Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A different kind of scaffold [Primary Project]

Monday was a holiday but I got a chance to meet with the K-2 class on Tuesday. I had many thoughts about this class last week, primarily centered on issues of units and unitizing.  After leaving those thoughts and observations to simmer in the back of my head for a while I realized I needed to be more present in their dance making.

Because this is all just a big experiment for the moment, and my agenda wasn't really cutting it, I needed to see where their dance energy took me in terms of the math. I decided that I would purposefully not make a lesson plan for the next session.

I can sense the room going silent, can't you?

You may be wondering how it went. Well, here's what I learned:

K-2s need a different scaffold for the math/dance work than in grades 3-6. This may seem obvious, but the first two classes with them made me realize this, and I went into the third class asking the right question:

"If my typical approach doesn't work, what will?"

Although I went in without a written lesson plan, I still had a *sense* of what I was looking to do differently.  I'll spare you the details but it turns out that I've hit on a lesson flow that I think might just work every time:
- Whole group instruction for warm-ups, including review of familiar steps and introduction of a few new dance ideas. We had already done jumps and steps in center with our feet together so I decided to introduce the idea of splitting your feet apart.  Throughout the class I used spatial language and more formal math language.  Out/in can also be sides/center. "Corners" was used interchangeably with "diagonal." My philosophy is that a rich use of language in context of actual doing is useful, effective, and generally assimilated.
- Whole group brainstorm: In this case to figure out how many different directions we can split our feet inside our squares. I also summarized our ideas on the board.

- Release the group to work in their partner pairs...with the specific instruction to work on and practice these ideas with their partners.  In their first two classes I'd given similar specific instructions but was worried because it seemed that what I was showing them wasn't sticking. I couldn't figure out if it was because they weren't unitizing, or whether they were just so full up with creativity (hence the reference to unexpected poppies). This time I was super explicit and redirected kids every time with the statement "It's about practicing these ideas and THEN you're going to get a chance to try out new ideas."
This didn't stop them, of course, but it did slow them down a little! After a quick group review of the stuff they practiced I moved on to the final portion:
- Make a 4-beat pattern you can remember and repeat so that you have something to record at the end of class. They worked hard and their work was super awesome.  When most teams had something squared away I modeled how I might record my own pattern by drawing where my feet are in my square and then handed out my reflection sheet for the day.

My goal with the recording is to model one idea for representing foot position, but to allow the kids to figure out the way that makes the most sense to them. These are some great examples of the diversity of responses I got.

Overall both myself and the teacher were simply overjoyed at the children's creative work, their success with recording their patterns, and the flow of the class overall.  The video footage shows lots and lots of kinetic activity. It did feel a little frenetic to me in the moment but upon further review it appears it was as focused a lesson as one could expect in a classroom full of moving and talking 5, 6 and 7 year olds. After all, moving/thinking bodies and children talking to each other is the goal of this work.

But my biggest takeaway? That the scaffold IS the lesson plan. I'm excited to try out my new primary grades lesson structure in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!