Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Learning Centers: Numbers

I have some very strong feelings about developmental milestones in terms of assessment and education. Developmental milestones serve us by providing a broad picture of the tasks we would expect a child of a certain age to be able to perform. They range from gross and fine motor skills, to social, language and cognitive functioning. The age at which a child successfully passes through each developmental milestone varies with the uniqueness of the child.

Developmental milestones are helpful because they serve as a barometer of sorts. If we know which skills are likely to develop in a sequence, then we can plan instruction accordingly. You wouldn't expect a baby to ride a bike before they learn to walk or ask a child to read a book before they can identify letters. In this way, developmental milestones are extremely useful.

However, I take issue when they are used to label children. When the child who is making progress every single day along this continuum is thought 'less of' than a child who moves through each stage with ease.

Parents can worry and fret that their child is 'behind' and therefore ignore their brilliance.

We have a student this year who is making amazing strides every day. It is a struggle. Identifying letters and numbers is a challenge.

He is fidgety and does not always focus. He prefers 'hands-on' manipulation of objects that involve kinestic and tactile elements.

He stretches our thinking. And today on this snowy, cold day we found an activity that worked for him. It involves paper plates, the number line and a marker.

We gave him 20 paper plates. On each plate was written a number 1-20. We told him to throw the plates high into the air so that they landed all over the rug. He liked this. He was then asked to order the plates from 1-20 using the number line to help him if he got stuck. This required him to go back to number 1 on the number line each time he was looking for the next number because he knows the numbers when he says them in order but not when asked to identify them on their own.

So today we celebrated this milestone. Numbers 1-6 are solid! It gets murky around number 13 but that will come. He'll get there.

The paper plate idea can also be used with students who are learning to use the 100s chart. In this case they are given 100 paper plates to throw up in the air and arrange in order from 1-100. As they place the plates in 10 rows they begin to notice the patterns, which is an important developmental milestone in itself.

By reading down the tens column they count by 10s. They will see that all the 4s in the ones place are in the same column (all the 2s, 3s, 5s, etc.). They learn to navigate rows and columns. What number comes after 20? Before 51? It is surprising how this simple 'game' can bring about so much learning.

I love when that happens!

Thanks Laurie for the idea.


presious said...


This almost brings tears to my eyes. It must have been amazing to see this child work through the plates up to number 6! What an accomplishment for him! Good work :)

WAT said...

We all develop within our own time period.

God, I was a kid so long ago, I can't even remember that far back. I do recall learning how to read at a very young age and having very good language ability. I was always an excellent speller. I was decent at math, but then it all fell apart once algebra was introduced. By then I was a gangly junior high schooler and math was not going to become logical to me until college.

I am proud to say I finally passed Algebra and its sequel in college! So yeah, I was a grown man by then, but it took me that long to get it! SO THERE!

Arielle Lee Bair said...

You know what I think makes you such an excellent teacher?--I mean, above ALL other things?

Your absolute faith in the children you encounter.

It's genuine, it's beautiful, and it's what they need more than anything else.

Every child (and every adult for that matter) has his/her own time line of when things will happen. What's important is nurturing what DOES happen no matter WHEN it happens!

And that's what it seems you do every day. :)

Barbara said...

I love the idea of paper plates thrown in the air. I also love the fact that students are allowed and encouraged to progress at their own speed. Education has never been a "one size fits all" the way some people thought it should be. My son was held back after kindergarten, then skipped 3rd grade. I'm glad he was in a progressive school that accepted his learning style.

focusfinder said...

When the teaching and learning are centred on a child's individual needs, real progress can be achieved. Good work, thanks.

Pauline said...

I've always thought that there as many ways to teach a child as there are children to be taught. Our attempts to homogenize lessons (and children) should point out to us the futility of teaching in such a way but it doesn't always. I like the 100 paper plate system and will incorporate it into lessons for one of my students who is having trouble creating number patterns on paper. Thanks!

findingmywingsinlife said...

I gave you an Award! Come see and accept it if you like!

Palavras Menores said...

We are Portuguese, from a kindergarten.

We get here through another blog that raised the issue of privacy of children. See how we do

your blog is interesting

lettuce said...

brilliant idea

it makes me cross how much people are expected to learn all in the same way


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