Posts tagged ‘visual’

August 1, 2011

Pizza Fraction Fun

by stryson

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, and as the subtitle above suggests, I am primarily a reading teacher. However, I have taught several other subjects, including social studies, computers, and math. While these are not my primary focus, I do spend a fair amount of time working in these areas. I no longer teach math in school, for example, but I have several tutoring jobs wherein our focus is math. With that in mind, I’m going to recommend a resource for math today.

When I work with children in math, I focus on keeping the lessons highly interactive, heavy on visual and kinesthetic clues, and full of fun. To that end, I utilize a lot of math games with my students. When we get to factions, there’s one game in particular that I’ve come to really like and my kids consistently request. That game is Pizza Fraction Fun.

I like this game because it’s flexible. The pieces can be used for a lesson, and there are 6 variations of gameplay provided in the box. Depending on your lesson, it’s  very easy to come up with challenges outside of these games, as well. It helps kids get a spatial feel for fractions, see how equivalent fractions work, learn to add and subtract fractional pieces, and all the while, it is amusing to them because it’s based around realistic-looking slices of pizza. If you’re looking for a way to make your students less hostile to learning fractions, I’d recommend this as a piece of your plan.

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March 10, 2011

The case for kinesthetic learning

by stryson

As a special education teacher, I feel like I’m constantly thinking about different modalities of learning. There are several major learning styles among most people – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Most learners have a particular strength in one of these areas and find the other two to be more difficult. Some, like myself, may be equally divided between two of them. For the record, I’m equally divided between visual and kinesthetic learning for my strengths.

I am not the exception.

If the statistics quoted to me by the professor in my Orton-Gillingham class are correct, only about 20% of us learn optimally by auditory means. That means that only 2 out of every 10 will get the best results from being in a lecture situation. The other 80% learn better visually, by movement and touch (kinesthetic), or both.

Anyone else notice a giant problem here? Think back to your days in school. Unless you were in a particularly progressive school situation (or if you happened to have a particularly good teacher), you probably learned primarily through lectures during class time.  Even accounting for the snarkiness and malaise of teenage nature, did you feel like portions of class passed you by? I know I did. It never dawned on me at the time that it might be a matter of my processing and learning style, but working with language-challenged kids has made me question these moments that I accepted as normal at the time.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that we can’t present anything through lecture mode.  Sometimes, material simply is best put forth in the form of a presentation.  Sometimes class sizes are prohibitively large to allow students a more hands-on, interactive approach to learning.  Some lectures and presentations can be entirely compelling and effective.  The point, however, that I am making is that relying on these lecture techniques as our primary method of teaching children is inefficient at best and detrimental at worst.

Take, for example, a young man that I tutor. This child is in second grade. He is a robust, energetic young man – not necessarily ADD, but definitely filled with exuberance.  He struggles a bit with reading, and he does have a tutor in the Wilson Reading program, and I tutor him in math. He attends a small, private school in town, with a class size of about fifteen, if I remember correctly. That, in itself, is already an advantage for this young man – certainly a better situation than he’d get in public school.  However, he’s hit a wall this year, and it’s taken a huge toll on him. Even though he is an exceptionally clever child, he sulks around announcing that he is “dumb.” He struggles to keep up with his schoolwork and feels that his classmates are all working beyond his level. In second grade, they are already beginning to funnel the students into a top-down format in class; the teacher presents and then the kids are responsible for going to stations to recreate what she has presented. This doesn’t work for the young man I tutor, and I’m sure there are other kids not being optimally served by this model.

The boy in question learns best by a kinesthetic route. We play many math games, and I try to keep him moving as much as possible. I’m actually looking forward to the nice weather coming, so we can move our tutoring sessions outside and really let loose with the movement. Some people just need that trigger to get the information to stick in their brains.

Perhaps we cannot do a drastic amount of movement inside a regular classroom, but I think this challenge supports a shift toward hands-on, project-based learning. Anything that gets kids directly involved in their educational experience is a step in the right direction.

March 8, 2011

Bored with Boards?

by stryson

For someone who considers herself a generally creative person, I have a huge mental block when it comes to designing bulletin boards. It’s a shame, too, because I have a pretty decent bulletin board layout for the size of my room, which is underwhelming. I have a very hard time taking ideas that look good small-scale and making them work in the larger space.  Many of my bulletin boards come out moderately uninspired, such as this one:Compare and Contrast - Venn Diagrams

Honestly, for my Compare and Contrast bulletin board, the one thing I am proud of is the Venn Diagrams, which were made with a program called Inspiration. You’ll hear plenty more on that topic later; Inspiration is one of my favorite teaching tools.

Acknowledging all of this, I have to gloat a bit. Several weeks ago, I made what I feel is an exceptionally good bulletin board. I’ll start with the picture, then I’ll elaborate on the things I like.

Warm Up With Poetry

In addition to the beautiful array of colors, I’m really pleased with the content of this board.  It was made by a mixed third and fourth grade reading group.  We were touching on poetry – what it is, how to recognize it. We also covered a couple of other skills with these two poems.  On the left is “The Thoughts of a Winter Mitten.” This poem is an excellent source to teach personification. If you look closely, some of the mittens the kids colored actually have faces on them, as they “personified” them. (I’ll post the citations for these poems, in case they can be of use, at a later time. The books are at school and I am at home. This was not planned out well.) The poem on the right, “Quilt Patches,” was used to continue a lesson in comparing and contrasting. The poem uses many superlatives, giving us the chance to address the -est suffix. Having the kids make a paper quilt was a lot of fun, too. I had several students who were unsure of the meaning of “quilt,” as opposed to “blanket,” at the beginning of the poem, and it added some hands-on interaction with the vocabulary word.

I’m happy for spring to be on the horizon, but I’ll be sad to disassemble this board. I’m also contemplating cashing in on my previous success and turning it into a spring-themed poetry board…. with the title “Spring Into Poetry.” We’ll see. Any and all creative ideas are welcomed in the comments!