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

In the Hidden Pattern Blocks activity, a student reaches into a brown paper bag and selects a pattern block piece. Without removing the piece from the bag, the student describes what he or she feels. The other students then draw the shape, based on this oral description. Students also have a set of pattern blocks available to look at while the description is given.

While the pattern blocks themselves are three-dimensional objects, in this activity the focus is on looking at the specific faces of the pattern blocks that match familiar two-dimensional shapes (triangle, square, hexagon, etc.).

As you observe the students in the following examples, focus on how each student is working to formulate a clear description in his or her own words. Also notice the questions that the teacher, Ms. Wright, asks to help the students refine their ideas.

 A first-grade student, Daniel, has selected the piece shown below (this particular pattern block is an equilateral triangle). Remember, he cannot see the piece.

Daniel: My shape is flat and smooth.

Ms. Wright: What else can you say about the piece you have selected?
Daniel: It is sharp.

Ms. Wright: What about it is sharp?
Daniel: The corners are sharp.

Ms. Wright: What else can you say about the corners?
Daniel: There are two -- no, wait, three sharp corners.

Ms. Wright: Okay, you have three sharp corners. Can you tell us anything else about your piece?
Daniel: It has straight sides.

Ms. Wright: How many straight sides?
Daniel: There are two sides and three corners.

Ms. Wright: Let's look at your classmates' drawings. Do they know enough to draw your shape?
Nikki: I can draw the two straight sides, but I can't get three pointy corners.
Daniel: Wait -- I feel another side -- there should be three straight sides and three pointy corners.

Ms. Wright: Does anyone know the name of this shape?
Nikki: A triangle.

Ms. Wright: Take the piece out of the bag. What is this piece called?
Daniel: It's a triangle.

Ms. Wright: Tell me what you know about a triangle.
Daniel: It's green.

Ms. Wright: This triangle is green. What else is true about a triangle?
Daniel: It has three pointy corners.

Ms. Wright: Anything else?
Daniel: And three sides.

The dialogue may differ, based on the age and developmental level of the students. Some students may not be familiar with the word "triangle". Even if students continue to refer to the piece as the "green piece," the teacher can reinforce the correct vocabulary by referring to the piece as a triangle.

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