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Friday, March 24, 2017

Teaching: The Challenge of Numbers

One challenge we face in teaching is the challenge of numbers. What would be quite easy to teach in a one-to-one setting can become much more challenging with a large group of children. Yet there are times when it's important to teach the large group as sometimes we want to relay information that's important for all to hear and respond to at once.

Part of the time our efforts to teach the whole group occurs due to efficiency and the need to review lots of information with little time. To pull group after group with similar information is often not efficient given the long list of expectations we have as teachers.

One key to the whole group lesson success is the introduction. It's important to let students know why you've gathered them as a whole group to learn a single concept or strategy. For example, I gathered students yesterday to review a number of concepts quickly that we have been working on. After the review, a more differentiated activity was planned. We didn't reach the activity due to some unexpected events during the lesson, events that may not have occurred if I had introduced the activity differently. It was a new review and I didn't realize how children would react and what they would need which were different than I anticipated.

Today we have another whole group lesson as I plan to teach students how to use a number of tools to enrich the fraction projects they are working on. At the start I'll be explicit about the expectations during a whole group lesson, expectations such as:

  • stay focused
  • take notes, make models, write questions
  • think about how you might apply this information to your projects
We have a number of whole group lessons next week too--lessons that depend on student focus and participation in order to introduce new concepts and existing concepts in new ways. Some prefer the whole group lesson, but most prefer lots of project work and learning on their own. But, sometimes the numbers and expectations make this impossible given the tasks at hand.