The update is not just on actually planning with it, but it is also on a much more focused inquiry-based teaching and learning approach in stand-alone Maths teaching.
Our focus for this planner are decimals/fractional numbers and place value. I used the Sample planner from the new Math Scope and Sequence documents (IB PYP, on the OCC) to help me with mine. I used some of their suggested activities, but the main focus here was really the backwards planning process. Knowing the objective, acceptable evidence of understanding and all of a sudden, the “activities” lose their focus. You become more flexible, and in my opinion, much more tuned in to the needs of the children in your class.
The difficult thing I find is the mixed age group I have. I teach a combined Grade 3/4 class, so at the moment the children are between 8 and 10 years old. Not only that, but developmentally, they are quite spread out too. Which, in my opinion, will also happen in a single-grade classroom. The point here is, that for teaching about place value, fractional numbers and in particular decimals, you really have to become creative. For example: One student in my class who joined this year has just started with the concept of place value and fractional numbers. She knows simple fractions, and decimals she only knows from money. For someone like this, my planner is not suitable. Given she is the only one, I find that I can cater to her needs, but to document this in the planner is quite difficult (esp. since this really is about the introduction and exploration of decimals). And what about those children whose parents taught them even percentages at home? They seem to be quite happy to be learning about decimals despite “having done them before”. This I put down to the fact that a lot of very ambitious home teaching is missing out on looking at real understanding and developing key strategies.
Back to the point of the planner. It helped me to become much more flexible. I planned a few key learning experiences for the first week, which just ended, and the reflection on it is quite positive. We achieved much more than originally planned. We still all work at different levels, but there is definitely a good development of the central idea going on. And that is important to me. What I do now is looking at the developmental Math scope and sequence, to find the levels or phases that the different students work on. That way I use the document for assessment (for learning), as it will then inform further planning. (My class is now out for 10 days, that is why I can plan this in peace and quiet next week).
Strategies and activities that were really successful last week were:
– Human number line: Students all got a number (whole number, decimals smaller and greater than one) and had to organize themselves into a human number line. Definitely good development of social skills and thinking skills here.
– Place Value dice game: Making the smallest and the largest numbers out of the digits that were rolled with the dice. They had to explain their strategies for success to younger children.
I also found that the students are much more receptive to difficult concepts when taken out of the more traditional classroom teaching. Just changing the scene, like going outside, will make a huge difference. Standing, instead of sitting, interacting in a “fun” way. Glad the weather is good for us to be out (getting too hot inside at times now).
What I still find hard is getting students to ask their own questions. Teacher questions in Maths, as well as the central idea and lines of inquiry, do not spark the same student questions as our units of inquiry. I wonder why that is?