Tackling Misconceptions: Small-Group Number Talks

Getting Better Together

A day in my classroom is filled with inquiry, deep questioning, hands-on learning, and student-driven discussions. Yet, for all aspects of my teaching that I’m proud of, I’m also continuously reflecting on my instructional practices that need improvement.

This past year, I’ve lived the mission of Getting Better Together by sharing my experiences with others and allowing their advice/feedback to guide my instruction. From engagement in book studies, to Twitter chats, to receiving video feedback, I’ve been amazed at the growth of my online professional learning community and consequently, my growth as an educator.

My growth continues, alongside you, the Teaching Channel community, in three new videos. You’ll see me try out instructional strategies that are aimed at reaching all learners and differentiating the learning experience in the classroom. And you’ll also see me work to elevate every student’s voice through designed tasks and groupings. (Read my accompanying blog post, Three Ways I’ve Become A Better Listener.)

In Meeting Students’ Needs With Number Talks, I check in with students after a series of number talks on multiplication of fractions. I’d been concerned about hearing all students’ thinking, particularly those students who didn’t offer their ideas during a number talk. After meeting with Ruth Parker, author of Making Number Talks Matter, and listening to her thoughts on my dilemma, I engaged in a number talk check-in.

Watch as I identify the small group I’ll work with and the questions I use to help them address their misconceptions. This lesson was challenging for me because I was following where my students were leading and had to adjust my success criteria, once I realized their misconceptions were deeper than I imagined. Watch as I attempt to find a productive path with these learners. Small group instruction within a 50-minute middle school class period is still a challenge for my practice. I welcome your feedback on this attempt and how I can improve this experience for students.

In Getting Visual With Fractions, an interactive video, you’ll have the opportunity to give feedback to me and share ideas with each other, as you analyze my use of visual images to help me gauge my students’ understanding of fractions. I look forward to hearing your feedback and specifically improving my choice of language so I can address my students’ needs more clearly in the future.

In Learning Menus: Giving Students Options and Independence, you’ll get a chance to see the strategy I use that facilitates self-directed work by my students, which allows me to work with a small group. Essential for the learning menu strategy is that students have choice and freedom, which I think will be apparent as you watch this video.

I’d like to take a moment to celebrate my students’ courage. My students have entered this Getting Better Together journey, alongside me, to help us all think deeply about high-quality instruction. Through their willingness to share their misconceptions, we’re now all able to critique and redefine our own instruction. I’m so impressed by their willingness and perseverance.

I’m also thankful to you, the Tch community. Your feedback helps me elevate my practice. Sure, video reflection is challenging and scary at times. Yet, this opportunity to hear your feedback, adapt my skills after internalizing the feedback, and give my students an enhanced experience, makes every bit of nervousness I feel worth it.

This work was made possible through support by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Crystal Morey is a middle school math teacher in Enumclaw, WA. She has served on the county’s Common Core transition team, and is a teacher leader on a statewide project with Washington State’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Mathematics Education Collaborative. Connect with Crystal on Twitter: @TheMathDancer.

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