Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cooking with Michael Jackson and Beyounce

Adding and multiplying fractions is every sixth graders' favorite thing to do, right? Well, not exactly. What about sixth graders that have repeated the grade? Nope. What about sixth graders still learning academic English? Definitely not fraction fans. Luckily, I did not start my lesson with them telling them we were going to be adding and multiplying fractions. Instead, I told them we were going to make a cooking show!

Now, I had them.

"Is it going to be on YouTube?"

"If you want it there."

"Really?"

"Yep, we just need to leave out your faces and names. What do you want to call it?"

"Cooking with Michael Jackson and Beyounce." I loved it.


Okay, we were ready to start.

The idea to make trail mix using different fraction amounts was not mine but rather from a curriculum guide for our school division. And honestly, I don't think these kids had ever even heard of trail mix before. The idea to do it as a cooking show, was mine. It seemed like a great way to bring in some instructional technology and increase engagement in math class. Technology and, well, food. Sure enough, when I brought out the mini-marshmallows, eyebrows went up and eyes crinkled with smiles.

"Are we going to eat it?"

"Yup."

Now I really had them.

Thank goodness I did, because it was tough going through the math. We reviewed fraction amounts. We looked at the measuring cups I'd brought in. We wrote out how we would need to calculate enough trail mix for the whole class. We guessed, recalculated, wrote out equations and relearned mathematic vocabulary. I repeated myself, a lot. The kids held their heads in their hands at times, sighed heavily at other times.

But finally, we got to the part the kids were waiting for, we started filming.

After a couple rehearsals I got out one of my favorite instructional technology tool, the simple-to-use-yet-powerful, Canon Power Shot. Kids that had recently been overheard in the halls shouting and loudly laughing, suddenly got very quiet and shy

and forgetful.

We went through three shots of the same scene. My one sweet (that day) little guy could not remember how to explain finding the common denominator. I stopped him.

"Do you want to write out what you are going to say?"

"Please." (He said please!!! He is going to write.. voluntarily!!!)

Success! Our next take was a keeper. And building on our success from that one, we wrote out more of our script. Before we knew it, we had finished and good thing because the bell was about to ring.

"Will it really be on YouTube?"

"By the end of the day" I promised.

And it was. Here is a link to it if I've gotten your curiosity up: Cooking with Michael Jackson and Beyounce. Do not expect perfection. Expect mistakes and misspoken words. I'm okay with that. It is not the product that I'm proud of.

I'm proud of Michael Jackson who showed more persistence with an academic task than I had ever seen before. I'm proud that he said the word denominator at least 35 times - probably more times than he had ever said before, total.

I'm proud of Beyounce who showed patience and restraint while Michael Jackson practiced. She was helpful and supportive and kind. She still mixed up subtraction and division, but she definitely had a better understanding of fractions than she did at the beginning of the lesson.

So, a camera and YouTube. That's what made a difference for these kids that day. The idea that something they would produce could be shared with the world. This public audience gave them a reason to relearn fractions. I gave them motivation to stay after a hard problem. Recording their voice for the world forced them to practice, rehearse, and, in turn, learn the concepts more differently.

Well, that and mini-marshmallows.