Observing Student Communication
 Introduction | Hidden Pattern Blocks | Describing a Hexagon | Problem Reflection #1 | Classroom Practice | Problem Reflection #2 | Observe a Classroom | Your Journal

Let's stop here and take a look at what has helped to foster oral communication in this lesson. Think about how the students worked to make sense of the shapes and the role played by the teacher, namely, asking questions to help the students clarify their thinking. This is one of many activities that allow young students to begin to identify shapes by the characteristics of corners and sides. However, most students will focus on color, since that is perhaps the most obvious characteristic. Activities need to be designed to bring students back to observing the attributes of shapes, for instance, sides and corners.

You will soon have an opportunity to watch a video of a second-grade class working on this task, but before doing so, take some time to reflect on the open-ended questions below. In many instances, your answers will vary. Select "Show Answer" to see how we answered the questions, or to help you think more fully about them.

 1. How does this activity help students develop early understanding of the various shapes and their characteristics? Show Answer
 Our Answer: Students already have a "sense" about some of the more visual or tactile characteristics of the shapes: They are flat. They are a certain color. They have corners. They have sides. What is important to remember is that each child's ideas will depend on the previous experiences he or she has had in working with shapes, for example, building with blocks, drawing and coloring, or recognizing basic shapes in his or her own environment. By talking about the characteristics of the shapes, students begin to recognize attributes in addition to color and "flatness." They also begin to associate number with a specific shape: How many corners? How many sides?
 2. How do the teacher's questions help students focus on the mathematical characteristics of the shapes? Show Answer
 Sample Answer: As students talk about general characteristics of a shape, the teacher refines their thinking by asking questions that lead the students to think more about what characteristics make that particular shape unique. The questions also draw the children's attention to certain aspects of the shapes –– for instance, noting things about a shape that can be counted.
 3. How does the teacher help students reconsider their incorrect responses? Show Answer
 Sample Answer: By looking at other forms of communication, such as drawings, that are shared among the students in the class, the teacher can help students think more closely about their responses. If the shape as described cannot be drawn by the other classmates, then the student needs to think about how the description needs to be refined in order to enable others to draw the shape. The participation of all students (either describing or drawing) helps them work collaboratively to solve the problem.

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