Math Lesson? Empower Learners?

Here is what I started out with:

Topic: Addition & subtraction of fractions, mixed numbers, improper fractions.

You have:

  • 4th & 5th graders
  • A SmartBoard.
  • 40 minutes

You need:

  • reinforcement
  • practice
  • check for understanding
  • engagement

How can I step away from the front of the room and “present” the topic, then explain step by step, then give them a worksheet to see if they can duplicate the “path” that I have shown them?

I want my students to be “empowered learners” as Alan November points out. I don’t want them to be passive recipient of knowledge that I am trying to fill them up with.

Adapted from Alan November (pp.188-193), Curriculum 21 (ASCD, 2010) by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.

I chose five different smartboard notebook files created  by various contributors from the Smart Exchange.

I let the class know that “this lesson” was going to be a little different . They were going to be looking at “lessons” other people had created. They were going to be exploring these lessons and evaluating them as to their effectiveness in regards to their own understanding, ease of use, techniques used, success in helping them learn the concept.

I put students into different groups and asked them to come up separately, as a group, to the SmartBoard to look at one of the notebooks. They were to explore a few slides and narrate their thoughts out loud. They were to explain their steps as they were figuring out what to do. Some of the techniques used in the notebook were more intuitive than others. Some of the slides were a digital version of a paper and pencil method, while others were animated and interactive. What techniques helped their learning style? Which slides were more engaging than others? Was it clear what each slide was expecting the learner to do?

Below are several screenshots of the notebook slides.

Will students know the content (mixed numbers, improper fractions, etc.) better after these 40 minutes? Are they learning to be participants in their own learning? Are they learning about different learning (their own) and teaching styles (tutorial/lesson designers)? Are they hearing explanations from their peers? Are they encouraged to make suggestions to make a lesson better? Are they actively involved? Are they preparing to become their own “tutorial designers” as they are dissecting other examples?

What do you think?

Keep in mind that this was a one time modeling lesson for this group. What would I do different next time? Create an evaluation rubric ahead of time for them? Maybe  even create a Google Form to submit their evaluation directly into a spreadsheet? How can I have their classroom teacher follow up this kind of lesson? How do we embed the new roles to empower learners  suggested by Alan November?

How would you make this a successful lesson to empower learning? Share your ideas how to tweak, expand or change it? What would you come up with? Be creative… Please share!