Friday, June 24, 2011

Three Part Lesson using Literature: Wangari's Tree of Peace (Number Sense)

The small group of teachers visiting Wendy and Donna's Grade 1/2 classrooms at Edgewood PS were fortunate enough to see a great three-part math lesson integrating the use of literature.

Math and Literature:
Any book used to form the basis of a math lesson should be read to students ahead of time for enjoyment.  While there are many math picture books readily available, some are more authentic than others.  

The book Wendy and Donna used for this lesson is not only a rich literacy experience but also provides an authentic context for the mathematics.

Student's Prior Learning:
This was one of the first lessons in the counting unit.

Learning Goal:
Both Wendy and Donna wanted to find out what background strategies their students had already. 

Students worked in mixed pairs.  Some worked with another person in the same grade while others worked with someone from a different grade level.   

Part 1: Getting Started
Wendy chose a smaller problem to engage students into the book.  She posed this question to the whole class:

All student responses were recorded on chart paper.  Luckily (or strategically!), students came up with the context for the problem that Wendy wanted: plant more trees.

Once the context was established, Wendy posed the smaller problem to the class: What if these people wanted to help Wangari by planting 3 trees each?  How many trees would they plant altogether?

The whole class had the opportunity to share their thinking and strategies for figuring out how trees would be planted if 3 people planted 3 trees each.  Several strategies emerged from this discussion:
- repeated addition (3+3+3)
- counting (1, 2, 3,...)
- multiplication
- counting by 2s and adding 1 more
- counting by 1 1/2 (we all had a hard time following this child's brilliant thinking!)
Part 2: Working on It
Wendy then introduced the bigger problem to the whole class.  She had this recorded on chart paper ahead of time:

Prior to solving the problem, Wendy reminded students of the variety of manipulatives that were available for them to choose from to solve the problem.

Since this was a regular occurrence in their classroom, partners had no difficulty selecting the tools they wanted to use to solve the problem.

As pairs began to work out the problem, we were able to observe a variety of representations of the solution process:

one to one counting
groups of 2 visually represented
groups of 2 (counting or repeated addition)
beginnings of an array


Part 3: Reflecting and Connecting

This lesson really demonstrated for us a dilemma that might occur during a rich lesson like this: sometimes the students demonstrate such variety in thinking that it becomes difficult to choose what to focus on during the consolidation part of the lesson!  The good news is that you, as the teacher, gets to choose!  Wendy chose to focus on the most efficient counting strategies.  So she selected pairs to share their work to demonstrate this focus:
This pair was chosen because  they used groups of 2.  Wendy noticed that many other pairs used this strategy as well.
This group counted by 10s.  Wendy asked why they counted by 10s.  They said it was faster!  
This is the same pair as above.  Since they didn't have the manipulatives to show their groups of 10, Wendy drew what she saw them do.
This pair was chosen because they started to use a doubling strategy.  
 This pair was chosen because they discovered a pattern and started to organize their work like a table.  

By the end of the math congress, students in both classrooms heard about a variety of strategies that could be used to solve this one problem.  They were also asked to think about the most efficient strategy (which one is quicker and easier?).

Explicit Teaching:
After each pair got a chance to share their thinking, Wendy used the last pair's work to jump into her explicit teaching.  She wanted students to understand that a table could be used to help them organize their thinking and work.

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