In turn, this practice gives students the opportunity to understand better the concepts being presented.
During weekly math workshops, Watson switches roles with her students so that the student becomes the one being the teacher where students solve problems together.
“We use math workshop, which is a disciplined learning process and it gives them a task and then usually figure out how to solve the problem. Then the teacher asks questions,” she said.
She said the idea for workshop works in math because there are lot of different ways to solve a problem. Moving from an individual to a group setting also allows each student to contribute the overall learning process.
She also points out that while one student may excel in math, another student may excel in English. These two students can work together to help each other understand difficult concepts, while deepening their own knowledge of the subject.
“It makes the student responsible to learn it. It also requires them to think about it and they have to take initiative to think ... and sometimes they don’t want to do that,” Watson said. “They actually understand why.”
She also makes the problems relevant to the child’s knowledge; for example, a “capacity question” is one way in which she makes students think about events that could happen at their school.
Students figure out the number of people attending an event and how much apple cider they would have to purchase for everyone to have a drink at the event.
“Most of the time it’s based on the skills that we already learning,” she explained. “The problems are designed to try and keep their minds fresh.”
While group work is the typical setup of the classroom, Watson said she schedules what is known as intervention time to help students one-on-one.
She offers the following advice for new elementary school teachers: visit as many other classrooms as possible. Be able to teach the math. Have a good mentor.