Recently, I was gifted the opportunity to teach a lesson in a seventh grade biology class, known for being a challenging group of learners. Although, the content for learning was heavy on the academic vocabulary, I wanted to engage the learners in a way that would bring their thinking to light, without direct input from me. Whenever vocabulary comes to mind, I immediately think of one of my favorite methods: The Frayer Model. Knowing the population I was serving, and the dependency on heavy academic language, the words of Jon Corippo came to mind, and I wanted to Seacrest the hell out of this lesson, i.e. it was a new opportunity to Iron Chef this lesson.
A little background information, I have tried with limited success to be able to produce a reasonable explanation in a finite amount of time how a group of learners facilitates this process, let alone doing in context without losing momentum with reluctant learners. In addition, I was teaching the students a new method of vocabulary usage with the Frayer model, and I was expecting to teach them the content within the 50 minutes that I had with them. I felt the cards were stacked, but I don’t mind failing and loved the idea of the challenge.
Feeling encouraged by a new understanding of the Iron Chef process, I started the lesson with a quick introduction to get the students ready for learning. Introducing the Frayer Model separately, I chose to use fast food establishments as the non-content specific example for students to get used to that idea. I read and showed mine of Taco Bell, the students then were numbered off 1 to 6, to form the groups of 4 that I needed. The students then sat in their groups of 4, each student chose a number which corresponded to a specific restaurant, and I instructed the students on where to go and what they would do. We interacted in a timed, chunked manner through this process. So the learners were writing their Frayer models while learning the structure of the Iron Chef lesson. We moved from Home groups to Expert groups, then back, it worked so beautifully, I couldn’t believe it. After less than six minutes, I had managed to explain both concepts.
Placing the words on the screen, we followed the same format, the learners were give three minutes to dive into the reading, pull out their information, before we would move. When time was up, I checked they knew where they were going, then I released them to share, if they didn’t finish their Frayer model, they could do so as they shared out. I gave 90 seconds for this, then back to their seats. Two minutes of sharing out whole group, each one writing what the other members of the group had to share, then we were off again with four new words.
Repeating this process, with less time, and the increase of tempo proved beneficial, as the structure wasn’t new anymore, they were able to get through it much quicker. The students also quickly related where they were at and how they needed to finish some pieces.
We were able to cover a large section of reading, discover new words, make associations, and synthesize information with three new structures in less than 50 minutes. Having front loaded the expectation of what was required before the leave, I was able to finish with three minutes of students creating a visual representation of how all the pieces fit together. A projected word wall of things they might consider including added a nice touch. Students surprised me with how much they pulled out of it, and I was able to instruct for less than a total of five minutes total. Not to mention this challenging class more than rose to the occasion of amazing learners, they actually were having fun.
A couple of little things that would facilitate this better next time, is a visual for where students need to go based on their number, that part I was unclear about, especially for the first few times. There is also the additional piece of differentiation for there were a few learners that already knew the academic language and the concepts, so they were done within a minute of the time to fill those pieces out and they weren’t learning as much…so adding or modifying that piece for them would also need to be taken into account…I forgive myself on this piece because I didn’t know the students at all.
Being able to climb Mt Everest in this lesson made my day, especially now that I feel I am able to successfully understand the finer parts of Iron Chef lessons, and being able to clearly communicate that piece without losing the momentum of learning, are huge wins in my book.
I wonder what is the length of time a learner can be actively engaged with a content. In this case, I am looking at a time bound for the youngest learners, Kindergarten in this case. So with the help of my wife and two 7 year-olds (as guest lecturers) I set out to determine if we could provide an engaging mathematical learning opportunity for two hours in Kinder.
The lesson format was a spiral review, though the content was a higher depth of knowledge (DOK) than the learners had previously experienced.
Inspired by a lesson from OpenMiddle, the learners were asked a question about the largest and smallest possible number given two ten frames, one of which is full and the other is not.
Originally, I wanted to just pose the problem, but having some time to think it through with the noble goal of seeing if 5 year-olds could maintain an active cognition for 2 hours, I accepted both challenges.
Now you may notice, I brought in a variety of special weapons, including having two guest lecturers/aides to assist in the engagement…and give the girls quite a unique learning experience…but mind you, I am attempting to keep kids doing math for 2 hours, after lunch, with variations in weather, and spring break around the corner. Needless to say, I needed some assistance. I also introduced a curiosity based bribery with a large box of untold goodies, they could work towards, my goal was to utilize any trick I could, to account for all possible variations.
As personal learning opportunity, I wanted to involve centers for the first time. In addition, this was also a back up in case we finished early, or the kids needed something else to do….we never really needed them.
The lesson started with the learners on the carpet going over their shapes, when I was set up, we moved to our seats, after I introduced the girls as our special guests.
I had previously set up two ten frames on the floor with masking tape, this was a huge part of the lesson and meant to get the students thinking about their numbering. Playing the slides and having students come up to fill the living ten frames, asking questions and goofing around, this activity alone took almost 40 minutes. Students were so engaged with this, and laughing so much one young lady, literally, fell out of her chair on to the floor in a bout of laughter. It was magical.
When the videos played, the students had to yell out their responses, students were so invested they were literally standing up and yelling their numbers out.
When we got to the point where students were being asked to solve the OpenMiddle problem, the students used both the counters and two ten frames in front of them to build what the question was asking. With four facilitators asking questions and providing opportunities to wonder, I was very impressed at how quickly many learners were able to articulate either the largest or the smallest number. In quick succession, about half the class was able to get both, and explain, in quite vivid detail, why their numbers were the largest and the smallest….I was unduly surprised and excited.
We are 90 minutes into a very active class of learning, 5 year-olds are getting tired, one young lady even asked, if she could stop, stating her head was tired. When I asked is she would like to do something else, she flatly stated, “No.” I guess she wasn’t as tired as she thought she was.
As we came back together to finish the lesson, we were setting up the centers, when the time to begin cleaning up and getting ready for going out to the bus line started. We were just at the point of running the centers, so I will have to wait even longer to find out how these are supposed to go.
Needless to say, with a little energy, a little fun, and varying the types of involvement, even the youngest learners can be engaged in active mathematics for a lot longer than I would have guessed. For 2 hours we did mathematics, we laughed, we had fun, and everyone learned a lot.