Last week the 7th grade math teacher came to me with a question which is how every conversation we have begins., "Jones, I have a question." He wanted to visit the lab to use an interactive virtual manipulative site. He showed me the site and we scheduled two days. The whole day I kept thinking, "This site is really valuable but REALLY? The whole class is going to come and do this at the same time? How will you differentiate? How will you make sure everyone is understanding? Why do I have to be here for this and how is this using my expertise with technology?"
The elementary teacher in me, the collaborator in me, the modeler in me couldn't be a second adult in the room while students used virtual manipulatives to solve equations SO I went to him with a question! I asked if he would be OK with doing "centers" rather than just one activity. He was willing to give it a shot and was open to ideas and that is exactly what we did! I suggested that he work with one group at the SMART Board teaching a new concept (solving an equation with a negative variable), one group work with the virtual manipulatives to reinforce what they had been learning and one group work with me to use the app Show Me (read more here and here) to assess what they had been learning (solving an equation with a variable)!
One thing I adore about elementary students is that they light up when they see you and are just happy to be at school! 7th graders, not so much! As I explained what they were going to do which took maybe 5 minutes tops they sat quietly, yawned and stared off into space. I sat in the hallway with these twelve 7th graders thinking, "It's going to be a L-O-N-G day." I allowed them to pick partners (because I bored them with directions) which I thought would be disastrous and turned them loose.
I have seen technology do this a million times so I should have known better but they blew me away. Each pair got their iPad, stylus and equation and quickly became engrossed in creating a Show Me. When it was time to switch groups they were asking to do another problem, listening to their Show Me, listening to another group's Show Me, trying to figure out how to share their Show Me with their parents, asking if they could download the app at home and they were not moving. Kids that normally "misbehave" I didn't have to speak to once.
Several groups asked for "harder" problems. Here are just a few examples.
This child asked to do a second one on his own today. I love his commentary and pronunciation of neg-a-tive so I had to share it.
Here are two girls who wanted to solve an "extra hard" problem.
Love their Show Me Credits haha!