Friday, March 9, 2012

Routine, Boring, and a Necessary Evil?

It's lovely how something considered routine, boring, and a necessary evil can actually be turned into a jam-packed opportunity to build better thinking.  What's more routine, boring, and a necessary evil than the lunch count, right?  I've found a way to use it as a great learning tool.  It really doesn't take but five minutes, and the fact that the kids do it every day means they're going to have more than a few opportunities to practice the skills they need.  (And we all know some kids need more than a few opportunities.)

Every morning we spend a few minutes making sure that our hot lunch, cold lunch, and absent numbers equal the right sum.  Here's how it goes down...

1.  I write the equation on the board.
2.  Kids spent a few seconds discussing their strategy for figuring out the answer with a neighbor.
3.  I ask for volunteers to share their thinking while I draw it  on the board.  (Several kids are involved, because I like to ask a new kid to take over after each step is drawn.)
4. I always ask them to explain their reasoning.  "Why do you want to do that?"  "How do you know?"
5.  Sometimes we have enough time to draw two or three different solutions.

Here's one such solution that the crew recently walked me through.

At this time of year, a few days a week, I ask them to take out their whiteboards and draw how they would solve the problem.  I often see things like this.

Before erasing our work I've gotten into the habit of asking, "Is that the only strategy we could use to figure it out?" and they've gotten into the habit of emphatically responding, "Of course not!"

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  1. I Love using personal white boards - it's such a great informal assessment :)
    The Teacher’s Cauldron

    1. Very much so Jen! Thanks for dropping by.

  2. What wonderful little thinkers you have! I also like that you ask them to explain their thinking. We get so much info from them verbalizing their thinking. :)
    Conversations in Literacy

    1. Lori, don't we though? The other kids learn so much from hearing what others are thinking too. Thanks again for your consistent comments.

  3. Love the lunch count idea. I got some of the best training on teaching addition/subtraction skills from here in England. The things these kids learn to do with hundreds charts (adding 10, adding 11, subtracting 11, etc) and their "number bond" work, etc. has really blown me away. Is it just me, or are American schools really literacy heavy?


    1. Kelli, maybe my next math professional development workshop needs to be scheduled in England. I'd love to see what they're doing. If you get a chance, I'd be very interested in some posts about what they're doing in math over there.

  4. What a great way to use the lunch count! I am going to start!

    Chickadee Jubilee
    The Best Endings

    1. Thank you Laurie for coming by. I think it's very cool that you're going to try this out. I hope it works for you as well as it works for me.