I spent some time on Friday sharing my visit to Bate middle school. Bate is part of the Striving Readers Consortium in Kentucky that we work with, and as part of our fourth year of working with these schools, they have written, planned and started to implement some very interesting technology projects. Bate is implementing a pilot iPod Touch program and several Smart classrooms equipped with boards and clickers. I shared my thoughts about some of the wonderful teachers and conversations I had last post and now I want to share the classroom that impressed me with their use of tape and rubber bands!
Yes, this vignette doesn’t have anything to do with technology. In a visit to a school that was centered around technology one of my lasting memories will be of Ms. Weather’s and Ms. Milburn’s mathematics class. In the course of 50 minutes these two teachers moved their students through several connected activities geared to help them explore and develop some understanding of the formula for area of a triangle. The most high tech tool they used was a good old-fashioned plastic geoboard. Students moved to sit on the floor at the front of the classroom to explore and discuss a tape rectangle on the ground (By the way, the students taped it to the floor in less than a minute under the guidance of Ms. Weathers). Two students moved into the rectangle to show the concept of area, one walked around the rectangle to show the perimeter, one measured the dimensions to identify the units, and then quickly students moved back to their seats (Ms. Weathers didn’t tolerate any lingering).
Students then paired up to work with the geoboards to make a triangle and talk about the area. They found the area by counting squares and then by using the formula. Again, these two young teachers did a fantastic job of making connections between the abstract and concrete. Without hesitating, students started working on the problems assigned by the teachers. They still had some fine tuning to do, but there was no doubt those students know the concepts of area and perimeter.
At the end of the class the students pulled out their iPods to send their exit slips to Ms. Weathers. Remember, the students are still learning their tool and the emails weren’t flying fast enough to finish during class, but I’m sure that as this group gets more experience with this technology, they will set a bar that is very high, as all of these teachers have done!
As a teacher who loves to use technology in the classroom, I enjoyed seeing these two teachers use a simple kinesthetic approach to get multiple students involved in the lesson. Ms. Milburn continued to expect students to use correct units with every measurement they said, and would give them plenty of wait time before moving on. It is a powerful example that often times simple is better, and that letting student’s do the thinking works when teachers hold them accountable.
The literacy coach at Bate, Vicky Ramey, is very proud of the teachers she works with and after spending a day visiting with them I can understand why!