Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What does an arts education specialist know about teaching math?

When you hear the name Barbara Flaten-Orr, you may associate her with teaching music, dance, drama and visual arts at Regina Public Schools.  But math, not so much!  Well, you would be surprised at how Barb has taken to the subject since tackling different challenges in her teaching practice.  Using the structure of Explore +4, the grade 4 students and staff at École Centennial School make math instruction relevant, hands-on, personal all within a structured environment.

The lesson starts off in the 'Lesson Circle' where students, together with their teacher, have established norms on 'I Charts' that they refer to before and during every lesson.  These are reviewed throughout the lesson to ensure all participants, including the teacher, are on track and maximize their learning time together.
The 'I Chart' for MOMO, which stands for Math On My Own, is reviewed prior to sending students off to their work tables.  The students who are scheduled for their 'special learning' time with Mrs. Flaten-Orr go off to the small table for individual or small group instruction while the rest of the class work on their assigned tasks. Materials, manipulatives, white boards, whatever is required for the lesson is available for students to use. 
The teacher rings the bell chime once the time is up to bring students back to the Lesson Circle.  They then do a self-evaluation of the use of their time during that round, referring back to the I Chart for the established norms.  The teacher does bring the students back early if the I Chart is not followed by all participants.  The importance of sacred teaching time is reinforced so that all students have clear expectations before returning to their assigned tasks.



The MAF (Math With a Friend - this name was chosen by the students themselves) is a time when students work cooperatively with another student to reinforce concepts, practice strategies, problem-solve and have fun with the math they are learning.  The teacher is still having 'special learning' time with an individual or small group.  Since École Centennial School is an inclusive environment, this structure allows our integrated FIAP students to learn alongside their peers in a structured setting. 

Near the end of the period, students work together to gather materials, store notebooks/textbooks, manipulatives to return the studio to its original condition, ready for another arts education lesson.  Teachers working cooperatively have enabled the structure of the Daily 5 and Explore +4 to be a success in the classroom.  Student have clearly defined high expectations for learning and teachers can work in small groups to individualize instruction.  A win-win situation!

Awesome work École Centennial School Team!

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