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.
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