Welcome to part 2 of my enthralling series called "Math Task Explanations"!
(If you missed part 1 you can click here: Math Task Explanations Part 1)
I talked briefly about the procedures I set up in my classroom when doing a task and now I want to get into the nitty gritty. Exciting right?
As mentioned before, I did tasks with my other teaching half. She is a FANTASTIC and strong teacher and I have learned so much from her. This means that we had about 45 kids in my room on task day. Translation: PROCEDURES WERE A MUST! We would start by briefly reviewing the procedures all together by talking about them, acting them out etc. Then I would introduce the task for the day.
We tied in the task topic to whatever we were studying in class which made it nice and easy. I would simply read the task to them and ask very generic questions such as "What is it asking you to find?" or "Can you see the important information?". If it seemed to be a particularly difficult concept (like time to the nearest minute, don't even get me started with some of my kids!!!) I might prompt them more. Bottom line is you are the professional in your room with strong gut instincts. You know your kids and if you need to hold their hand longer or not. It is important to note that we walked our kids through an entire task together the first time. I did think alouds on how I would estimate, check, find etc. the answers to the problem. This is a really important step that can help them see the process.
Then we would split our kids into groups. We tried it every way you could think of: high/high, high/medium, low/low, high/low, medium/low etc. Sometimes we wanted our low babies to have a strong example and we placed them with a high student. Other times we wanted to challenge our high kids and we put them all together. It depends on your needs at the time. The possibilities are endless. Having our low babies together pushed them and surprised us. The picture that I used for Part 1 is a paper taken from 2 special education students. They were using mathematical thinking and stretching their brains even if they didn't always find the exact right answer.
Side note: We tried using groups of 4 at the beginning and didn't love it. We found that students were more engaged and more accountable when working in partners.
At first the students feel a little unsure about the task process (and trust me I felt the same way!). The students are used to having all the information given to them in a tidy little package and they just need to simply add/subtract/multiply/divide it. This stretches them as a student and you as the teacher!!
The important thing to remember about tasks is that not all of the information is given and that's on purpose! We are trying to get our students to be deep, INDEPENDENT thinkers. Trust me, at the beginning the students will look at you like they can find the answer in your face. They are used to being spoon fed and we need to help them break that habit.
I have had several questions where the teacher is wondering how the students will know what to estimate. That is where you can guide them at the task presentation. Ask them explicitly "What do we need to estimate/find here?". They can get it easier than you think. (After doing two or three of them this becomes no problem). To make this easier, I am going to walk you through a math task in Part 3. Since my Free Math Task Explanation set walks you through a 3rd grade problem, I figured I would use a 5th grade task.
If you didn't get my Free Math Task Procedure set just click on the link!
What questions do you have? How have you set up tasks in your room?