Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Teaching about Plane Shapes

I taught a math lesson about plane shapes to a group of nine 1st graders in the cafeteria of D.J. Montague Elementary School. Please click here to go to my wikispace account and view my full lesson plan.

I originally had no technology in this lesson, but after receiving suggestions from Sheryl, our Technology Enhanced Learning professor, I decided to add in a Brain Pop Jr. video. Since I was only teaching the lesson to 9 students and it was being conducted in the cafeteria it was only appropriate to use one computer. I had the students sit around the computer as I played the video from Brain Pop Jr. about Plane Shapes. On the wall I had a cut out of each of the four shapes taped to the wall and when the video got to the question “What is a Triangle?” I paused the video and had the students respond to the question and write their answers on the cut-out of the triangle. Then we listened to what the girl in the video said about what a triangle is. We did this for all four shapes. After we reviewed the video and wrote on the cut-outs I did a demonstration of what the students would do for independent practice. I showed them a credit card (a rectangle from their environment) and showed them a chart that they would fill out when describing the shape. I filled in the section on how many sides, how many corners and how many square corners the rectangle has. The students were then split into groups of 3 to do the same thing with an example of each shape from their environment. After completing the activity each student got in front of the rest of the class and presented one item they examined with their group and told the rest of the class what shape it was, how many sides it had, number of corners and number of square corners. After completing this activity I collected the charts to grade.

During the video the students were really involved and freely responded to the question of what is a triangle, square, rectangle or circle? They had great answers and most of the answers were the same thing the girl in the video came up with to describe the shape. The students really enjoyed being able to come to the front of the class and write their answers on the cut-out of the shapes. They also felt very smart when what they said was the same things the video said afterwards. When the students were split into groups to work with the examples of plane shapes from their environment they stayed quiet and worked nicely with their other group members. The students wanted to go beyond the four shapes they were given and trade with the other groups to explore their objects. When the students were asked to present their answers to the rest of the group some of them shied away but in the end were able to successfully present. It was great for them to practice their presentation skills.

Strong points of this lesson were the technology and the hands on activities with shapes from their environment. The students loved the technology and were extremely engaged. While technology was a strength it also turned into a weakness because of the added excitement the students had. They were ecstatic when I presented them with a laptop and they were further excited by the Brain Pop Jr. characters and music. They wanted to touch the computer and get as close as possible to it so it made it hard for other students to see. In the future I would do many things different with this lesson. I left the lesson very frustrated and not because I didn’t feel that I was able to teach it was because I felt like I had no control over these 9 students. I was dealing with unusual circumstances which I definitely had to take into consideration. I got them right after there recess time and during their snack time and we were doing the lesson in the cafeteria, which is normally a loud and fun place for them. Also, since I wasn’t able to project the video onto a large screen I had nine kids looking onto 1 small laptop screen. The students were sticking their heads in front of others trying to see and some decided to try and climb on the table to see. I felt like I was constantly telling them to stop doing this or stop doing that.

Most of my modifications for future use are revolved around classroom management. I would definitely lay down the rules before we get involved in the activity and let the students know what will happen if they don’t follow the rules. I will also explain all directions before we get started to so the students know what to expect before getting into the work. Also, in the future I would separate students that I know will be problems and pair students who need help with students that are more advanced. Also, if the students do not listen to my instructions in the future I will close the laptop or stop the activity and tell them that we can’t continue until they begin listening. As far as technology I would ensure that I have somewhere to project the video so everyone can easily see it or I would provide each student with a laptop or computer and headphones to watch the video on their own.

The most valuable lesson I learned during this activity was that young students are extremely fascinated with laptops. As soon as the laptop was brought out the students got squeamish and excited and wanted to touch it, smell it, hold it and hear it. They couldn’t get enough of the computer and wanted more of it. I never expected the students to be in such awe over this piece of technology, but it made me realize that technology is still very unique to some people and it creates an excitement about learning that I have never seen in a classroom. When the video was playing I had no attention problems and the students wanted more. They were able to learn without realizing they were learning and it was amazing to watch. This experience was a major learning experience and while I felt very overwhelmed afterwards I was definitely able to stop and look back at what I did and what I could have done and I know that if I taught this lesson again with the same group of children it would go a lot better than it did that day. Another thing I learned during this lesson was to know the password of school laptops. I couldn’t figure out the password and it wasn’t the password that was used on most other things in the school and if it wasn’t for another pre-service teacher that was observing my lesson, I would have had to drag all of the students to the technology classroom to ask what the password was before I could start the lesson.

This lesson was created originally without any technology, but when we were requested to put technology into one of our lessons I decided this would be a fun one to do it with. I searched for hours for activities involving plane shapes and after a while I became frustrated and asked my professor for assistance. She presented me with three activities she found that were relevant and when I found this Brain Pop Jr. video I knew it was perfect for my lesson. It fit right in with what I was teaching and I could easily use it to help with the engagement of my activity. Only one of the students had seen the video before but he was just as engaged as the rest were.

I can’t put into words how shocked I was by the student’s reaction to the laptop, it was the equivalent of buying a new driver a brand new car when they get their license. They were absolutely thrilled and their excitement for technology really made me think about how much I take computers and my laptop for granted. It also made me think about how little the students must be using the computers in their school if it seems so novel to them when I presented them with a computer. I also found it unique how I was able to take a technology free lesson and turn it into a technology friendly lesson. I know that it strengthened this lesson.


Annie said...

Hi Sarah!

We're glad to see that you're using BrainPOP Jr. in the classroom. It seems that the way you used it- with pauses and points of discussion and having students answer the notebook questions - was really effective and we're really pleased that the experience was successful. It's really helpful for us to see how teachers use BrainPOP in the classroom because it helps us make better videos and activities. Thanks so much! If you have any questions or comments, please let us know. We love hearing from teachers on how we can improve.

Thanks again,

Annie Choi

Annie Choi said...

Hi Sarah,

Thanks so much for using BrainPOP Jr. in the classroom! It sounds like it was a success (even if they were really excited). We're always interested to see how teachers use BrainPOP in the classroom, and your techniques of pausing and discussing and having students answer the notebook questions were really great and effective. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments. We're always looking for ways to improve BrainPOP Jr.


Annie Choi

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach said...

Your lesson sounds like it went well. Next time, put all 9 kids on their own laptop and use headsets and there will not be any behavior issues.

Classroom management is always a tough one for new teachers. I love the pics on your wiki.