Learning From My Students

I have now been working in a kindergarten classroom for nearly a semester and my time with this class is nearing an end. I have taught in the classroom of 23 students for an hour and fifteen minutes a day almost every day. So my question to myself, near the end, is “Have I made a difference?”

As many kindergarten teachers know, kindergarten is a magical year. Students make such growth and are constantly making advances in their knowledge. When I taught kindergarten in the past, watching my kinders grow was what made teaching them so rewarding. Yet, I would my focus then was on how much they had grown in their reading skills and not necessarily their math skills. Now I have had the opportunity to watch my kinders grow in ways I had not noticed before when I was in the classroom.

The second week of school I began interviewing my students using some questions we had developed here at the AIMS Center, which had been based on our research of the work of Dr. Leslie Steffe.

The first question on our interview is:

If I pretend I have 6 cookies hiding under this napkin and 3 hiding under this other napkin, how many cookies do I have altogether?

I know what my kindergarten teachers are thinking right now, “Are you crazy!” To be honest, I didn’t expect the students to answer it correctly, but how the students answer the question gives me insight into their thinking. Only one student could answer this question correctly, but I learned a lot more about each student by asking this question. This question was my springboard to more questions that allowed me to dig deeper into how students interact with numbers and think about them.

I am now finishing up the interview process again two months after I initially asked the original question to my students. Between the time I first asked the question and now, we have counted together so many times. We have done so using a linear calendar, measuring thematic objects, counted items in neighborhood pictures, counting movements, counting sounds, and even counting our collections. I have given the students in the class many, many opportunities to count. So how did this interview question go the second time around? So far, I have not had one students that has not answered this question correctly. I am halfway done with my interviews and am still learning a lot about what the students are able to do and what their limitations may be. This one question has given me so much insight to how students are thinking about how numbers can work together.

I am so pleased with the progress I have seen all my students make, but I am especially proud of how much I have learned about them, from them.

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