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Aligned Learning Environment August 23, 2013

I am posting a series of blogs that illustrate a variety of learning experiences as they pertain to 3 focus students in my kindergarten classroom in 2009.  These posts were originally published on SPU Blackboard for EDU 6655 – Human Development and Principals of Learning- but have since been removed. I am re-posting them here.

This sixth post describes an upcoming introductory math lesson on measurement. I will illustrate how this activity fosters a learner-centered environment as it brings forth learners’ previous knowledge. I will also incorporate several teaching strategies that are aligned to this particular discipline.

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   In our next math unit, we will be learning about measurement. At the beginning of the unit, we will discuss as a class what it means to measure something, what things can be measured, how they can be measured and why it is necessary to measure things in our environment. Student ideas will be compiled and organized according to what type of measurement it entails: length, weight, capacity, or time. Depending on where students’ interests lie at this point, I will choose one type of measurement as the focus of our first lesson of the measurement unit. The other types will follow in future lessons. This introductory activity will help to foster a learner-centered environment in that it will bring to my attention the knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs about measurement that learners bring to classroom.

For the purposes of this SPU assignment, I will describe the lesson on measuring length. I will display a tower of 10 cubes and explain that sometimes when people measure, they compare 2 different objects to see which one is longer or which one is shorter. I will ask students to examine a group of items and ask if anyone sees something that is longer (or shorter) than my cube tower. I will have a volunteer choose an object and ask him/her to explain why he/she thinks it is longer (or shorter). How can we tell for sure? I will repeat this process with several other volunteers. Student responses, guided questions and some teacher scaffolding will reveal various strategies students can use to compare object lengths with the cube tower.

Following the group activity, students will be put into groups of 3. Each group will get one tower of 10 cubes and work together to find 3 objects in the classroom that are longer than the tower and 3 objects that are shorter than the tower. Students at this point are familiar with working in partners or groups and know that the expectation is that each group member shares responsibility for getting the job done. Group members are to take turns suggesting an object to measure, holding the object, and holding the tower. Throughout their search for objects, I will mingle with the groups, record observations, and make note of the strategies students use to choose objects. To prepare for Annie Keith’s style of Guided Discussion (pg 169), I will select a variety of strategies, both effective and ineffective, to share with the class when we reconvene.

When students have gathered their objects, the class will come together in the meeting area. I will have taped a T chart on the rug and the groups will take turns placing their objects in the “Longer” column and the “Shorter” column. Students will explain the strategies that they used for comparing while the rest of the class observes and comments. At this time I will engage students in the Guided Discussion that was described in the previous paragraph. Students will be able to see the benefits and pitfalls of various strategies. This practice will also foster a community-centered environment in that students will see how making mistakes can lead to learning

If time and students’ attention span permits, I will engage students in the strategy of “interactive demonstrations” (Conceptual Change, pg 179) I will display an item and have students discuss with their neighbors and predict whether the item is longer or shorter than the tower of 10 cubes. These predictions will be recorded. I will select items that are oddly shaped so that students can overcome possible misconceptions that are common when measuring such items.

In order to continuously link student’s new learning to other parts of their lives (Formative Assessments and Feedback, pg. 140) and teach students this concept in multiple contexts for purposes of transfer (pg. 62), I will refer back to this lesson when lining students up tallest to shortest on our class picture day. Also, when we are in our science unit on plants, students will utilize their knowledge of measurement and plan out a yard that has grass, flowers, bushes and trees. They will arrange these items in an order that allows viewers to see all the plants at once. (shortest plants in front and tallest plants in back.)

The small group activity will benefit Richard in that the groups will go at their own pace and gather together on the rug when finished. Previous activities were done in a center rotation fashion and if the groups didn’t rotate fast enough, Richard got antsy and started getting off task. I also anticipate that I will be able to use Richard’s comments and strategies as a model for the class as he has excellent language skills. He will also be motivated by the challenge of finding objects that fit the given parameters.

I will need to consider Kelsey’s hesitation to take risks and desire to follow others when creating groups for this lesson. If she is placed in a group that has an overly assertive learner, she will sit back and not participate. Jessica was placed with a student who has some developmental delays in a recent math activity. I was pleased to see her gently guide this student when he needed it and take on a leadership role when he had difficulty. I will place her with this student again for the measurement activity and hopefully increase her participation. Kelsey’s shy nature makes it difficult for me to assess how she thinks, either in large group discussions or one on one. The small group arrangement will provide her with a more comfortable environment which will encourage her to engage in dialog.

Amanda has a hard time when she encounters a frustrating situation and often will give up and/or cry. One of the things that frustrates her most is if she feels that she is not being listened to or if she does not get her turn. My class environment as a whole fosters accountability in that at any given time, each student has a job to do, knows what it is, and is given the opportunity to do it. Likewise, this activity specifies what jobs students are to perform and offers a predictable system of taking turns. I intend to use experiences in this activity to reassure Amanda that she will be heard and will get her turn.

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