Sunday, October 28, 2012
Problem Solving with Pete the Cat!
In our music and movement program we have been exploring books and music. Our children love Puff the Magic Dragon and this year we have discovered Pete the Cat. All sorts of amazing teaching has come from our exploration of Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes.
As I looked online to see if there were more Pete the Cat books available (since the children LOVE him). While browsing, I came across pages and pages of prescribed Pete the Cat activities. I grew frustrated seeing all of the cut outs and art activities that required more teacher preparation and direction than student learning. What are children learning by gluing coloured pompoms on or pasting together a precut Pete.
But...our children love Pete, so I continued. One of my colleagues has Pete the Cat Rocking in his School Shoes. The children were thrilled to hear this version and see Pete in another story.
We have likely sang this song every day now since the 2nd week of September...and they still love it as part of our music program.
Some amazing things have come out of our Pete the Cat book and song. The children can retell the story with and without the book. There have been interesting and rich conversations about the story (e.g., I wonder what Pete’s shoes would look like if he stepped in _____? Or I wonder how his feet feel when they are wet). The children were able to talk in depth about the story because it became a “repeated” read aloud (or rather sing aloud). Children who normally demonstrate little interest in reading are handling, reading, and exploring the book during Learning Centres on a daily basis.
I had been thinking about how we could draw math into the story. My SWSI teacher suggested thinking about how many shoes Pete had (in the story he has red shoes, then blue shoes, then white shoes, and brown shoes).
Before I could even suggest this to the children – someone raised their hand after our song last week. “Pete has a lot of shoes”. Thinking back to extending this in math, I replied “I wonder how many shoes Pete has?”
We brainstormed ways that we could solve our problem. We decided to use our fingers. Later we used our feet to solve the same problem. The children had discussions about how many fingers to raise and how many feet Pete had.
It was an inspiring focused learning session where our intentions for music and movement were swept away by our math explorations....and were captured because we are so fortunate to have 2 educators in the classroom.
Although math permeates all areas of children's learning in play, structuring problems for children to solve and exposing them to different ways of solving problems is, in my opinion, critical in extended their math thinking.
I have decided to focus my action research in on problem solving. We know that in Grade 1-6 the three part math problem (hook, explore, reflect/share) is a best practice. We also know that children learn from listening to their peers thought process.
However, conducting a 3 part problem in a Kindergarten classroom tends to be a challenge for a few reasons. The first being that by the time all 3 parts are complete the children have been on the carpet for much longer than developmentally appropriate for their age. The second, during the exploration/solving stage it is difficult to support and listen to the children. Since they are at such varying levels developmentally and academically it is a challenge.
So...in my action research, we are thinking about exploring how to implement 3 part problem solving in Kindergarten. Our plan is to research the 3 part problem model, early mathematical thinking, early years problem solving, and skills needed to solve problems.
We would like to use storybooks and emergent/relevant events in the classroom as the basis for our problems so that the children are connected and familiar with the ideas.
Finally, we will restructure how we work through the process. We are thinking:
1) Hook (whole group - after repeated read aloud or classroom event)
2) Working on it (set up provocation somewhere in the room with purposeful materials - encourage children to explore and experiment). Also work in small groups to solve the problem and scaffold learning for the children.
3)Reflect (at the end of the week, return to the problem during our group time to share some of the ways that children solved the problem that week and to extend children's thinking using student work)
If anyone has any experience with 3 part problem solving, any direction, resources, academic articles - please share!