My colleague Katie Keier, over at Catching Readers Before They Fall, has written a wonderful series of posts on Explore, a time for meaningful, rich play that is full of learning and teaching opportunities.
Katie’s post on Literacy Explore, the term she uses for the independent practice time in which children are “engaged and playing in a literacy activity of their choosing” got me thinking about what that time looks like in my math workshop.
This year, as I went back to the classroom as a kindergarten teacher, I did a lot of thinking about the structure of my math workshop. I knew I needed a structure that would ensure that 1) children were given lots of time for meaningful exploration, investigation, and play within the math workshop, 2) this time would be (eventually!) independent so that I could meet with small groups for Math Exchanges daily.
I’ve gone back and forth with the language I use for this part of math workshop. “Math Explore,” “Math Investigations,” “Math Choices.” I still don’t know what feels right, or if what I call it is even important. I do know, however, what it is that is happening during this time that is important to me.
1) Element of choice–Mathematicians of all ages should have the right to choose work that is important to them.
(Are these presents shorter/longer/the same length as the present boxes?)
2) Purpose–Every time I plan a station/investigation I ask myself, “What is the purpose behind this?” “What message am I sending about math and what it’s all about with this investigation?”
(Which containers hold the most/least water? How can you prove it?)
3) Balance of collaboration and working by oneself–I want my students to learn how to work/negotiate/play/collaborate with a partner or group, but I also want them to have time to reflect on their own. I want this for my own work. And I want it for theirs as well.
4) Balance of open exploration and guided task–room for open play, coming up with one’s own questions as well as time to work on a specific task that needs figuring out.
(Who has more on their cards? Who has less? How do you know?)
I end each workshop with a short reflection time. Sometimes I have focused, content-related questions. And sometimes I ask the open question, “How did you work as a mathematician today?”