Saturday, May 24, 2008

initiating a meta dialogue

previous blog about this: meta-dialogues are hard to establish

I asked another teacher if my year 8s could teach her year 8s something about fractions. She happily agreed.

My students responded very positively to the idea of being in charge of administering a fractions test to other students. This was in marked contrast with the earlier reluctance from most to divulge to me what they found hard about fractions.

I asked them to play the role of the teacher, to explain the administrative requirements of the test and that it was alright to explain the meaning of the questions but not to give answers.

Of course, after a while a few of them (not all) began to break the rules and started to teach the other students. My inclination was to "not notice". One of my thoughts was that if I had initiated the process by telling them that their role was to teach fractions to other students (rather than administer a test that they had already done) then there would have been some resistance. But once they found themselves in a situation of sitting next to another student doing the test they found it hard to resist helping. Some of my students took the formality of their teaching role seriously and "told off" some of the students who were helping their peers too much by supplying the answer (or more accurately what they thought was the answer).

My purpose is to get my students to think about their own knowledge of fractions, their meta cognition (thinking about their own thinking) and meta-conceptions (thinking about their own knowledge and understanding of concepts)

There were two teachers in the other class because it was the year 8 Wiltja class, which contains many indigenous students from the Lands in Central Australia. Both of the other teachers were curious about my approach and that was a good conversation too.

It felt like a win-win-win. My students enjoyed it, the other students enjoyed it and the teachers enjoyed it.

What has happened so far?
  • fraction knowledge exploration has begun
  • social interaction between classes has begun
What happens next? Focus Question: What do the other students find hard about fractions?
  • by reflecting on the knowledge of others my students reflect on their own knowledge
  • design own fraction problems for other student on paper
  • program your fraction designs in Scratch (transform to a new medium)

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