We've been working on decomposing numbers this week in kindergarten. Decomposing numbers involves how to break numbers into parts (5 breaks down into 3 and 2, or 4 and 1), and turning those into addition problems (3+2=5, 4+1=5). I have to admit...this is not something that I felt confident teaching. Using our math curriculum gave me a vague idea of how to teach it...but not a great one. It seemed like a very difficult concept for the kids to learn and understand, and I needed to make sure that I was presenting it to them in the simplest way.
I turned to Mr. Greg, from Kindergarten Smorgasboard, who had some great ideas on how to teach decomposing numbers. Using some of Mr. Greg's ideas, I developed a Bubble Guppies math activity that used some of the kids favorite characters from Nick Jr., as well as one of their favorite snacks (Goldfish crackers) to break down some numbers and convert them to addition problems.
Many of my students took off with the concept as soon as they got their hands on the edible manipulatives (the best kind!), and started moving them around the bonds, breaking down numbers. There is a portion of my class that is still struggling, but I have no doubt that with more practice, they will get it.
It made me think about how great it is that teachers can share and collaborate with each other. I knew that I wasn't able to teach this lesson properly (in my opinion), and that I needed to find some help. Other teachers posted their ideas and experiences online, which helped me put together a lesson plan that fit my class and my students. Collaboration between teachers, at its finest.
Speaking of collaboration, this lesson made me realize just how much I allow my kids to "cheat" on their work. I read an interesting WIRED article this week on why students should be allowed to cheat. Kindergarten is so different from other grade levels. Putting the emphasis on learning the material (and being able to retain it), I find myself oftentimes encouraging kids to look at the paper of the student beside them, or even ask that student for help. There will be time later on for me to check for individual understanding.
This has also helped to create a sense of community in the classroom. The kids love helping each other, and they trust each other enough to ask for help. It's funny...I don't even hear "She's copying me!" anymore. The kids understand the end goal. They know that grades aren't going to be affected, and they know that everyone needs to learn and understand the material. They can't verbalize that, of course, but I can tell. Most importantly...they're learning.
I call it collaboration.