Discourse in Studio Time

It's a few weeks into the new school year and Navy Band is spread throughout the room working in Studio Time. While Studio Time is often done on whiteboards, from time to time we use paper and pencil and gather children in groups of two or three. Together learners discuss their thinking around a particular problem, and when the team has reached consensus they each write down their thinking on their own papers. In this video, you'll hear Miles, Jules, and Johannes (2nd and 3rd graders) as they think through the expression 6(4)+4(2).

Jules: "We can make them like terms by...what is it called?"
(Jules and Miles both think, look around the room, and try out approximations of the mathematical term they are thinking about.)
Johannes: "Commutation, commutation, we can commutate the numbers."
Jules: "They can both be counting 4's. So it would be six 4's and two 4's."

Here, you can see that discourse amongst this group of learners has allowed them to test out new mathematical vocabulary and ultimately assists them in gaining more clarity about the concept of addition (combining like terms).

As you watch this video you will also notice:

  • All three group members are very invested in the conversation.
  • The kids are viewing the work together as a learning opportunity; they are not just taking turns ("you do this one, I'll do that one") or copying off one another. They are each earnest in their desire to use this as an opportunity to better understand the mathematics and are beginning to understand how discourse is a part of their learning, even when they are not within the supportive structure of a whole-group discussion with a teacher present.
  • The group members are working to restate their thinking and go back over their explanations.
  • Pacing is determined by the members of the group. Learners ask peers to slow down, as needed.
  • Justification of thinking is rooted in understanding of mathematical concepts and ideas and allows the kids to come to a consensus.
  • The kids are holding one another accountable, saying things like “Make sure you understand.”

Towards the end of the video Kaylie, who is behind the camera recording the group, supports the conversation by asking for more precise language while also pushing Jules and Miles to check back in with Johannes. Jules says, “Six and two is eight." Kaylie pushes for more precise speaking (and thinking) by asking, “Six what?” Jules then refines her initial statement and adds, “Six fours.” Kaylie then leaves the group while making a final teaching point, not regarding the mathematics at hand, but the discourse: “See how you can ask it as a question?” She works to quickly teach Jules a more sophisticated discourse move she can use in future conversations.

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