Sunday, March 2, 2014

Connecting Language Arts and Math

I found out last week that most of my students have no idea why they're doing what I ask them to do.  It was pretty alarming to me when I said, "do you know why we're working on our letters?" and the general response was something along the lines of "because you tell us to."   I spent about ten minutes explaining to them how letters are the building blocks of reading and writing and all the things we need reading and writing for in life.  Then I asked again, "Do you know why we're learning our letters?"

A little boy raised his hand and said with utmost confidence... "Yeah, so we get good at math."

I've tried now to introduce everything with a clear purpose for why we're doing it and wrap it up with "so when Mom and Dad ask you what you did today, you can tell them _____."  (By the way, parents: do you ask your kids "How was school today?" or "What did you do today?" only to have them shrug and say they don't know? Try asking your child "What was your favorite part about today?" and watch them open up from there.  The first two questions are too broad for a five-year-old, but the latter question will get them talking and likely bring them to share multiple other experiences from the day.)

Anyway, when it was time for more subtraction in math, I figured I'd start by singing Five Green & Speckled Frogs and discuss how each time a frog jumped into the pool, we were doing subtraction.  We subtracted one frog at a time.  Students then got ten paper frogs and a brown construction paper log to act out more subtraction problems.

Students started by listening to me say problems out loud.  "There were 8 frogs sitting on a log. 2 jumped into the pool.  How many were left?"

After we had done several like that, I passed out whiteboards and markers.  Then students wrote the problem I said aloud ("9 minus 3 equals...") and solved it.  After about five problems that I said aloud, students got to work with partners to give each other subtraction problems.

So... did your child know what the frogs and log were for? Or did you pull it out of his folder and ask him, only to have him shrug and tell you that he didn't know?  Hopefully he knew. It was for subtraction.

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