1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

How are kindergarten and first grade teachers helping their students make sense of problems? During a recent online course focused on problem solving in primary level classrooms, these thoughts were shared in our discussions. I’ve received permission to quote them and provide them here as starting points we all might use to have a conversation.

one Maryland teacher says,
“Strange as it may seem, I like the idea of introducing a problem that is too difficult for my students in an effort to get them to analyze the process of problem solving, rather than focusing on finding a solution to the problem. The strategy was presented in the Problem Solving and Communication Activity Series article. The strategy forces students to move away from resolving the problem (since it is too difficult for them to know where to start) and to think about the process. It also confirms that the teacher truly does not want an answer; that we want them to think about strategies not solutions. Many of my kindergarten students have not spent significant time considering how they solve problems. They are not familiar with guessing and checking, working backwards, estimating, and asking themself if their answers make sense. They focus on product, not process.”

Elaine says,
“Does this make sense?” has only recently become meaningful to students in my class. Quite frequently, I get a unified “yes” or “no” from the class, and the response is given so quickly (and usually incorrectly) it is obvious that they are not really thinking about the reasonableness of their answer. So, we’ve been discussing a lot about how to think reasonably before predicting or searching for an answer. Now, when I prompt students “Does this make sense?”, I immediately follow with a quick “Stop…think…now answer” and I’m finding that their responses are more aligned with where I think they should be when they have truly thought about their answer.”

one Maryland teacher says,
I agree that it’s a good habit for students to learn to continue improving their work. They learn to revisit the question and allow themselves to see it differently the second, third or fourth time. It slows them down, too. Many of my students just want to be finished with their assignments. They figure that as soon as something (anything) has been submitted, their work is done. With the PoW mentoring scenario they also learn 1) to take more time with the first submission, 2) to be prepared to revise and resubmit their work, and 3) that there is value not only in correct answers but also in effort.