Math Learning - "Just In Time"

What do a box of recycling and an excerpt from a Bailey School Kids chapter book have in common? They can both lead to "Just In Time" learning. 
Embracing the spontaneous learning moments that happen throughout the day is not always an easy task. Thoughts about 'what's next' and time pressures often get in the way of this. What I have come to find is that when we stop, think, act, and reflect on these moments we are not only facilitating meaningful learning for our students, but also modelling an inquiry stance. This is what it looks like and sounds like to be a critical thinker and learner in the world.   

In Literacy, we are learning to Stop and Jot about our thinking. This includes making predictions, asking questions, connecting with characters, and identifying themes. Think Alouds and guided reading sessions are helping students maintain meaning as they read and 'think about their thinking'. We are currently reading a Bailey School Kids chapter book called "Giants Don't Go Snowboarding". I love these moments together as a classroom community. We gather together at a special spot on our carpet, read, and exchange ideas and thinking about the material. So what does this have to do with math learning?

We read the following excerpt "For every step he took [the giant], the kids had to take 3.A student immediately stated, "Wow that seems big. I wonder how big his steps are?". I knew this was an opportunity to 'go there', to engage in 'just in time' learning based on this passage. This is how it all played out:

STOP - We paused our reading and students shared their ideas and wonderings about what this student said. How big might they be? What do we know about this giant?  

THINK - The Grade 2s worked in groups to think about a strategy to solve this wondering. 

ACT - They used a wide variety of tools to help them including carpet squares, counters, rulers, metre sticks. They were engaged and accountable. 

REFLECT - We gathered as a class to share our thinking using a gallery walk approach first then a math circle. Concepts of standard vs non-standard units, estimation, measuring techniques, proportionality, all came out of this learning. The tools they used were diverse, strategies and models varied, but all arrived at 'about' the same solution. "Ah ha"! 

A very similar process occurred when I placed a box full of recycling (discards from a boat-building project) in front of the students. We filled the box with questions and wonderings which lead to "Just In Time" learning about capacity. I was amazed at what they were able to do; where their wonderings led us as a community of learners. They estimated and compared amounts, some even converting L to mL in order to combine two containers together.  

My Thoughts on "Just In Time" Learning:
- Remain present: Only when we are 'tuned in' can we embrace unexpected moments for learning in the classroom
- Model an Inquiry Stance: Think aloud with students, ask questions, wonder, make mistakes, reflect. This will encourage them to do the same. 
- Make Time: It is time well spent!

How many of your own 'ah ha's have come out of "just in time" learning?


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