Monday, October 10, 2011

One Awesome List

The participants of the Math in Your Feet teacher workshop at Clowes Memorial Hall (Butler University) last Thursday night created this list at the start of our three hours together:

Smiley faces indicate that point is no longer an issue.  A check mark means that this
will always be an issue, but not insurmountable. 

This was the most comprehensive list thus far compiled in one of my teacher workshops.  By the end of the workshop, it was collectively agreed that most of the items on the list were no longer viewed as challenges.  Here's why:
  • Large class size:  Taping down fifteen pairs of boxes onto the floor takes some spatial problem solving in limited space, but it is doable.  Students do all their work in the little boxes, there is no need to move around.  So, if you have the space for the boxes, you've got space for this program.
  • Room size/obstacles: This one got a check mark because there are always going to be issues with room size and obstacles, but they are not insurmountable.  One idea that teachers have had is to have kids push their chairs under their desks and tape the squares directly behind their chairs.
  • Behavior management/self control:  The rules are clearly laid out -- stay in your square and do whatever you like, except for 360 degree turns on one beat.  Because kids are focused on self-initiated work and collaborate with partners, there is always something for them to do, including simply sitting down and taking a break.  If things do start going off track, then it's 'group practice time,' time for teams to demo their work, time to add some new math, or even just time to stop.
  • The teachers were initially worried about how to keep order and whether adding movement would lead to chaos.  They collectively agreed this would not be a problem using the room layout and my suggested formula of 3-5 minutes of moving, creative work and/or practice, followed by a few minutes of new information or observation, followed by a little more movement, etc.
  • Overloaded kids: This is a really active, often noisy program, but there are regular times where we stop and quiet our bodies.  During the workshop I modeled a number of ways for kids to move and maintain self-regulation at the same time; some of this I already knew I was doing, others strategies were pointed out by the participants.  I purposefully use my 'count down to silence' to bring us back to a group focus.  It ends with smooth quiet movements and voices, by which time we are all on the same page and ready to focus on new information.  There are also times I communicate without talking (hand gestures, pointing to words on a poster, etc.)  Someone pointed out that everything in my class is really predictable, including the flow of events -- stand/sit, move/quiet, etc. as well as my expectations for staying focused on creative work.  This is an on-task program with a creative process broken down into manageable bits, one bit at a time. 
  • They were initially worried that not every child would want to participate -- shy kids, kids who are normally disinclined to participate, kids who don't like to move, etc.  There are always slow starters, ones who need to observe before jumping in.  As long as they don't get in others' way, that's totally okay.  There are also always a few teams of kids who never volunteer to show their work.  I tell those kids privately that it's okay if they don't want to come up now, but by the end of the week they will be expected to show what they've been working on.  Final presentations are never an issue on the last day because of this.  A participant noticed that 'everything is a positive' in this program meaning no matter a person's skill level we can always find success.  This aids participation because as long as they've moved forward in some way from the first day, mathematically, choreographically or socially, it is time to celebrate!
  • Another big worry was about the attitudes of school administrators: "Why are the students out of their seats?!?"  By the end of this workshop the teachers said that all you need to do is show the list of vocabulary and concepts used in this program to those who might doubt the value of such an approach to illustrate the relevant learning happening while the kids are moving. 
The teachers in this particular workshop had between eight and 37 years of full-time teaching experience.  What I love is that, based on evaluations, they all found this three-hour workshop to be a positive learning experience and that the ideas presented would be useful in their teaching.


  1. Thanks for tagging me on this, Malke! It was a great process to go through with classroom teachers, directly addressing all the negatives. I'm gearing up to try it out in November (I think)! I've been on overload lately, but by then I should be able to get it together...


Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...