What is a Millimeter, Anyway?

Boy am I wiped from a big day of student teaching!  I was extra excited for the day today, because I knew I would be teaching my first, formal, full-class lesson!  The subject?  Maths!  The topic?  Measurement!  The metric system–eek!

I am loving the independence my teacher is giving me.  I was completely in charge all morning: called roll, led the students to the morning run, and transitioned them right into maths.  All by myself!  These logistical things aren’t easy because they require a great deal of classroom management, but also it’s the type of thing that you simply just need to practice.

Luckily, I was given the standardized assessment as a guide for planning my maths lesson.  It’s not always a bad thing to teach to the test: I basically transitioned the worksheet into FUNNESS!Here is how the maths lesson went.  First, we reviewed what they had done in maths yesterday (I wanted to make sure my lesson was in the right context.  Thank goodness, it was!  There would have been a lot more review, otherwise…)

Then we did a little practice with identifying the standard units of measurement and estimating.

I held up these cards as a visual and to review the abbreviations.  I would name a few things (such as a pencil, a ladybug, and the distance to the office) and we discussed which unit of measurement we would use and why.  Plus, we gave a bit of an estimate for the length of each thing.  My class is really great because they know exactly when a choral response is necessary, and when you need to keep quiet and raise your hands.

Or, it could be the fact that before every such question I ask, I preempt it with, “now raise your hand if you can figure out…”  When I did have a raise-your-hand question, I made sure to give the students a lot of thinking time.  Some kids get it right away.  Some kids need a minute to think about the answer.  Some kids are still busy processing the question.  Since I expect everyone to be able to answer the questions I asked, I wanted to give everyone a fair chance to sort it out. I also made sure I called on a variety of different learners, and gave those students who were wrong a second chance to redeem themselves.  I also use a heck of a lot of reinforcements for good behavior during these whole-class discussions.

Then I explained to them the superfunandexciting activities I’d had planned!  The first activity was to fill out one of these charts with their partners:

It’s exactly the same as the chart they will need to fill out on their test, except better because instead of measuring lame things like a “pencil” or “book” or “rubber” (that means an eraser!!!!), they get to measure their buddy’s nose, arm, and foot!

The rule was that they had to make an estimate for each body part first, then they could go ahead and measure to find the actual length.  I really emphasized the estimations, because to me, that’s a really good skill to have in real life. I shouted this many-a-time, “do NOT take our your ruler until you have written all three estimates down!”  With a smile, of course 😉

It was a bit of a management challenge to get them into their groups, but I have a no-nonsense philosophy.  I made it clear in my explanation that they had to work with someone sitting next to or across from them, and groups of three would be OK if there was an odd-numbered group.  It was confusing for some, but only for the individuals that I always anticipate needing a bit of extra help with things like this.

They did a pretty good job at filling out the charts, although the bit with the millimeters sort of gave them a hard time.  They couldn’t really conceptualize what a millimeter actually is compared to a centimeter.  A lot of their millimeter measurements were just the same as their centimeter measurements:

But that’s OK, it’s just a good indicator of what I need to do next time!  They are also having a tricky time at estimating, but I think that this comes with practice.  The more things they measure, the more they will pick up on as real measurements.  The other thing they ran into trouble with was their precision.  I really need to go over how to make an exact measurement, and how important it is to do so!  I used my professional discretion here: I allowed some students to move on even if their millimeters were incorrect.  Some I kept pushing because I knew they could figure it out.  You really need to know your students and know which ones need which kinds of adaptations.

Overall, I thought this part of the lesson went really well because they were all super-engaged.  It was great to see them doing hands-on work and having fun while interacting with their peers.  One group was so excited about how different their measurements were from each other that they wanted to share with the whole class.  I love that enthusiasm!  I only had to do a few whole-class reminders to keep their voices down (clapping patterns for the win!) and all I needed to do was rove the class to make sure everyone was on task.  I guess they were having fun because everyone was doing what they were supposed to!  I expected a few individuals to get confused and need some extra explanation, so I attended to them, but I am lucky with such a great class.  Everyone was helping each other!

Nest, I had them to start to practice ruling lines…but with a fun twist.  After they had ruled and labeled lines to the specific length, they could decorate them however they wished.  My example:

I made trees!  They love art and loved getting creative with their math.  I told them that as long as their measurements were correct, they could draw whatever they wanted.  My favorite, and most creative drawing was the “dancing fruits and vegetables.”  The best part?  All of the measurements were correct!

I fluidly transitioned them in and out of morning tea (if I do say so myself).  In the second block, I worked with a guided reading group.  I really wish that I could prepare for the guided reading groups ahead of time, but my teacher just provides me with her plans and I go from there.  We first talked about the words we think of that are associated with extreme weather: droughts, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes.  They came up with some great brainstorming, but I thought there would be more personal accounts due to the recent tornado in Auckland.

They looked through their books and we talked about how this science book is different from a regular story book, such as the captions and organization of information.  I let them read the introduction and we cleared up some new words (“meteorologist” and “atmosphere”) before I let them go ahead and read.  Usually, guided reading groups are based on ability, but one of my students read much faster than the other.   I sort of cheated on my teacher’s plans and I stopped them after the first section.  We started to talk about what they learned were the effects of droughts.  After only beginning to discover what a famine was, it was already time for another break!  Goodness, me!  It simply wasn’t enough time to really get to any comprehension instruction.  Plus, they did not seem engaged.  If only I was in charge!

After break, I read them three poems from my new poetry book!  Since I usually read them Shel Silverstein, a typical American children’s poet, I found this book of New Zealand children’s poems at the library:

I read one called “Sheep,” one called “Moa,” and one called “Kiwi” – three classic New Zealand animals!  They were so silly and cute cute (“with fleece made of unknit socks!”) and I really just read them for enjoyment.  If I don’t accomplish anything else in my life, I hope I cultivate an appreciation for literature!

Before lunch, they did some “finished up” of projects they had already started and we practiced for assembly tomorrow (I’ll let you know how it goes!)

We are lucky to have a very talented drummer in our flock, and so he brought in a set of small bongos today for music!  He taught the class about rhythm and let every student have a go at making a pattern.  He was such a natural, gentle teacher!  They students had so much fun trying something new (our classroom is a very safe learning environment :)), but it really allowed me to see our musician shine.  I love finding students’ talents and interests and encouraging them like no other!  Probably some of the best learning he had all day was teaching his friends to play the drums ❤

After school, I had my mid-term evaluation from my mentor.  Totally sweat-free.  Here’s a summary of what she said–a rave review!

  • Uses explicit, clear, and concise instruction
  • Links lessons to prior knowledge
  • Allows students to think for themselves, models inquiry
  • Interacts with students positively; encouraging and supportive
  • Uses a variety of teaching strategies; appeals to a wide range of ability
  • Creates interactive, fun, and engaging lessons
  • Balances “teacher talk and student voice” in discussions
  • Creates “a wonderful safe, caring climate for the children to work in”
  • Communicates naturally with students: a friendly tone that still demands respect
  • Aware of individuals’ needs and meets them
  • Has a calm, relaxed manner, yet passionate about teaching

The only thing she said I could work on is to always be thinking about what my next instructional step will be. Hence, next week, you will be reading about my lesson on millimeters!



Filed under Life, New Zealand, School, Student Teaching

6 responses to “What is a Millimeter, Anyway?

  1. So exciting!! You seem like a real natural with those kiddos!! Congrats on the great review!!!

  2. So fun to hear about the beginning stages of your teaching journey! I’m also teaching measurement/length this week too. Fun to see what other people in other countries are doing…

  3. Miranda

    Wow, that sounds like it went so well for you!! Congratulations, you should be very proud 🙂 Just a quick piece of advice – in NZ, we don’t spell the same way as Americans (as I’m sure you’ve discovered) and it’s actually spelled kilometre, centimetre, millimetre. Not a big deal though! I have a six year old niece and I think she would have loved your class, especially drawing pictures during maths!!

    • aaaah true! I’m surprised they didn’t notice, we actually love to find the differences (like today: harbour vs. harbor). perhaps since we are trying to use the abbrevs. they didn’t notice. jeeze I don’t want to screw them up, lol!

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