After doing two weeks of fractions in my class I felt that most students in the class would be comfortable halving and quartering fractions of a region. So I decided to work with my students who are achieving low in Maths.
To my surprise, none of the five students could show me the different ways we could share a cake into quarters. I felt very disappointed.
The question that I gave them was this:
I also gave them a square piece of paper that they could experiment to work out quarters. But somehow it did not seem to work. None of students seemed confident to ask questions or talk about their thinking.
As I started to explain the problem I realised that my students did not have the language to participate in a discussion. So I stopped teaching to the plan and decided to expose my students to the language that was required to participate in a discussion. I used think boards so that each child could record their understanding.
After remembering, repeating and discussing the question a number of times, the students had the words to explain their understanding.
Tomorrow I will be giving an different problem on quarters to the same group of students and hopefully they will understand and be able to solve the problem.
Today instead of giving another problem to the same group, I made them experts and they had to share their learning in a group. All the students explained and demonstrated the different ways they could share a cake in quarters. They did it beautifully and that was because they had the language to explain their thinking. It built their confidence and left them motivated towards their learning.
In future I will make sure that each child in the class has the words to explain their thinking. It becomes all the more important when most of my students have english as their second language.