Ms. Colson, my student teacher, is leading the classes this week. She is working with the classes on estimation: rounding, front end estimation, and estimating with compatible numbers. Her focus today was on rounding. To begin, she had the classes take a pretest.
The purpose of a pretest is to get an idea of where students are in a curriculum topic. The information is used to guide teaching. For example, if I do not have any students who "test-out" on a topic, then I know that I need to teach the entire curriculum unit. If I have a topic within the curriculum that everyone does well on, I can skip that part. However, I usually have a few students who do very well on the pretest. These students do not need to be retaught and are usually bored out of their minds by sitting in the classroom relearning something they already know.... this is when I differentiate.
Differentiation is a fancy word for doing something different. Students who pretest out of estimation WILL work with estimation. However, the activities they do will be different from what we do in class. This DOES NOT mean more work for those students. They will work on their differentiation with me while Ms. Colson is teaching. They will have the same independent practice assignment as the other students and will be given the same amount of time to work on it.
I pretest at the beginning of each unit, so this will become very familiar to my students! It is also possible that students who pretest out this time won't next time and vice versa. I find that my students like this, because they may be strong in something, but not in everything!
After completing the pretest, Ms. Colson had the students take a few notes on rounding. She had the students place this graphic in their journal
She had the students practice rounding and discovered that they were well versed in these steps from their 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Smith. Their knowledge base allowed us to move on to the fun activity: estimation stations.
The stations we used can be found in the book Math Homework that Counts: Grades 4-6 by Annette Raphel. The stations the students investigated were:
- Estimate how many cubes will balance the dice.
- Estimate how many blocks will cover the bottom of the box.
- Estimate the length of the licorice.
- Estimate how many white cards are in the stack.
- Estimate the number of tiles it would take to fill this shape.
- Estimate how many pieces of licorice are in the container. (This comes from the site Estimation180).
The classes were reminded that the purpose is to ESTIMATE, not to find the actual answer to a given problem. The kids rotated through each station determining their answers to the problems. We discussed each estimated answer and how students had determined their estimation.