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Thought I’d attempt to implement what we learned with Jim, our ITRT, at our training session the other day. Although it is the last week of school, boxes are packed and temperatures are in the 30s (Celsius!), I rolled a smart board from our school’s computer lab down the hall to my classroom , and shared what I hoped would be an engaging problem about my twin boys and their attempt to win a prize at a game on Centre Island.
It was interesting to see the students' level of engagement. They were very accommodating as I experimented with the Smart Board for really the first time, fiddling with grouping object and trying out the highlighter tools.
At first, I basically used the IWB to introduce the question. We talked about the question as a full class, and I used the various tools to highlight important parts of the question so that the board could be used as a focus while students worked. I allowed them to choose to work alone or with a partner, and reminded them to think and or talk first, before solving the problem. I also told them that some of them would be called on to share their responses.
They got right to work, some thinking, some talking with partners, some using math manipulatives like play money or centi-cubes, others using paper and pencil/marker only.
The entire lesson took an hour.
I felt okay about it, given that it was the last week of school, but felt I could have been better prepared in terms of choosing which student(s) to share first. I did work out the problem the night before on my own, but was so stressed about not bumping into the board or table that I spent more time managing that than circulating to ask probing questions while the students worked out their solutions!
A few confirmations arose out of this experience.
The first was the importance of oral language. As we were debriefing the solution, several students made comments that were imprecise. Knowing them as I do, I believe they meant to say something else, but lack the vocabulary and experience to express themselves clearly. Again, that will be a focus for September – introducing and practising many conversations on a variety of topics.
Another was the value of installing the IWB on the wall. There is simply not enough space—in a classroom that houses 20+ students and their learning materials—for the board on a stand. The other issue with the board on a stand I am grateful we were granted the funds for a more manageable arrangement, and I look forward to the installation of said IWBs.
Finally, the value of technology and rich problem solving in math when it comes to student engagement (which one hopes will translate into learning) was affirmed for me during this lesson. The percentage of on-task students, i.e. those paying attention to the lesson, and those working on the problem during the time allotted, was considerably higher than when I use the textbook. Although to some extent one could argue that the novelty of the tool (the IWB) was responsible for this, I would still say the engagement level was particularly impressive, given that this is the last week of school, and truly, both teacher and students are “done”!