On Monday, February 11, I had the privilege of sitting in on a 4th grade math class conducted by Ms. Kristen Crawford. In all transparency, I did not really have any specific expectations regarding what the classroom set up or function would be, aside from the fact that it would be a classroom where mathematical learning was present. I knew that the teacher in the classroom I was visiting was highly respected by her peers so I had an expectation that she would conduct a fruitful lesson while I was there, but beyond this I didn’t have much prior knowledge on the school. When I arrived, it was an off day in which Ms. Crawford had several students from the class of another teacher who was sick, and the curriculum was focused on reading comprehension, not just mathematics. In this way, my visit differed from my expectations in terms of the content being explored.
Throughout my visit in this classroom composed largely of students of color, Ms. Crawford had the students do reading comprehension activities such as the ones pictured below. The content knowledge she was aiming for revolved around avalanches, and the handout of questions served as a formative assessment which indicated students’ level of comprehension of the article.
In order to more effectively reach different types of learners, the teacher also played an audio recording of the article out loud so that if any students learned best by hearing, they might have equal opportunities to absorb the content. She also had the students discuss with each other and bounce ideas off of one another before they came together as a class and explained the answers. This was a think-pair-share design of learning that provided room for explanation of student thinking as opposed to just a right or wrong answer. Ms. Crawford clarified this as she was walking around listening to student discussion, telling the children that, just like in math, “as long as you can defend your answer with evidence” it is okay and shows their thinking processes. I thought that her emphasis on the significance and the weight that explanation of student thinking carries was a very healthy and constructive way to approach both reading and math. It pulls away from the traditional closed-ended question approach to mathematical learning. However, the teacher did mention that on their state test, students should be looking for similar content and structure as in their handout, suggesting that she may gear classroom activities toward a “teach to the test” model. This somewhat limited her previous statement about room for thought, explanation, and multiple answers.
Ms. Crawford put forth several formative assessments in just the short amount of time that I was there. These formative assessments consisted of asking the classroom on a scale of “fist to 3” how much more time they needed to work out the problem at hand, walking around and listening to groups/talking with them, as well as a math check-in worksheet with problems similar to those they’d been working on the past couple days.
Due to behavioral issues that Ms. Crawford explained to me, she also placed a heavy emphasis on verbally rewarding positive behavior and respect. This emphasis could also be seen through the posters and expectations listed on the classroom walls. These attempts at building respect and self confidence in the classroom are evident through posters that outlined more positive and self-rewarding attitudes towards a student’s own mistakes, as well as those that said things such as “You are important as a learner and human being”, “Everything you do affects someone else”, and “Struggling is okay”.
Lastly, during my visit I had a chance to discuss Ms. Crawford’s desires regarding future steps for our workshops. She mentioned that lessons on addition and subtraction of fractions, rounding, area and perimeter, or possibly multi-digit subtraction would be beneficial. She left it up to Anne and myself to decide which of those topics to run with. I am currently waiting for a response about which students/families have signed the HPS Media Release Form.