote their strategy next to the given problem. We used two types of problems: shapes on 1cm squared graphing paper and similar shapes on blank paper. Students were free to collect and use tools as they needed such as rulers or more graph paper.
As students listened to their peers, there were those lovely penny-dropping moments. When finished, we discovered that we were ALL accurate but not as quick. We agreed on a simple key to evaluate each strategy by using "energy efficiency stars" like they do on electrical appliances.
Students were not only able to learn from one another, but they now have an anchor chart to choose, try or remember efficient strategies when finding the area of these shapes.
I've been trying find ways in which to approach even the smallest of curriculum aims, through inquiry. Instead of turning to a text or a series of hands-on activities I could prepare and set up for my class, I thought about the type of learning that was most engaging for my students this year. It has always been when there has been a structure, organizer, process or schema to support their learning but at the same time keeping it open for them to explore freely and learn within it. Processes always delivered an appropriate balance between independence and support. I turned to my students prior knowledge and thought of using parts of the Scientific Method they had learned about and successfully used in a previous Unit of Inquiry. My aim was for them to use our thinking skill of application: making use of previously acquired knowledge in practical or new ways. After a brief discussion, note taking and a walk-through example, each student was able to work out the probability of a single event of their choosing.
Once students understand the concept of multiplication, for example they have mastered arrays and grouping, many would agree that their future studies in Math will be a lot easier if they have at least some recall of the multiplication tables. There are so many fun ways to practice the multiplication tables, from numerous websites and various tips and tricks. Even so, keeping students motivated to practice at home or at any given opportunity can be difficult.
Therefore, I have resorted to blatant bribery. I got this idea from Tina Clark, a dear friend and colleague who used this in her Grade 3 classroom.
Students can go for a scoop either orally or in written form. They recite or write a decided upon table. I let them decide which one they would like to attempt. Differentiation can be achieved by how many hints you give to those who hesitate on their answers and how many tries you let them have before you tell them they need to practice a bit more. If they display their knowledge of a table to your satisfaction, award them a scoop to be pasted on their cone. Once a student gets 1 to 10, I award them with an ice cream cone. If the entire class gets it, I promise an ice cream party.
I try to set aside about 15 minutes once or twice a week for students to attempt a scoop. Or I add it in as a centre when I have no conferences or assessments that need immediate attention. So far, the students are very excited about it and have maintained their desire to practice their multiplication tables throughout the school year.