What I Learned from My Students Today?

I love teaching! No really, I do! I love when I can see the lightbulbs go on for my students. Today, was one of those lightbulb kind of days.

Yesterday, as I waited for the hour to pass after doing my Gestational Diabetes test (it was sooo fun!), I was marking a quiz on dividing and multiplying decimals that my kids had written the day before. I was feeling okay about it as I marked the multiplication piece because the majority of the students got it and those that didn’t I knew were struggling with whole number multiplication so they were going to need more time for it to click. I became disheartened however, when I began marking the dividing questions. I came to the realization that my students didn’t know which number was the dividend and which number was the divisor. We have been talking about this for a week and we talked about it last year but for some reason it hasn’t clicked yet. What was I going to do?

I wracked my brain the whole night and couldn’t come up with anything until I was discussing a problem with my husband that he was having at work. He was sharing how some of the staff were having issues with things but some of the other supervisors didn’t know how to do these things either so they weren’t getting anywhere as a team. That’s when my lightbulb went off! Why wouldn’t I ask the kids what I could do to help them to understand it more?

This morning I went into my class and explained to the students the problem that I was seeing on the quiz. We did a couple of questions together where we identified the dividend and the divisor and put it into a long division equation like this:

4.2 ÷ 0.7 = ?

We identified that 4.2 was the dividend and needed to go on the inside of the long division bracket thing (anyone know the name of that thing???)  and that 0.7 was the divisor so it needed to go on the outside of the bracket thing. Once we got this straigtened out, then we had to tackle the issue of moving the decimal over so that we could make the decimals “friendly” whole numbers. We made it through this step also and the kids were really starting to get it but then of course, it was Art class for my students and a prep for me so we had to stop. (I hate losing momentum like that! ARGHH!) My colleague came in and was expressing her concern about her students not understanding decimal division so the class and I showed her how we figured it out. Then we came up with the brilliant plan of having my students teach the other class how to divide decimals at the end of the day.

At the end of the day, we got our two classes together and the students from my class became the teacher and they taught the other students how to divide decimals. When I debriefed with my students before going home today they shared with me what they learned. Some of the things I heard were:

“Teaching is hard! Especially when you know what you are doing and the other person doesn’t get it!”
“It helped me to figure out with someone else those things that were confusing me because I had to explain it to someone else and that’s when it clicked!”

YES! I think they’ve got it! So what was my lesson today from my students? That teaching is hard and messy just like learning but the difficulty and the messiness is so worth it when those lightbulbs start to shine!

Next steps, I am thinking about having my students create a visual representation such as a music video for dividing decimals. This would be a great assessment piece instead of the same old paper and pencil. What do you think?

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