Friday, July 1, 2011

Oral Exams - Part 3: Addition Strip Board

The third day of Oral Exams was dedicated to Mathematics.  If interested, you can read about the first two days of examinations here and here.  Given the high level of general anxiety among my group of cohorts, it came as no surprise that we were all jittery and jumped at the slightest noise!  I think someone actually shrieked at the sound of her name being called...  In any case, at that point in time, we were as ready as we'd ever be for the exam to begin.

"The dish" arrived and we hesitated to choose our folded slip of paper - "There were so many lessons with a huge amount of detail - do I remember it all?"  I thought to myself as I unfolded the slip.  "Addition Strip Board," it read, and I silently thanked the handful of students to whom I had only recently presented this lesson.  Upon inspection of the materials used for this lesson in the exam room, I suddenly became confused - The strip board was there along with the blue and red strips needed to complete the lesson, a red addition table booklet and pencil, but the control charts were conspicuously missing!  I thought my mind must be playing tricks on me...surely the two charts which I did see next to the lesson's material were meant to be the control charts, however, I was sure that they were Addition Charts 3 and 4!  "Ok," I thought to myself.  "I'm going to make do with what I have and use what is here..." 

Thankfully the lesson went very well and I was overcome with gratitude for the students in my class last year who were ready for this lesson.  I knew exactly what to discuss and included subsequent exercises which would follow the initial presentation.  Thankfully, the panel recognized their error in providing different charts for checking work and I was not penalized.  In fact, my resourcefulness in the situation was applauded.  We also had the opportunity to discuss the finer points of the presentation of materials for this lesson as well.  For the exam, the strips used in the lesson were already placed in order on a wooden board specifically for this lesson.  This was in contrast to the way I usually show this lesson in my classroom where I prefer the child to organize and straighten the strips by himself.  Not only does this allow the child more opportunities to make meaningful connections between his work and other materials in the classroom, but it also aids in maintaining concentration, coordination, and order.  I appreciated the discussion which followed as we talked about the pros and cons of using the board with the pre-organized strips.  In the end, I decided I liked the board because it helps in keeping the work neat, however, if I were to use it in my classroom I would house the strips in baskets so that the child may still straighted them out as part of the lesson.

Lastly, I wanted to share with the panel and my cohorts a way I brought special meaning to this work to the children in my class.  Prior experience with this lesson indicates that the children really enjoy the corresponding Addition Table Booklet where they write down their answers.  To make it extra special to the child, I usually tie the booklet with a ribbon which they can untie as if opening a present!  I try to demonstrate this lesson (as with others, actually) as a gift to the child and what better way to show this than to literally wrap it?!  The kids love it and become extra excited about their work.  The idea came to me once at a conference where I saw the Addition Table Booklets being sold as pre-packaged units.  Each booklet of tables was wrapped in a factory-type ribbon which the teacher would remove prior to giving to the student.  I simply thought it would be a fun way to have a child unwrap his "gift!"

The Addition Strip Board (and booklet) in use in my classroom.

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