Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Harder Than It Needs to Be

We've been working on addition and subtraction. We've had some highs and lows. Kids seem to get it and then forget the next day. (I think it's called "being 6").

One day last week, I was helping "E" as he worked through some addition problems. We came to 7+0. He couldn't get the answer.

I used some counters. We counted out 7. Then I pointed to an empty space and said, "Here is 0. How many all together?"

E paused. "8?" he said.

I used counters again. I drew pictures on the board. I drew different pictures on the board. "How many do you see?" I almost pleaded "How many in all?"

Still he would guess 8 or 9 or something.

In passing I said, "E, I think you are making this harder than it is. Let's think together again."

We kept working until he finally got 7. Then he could add anything with 0 and get it.

This week we've been working on missing addend problems. (5 + ___ = 8) E was struggling again.

I drew pictures. We used counters. "There are 8 in all. We have 5. How many more do we need?"

He would guess randomly. I guess something in my face seemed familiar to him.

"Mr. Wiley," he said, "am I making it harder again?"

I smiled, took a deep breath, and we began again.

I learned two things that day from E.

1. The kids listen to what I say, even if it doesn't seem like it. I just made that quick comment, and he remembered it. That makes me quake a little bit when I think of other things I've said off-hand. I need to watch what I say and how I say it. I want them to take in good positive things and not negative things.

2. Sometimes I make it harder than it needs to be. I've been a first grade teacher for 2 months. I want to do everything as well as possible - and be like the others on my first grade team. But they've been doing this for a much longer time. They see things much clearer than I can. Sometimes just adding 0 can be a challenge...and creating centers can be a challenge...and working out how to offer supplemental reading...and teaching subtraction. I need to relax and just do the best I can, take a step back and look at the big picture and see if I'm making it harder than it needs to be.

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