Now let's look at the "Pattern Blocks" video segment in more detail. In this Observe Viewer, we focus on the conversation that takes place after students have completed the activity. We've added annotations that highlight the communication aspect of the learning process.
After you have completed the activity, reflect on the questions below. Once you've formulated your own answers, select "Show Answer" to see our sample responses.
1. What forms of communication are taking place in this part of the activity?
Students are moving the actual pieces to solve the problem. They describe the representations they used –– placing the smaller pieces on top of the hexagon and using each representation to come up with additional ways to cover the hexagon. Using the manipulative pieces to show and generalize ideas is an important means of communication in the early grades. This also gives the teacher a great deal of information about student thinking. The collaborative structure of the activity also encourages students to talk and listen to one another.
2. Throughout the lesson, many students refer to the blocks by color rather than by name. How can the teacher reinforce the correct mathematical vocabulary?
The teacher needs to decide how to prepare students to recognize mathematical terms. It is important to keep in mind that the purpose of the lesson is for students to begin to see and understand the relationships between the pattern block pieces. When Ms. Christiansen uses the mathematical names of the shapes, this reinforces the vocabulary for those students who are ready to use it. At this stage, however, it is not yet an expectation for all students.
3. How do Ms. Christiansen's actions during the discussion foster communication among the students?
Ms. Christiansen allows students to describe their solutions, and she paraphrases their responses. She also models their answers, which reinforces the students' ideas. Her questions build from isolated responses to looking for an organized way to find all of the possible ways to cover the hexagon. The students are expected to explain their strategies, however, they also demonstrate their thinking by modeling with the pieces. Ms. Christiansen concludes the activity by asking children what they learned about pattern blocks from these problems.