…Or so claims my mother, the retired principal.
This week, I invited the math coach in to teach a couple of lessons. Watching a master teacher work is an opportunity for me to be reminded just how far I have to go.
(Since someone on Twitter asked me to clarify what a math coach is in this context, I will do the same here. The math coach’s roles are many and are not limited to: modeling lessons, observing lessons and making suggestions, joining teachers on intervisitations, providing ideas and resources, and serving as a planning partner).
Here are some takeaways from the lessons modeled in my classroom this week:
- Math needs to be made as concrete and relevant as possible. In teaching perimeter and scratching the surface of area, the coach began with a story about her backyard fence being broken and her dog escaping. The story set up a problem she asked the students to help her solve: Based on the size of her backyard, how much fencing would she need to buy at the store?
- Manipulatives are great for manipulating, and there needs to be time to allow exploratory and free use of them. The coach used geoboards and rubber bands and allowed the students three minutes to use them in any safe way they desired before moving on to a more structured use. She also used the geoboards as response cards of a sort, checking for understanding of the properties of a rectangle by asking students to make one on the geoboard and show her.
- It is important to slow down – as calmly as possible – when the students show resistance. My students all have disabilities and are English Language Learners, too, so it is important to really think about the most basic knowledge that they need to have before progressing to the more complex. In this case, it became clear to me and the coach that we had to really break down the use of the geoboard and how to properly count (rather than begin at 1, begin at 0) for accuracy’s sake.
- Love the Earth, save the paper! The students used geoboards and the SMARTBoard for about 55 minutes before transferring their knowledge to paper. By then, they were solid and able to make the transition from concrete to abstract.
It is always beneficial to see others teach, especially those with all the years of experience. If you don’t have a coach, try to set up an intervisitation with a colleague! You won’t regret it.