Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Literacy and oracy in a Mathematics Classroom

Literacy and oracy in a Mathematics Classroom



Why is oral literacy in the classroom important? What does literacy mean to students? And as a teacher what are our expectations of our student’s using literacy and oral literacy in our classroom? These questions could be asked to any teacher, teaching any subject.  As the reader of this blog I pose a question to you, what do you expect the answers to be?

Below you can see the following answers I obtained from different teachers. I will not identify which subject they teach, but will wait for your comments and any questions you may pose.

Teacher
Why is oral literacy in the classroom important?
What does literacy mean to students?
What are our expectations of our student’s using literacy and oral literacy in our classroom?
x
‘To assess the students’ understanding’
e.g. ‘Writing in full sentences’
‘When speaking in the classroom they should use standard English’
y
‘Students' ability and confidence to express their ideas clearly is vital if they are to progress and challenge each other’ 
 
‘Students' ability and confidence to express their ideas clearly is vital if they are to progress and challenge each other’ 
 
‘To be confident speakers in the classroom’
z
‘Many students are not exposed to subject specific language outside of the classroom’ 
‘Many students are not exposed to subject specific language outside of the classroom’ 
‘Answer in full sentences. Use and record keywords, definitions and terms’
 


Teacher ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ both felt importance of literacy in the classroom were the same as what literacy means to the student, could this be a common thought or maybe the questions were not clear enough.

We as teachers are labelling the communication between our students, their subject knowledge and the teacher as literacy and oral literacy. However to students they do not label the way they communicate or illustrate their thoughts. They simply call it ‘explaining’. I strongly believe we should not disregard students’ thoughts nor the way they are comfortable with expressing themselves. Instead we should implement the mathematical language into their ideas bridging communication and understanding between the teacher and student.

In my Mathematics classroom, I feel it is absolutely necessary that students use both the English language and Mathematical language correctly to develop their skills. When introducing the topic ‘Averages’ in my year 7 class I wanted my students to create their own definition, something that makes sense to them which they  can use  to apply their knowledge.
I wrote these key words on the board (see below). I asked the students to discuss what these meant (Think-Pair Shared) and asked them to explain how they remembered the definitions or how they were able to work it out.

 
In preparation for the next lesson I looked through my students’ books to see what they had written. I collected all their ideas together and created this card sort task as a starter for their next lesson.

Students were asked to arrange the cards into groups; they were not given any direction on how many groups or my expectations. I was more curious about how they thought and how I, as their teacher could draw conclusions on their perception of these keywords.
 

Below are a few examples of how the students sorted the cards. The most interesting aspect for me was not how they did it but their responses to the task. I asked my students to give a title to each of their groups; below you can see their thoughts.  One student said to me ‘Miss, I know it’s wrong!’

 
 
 
They had labelled one of the columns as the wrong way to define it and the other as the right way. I feel it is important for students to know it is acceptable to be wrong in a lesson. However this was a rare occasion, were the students actually wrong? Nearly every other table in this class had the same groupings. What could this possibly mean?

Students were aware that both definitions meant the same thing. However they refused to accept that both were correct. Reassuring ‘It is OK to be wrong’ students were given the opportunity to express their thoughts and discuss with the class a suitable name we could give these columns. As a class they labelled the columns as shown below.



 
 
We should not disregard the way students think. It helps them to express their opinions and become a confident speaker in the classroom. “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” - George Washington.

If we as teachers are confident with the use of literacy in our classroom our students will rise to the challenge themselves.





 

 

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