Whenever I introduce a new problem and we brainstorm a list of strategies for solving, my students can easily identify five or more effective manipulatives or means of finding the answer and, what’s even better is that they can articulate what they will do with it. We’ve come a long way in the last few weeks. As their teacher, my comfort level has increased considerably and I’m finding that I’m loosening control over them as they work and instead allowing them to work through their problems, make mistakes, and evaluate their own findings.
As I’m reading your thoughts one thing I can’t help but point out is the power of the written word. I firmly believe that talking things out is an excellent first step … but … a very important follow-up step is to have students individually write down their thoughts whether it’s paper/pencil or computer — it’s fascinating how some quiet students will write more than the talkative students. It’s also fascinating that students who go to write can’t communicate anything and yet you could have sworn that they fully understood everything. As with everything, it’s all a process … and … I imagine if you are working with very young students, best is to develop their talking. As their writing skills improve, that part of the process can be emphasized.