Tuesday, January 28, 2014

An Opportunity to Integrate Math into Morning Meeting

Our schedule only permits us to meet for Morning Meeting twice a week, once on Monday and again on Friday. It's not as ideal as being able to meet every day, but it's a routine that my students look forward to with enthusiasm. I admire teachers who hold Morning Meeting daily and still manage to keep it fresh and exciting for their students. Even though I share the responsibility for planning our two weekly meetings with my grade partners, I still struggle with finding new greetings and activities that are engaging and relevant for our fifth graders when it is my turn to plan. I regularly scour the internet for ideas, and I do find lots of great stuff. Occasionally, I even come up with a good idea of my own. This is post is about a Morning Meeting activity that I came up with that reinforces fraction concepts while encouraging students to get to know one another better. I don't have a name for the activity, and, for all I know, it may have been done before, but it's new to me. It's also simple to implement, and the kids loved it so I decided to share. 

The activity will only work with students who understand fractions. They need to know that the denominator of a fraction represents the total number of members in a set, and the numerator represents some portion of those members. If you have students that understand this basic fraction concept, you have everything you need for this activity. Just gather your students in an area where they can move around a little bit and tell them they are going to BECOME fractions. After all the "Hey, you can't cut us apart," comments die down, you can explain the real rules of the game. 

For each round of play, the teacher calls out a fraction like 1/3 or 4/5. Then, the children need to get into groups that represent the target number. For example, two boys and one girl could get together to represent 1/3. When it is their turn to report out, a representative from the group would say, "1/3 of our group are girls." Then, you give every group a chance to report the fraction they came up for each round of play. If 4/5 is your next fraction, you might have a group of five boys and only one of them has glasses. Their representative would report, "4/5 of us do NOT wear glasses." You can repeat the sequence as many times as the clock and your students' tolerance allow. We played about 7 rounds before time ran out, and my kids were disappointed that we had to stop.

There were obvious benefits to this activity. It's a very concrete way of reinforcing what the numerator and the denominator of a fraction represent. It also got the kids talking to one another. When there was not the right proportion of obvious physical differences in a group, the kids had to come up with other criteria to form the correct fraction. For example, after asking one another questions and suggesting different things they might have in common one group came up with, "3/7 of our group are only children." The activity even promoted some out of the box problem solving. When the fraction was 2/3 and nothing seemed to be working for one group, two of the boys in the group put their arms around one another and they reported out, "2/3 of our group is hugging." 

Overall, the activity was a success, just as I had expected it would be. What I hadn't anticipated was that the same students would be left out every time the denominator I chose was not a factor of 24(the number of students present in class the day we played). I pride myself on knowing my students, and I thought this group was kinder than that. Heck, I read Wonder by R.J. Palacio as a read aloud earlier in the year, and we all agreed wholeheartedly with Mr. Tushman when he said the world would be a better place if everyone was kinder than necessary when given the choice. After watching the same three kids get left out time after time, I came to realize R.J. Palacio's message did not sink in enough, and we still have a lot of work to do in Room 202 when it comes to sensitivity and inclusiveness. 

That gives me plenty to think about the next time it's my turn to plan for our weekly meetings. You can bet I'll looking for, maybe even creating, activities that focus on inclusion. If I come up with anything good, I promise to share.

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