Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Best Laid Plans...of a 5th Grade Class

Yesterday didn't go as all. I had a plan of what I thought would be an enjoyable and engaging math lesson. I recently bought the book Math-terpieces: The Art of Problem-Solving by Greg Tang. I planned on reading the book and letting the students have some fun solving the problems that related to the masterpieces of art on each page. I thought it would be a nice change of pace and a way to review previously mastered skills in a new format.

My students came up with other plans. Although several of them immediately "closed down" when I first got out a book to read (see this post), by the second page, they were all glued to the pages waving hands in the air to find different solutions to the problems in each of the poems. Before we could get through the book, they started offering different ideas to our day's plan.

View their Math-terpieces Storyjumper
One student asked if they could create math poems like the ones we were reading. Another student chimed in and said that for them to be like the ones Greg Tang wrote, they would need to use art masterpieces as the inspiration. Then another student suggested that instead of using a famous masterpiece, maybe they could create their own. To which another student suggested not only writing the poems and creating the art but publishing them in a StoryJumper so that all of the students that they collaborate with could read their book too.

Wow! This all happened so fast it was amazing. My learners had found inspiration in a book that I thought would hold their attention for about thirty minutes and turned it into a two day project that tied together reading for inspiration, writing for an authentic audience, creating for a purpose, and publishing it to further the learning of their peers across the country.

Within a few minutes, they were searching for inspirational artists to begin creating their own masterpieces. They asked to get out different art mediums, each one wanting to be unique. Once their masterpieces were done, they began searching for math concepts within their art and began brainstorming ideas. As with all of our writing projects, we had conferences throughout their writing process where they explained their ideas and they searched for vivid language. Then my students set up a new StoryJumper and began guiding their peers through their publication of their own math-terpieces.

Did we follow the prescriptive curriculum? Um...not these two days. Shhh! Don't tell on us. My kids were so excited and learned so much, how could I possibly have taken this away from them? I guess we'll have to keep all this learning tightly under wraps. Next time I make out my lesson plans, maybe I should turn it over to them. They all definitely come up with much more clever ideas than me. I'm so glad that my day didn't go as planned. I wonder what we'll do tomorrow. I can't wait to find out.

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