Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Position - Location - Direction [Primary Project]

This week was my fourth Monday with the K-2s (about 70 in all) and, without exception, kids at both schools finally had enough experience and understanding to take ownership of their work. Here's what I saw:

  • Focused work in squares with partners
  • Many of the not-quite participating kids finally digging into the independent tasks
  • Good verbal and dance communication between partners
  • A willingness to practice new skills
  • A willingness to stay with the lesson flow (group work, observation time, individual work, written reflection)
  • Emerging ability to bring both partners' ideas into the pattern they were making
  • A sense of agency with the material -- the directions and movements make sense to them and we are all starting to understand the cool stuff we can do with these ideas
  • More trust in the process: all these little pieces we've been learning can be used to make something new and interesting

All this is worthy of celebration!
 It means that even with all my experimentation, my newness to this age group, and my not-quite-crystal-clear instruction, things are making sense to the kids!

My own gains/growth so far include being able to articulate an emerging conceptual framework for doing Math in Your Feet at the primary level. I'm using the same MiYF dance ideas as I do with upper elementary kids but, as I realized last week, K-2s need a different scaffold for the math/dance work.

Below are the elements that interact simultaneously throughout any one class. The challenge is to know which one to focus on at any one time. (And, just a reminder, no one said that teaching is easy! This kind of complexity is found in any classroom on a daily basis, whether a moving classroom or not.)

  • Development of physical cognition and skills in the dance work
  • Development of both dance and math/spatial terminology used in context (direction words and movement words in particular)
  • Clear expectations and reinforcement about units, even if the kids don't quite have it yet
  • Emphasizing sameness (for now this means: same four beats every time you dance it and having the same four beats as your partner)
  • Written and visual reflections after every class. I can see already it's making a big difference in how they understand our work and interact with new ideas the next week.

I've illustrated this last point using student work, below.

The three maps I've included represent student understanding of position/location/direction and are representative of what primary kids are capable of.  Remember, I only modeled a very basic way of thinking about the location of your feet in the square space. The kids themselves were the ones who decided where they needed to add in more information to communicate their dance patterns.

Seriously, I've been blown away by their thinking.

The "where are your feet" assignment is about assessing direction/location/position only. My thought after our 4th session was that we needed to add movement words into the mix. Later in the day I found this map by a 1st grader who had already figured out that she wanted to address this issue! Notice the word "jump" and a line connecting all four beats. On every beat you jump to the new position.

It's been super exciting to see how many different ways kids are representing location and direction. This 2nd grader used arrows to indicate the direction of the movement. 

This kindy girl is very clear where her feet are in the square. On Beat 1 the dot represents a step in the front left corner of her dance space. The exciting thing here is that she figured out a way on Beat 2 to be very clear about the fact that the left foot stays put and the it's the right foot that's moving into place. 

I think we're getting the position / location / direction thing down! And, next week? I think I'll work to bring "WHERE are your feet (location) and HOW did you get there (movement)" further into our collective consciousness.

Malke Rosenfeld delights in creating rich environments in which children and their adults can explore, make, play, and talk math based on their own questions and inclinations. Her upcoming book, Math on the Move: Engaging Students in Whole Body Learning, will be published by Heinemann in Fall 2016.

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