New Twist to Curriculum Night

Curriculum Night

My school’s curriculum night took place last Tuesday. Like past curriculum nights, I had a presentation prepared and intended on having it last around 20 minutes or so. The majority of my class parents visit during this time to discuss class curriculum, policies and happenings for the new school year. The presentation went as planned for the first 15 minutes or so. I fielded a few different questions and landed on my last slide for the night. This slide is actually from a Tweet Fawn sent out.

I left the slide up for a few seconds so the parents could process the information. I did get a few strange looks from parents and knew I had to clarify what the slide meant. After about 10 seconds of silence I went into explaining what each section meant to me.   My paraphrased comments are below each section.

  1. Be less helpful:

I feel like parents and teachers attempt to help whenever the need arises. It’s innate to help when our kids struggle. We’ll even show the student a process or way to complete the problem. Instead of doing this I’d like to suggest that as a team, we help students develop individual perseverance. It’s okay to help, but let’s not complete problems for students. This doesn’t help them long-term in having students develop a conceptual understanding of particular math concepts. Give students opportunities to struggle and develop their own math identity.

  1. Asking them to make estimates often

At a very young age we ask students to estimate. One way in which we practice this skill is through Estimation180. Students are asked for a low, high and just right estimate. Ask your child to create similar estimates at home and in the community. One benefit is that students start to identify when their estimates are reasonable or not. This “reasonableness” plays a role in students’ understanding of the magnitude of estimates. So many opportunities exist to make estimates. Carefully pick situations where your child can make estimates with a variety of units.

  1. Asking them to help you calculate something

Giving your child opportunities to do this can help students practice their computation skills. More so, calculating items mentally can lead students to round or estimate their answer. That mental computation is powerful and reinforces number sense concepts that are being discussed in class. It would be interesting to observe how your child calculates the sales tax in Lake County – 7% compared to Chicago’s Cook County – 10%. Ask your child how they came to the solution.

  1. Asking them what do you notice? What do you think? How do you know?

I believe this goes with the first item of being less helpful. Instead of giving students an answer or specific process, ask them why they’re completing certain procedures. Ask students for input. Look for the reasons why they’re taking certain actions. Ask them to prove why procedural steps are taken and encourage your child to take a “proof” approach when completing problems.

  1. Not saying , “I was never good at math.”

It might seem obvious, but students hold onto comments like this.  I may hear them from time to time in school. Students tend to take sayings like this and use them in response to a negative math experience. Like I said earlier, I’d like students to develop their own math identity and be confident in their own ability. I’ll also mention that sometimes our non-verbal actions also play a role here. Regardless, being aware of these types of statements can help my students and your child create their own perception of math.

I spent the last five minutes of my presentation on the points above. I really felt as though the audience resonated with these statements. It was honest and I felt like parents needed to hear this perspective. During the night, parents were able to walk through the school and see new bulletin boards, shiny technology, new curriculum materials, sign up for parent/teacher conference and meet their teacher. All of those are great, but I thought this last slide made one of the largest impacts of the night.

Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

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