Inquiry vs Play
I am enjoying the inquiry based math instruction in this classroom. Watching the children construct their own strategies can be quite exciting. Mrs. J does a great job of letting the group members share their ideas. The children feel safe enough in the environment to share ideas without the fear of giving the wrong answer. They all seem content to be traveling down the same path of discovery as they learn about multiplication. The mixture of teacher led discussions at the white board, partner work, and seat work appears to be working well.
The language lessons I have witnessed have used a different approach. Learning the parts of speech is accomplished with a mixture of textbook lectures, worksheets, IWB activities, several doses of the Schoolhouse Rock videos, and some games. Today we learned more about adverbs while we played a game similar to Scattergories . The students (and adults) had a fun time playing the game.
I'm not sure if math is more difficult than language or if the difference in teaching methods is having an effect, but it is clear to see that the students do better with language than math. I know that learning multiplication is difficult, and I understand that constructing knowledge takes time, but...... I believe that the reason that the students excel in their language skills is due to the presence of play. The games, music, and videos grab the students' attention and keeps them excited. Inquiry based math is...well... it is still math facts. Maybe some more music and games in math class would inspire a few more 'light bulb moments'. Maybe it's just too soon in the inquiry process and the ah-has will come in a few weeks.
The technology used in the classroom today got me a little more excited about how my hometown school feels about technology. I was greatly pleased to see Open Office and TeacherTube being used in the classroom. Free and open source software used to be unthinkable in the walled garden. I'm happy to see a shift, for the sake of the students, the teachers, and my tax bill.
After school Mrs. J and I decided to take the desks out of rows and try placing them in small groups. The students were grouped by compatibility and by ability level. Each group has at least one child who is below grade level, at grade level, and above grade level. It will be interesting to see how the kids react to the change tomorrow.