The other day a colleague of mine sent me a text with this picture of their counting circle time (4th grade class).
She followed up with this text a little while later.
She reminded me of the prodding and pushing that I do after this routine has been set in place and students start getting comfortable.
Students won’t venture out and try something new unless we push them a little (a lot in many cases). If we don’t push them they’d still be counting on their fingers by 1s! My colleague refreshed my memory of the similar things I’d say to my students:
“How can you get better at different strategies if you’re not TRYING new strategies?”
“You CAN’T use _____ strategy!”
“You must use a strategy you never used before.”
“I want to hear your least favorite strategy and why?”
This is where the setup of your counting circle is first tested. Is your environment safe enough for students to try and make mistakes but also be brave enough to share it? Is your “team” really working as a “team”? Are you being less helpful and allowing students to learn from each other?
How am I pushing students to higher expectations but continue to support them through the learning process? I force them to try new strategies by “being mean” (for lack of a better word). If my colleague wouldn’t have implemented the “no more counting on rule” do you think “E” (lower right corner) would have shared such an AMAZING strategy? Would “S” (left corner) have pushed herself to look for a pattern?
Here is another example of how counting circles allows teachers to push the standards for mathematical practice and also to push the mathematical habits of mind. We are forcing kids to find better, harder or easier ways to solve problems. To defend their answers and maybe strategies. To look for patterns in the numbers.
Now that counting circles are becoming a more solid routine, start pushing your students the same way my colleague has and see how your students rise to the continuously increasing high expectations. You might be surprised!