Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Math Review

Today we started our end-of-year math review packet.

Not exactly inspiring curriculum. The students need a chance to review everything they've learned in math this year, and they need practice with pencil-and-paper math tests -- things like reading directions carefully, double-checking their work, etc. So we give them a math review packet to do before the end-of-year assessment.

The funny thing is that my kids were really into the review today. And so was I. It was fun guiding them through it, asking them questions when they got stuck, and seeing them find a solution to something they didn't think they could answer.

We didn't finish the packet because it was time for a read-aloud. So after an hour of math work, I told them to clean up and come to the rug for the story.

A chorus of groans arose around the classroom as a bunch of disgruntled second graders shuffled to the rug.

"I don't want to hear the story," Tyshaun whined. "I want to keep doing math."

"Me too," Israel agreed. "I love math. Let's skip the story."

"Yeah! No story! More math!" Jarad started chanting.

I laughed. Much as I am tired (in June, after ten months of it) of whining, this whining wasn't really such bad news.

"Just wait," I said. "I know you love math. I love math too. It's hard to stop doing math when it's so fun. But the story I'm going to read you is so good, you'll be glad we stopped. Plus, we'll do more of the math tomorrow."

Then we read And Tango Makes Three, a book that has been banned in many places for telling the true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who became a couple, built a nest, and eventually hatched an egg given to them by the zoo keeper. It always generates good discussions, although I have to stop my knee-jerk reaction when kids giggle or say "that's nasty" at the mention of two dads. Instead I ask them why they think it's nasty, and other students disagree and share their thoughts, and we have a real conversation about it.

The thing about the story of the baby penguin is that everyone loves it. The charm of the two male penguins who want so much to have a baby that they try to hatch a round rock (and remember, this is a true story), and the delight everyone feels when their real, adopted egg hatches -- you can't help but rejoice with the two dads. The students are rapt, with enormous grins stretched across their faces and hands clasped nervously in their laps, as the two dads take turns sitting on the egg and then hear peeping coming from inside it. I saw my student with Asperger's Syndrome more emotionally engaged in the story than in anything else we've read all year. (Except for another book about penguins, come to think of it. Hmmmm.)

And that's the beauty of the story. No matter what you think about two dads, you are pulling for Roy and Silo. Which is what makes for good literature.

After the story, I said, "See, you didn't want to stop math to read this story. But aren't you glad we did?" And they were.

It was a very good morning to be a teacher in the second grade.

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