This morning found me sitting in the back of Elizabeth Brown’s 8th Grade Summer Academy class. Opening activity: Dot talks.
I always enjoy Dot Talks because I love hearing student thinking and the variety of ways that people perceive things. Most students were quiet in their participation and Elizabeth worked to draw them into conversation. They tread lightly – afraid of saying the wrong thing. These are students who have a lifetime of experiences that tell them speaking up about their thinking is opening themselves to being told they are wrong. I loved hearing Elizabeth tell them “Right now I am challenging you to look at things in different ways. Sometimes it takes time to see something in a different way.”
So there is not just one right way. It is okay to see things differently than other people. Students begin to open themselves to the learning experience now that they know they are safe.
From Dot Talks the class moved to Visual Patterns. She stays focused on what they see.
http://www.visualpatterns.org/ pattern #2
“What is staying the same and what is growing?” Students stay the corner block is staying the same and the legs are growing.
“What is staying the same and what is growing?” Some debate ensues about what is staying the same. The center block. No, the five center blocks. All agree the 4 legs are growing.
Elizabeth introduces a chart with headings Figures and Number of Squares. “Count to fill in. How are the numbers in column 2 changing?” This is not too big a step; students are able to move individually with confidence.
Wrapping up she repeats back their findings. “So the numbers are adding four and the pattern in growing by 4. We are trying to see the connection between the numbers and the pattern.”
The lesson went on to patterns 7, 11, 15, 18. On 18 they just talk about the number of blocks, not the perimeter. It was a lovely and well chosen progression of linear functions.
Closing 18 she went back to “How do you see the pattern growing?”
I really only saw one way, but clearly Elizabeth had invested the time to be ready for possible student answers. It was a well crafted discussion that did much to make a safe community for these students to share their thinking. My favorite part was how she explicitly let them in on what she was up to- helping them to see things in different ways and to make connections between representations. Awesome groundwork for our exciting summer!