The benefits of patience…and dragons

I keep telling this story to colleagues and several times it’s been suggested that I write it up, so here it goes…

Over the past few weeks I’ve been in several classrooms across my campus doing Number Talks in grades K-3. I can safely say that I have learned way more about number talks in the past 2 weeks than I did in all of my reading/researching for the past 6 months, and have seen the benefits of patience in many ways. My takeaways have included:

  1. Never wear sparkly sandals in a Kinder classroom, unless your goal is distraction.
  2. Always be prepared for students to come up with ways of solving that you have not come up with yourself, and realize that’s a good thing!
  3. Patience will be rewarded, even though it’s painful to sit and wait…there are major payoffs.
  4. Consistency across grade levels is not only helpful, it’s classroom changing, and I’m predicting, school changing, in regards to how our students perceive and learn mathematics.

The third take away was evident in almost every number talk I gave from Kinder up to 3rd grade. In several classrooms, I was introducing number talks for the first time, so students were somewhat apprehensive, therefore, the wait time was crucial. I had to give time for them to see I really did want to hear from them, and I was not going to give any answers or even “hints” to what the correct answer or strategy was. As soon as a few brave souls shared their strategies and the class saw that this really was a low stress, fun way to share their thinking, there was no problem getting volunteers for subsequent problems.

The fourth takeaway about consistency across grade levels stems from an experience in one of our 5th grade classrooms. I can’t take credit for doing the number talk because the teacher was already comfortable conducting them, so she started week 1 of this school year! And according to her, “It was obvious which students had experienced number talks last year and which students were new to our school.” The students who participated in number talks at the end of the previous school year were able to begin

5thnumbertalk
Forgive me, this is a terrible photo, and didn’t even capture the final work, I’ll do better next time.

this year seamlessly. She mentioned that students were already identifying strategies and were able to solve and justify their answers in a variety of ways. So, how does this effect the students were have never participated in a number talk? Apparently, they were able to jump right in after seeing and hearing their classmates model the processes, and the entire class was able to tackle some decent sized multiplication problems the first week of school!

 

So, to round things out, let’s look back at takeaway #1, it’s about sparkly shoes and kindergarten. 🙂 I now know that my sparkly sandals, while being super cute and fashionable, are way too good at their job which is to get noticed and adored, while I’m trying to teach/model a lesson in Kinder! (there really was a kid, or two, face down, belly on the floor inspecting my sparkle while I’m
trying to conduct my number talk) So, while I’m conducting the number talk, I used all the tools I could muster from my “teacher bag” to redirect and get these students focused on the task at hand. After promising to let one of the distracted students share if he would just pry his eyes from my sandals and look at my dot cards it came time to follow through on my promise, so I called him up and I asked, “Henry, how many dots did you see?” to which his response

kinder-dragon-number-talk

Do you see the dragon?
 

was…”I saw a DRAGON, and it was huge, and it was coming at me, and it opened it’s huge mouth, and it grabbed me, and I was in his mouth,” (pause, so around this point I was starting to get a little worried and was not so sure this patience thing was going to pay off, un-pause) “and I looked up in his mouth and I saw…1, 2, 3, 4 TEETH! That’s how I saw 4!” The End

 

 

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