Every Child Has A Story

Jamar entered my room and displayed an air of confidence. As the year progressed it became apparent, he was struggling in math and that confidence I saw was just a wall he built. He didn't ask questions because he believed he was the only one who didn't get it. He had learned how to "fake it" really well. Do you have students like Jamar? A strategy that helped Jamar learn to talk about what didn't make sense was Nonsensical -see my grid for a copy. He was free to express and tell me how he had been "faking it" with his understanding. Once we worked on some of the concepts like fractions, and he mastered concepts; his confidence grew. By the end of the year, he was invincible.

Nonsensical Strategy

QWERTYUIOP. Do you know what this means? That's the top row of the computer keyboard. At first, I heard the creators arranged the letters to allow the fastest typing possible. Busted, that's just a myth. Then I heard that it was the design from the relic typewriter era. And the engineers created different combinations because the typists were typing too fast and jamming the machine. Myth busted. When the first typewriters were designed, they consulted the people using the typewriters the most. The people they asked were using the telegraph and Morse code. People that use the telegraph in Morse code wanted the keys arranged in that order.

Now, you think there has to be a better system, especially with the iPhone and all the technology we have. So why don't we change the keyboard? We don't like to change. So I ask my students, what are some procedures that you feel like are nonsensical? Like the order of the keys on the keyboard. This allows me to see what they are struggling with and enables me to understand their thinking.

Then I know how to help them because I know what is not making sense to them. And it permits them to put their lack of understanding on the table without embarrassment. Allowing kids to discuss misunderstandings freely leads to the rich discussion; it can help students struggling to learn different ways to solve problems.

I had a para in my room recently; she was not from the United States. We were doing some questions. She was trying to help the students. She kept asking why we did it this way. It didn't make any sense. I asked her how she solved the problem. She showed me a completely different way of doing it I've never seen before. The students who are struggling understood her method. We talked about how there are other ways to solve the problem.

What do your students struggle with in class?

Help students rewrite their stories. Whatever you're doing today, do it with the confidence of a 4-year-old in a batman t-shirt. What would your story be if you knew you were invincible?

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