Northerner In Nashville

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 28 2012

Attraction and Seduction in First Grade

You’d think that 1st grade math would be easy. It should be, but when you haven’t actually mastered kindergarten math, well then it can get tricky. Over the course of the past few weeks of school, my schedule of students in my math class has changed a few times as we figure out resource hours. One thing that is strikingly clear is that my math class is divided into students who have solid working knowledge of numbers and students who just don’t seem to “get it” yet.

Working primarily in small groups has really let me get to know my students, their personalities and their abilities. My primary take away has been that they are ridiculously cute — but that being cute has gotten some of them out of actually doing anything. Instead of attempting to do any work on their own, they just look up and stare at you with those wide eyes and wait for the answer.

Now, I’ve only played poker once and by some miracle I won so I’ve never played again, but I do have a pretty good poker face. When kids look to me to give them the answer, they get nothing. It is very confusing initially, but they get used to it. The past week, we’ve been working on vocabulary related to addition and subtraction. It’s amazing how confusing it all is when you can’t actually count up past about 7.

I was working with my low group the other day and feeling really out of it. I’m having trouble keeping all of them focused — some of them have definitely not been taking their doctor ordered Wheaties in the morning. Our objective the other day was to identify addition and subtraction. Simply look at the symbol and say what it was.

I sat with Orlando and Belle* with the review sheet. The rest of the group had sort of caught on but not Orlando and Belle. I pointed to one of the problems.

“Addiction!” Belle cried out. Orlando smiled and nodded at her.

“Addiction?” I asked.

“No, no sedition” Orlando said. Belle looked over at him confused, back at me, and then started to smile.

“Yeah” she said.

“Which one was it Belle?” I questioned her. I like making sure students feel confident to stand behind their answer. One of those teacher tricks I HATED as a student, but find quite useful as a teacher.

“Seduction?” she said.

I looked at the two in front of me and knew I needed to give some more support. “Okay, guys, your choices are addition (repeated back) or subtraction (repeated back). Which one do we see in the problem 2+5?”

Belle just sat there, smiling back at me. Orlando’s lips were pursed, as though he were deep in thought. Finally, he started nodding his head and smiling. “Attraction!” he said confidently.

We’ve got a lot of work to do.

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