Welcome Back Sesame Street
My last memories of watching Sesame Street involve me sitting in my friends’ living room silently detesting a show I once loved but now believed was too childish. Big fluffy animals singing silly songs about letters and numbers weren’t cool anymore. I was now eight-years old and the messages being sent abruptly stopped resounding within me.
It’s taken twenty-eight years for me to be reconnected with Sesame Street. YouTube has taken over the world of online videos and finding ways to quietly engage our 21-month old twins has led us to the Sesame Street YouTube Channel. This has led us to creating a playlist of famous musicians rewriting their own songs as“educational." From Usher to One Direction to Elvis Costello, many musicians have performed on Sesame Street. They are cute, educational, and quite catchy. Best of all, my kiddos love ‘em.
One song, however, has deeply reverberated with me, and over the past few weeks I have reflected on its message and connection to teaching and learning. The Power of Yet by Janelle Monae melodically brings up the important message of fostering a growth mindset.
We Often Forget About "Yet"
Mark Hecker, founder of Reach Incorporated, says that we often forget about “yet”. In one of the most powerful TedTalks, he shares how the most disadvantaged have always been judged only by what they have done before and what they cannot do now. Rarely are they ever seen as what they can do or what they haven't done, yet. I began to think about teaching and how often our language focuses on the now rather than the then. How can we shift our language, so rather than saying, “Johnny does not know his 8-times table,” to saying, “Johnny knows his 5-times table and does not yet know his 8-times table?” This minimal shift changes what we are saying to children and parents from what is to what could be.
Carol Dweck, the guru of growth mindset research and Professor at Stanford University, states that “just the words "yet" or "not yet," give kids greater confidence, give them a path into the future that creates greater persistence…[E]very time they push out of their comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, the neurons in their brain can form new, stronger connections, and over time they can get smarter.”
When Do We Forget Yet?
At what age do we stop saying, “….yet”? We always say it about babies as I have recently learned in my conversations with other parents that always end with “….yet”.
“Are they sitting up, yet?
“Have they started crawling, yet?”
“No, they are not talking, yet.”
“Are they eating solid foods, yet?”
“Yes, they are walking, but they’re not running, yet.”
“Are they only taking one nap, yet?”
“Have they stopped breast feeding, yet?”
“No, they are not sleeping through the night, yet.”
When and why do we stop asking and answering using, “yet”? We often hear students saying, "I can't..." How can we teach ourselves and our students to say, "...yet." Dweck believes that we can begin by “praising wisely, not praising intelligence or talent. That has failed. Don't do that anymore. But praising the process that kids engage in: their effort, their strategies, their focus, their perseverance, and their improvement. This process praise creates kids who are hardy and resilient.”
Many teachers in Grades 3 and 4 at Munich International School have begun the year focusing on the growth mindset and the power of yet using Jo Boaler's Week of Inspirational Math from Stanford University’s YouCubed Project. Within this week, students learn important growth mindset messages that help them develop confidence, try harder all year, persist with open and difficult problems and embrace mistakes and challenges. "All tasks are low floor and high ceiling – they are accessible to all students and they extend to high levels." This is one amazing example of how we can push our students to recognise the importance of developing a growth mindset. Here is Day 1's video on growth mindset: Day 1 Growth Mindset
I was fortunate to observe several of these lessons and the discussions were extremely powerful. The learning experiences were challenging for all, but the results help set the stage for a year of deep understanding of mathematics. When students begin to think about their understanding of mathematics based on their experiences with it rather than their ability, they recognise that we can all learn not just mathematics, but all subjects. This past week was the beginning of something important. Below are some photos from the week of inspirational math:
Problem Solving in Mathematics
Recently, the teachers at MIS watched a TedTalk by Dan Meyer on teaching mathematics: Math Class Needs a Makeover.
Over the past several weeks, the math curriculum team has been working to put together guiding principles for how we teach mathematics based on much of his work of focusing on teaching math reasoning and patient problem solving. While researching, we came across some more of Dan Meyer’s work on engaging students in inquiry-based mathematics.
He has developed a model that he uses with students in Grades 5-12; however, it could be adapted to the younger grades. He calls it the Three-Acts of a Mathematical Story.
Act 1: Engage all and lower barriers to entry.
Present a visual that pushes students to question, wonder, and has very few words. It should be something that connects to the students and will engage them in mathematical thinking that they might not have thought of before. Students are asked to pose questions based on these visuals. Watch this Act 1 using what we all love to pop: Bubblewrap, and allow your brain to wonder.
After watching, ask students to share their questions. Then focus on the guiding question on the standards you are trying to accomplish. “Great. Love these questions. I hope we get to all of them. Here’s one I’ll need your help with first.” Tell students you hope we’ll get around to answering all the questions on their list.
Act 3: Resolve the conflict and set up a sequel/extension.
Show the students the answers. Show the same visual but now with the answer. Ask students to see if their questions were answered. Whose answers were the closest? How did they guess? Allow time for discussion and reflection. Here are the videos below revealing the answers to the large and medium sheets of bubblewrap:
Dan uses these bubblewrap sheets during breaks for himself and believes they’re soothing. He has developed these problems for high school and middle school students by examining the world through mathematical glasses. There are many other examples that involve Starburst (candy), caffeinated drinks, taco carts, sugar in soda, cutting Lucky Cow cheese evenly, which are all part of his Bank of Lessons from his blog: Dan Meyer Blog.
Where can we find more examples like this for Junior School students where students can engage in authentic, real-life inquiry? And, can we make our own?
All resources retrieved from Dan Meyer's Blog and used through his Creative Common license agreement. blog.mrmeyer.com/