Sunday, July 20, 2014

Making math Interactive & Fun: Part 2

In the post "How do I make math fun & interactive Part 1" I shared that I feel the first big step one must take to create a classroom environment where students interact is movement

The second big step is to allow students to talk. Talking should not just be "allowed" in a classroom it needs to be encouraged!
There are many reasons students should be encouraged to talk but here are my top 5 reasons:
1) The move involved students are in a lesson, the more ownership they feel! After approximately 15 minutes of listening to a teacher talk students lose interest. The best way to keep students interested is to involve them!

Let's take a second and figure out how to involve them. I am a big fan of grouping students. I like to sit students in group of 4, so that I can have students work in pairs or as a whole group. Let's say you have your students grouped together in groups of 4. You are discussing two step equations. To start out you put a problem on the board. 2x + 3 = 7. You explain that the point of solving equations is to isolate x. The first step is to find a way to get the term with the variable all alone. At this point rather than show students, you could tell students to turn and talk to their partners about how they can isolate the term. After a minute have each group write down how they can do this on a piece of paper (or a white board) and hold it up to show you. Some groups will have the correct idea written down, some won't. You will be able to quickly access who does and who does not. You can then call on one of the partnerships and have them explain their idea. OWNERSHIP! Simple as that. Your students are not going to fall asleep when every few minutes they are required to talk to their neighbor, group, or possible the whole class. They are going to stay interested and their brains will stay on!

2) This is an extension of number 1! When students explain content to one another, they develop a deeper understanding of it. While answering x = 3 when you see a problem that says: x+4=7 may make sense in your head, explaining it takes some thought (especially when one step equations are new to you!) Being able to explain the problem and solution comes from having a deeper understanding of the concept which comes after taking the time to think about explaining it. An extra plus to developing a deeper understanding is that it makes the concept more memorable! 
3) Students are more likely to ask their peers questions. As an adult with a teaching position/college degree, students know you know the answers. They also know that you are the one who determines their grade, and decides what happens in class. Your students don't want you to think they are stupid! They don't want you to tell their parents that they had a problem understanding a simple concept. However, they think nothing of asking the kid who copies their English homework a math question, because they feel like they are on a level playing field. Make sure you students have opportunities to discuss math with one another! The more you allow these types of conversations, the more lightening bulbs you'll see go off! Everyone has their own individual learning style. The way you explain something may not click for Bobby. The way his best friend John explains it may click!

4) An awesome benefit of encouraging students to talk in the classroom is less work for the teacher! How many times a day do you have to ask someone to stop talking? If you are like me, a lot! When you throw out the "no talking in class" rule you no longer have to waste time enforcing it! If Jessica knows that she will have time to talk with Emily at some point in your class, she's not going to try to whisper to her the entire class period. Why would she? Also, grouping students up and having group discussions on class topics makes it so students have someone other than you to bounce ideas off of. You will no longer hear all of the questions Amy, Kelly, Michael, Zach, Timmy, and Tommy have. Amy will ask her partner Mary first, and when Timmy and Tommy (who are partners) can't figure out the answer, they'll ask the group sitting beside them before they ask you! Many of your students questions can and will be answered by their fellow group members.

5) Have you ever spent a time creating what you believe is a wonderful, well thought out presentation for your students, only to get through it and realize many students did not understand the first step which led to them not understanding the entire thing? Worst. Thing. EVER! When you insert spots into your presentation where students are encouraged to discuss and share with one another you end up not having those stressful situations! Assigning students a few minutes with a partner to discuss, can give you insight into your students thought process. It's a low stress way to access the level of understanding each student is at. If you catch two students arguing about who is right and who is wrong, and listen in as they explain their point of views to one another, you can catch what misconceptions are being made (or have been made) and correct them immediately!

Words are Powerful! Especially when used in the classroom! 
Have any tips for making math interactive in fun? Any comment on this post? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

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