Exactly one week ago, my principal reminded the staff about the upcoming open house. This open house is a little different to me than the past in many ways:
- I do not speak the same language as the parents do.
- I have 15 minutes to do a learning activity with the students and parents.
- The goal is to have the parents experience what learning is like for the students, rather than an introduction to the class or Q&A session.
I was pretty stressed out about it and I do not have any idea on what to do. I hate Thursdays, because I only have 45 minutes of prep time all day. I used my prep time (last block), less than an hour away from having parents coming in to my classroom, to come up with something.
I was going back and forth with many different ideas, different warm up routines, and I shot down my own ideas before I came up with the next one. My goal was clear:
- I want the students and parents to do math.
- I want the math to be accessible to everyone
- I want everyone to think
So I made a quick PowerPoint and included these two tasks, one for each grade level.
I chose Which One Doesn’t Belong because the 6th graders really liked it and we have just finished our first unit on “Area and Surface Area” today.
I did this with one class but not the other. One class did a pretty good job, and they came up with many great ideas and reasons. However, one of my parents did not engaged with the tasks as much as I wanted to, and that might due to unfamiliarity with the tasks. There are so many great things to highlight with the tasks. Unfortunately, I forgot to mention why this task is so important to me–it helps students to develop their reasoning skills and academic language.
The 6th graders and 7th grade class were engaged in Find the Next Number task with their parents. I did not like this task as much in the first place as I thought it was a little closed ended. I also don’t want my parents to leave my classroom feeling either successful or unsuccessful, I want them to know that their reasoning is more important than their answers and that there are different correct solutions.
I introduced the problem, allowed some time for the students and parents to find solution to the problem, and invite students along with their parents to go up to the board and explain their next numbers, in both English and Russian. After each explanation, I asked the room two questions: “Do we agree with their explanation?” and “Does anyone have a different answer?”. Almost always, the response is thumbs-up for the first question, and thumbs-down for the second. It’s cute to see the kids teaching their parents to do thumbs-up and thumbs-down to respond to my questions.
On the second question, I threw in my next three numbers:
1000, 500, 250, 150, 50, 5
I said, “One of the students came up with this, and this is also a right answer. Can anyone figure out the rule for this sequence is?”
The whole room started thinking again. I moved on and invited other students to explain all the other problems. I ended the session by acknowledging the parents for participating, and sharing that this is how my class is, where students do most of the work, thinking and talking. Before they leave, some parents asked, “So are you not going to tell us the answer?” I put a smile on my face and said, “Oh, the rule is that the next number has to be smaller than the previous number”. Some parents left the class feeling satisfied.
My goal was accomplished!