Selecting children to be part of a withdrawal maths group was a process. As a rule, I am not in favour of withdrawing children to “support” or “enhance” their learning. However, sometimes, rules need to be broken. The group of 5 children was very carefully selected.
As a team, we thought about:
- How might the children benefit?
- How might this create a stigma?
- What might children “miss” when they are out of the class?
- What might they gain when they are out of class?
- Is the gender imbalance in the group an issue?
- What is the focus?
- How will we measure progress?
I spent a great deal of time unpacking, planning and convincing people.
Initially, two of my identified learners were unsure whether they wanted to buy in. I asked for 1 week (2 lessons) before they made up their minds and they agreed.
In the first session, we established the “why” and the “how”. The “what” was to be a work in a progress – a co-constructed development of content and skills that we would develop.
Today’s session begins with a quick counting game as we walk to our room.
“Start at 197 and add 3 each time.”
No one questions why we were are counting and walking. No one puzzles when the number is changed, a decade is crossed or a decimal is thrown in.
There is a pre-algebraic puzzle on the table as they enter and each child grabs a pencil and starts to tackle the thinking in their own way.
We share strategies (there are two different solutions) and as we go along, the children say things like, “Oh, I know where I went wrong!” and “Wait, a minute, I want to change something.”
I ask the children to think of their learning on a continuum and place themselves on a number line (0 is “I still understand the same as the last time we did something like this” and 10 is “I have made 100% progress).
Each child plots their growth on their own number line and we decide to make a human number line. One child says,”We need a ruler to measure the length of the room!” and he grabs one, measures 3 meters, tells us where the middle is and we organise ourselves.
The excitement is the room is infectious! We all celebrate when each child takes their number (tweaked with a decimal point) and creates two questions for another person.
“What is 0.6 more than my number?”
“What is 1.4 less than my number?”
There is a moment of tension when the question, “What is 0 .9 more than my number [7.6] ?” is asked. We all sit and think about our strategy and then we use a tweaked version of Jo Boaler’s Number Talk protocol to share our strategies.
Each session is carefully documented, focussed on the children’s confusion, misconceptions, progress and learning. Today’s lesson ends with an exit card:
“What did you learn/think about OR what confused you / do you want to know more about?” Their answers will guide me in planning next week’s session.
I am blown away by the children who started coming to this group , a few weeks ago, because they need “extra assistance” (and the two who have forgotten they needed convincing) – their mindset and willingness to engage and learn is ensuring that they are developing their self-belief, ability to reason and articulate their thinking and their desire to learn something that they see the relevance of.